(Translated from Tadabbur-i Qur'a#nby Shehzad Saleem)
ثُمَّ إِنَّكُمْ أَيُّهَا الضَّالُّونَ الْمُكَذِّبُونَ (51) لَآكِلُونَ مِن شَجَرٍ مِّن زَقُّومٍ (52) فَمَالِؤُونَ مِنْهَا الْبُطُونَ (53) فَشَارِبُونَ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الْحَمِيمِ (54) فَشَارِبُونَ شُرْبَ الْهِيمِ (55)
Here the Quraysh are addressed directly and told: O you who have gone astray and those who have denied, do you know what will happen when you will be raised up again? You shall eat from the sour and thorny leaves and fruits of the tree of zaqqūm and fill your bellies with it; then you shall drink scalding water like thirsty camels do.
They are addressed by the two attributes of الضَّالُّونَ and الْمُكَذِّبُونَ with regard to their crimes. Earlier on, their polytheism and denial of the Hereafter is mentioned. With respect to these, they are addressed as الضَّالُّونَ and الْمُكَذِّبُونَ. The implication is that they have gone astray from the path of monotheism and have also denied the Hereafter.
Earlier, it is said that they were among the wealthy and the affluent. With reference to this, their fodder in the Hereafter will be of zaqqūm. They will munch its leaves and thorns and drink boiling water on them.
The word هِيمِ is a plural of أهْيَم . It refers to a camel who is afflicted with the malady of هيام (perpetual thirst): he keeps drinking water but his thirst is never quenched.
هَذَا نُزُلُهُمْ يَوْمَ الدِّينِ (56)
I have explained at many places of this tafsīr that نُزُلrefer to the edibles which are presented foremost to a guest as soon as he disembarks. The implication is that no one can imagine what these people whose first dietary provisions are the tree of zaqqūm and hot water will eat later.
Section II (Verses 57-74)
The succeeding verses discuss the arguments on the Day of Judgement and the reward and punishment which will take place on that day – something whose denial had been mentioned earlier. The style has an air of rebuke and reprimand in it. The coherence in the discourse is very evident.
Readers may now proceed to read these verses.
نَحْنُ خَلَقْنَاكُمْ فَلَوْلَا تُصَدِّقُونَ (57) أَفَرَأَيْتُم مَّا تُمْنُونَ (58) أَأَنتُمْ تَخْلُقُونَهُ أَمْ نَحْنُ الْخَالِقُونَ (59) نَحْنُ قَدَّرْنَا بَيْنَكُمُ الْمَوْتَ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَسْبُوقِينَ (60) عَلَى أَن نُّبَدِّلَ أَمْثَالَكُمْ وَنُنشِئَكُمْ فِي مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (61) وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْتُمُ النَّشْأَةَ الْأُولَى فَلَوْلَا تَذكَّرُونَ (62)أَفَرَأَيْتُم مَّا تَحْرُثُونَ (63) أَأَنتُمْ تَزْرَعُونَهُ أَمْ نَحْنُ الزَّارِعُونَ (64) لَوْ نَشَاء لَجَعَلْنَاهُ حُطَامًا فَظَلَلْتُمْ تَفَكَّهُونَ (65) إِنَّا لَمُغْرَمُونَ (66) بَلْ نَحْنُ مَحْرُومُونَ (67)أَفَرَأَيْتُمُ الْمَاء الَّذِي تَشْرَبُونَ (68) أَأَنتُمْ أَنزَلْتُمُوهُ مِنَ الْمُزْنِ أَمْ نَحْنُ الْمُنزِلُونَ (69) لَوْ نَشَاء جَعَلْنَاهُ أُجَاجًا فَلَوْلَا تَشْكُرُونَ (70)أَفَرَأَيْتُمُ النَّارَ الَّتِي تُورُونَ (71) أَأَنتُمْ أَنشَأْتُمْ شَجَرَتَهَا أَمْ نَحْنُ الْمُنشِؤُونَ (72) نَحْنُ جَعَلْنَاهَا تَذْكِرَةً وَمَتَاعًا لِّلْمُقْوِينَ (73)فَسَبِّحْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الْعَظِيمِ (74)
We have created you. So why do not you testify to the Day of Judgement? Have you pondered on that which you discharge? Do you fashion it or We? We have ordained death among you, and We are not helpless; in fact, We have the power to replace you with those like you and raise you in a