Central Theme and Relationship with the Previous Sūrah
Like the previous sūrahs of this group, this sūrah too warns the disbelievers about the Day of Judgement. The previous sūrah ended on the note that the real reason because of which these slaves of worldly pleasures were evading the reminders of this Day was that they had lost their innate guidance of discerning good and evil. The practice of the Almighty is that those who are alive to this guidance are blessed with further guidance, and those who become indifferent to it become so blind and deaf to the truth that no reminder is able to influence them.
In order to fully delineate this very law of guidance, the Almighty has sworn by the reproaching soul found innately in every human being and has presented it to substantiate the Day of Judgement. This reproaching soul is hidden in a person and chides him on every evil that emanates from him. Its very existence in a human being is ample proof of the fact that man will not be left unaccountable and is not given any absolute powers. In other words, it is not possible that the Almighty remains unconcerned with what good or evil he may do. Man is a mini-world and the existence of the reproaching soul within him suggests that this mega-world also has a reproaching soul which is called the Judgement Day. It will manifest one day and reproach and chide people on their evil deeds – people who remained indifferent to their internal mechanism of reproach.
It is evident from this discussion that the greater Day of Judgement has a reflection in every human being in the form of his conscience and reproaching soul which can be termed as a lesser Day of Judgement. In other words, if a person does some evil, he does not do it in hiding; he does so at the very doors of the divine court of justice before a divine judge. Consequently, after presenting the reproaching soul as witness, the Qur'ān says: بَلْ يُرِيدُ الْإِنسَانُ لِيَفْجُرَ أَمَامَهُ (in fact, man wants to be mischievous before his [conscience]). This very aspect is explained in subsequent verses by the words: بَلْ الْإِنسَانُ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ بَصِيرَةٌ وَلَوْ أَلْقَى مَعَاذِيرَهُ (75: 14-15) (in fact, he himself is a witness upon his own self however much he may put up excuses, (75:14-15)).
Here it should be kept in consideration that the experts of modern moral philosophy have also acknowledged certain basic virtues as virtues and certain basic vices as vices and regarded this to be a foundational principle. They have then gone on to build their theories on this principle. However, they have not been able to tell from where they have regarded these virtues as virtues and these vices as vices. As a result, the edifices they have built have no foundation to stand upon. Nevertheless, they accept that man has an awareness of basic virtues and basic vices. In this sūrah, the Qur'ān has referred to this very aspect by saying that the Almighty has not only made man innately aware of good and evil, He has also blessed him with a conscience which chides him on evil deeds and praises him on good ones. And then, the Qur'ān on the basis of this very psychological reality has substantiated the Day of Judgement and the reward and punishment that will take place on that Day. In other words, if the Almighty has devised a method for reproaching a person from within him on every evil that emanates from him and praising him on every good that ensues from him, how is it possible that He will not bring about a Day of accountability for the whole of this world and each person be rewarded and punished for his deeds.
Analysis of the Discourse
Following is an analysis of the discourse of this sūrah:
Verses (1-6): An oath is sworn by the Day of Judgement on the certainty of the Day. The reproaching soul in man is also presented as a proof of this Day and it is asserted that those disbelievers who are demanding to hasten the advent of this day and regard their recreation after being decayed in the dust to be an impossibility are actually going against the very testimony of their conscience. Their example is that of an audacious thief who steals right before the eyes of the judge.
Verses (7-15): A rejoinder is sounded to those who are demanding to hasten the advent of the Day of Judgement: today they are trying to deny an obvious reality and are pestering the Prophet (sws) by asking him to hasten the arrival of the Day of Judgement; however, when it will come about with a great upheaval, they will acknowledge that there is no place to run for them. On that Day, there will be no resting place for anyone except with God. Each person will be called upon to answer for every deed of his, and this reality is not hidden to them even though they might try their utmost to cover it up by vain talk.
Verses (16-19): The Prophet (sws) is asked to refrain from showing hurry in acquiring the Qur'ān and is asked to exercise patience; however much his opponents might show haste, he should not be influenced by them and demand the Qur'ān be revealed soon; he should calmly acquire it in the manner it is being revealed and disseminate it to his people. The Almighty is revealing it as per His wisdom and expediency. He has taken upon Himself the responsibility of its collection and arrangement, protection and preservation, explanation and elucidation. The Prophet (sws) should not worry about any of these aspects.
Verses (20-25): The disbelievers of the Day of Judgement are rebuked and told that they have no basis for this denial. Whatever baseless excuses they are offering originate from their love of this world against the calls of their own conscience. They also originate from their indifference to the Hereafter whereas it is a certain reality. On that day, many faces will be fresh expecting the blessing of their Lord, and many faces will be gloomy thinking that a back-breaking calamity is about to befall them.
Verses (26-40): No one should remain in the misconception that the Almighty will let people go scot-free. Everyone will have to face the agony of death, and in this very state of helplessness will have to take the journey towards his Lord. Unfortunate is he who neither spent in the way of God nor prayed to Him; on the contrary, whenever he would be reminded of these duties, he would express utter arrogance and walk away conceitedly to his family. Everyone should remember the fact that it is not at all difficult for the Almighty to re-create man once he dies and decays for it was the Almighty Who created him from a drop of sperm and perfected him and blessed him with various abilities.
Text and Translation
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَاَن الرَحِيِم
لَا أُقْسِمُ بِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ(1)وَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِالنَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ(2)أَيَحْسَبُ الْإِنسَانُ أَلَّنْ نَجْمَعَ عِظَامَهُ(3)بَلَى قَادِرِينَ عَلَى أَنْ نُسَوِّيَ بَنَانَهُ(4)بَلْ يُرِيدُ الْإِنسَانُ لِيَفْجُرَ أَمَامَهُ(5)يَسْأَلُ أَيَّانَ يَوْمُ الْقِيَامَةِ(6)فَإِذَا بَرِقَ الْبَصَرُ(7)وَخَسَفَ الْقَمَرُ(8)وَجُمِعَ الشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ(9)يَقُولُ الْإِنسَانُ يَوْمَئِذٍ أَيْنَ الْمَفَرُّ(10)كَلَّا لَا وَزَرَ(11) إِلَى رَبِّكَ يَوْمَئِذٍ الْمُسْتَقَرُّ(12)يُنَبَّأُ الْإِنسَانُ يَوْمَئِذٍ بِمَا قَدَّمَ وَأَخَّرَ(13)بَلْ الْإِنسَانُ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ بَصِيرَةٌ(14)وَلَوْ أَلْقَى مَعَاذِيرَهُ(15)لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ(16)إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ(17)فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ(18)ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ(19)كَلَّا بَلْ تُحِبُّونَ الْعَاجِلَةَ(20)وَتَذَرُونَ الْآخِرَةَ(21)وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ نَاضِرَةٌسُدًى(22)إِلَى رَبِّهَا نَاظِرَةٌ(23)وَوُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ بَاسِرَةٌ(24) تَظُنُّ أَنْ يُفْعَلَ بِهَا فَاقِرَةٌ(25)كَلَّا إِذَا بَلَغَتْ التَّرَاقِي(26)وَقِيلَ مَنْ رَاقٍ(27)وَظَنَّ أَنَّهُ الْفِرَاقُ(28)وَالْتَفَّتْ السَّاقُ بِالسَّاقِ(29)إِلَى رَبِّكَ يَوْمَئِذٍ الْمَسَاقُ(30)فَلَا صَدَّقَ وَلَا صَلَّى(31)وَلَكِنْ كَذَّبَ وَتَوَلَّى(32)ثُمَّ ذَهَبَ إِلَى أَهْلِهِ يَتَمَطَّى(33)أَوْلَى لَكَ فَأَوْلَى(34)ثُمَّ أَوْلَى لَكَ فَأَوْلَى(35)أَيَحْسَبُ الْإِنسَانُ أَنْ يُتْرَكَ (36)أَلَمْ يَكُ نُطْفَةً مِنْ مَنِيٍّ يُمْنَى(37)ثُمَّ كَانَ عَلَقَةً فَخَلَقَ فَسَوَّى(38) فَجَعَلَ مِنْهُ الزَّوْجَيْنِ الذَّكَرَ وَالْأُنثَى(39)أَلَيْسَ ذَلِكَ بِقَادِرٍ عَلَى أَنْ يُحْيِيَ الْمَوْتَى(40)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.
By no means! I swear by the Day of Judgement. And by no means! I swear by the reproaching soul. Does man think that We will not be able to bring together his bones? Why not? We will put him together such that We will set right even the sections of his fingers. In fact, man wants to be mischievous before his [conscience]. He asks: "When will the Day of Judgement come?" (1-6)
Thus when the sight is dazed and the moon eclipsed and the sun and the moon brought together, man will say "Whither to flee?" – No! there is no refuge now! Towards your Lord that Day is the abode. On that Day, man will be informed what he sent forth and what he left behind. In fact, he himself is a witness upon his own self however much he may put up excuses. (7-15)
To swiftly learn it, do not hastily move your tongue to read it. It is Our responsibility to collect and to recite it. So when We have recited it follow thisrecital. Then upon Us is to explain it. (16-19)
Certainly not! In fact, you people only love this world and are heedless of the life to come. Many a face will be bright on that Day awaiting the graciousness of their Lord and many a face will be gloomy on that Day apprehending that there is going to befall them a back-breaking calamity. (20-25)
Certainly not! On the Day when the soul will be stuck in the collar bone and it is said: "Who is it that can weave a spell now?" and he will think that it is parting time and the shank will embrace the shank. On that Day, towards your Lord is the departure. (26-30)
Thus he neither testified nor prayed; on the contrary, he denied and turned away. Then he went away to his people conceitedly. Woe be to you! Yet again woe be to you! And again woe be to you! Yes again woe be to you! (31-35)
Does man think that he will be left to go unchecked? Was he not a mere drop of sperm poured forth? Then he became a clot of blood and then God created him and then perfected him. Then made pairs of him: male and female. Is not that God able to raise the dead to life?(36-40)
ِلَا أُقْسِمُ بِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ(1)
When a particle of negation occurs before an oath the way it has occurred here, it is not meant to negate the oath; it is in fact meant to refute a notion of the addressee for whose refutation the oath had been sworn in the first place. I have explained this style in various instances earlier as well. Examples of such a style not only abound in Arabic, it exists in most other languages as well. When we want to immediately refute a notion of someone, we say: "No! By God! The truth of the matter is such and such." What is conveyed by such a style is that so baseless is the notion of the addressee that the speaker is not even willing to wait so much as to negate it after the oath; he refutes it and in fact finds it necessary to express his disgust before the oath. Some people have regarded the particle of negation as superfluous and some regard it to directly relate to the verb it precedes. However, as per linguistic principles of Arabic, both these views are not correct. I have refuted them at various places in this tafsīr. My mentor, Imām Hamīd al-Dīn Farāhī,has also discussed this issue at length in his tafsīr. Those who want to see the details are advised to look it up.
Here the complement of oath (muqsam 'alayh) is not mentioned for two reasons:
Firstly, it is so evident that there is no need to express it in words. In other words, the oath itself bears evidence to its complement. The sun is a witness on itself as they say. Many examples of such suppression can be seen in preceding sūrahs. For example, in Sūrah Qāf and in Sūrah Su'ād, the oaths of وَ القُرْآنِ المَجِيْدِ and وَ القُرْآنِ ذِي الذِّكْرِ occur without their complements. The purpose of such oaths is to inform the addressee that what is being refuted by him is itself so obvious a testimony to its truth and veracity that there exists no possibility to deny it.
Secondly, the oath sworn by the reproaching soul mentioned subsequently is such a self-obvious testimony on the Day of Judgment that refuting it, as will be explained later, is tantamount to refuting one's own conscience. In the presence of such a testimony, no further evidence is required for the Day of Judgement. In such cases, the premise which is to be substantiated and the testimony which substantiates it assume the status of the oath and the complement of oath respectively.
وَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِالنَّفْسِ اللَّوَّامَةِ(2)
This is the second oath. Its complement (muqsam 'alayh) is also not mentioned in words. The reason is that this complement is hidden within the oath. Thus what is implied is that the existence of the reproaching soul within man is evidence enough for the Day of Judgement. In other words, this second oath delineates both the oath and its complement, and points to the fact that no external evidence is required for this Day. Its reflection is found within man and he is able to see it too even though he may put forth various reasons to refute it.
The reproaching soul is not an independent entity; it is part of the human soul. The Almighty has fashioned the human soul such that He has blessed it with an awareness of good and evil. He has also prescribed a principle for the success and failure of a person: he who cleanses his soul from evil will succeed and he who contaminates his soul with evil will be doomed. In Sūrah Shams, the words are:
وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ دَسَّاهَا (91: 7-10)
And the soul bears witness and the perfection given to it, then [God] inspired it with its evil and its good that he succeeded who purified it and he failed who soiled it. (91:7-10)
Because of be being composed thus, at times, the human soul loses its balance by being overcome with its desires and induces a person to do evil. This proclivity of the soul is called the Enticing Soul (nafs-i ammārah) by the Qur'ān. The Prophet Joseph (sws) has referred to this aspect of the soul thus:
وَمَا أُبَرِّىءُ نَفْسِي إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ (12:53)
I do not claim my soul to be free from sin: the soul is very prone to evil. (12:53)
However, this soul also possesses an awareness of virtue; hence as long as it is able to maintain balance, it even reproaches its own self if some vice emanates from it; at the same time, it also feels disgust and revulsion if some other person indulges in vice and reproaches it. It is this very aspect of the soul which is called the reproaching soul here.
The strategy which a person should adopt in maintaining the balance of its soul is that he should keep his Lord and the Day of Judgement in his remembrance. This remembrance checks the soul and never lets the soul totally submit to its desires. If a person errs, the reproaching soul at once checks him, and makes him realize his folly; the person than turns to God in repentance and tries to make amends of his blemish. The soul which is able to achieve this balance is called the Satisfied Soul (nafs-i mutma'innah). This is the highest position a person can reach in training and disciplining his soul. The Almighty has urged him to try to attain this position and blessed mankind with His divine law so that it can attain this position by adhering to it. Such a soul will be blessed with a unique gift in the Hereafter: The Almighty shall be pleased with it and it shall be pleased with the Almighty.
It is evident from this explanation that the awareness of vice being vice is innately found in man from the very moment he was created. Adam's son Cain while being overcome with jealousy did kill Abel; however, after this murder, he tried to hide his corpse. This effort obviously was undertaken by him because he realized his sin. The most evil of men does a sin not because he regards it to be a virtuous act, but because he is overwhelmed with desires and emotions. If he gives any allowance to his conscience in this matter, he gives it against his natural inclinations. The reason for this is that if someone else commits the same sin against him he regards it to be a vice and protests against it. If one examines the conscience of wicked people, one will see that they too respect virtuous acts even though they do not do such acts. Ever since man started to live as a collectivity he has always set up a system of justice in it. Even though, at times, certain sins engulf a whole society and dominate virtue however the collective conscience of the society never condones this. In fact, there always exist people in such a society who carry out the same responsibility in it as is carried out by the reproaching soul found within every upright person. When the situation reaches the extent that a society becomes totally bereft of virtue, then as per the law of providence, such a society is wiped out from the face of the earth.
Now the question is that if a person has a guardian within his conscience which chides him on every evil that emanates from him, then how can it be imagined that man will not be held accountable for his deeds. Why would he go scot-free if he spends a life in whatever manner he wants to while negating the calls of his conscience? If a person will not be held accountable for his deeds, then where has this chiding conscience come into him from? If his Creator is unconcerned about the good and evil which emanates from him, then why and from where has He given him the feeling of being elated at a good deed and being pricked by his conscience at a bad one? Then from here another question arises: If God has set up a miniature court of justice in every person, then why will He not set up a greater court of justice which will hold the whole world accountable for good and evil which emanate from it and not reward and punish people accordingly? Any person who deliberates on these questions while disregarding his desires will reach the conclusion that the very being of a person bears witness that he has innate knowledge of good and evil; he will not be left unaccountable; there definitely shall come one day when he will be punished for any misdeeds he may have done and be rewarded for his good deeds. To remind a person of this very Day, the Almighty has placed a miniature court of justice within a person's soul so that man does not remain indifferent to it, and if ever he becomes indifferent he can catch a glimpse of it by merely reflecting on his inner-self. It is this very reality which sages have taught us by saying that man is a miniature world and within this miniature world there is a reflection of the greater world. If a person has a true comprehension of his own self, he is able to comprehend both God and the Hereafter. The famous Socrates adage says: "Know Thyself".
أَيَحْسَبُ الْإِنسَانُ أَلَّنْ نَجْمَعَ عِظَامَهُ(3)بَلَى قَادِرِينَ عَلَى أَنْ نُسَوِّيَ بَنَانَهُ(4)
Although a general word "man" is used in these verses, the address is directed to the disbelievers of the Day of Judgement among the Quraysh whose doubts raised about this day have been discussed in the previous sūrahs. This general style of address is adopted to express disgust on their attitude. These verses assert that the evidence on the Day of Judgement is found within man; one does not have to look in the external world. However, these people are of the view that after dying and being decayed in dust the Almighty will not be able to bring together their bones. It is asserted in this verse that if this looks impossible to them and on its basis they deny the Day of Judgement even though their conscience bears witness to it, then they should remember that not only will the Almighty gather their bones, He will gather them with such power and perfection that even the sections of their fingers will be put together. The word بَنَانَmeans each of "the sections of a finger". The implication is that the Almighty will be able to join together even the minutest of joints.
The word قَادِرِينَ is an accusative of state (hāl) from the plural pronoun in نَجْمَعَ.
بَلْ يُرِيدُ الْإِنسَانُ لِيَفْجُرَ أَمَامَهُ(5)
The implication of this verse is that it is mere vain talk on the part of the disbelievers to deny the Day of Judgement because they think that gathering bones is improbable. The reality is that they have become such slaves of their desires: while following them they want to be mischievous before the judge appointed by the Almighty. This judge is not far off; he is sitting within them. Their example is that of a thief who wants to steal in front of a judge.
Exegetes have generally taken the word أَمَامَهُ (in front of him) to mean that man in his future life wants to continue to adhere to sin. For this reason, he tries to invent excuses for denying the Day of Judgement. However, if this interpretation is accepted, it does not relate to the reproaching soul and nor does it become an irrefutable argument against his attitude. Here the word "in front of" means before his conscience and reproaching soul he wants to be mischievous in spite of reminders from this faculty. The greatest evidence of the Day of Judgement is found within man; however, what can be done of a person who becomes adamant in denying his own self.
The argument found in this verse is that a man's conscience is enough to bear evidence to the Day of Judgement; however, the mouth of a person who is audacious enough to tell a lie before his own conscience cannot be closed.
It also follows from this that a person who commits a vice against his reproaching soul or in other words his own conscience is one which actually commits vice in the presence of God. This is because one's conscience is a judge appointed by God, as indicated above. Thus, a vice committed before it is a vice committed before God.
يَسْأَلُ أَيَّانَ يَوْمُ الْقِيَامَةِ(6)
This is a mention of the stubbornness of those who disbelieved in the Day of Judgement. In spite of the fact that an accountability court is found within them and they are also aware of it, they ask about the advent of that Day. They would sarcastically remark: "If it is to come why is it not coming? We are tired of being threatened about it. It was in fact never supposed to come and neither will it come in the future. So why should we be overawed by these threats. Those who are claiming that it will come one day must bring it and show it to us. Only then will we believe it. Mere verbal claims will not convince us."
فَإِذَا بَرِقَ الْبَصَرُ(7)وَخَسَفَ الْقَمَرُ(8)وَجُمِعَ الشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ(9)يَقُولُ الْإِنسَانُ يَوْمَئِذٍ أَيْنَ الْمَفَرُّ(10)
The implications of these verses is that today these disbelievers are showing impatience at the delay in the Day of Judgement as if they are fully ready to encounter it. However, where will they run when they actually face its horrors.
Since the demand of being shown the Day of Judgement is an absolutely absurd demand, no reply is given by the Qur'ān to it. However, some horrific aspects of that Day are portrayed by it in these verses.
The state of affairs portrayed belongs to the category of the mutashābihāt. We cannot grasp their true form in this world. The purpose of this portrayal is to show that such will be the upheaval that will ensue on that Day that the sun and the moon will leave their own orbits and adopt the same path. Who can comprehend the horrific nature of this? The implication is that if people even have a semblance of intellect in them they should seek refuge from these horrors and adhere to the path which is being shown to them and which will save them from these horrors. Thus they should stop showing impatience on its delay.
It should remain clear that the incidents mentioned here which will happen on that Day merely give a slight picture of what will happen, and are also a handful of what else will happen when the Day comes. In the coming sūrahs of this group, various other aspects of the Day will be depicted. These too will only be a few for the tongue is unable to portray all of them.
كَلَّا لَا وَزَرَ(11) إِلَى رَبِّكَ يَوْمَئِذٍ الْمُسْتَقَرُّ(12)
This is the answer to the question quoted in the previous verse: "Whither to flee?" Except for seeking refuge with God all other paths and ways will be closed upon them.
يُنَبَّأُ الْإِنسَانُ يَوْمَئِذٍ بِمَا قَدَّمَ وَأَخَّرَ(13)
Mentioned in this verse is the real reason for the advent of the Day of Judgement. Being informed here means being shown the consequences of the deeds. The results of both the vices a person committed in the previous world and the virtues he failed to do will come before him. At many places in the Qur'ān, it is specifically mentioned that on the Day of Judgement those who remained indifferent to it will express extreme frustration. They would express the yearning of having done good deeds in the previous world and having followed the warnings of the Messengers of God and professed faith in them. The words قَدَّمَ and أَخَّرَ embrace all the evil deeds and vices committed by such people.
It should be kept in mind that to achieve success in the Hereafter, a person has to do many good deeds and evade evil ones. However, those who are indifferent to the Hereafter or deny it either are indifferent to or deviant from such deeds which pave the way for their success in the Hereafter. On the other hand, all their life they keep committing deeds which will lead them to doom in the Hereafter. This verse sounds a warning to such deprived and bereft people.
بَلْ الْإِنسَانُ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ بَصِيرَةٌ(14)وَلَوْ أَلْقَى مَعَاذِيرَهُ(15)
These verses explain what is mentioned earlier by the words: بَلْ يُرِيدُ الْإِنسَانُ لِيَفْجُرَ أَمَامَهُ (in fact, man wants to be mischievous before his [conscience]). There, the discourse with relation to the question posed by the opponents: يَسْأَلُ أَيَّانَ يَوْمُ الْقِيَامَةِ (when will the Day of Judgement come?) had shifted to the portrayal of the Day of Judgement. Now in this verse the discourse returns to its original course and the subject under discussion is completed. The expression بَصِيْرَةٌ عَلَى نَفْسِه means ِشَاهِدٌ عَلَى نَفْسِهِ (he is a witness upon his own self). The reason for this has already been mentioned earlier: the reproaching soul within man bears witness to the Hereafter. There is no need to go far to find a testimony to this Day. He can see its reflection within his own conscience.
The word مَعَاذِيْرٌ is a plural of مَعَذِرةٌ. It is actually مَعَاذِرٌ.ي has been added in it just as it has been added in مَنَاكِيْر. It means false pretexts and baseless excuses. There is an Arabic proverb:المَعَاذِرُمَكَاذِبُ (excuses are but lies).Some people think that it is a plural of مِعِذَار which in the Yemenite tongue means "a curtain". I disagree with this view because the Qur'ān has been revealed in the idiomatic language of the Quraysh and not that of the people of Yemen.
لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ(16)إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ(17)فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ(18)ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ(19)
These verses urge the Prophet (sws) to be patient on the hastiness and all sorts of new demands of his opponents. It was with the sole support of divine revelation through which the Prophet (sws) was able to truly discharge the heavy responsibility of openly warning his people imposed on him by the Almighty. He was like a soldier fighting at a battle front who could not move even one step without guidance from his Lord. In order to torment him, his opponents would present all sorts of demands and objections before him. In this manner, they would try their utmost to check his advance in his preaching mission. Earlier in this sūrah, one of their demands is cited: they would ask the Prophet (sws) to bring forth the Day of Judgement which he was threatening them with; if it was certain to come, why was it not arriving. Similarly, they would object that if the Qur'ān is God's word why is it not revealed all at once. In short, they would shower objections from all sides, and the Prophet (sws), on the other hand, would wait for divine revelation to answer all these objections. It was through divine revelation that that his heart would receive strength, his soul would be rejuvenated, his intellect guided and his determination strengthened. Consequently, it is evident both from the Qur'ān and Hadīth that whenever there would be a delay in the advent of revelation because of some divine wisdom, he would keep looking up to the heavens. This impatience and keenness would also be evident when Gabriel would deliver the revelation to him. Like an enthusiastic student he would want to learn all the revelation as soon as possible and also preserve it fully lest even a drop of this pounding rain go waste. With this background in mind, let us now deliberate on these verses.
By the words لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ the Prophet (sws) has been stopped from showing hastiness and impatience which would overcome him whenever a revelation would descend upon him. Although the subject of keenness and hastiness is very commonly found in the literature of most languages; however, who can express the hastiness and impatience with which the Prophet (sws) would be overcome when he would receive a revelation after a long gap and in the wake of his opponents idle talk. When a child is hungry and his mother presses him to her bosoms, he wants to drink all the milk in a single breath; when a traveller exhausted from traversing a desert sees a bucket full of water after a long wait, he wants to gulp all of it in one sip; similarly, if a person, suffering from the pangs of being away from his beloved, receives a letter from her, he would want to read each and every word of it in a single glance. Although these examples are deficient, yet as indicated earlier, they can give us some idea of the hastiness and anxiety so spontaneously expressed by the Prophet (sws) whenever he would be blessed with divine revelation.
The reasons for this impatience were many, as referred to before. Thus, for example:
· All the strategy that needed to be adopted by him in the capacity of God's Messenger would be known through divine revelation.
· His spiritual, moral and intellectual needs could only be fulfilled through it.
· He would receive from it the guidance needed to face the existing and future circumstances.
· It was through it that he would be able to answer the objections and demands which his adversaries would keep posing to him every now and then.
· His great love for knowledge and his sensitivity in preserving it also contributed very much to it.
All these motives were very genuine and noble; however, it was God's wisdom that the Qur'ān should be revealed gradually – just as it was being so. Consequently, the Prophet (sws) was repeatedly urged to exercise patience. In Sūrah Tāhā (114-115) too he has been similarly urged. I have already referred to some aspects of this there. Here too the subject primarily is the same. However, with respect to his mental state during the time of revelation of this sūrah, here he has been subsequently assured of the preservation of the Qur'ān also. The Almighty has taken it upon Himself to collect and arrange it and to recite it before the Prophet (sws) and make him memorize it as well as to explain any verse of the Qur'ān which needs elaboration. The Prophet (sws) was told to be content on whatever portion of the Qur'ān he would receive and not show hastiness and anxiety on it. He should also not worry about its preservation. He should leave all these to his Lord. Every task will be completed at its appointed time in accordance with the wisdom of God.
The words إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ sound an assurance to the Prophet (sws) on his anxiety referred to earlier. Since a great divine treasure was being entrusted to him, it was but natural for him to preserve each and every word that was being given in his custody. The Almighty has assured him that the responsibility of preserving and reciting it is His responsibility.
The word جَمْع is a comprehensive one: it means preservation in the heart of the Prophet (sws) and also bringing together all the parts of the Qur'ān. Consequently, the Prophet (sws) would continuously receive guidance regarding the placement of the revealed verses in various sūrahs. As a result, he would direct the collectors to insert these verses at their specific places. They, of course, obeyed these instructions diligently.
A further arrangement that was made by the Almighty was that in each Ramadān, the Prophet (sws) would read out the Qur'ān revealed till that time to Gabriel in order to safeguard any loss from memory. It is evident from various narratives that in the last Ramadān of the Prophet (sws) this reading out took place twice. The word قُرْآنَه point to this reading.
The verse فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ implies that the Prophet (sws) should not ask that the Qur'ān be quickly revealed to him. He should leave the matter to God, who would reveal it in a specific amount as per His wisdom. He will also arrange to preserve and collect and arrange it. The Prophet's responsibility is to only follow the recital of what has been read out to him of the Qur'ān. He should read it, act on it and call people towards it. Also, he should pay no heed to the demand of people who are asking for its revelation in one go.
A further assurance is sounded to the Prophet (sws) in the verse ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ. If explanation is required of any part of the Qur'ān, it is the responsibility of the Almighty to furnish it. The Prophet (sws) need not fret on this. It will be done when the time comes. This is a reference to the tabyīn verses which were revealed to explain and elucidate a previously revealed directive or to abrogate or to complete it. I have referred to these elucidatory verses at a number of places in this tafsīr. The words كَذالِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللهٌُ generally occur after them. They actually are the fulfillment of the promise mentioned in ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ.
I will now present excerpts from the tafsīr of my mentor Imām Hamīd al-Dīn Farāhī which he has written while explaining these verses. He writes:
The exegetes think that the cause of the haste mentioned in these verses is that the Prophet (sws) would be anxious of losing any part of the Qur'ān. I do not differ with this view; however, there are some more details in this which need to be understood.
When the Prophet (sws) would receive divine guidance, he would think that he was being given a great responsibility and that he was being entrusted with a great thing; the slightest of blemish or loss of even a single letter would hold him accountable before God. Simultaneously, he wished to receive more and more divine revelation for any part of it might be instrumental in giving guidance to his people. Both these aspects are very evident regarding this matter. Consequently, the assurance sounded to him in this sūrah takes into consideration both these aspects.
The preservation of the Qur'ān has been promised by the Almighty both in a concise manner and in a ccomprehensive manner. Thus, for example, it is said:
وَإِنَّهُ لَكِتَابٌ عَزِيزٌ لَا يَأْتِيهِ الْبَاطِلُ مِن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَلَا مِنْ خَلْفِهِ تَنزِيلٌ مِّنْ حَكِيمٍ حَمِيدٍ (41: 41-42)
And this is a mighty scripture. Falsehood cannot reach it neither from in front of it nor from behind it. It is a revelation from a wise and glorious God. (41:41-42)
At another place, the words are:
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ (9:15)
It was We that revealed the Reminder, and We shall Ourself preserve it. (15:9)
It is evident from these verses that there is no possibility of any addition or deletion in the Qur'ān. Consequently, there exists a consensus of the whole of this ummah that the Qur'ān has remained preserved. The popular view attributed to the Imāmiyyah sect that a part of the Qur'ān has been made to disappear is totally against their authorities. Sayyid Murtadā, Muhammad Ibn Hasan al-Tūsī (popularly known as the Sheikh al-Tāi'fah), Abū 'Alī Tabarī, Tabrasī (the author of Majma' al-Bayān), Muhammad Ibn 'Alī Ibn Bābawayh al-Qummī – all have vehemently denied this absurd view. Muhammad Ibn 'Alī Ibn Bābawayh al-Qummī says: "It is our belief that the very Qur'ān revealed to the Prophet by the Almighty is the one which is found between two covers in the Muslim ummah. There is not a single letter of the Qur'ān more than this. A person who attributes to us the view that we believe the Qur'ān consisted of more is a liar." Regarding the narratives which are found in their literature in this matter, Sayyid Murtadā says that those among the Imāmiyyah and the Hashawiyyah sects who have differed from this view are of no significance because their view is based on some weak Ahādīth that they regard to be authentic. However, on the basis of such weak Ahādīth, a proven and a certain reality cannot be rejected.
Farāhī subsequently goes on to state the conclusions he has drawn from the above quoted verses of Sūrah Qiyāmah:
First, the Qur'ān was collected and arranged in the lifetime of the Prophet (sws) and recited out to him in a specific sequence. If this promise was to be fulfilled after his death, he would not have been asked to follow this new recital [referred to by the words: "So when We have recited it out, follow this recital"].
Second, the Prophet (sws) was directed to read the arranged Qur'ān in its new sequence … this directive required that the Prophet must have communicated the final arrangement of the Qur'ān the way it was finally recited out to him. And this arrangement must have been the same as the one found in the guarded tablet (the lawh-i mahfūz). This is because the final recital had to match the original recital [found in the tablet].
Third, after this collection and arrangement, the Almighty explained whatever He intended to from among specifying a general directive or vice versa, furnishing supplementary directives and reducing the scope of some directives.
Farāhī further states:
All these conclusions are evident from the Qur'ān and also corroborated by Hadīth literature. Consequently, the Prophet (sws) would read out whole sūrahs of the Qur'ān to people and this could not have been possible until they would have been read out to him in their specific sequences. The Companions (rta) would listen to and preserve the Qur'ān in accordance with this arrangement and abide by it. It is known that the Prophet (sws) would direct the Companions (rta) to place the revealed verses of the Qur'ān at specific places of specific sūrahs and the Companions (rta) would obey this directive. Then when some explanatory verse would be revealed, the Prophet (sws) would have it written at either the place immediately following the verses which needed this explanation or at the end of the sūrah in case these verses related to the whole theme of the sūrah.
Deliberation reveals another distinct feature of these explanatory verses: they themselves contained words which would show that these verses have in fact been revealed as explanation. They would generally be of the wording:كَذَالِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللهُ أياتِهِ لِلنَّاسِ (thus does the Almighty explain His verses for people … )
Similarly, it is known from authentic and agreed upon narratives that once the whole of the Qur'ān had been revealed, Gabriel recited out the complete Qur'ān to the Prophet (sws) in its real sequence. This clears many doubts about the sequence and arrangement of the Qur'ān.
كَلَّا بَلْ تُحِبُّونَ الْعَاجِلَةَ(20)وَتَذَرُونَ الْآخِرَةَ(21)
After urging the Prophet (sws) to show patience on the piecemeal revelation of the Qur'ān, the discourse returns to its original sequence. The disbelievers are addressed and told that their attitude about the Day of Judgement is not because they do not have any argument in its support; its greatest argument is found in their own conscience. The real reason for this attitude of denial is that they are infatuated with this world and its luxuries, and do not have the patience and grit to leave its immediate pleasures for the deferred pleasures of the Hereafter.
The words وَتَذَرُونَ الْآخِرَةَ mean "you are showing indifference to the Hereafter". The implication is that the Hereafter is not hidden from them; since the pleasures of this world are at hand and the those of the Hereafter are not, they are intentionally showing indifference to the Hereafter.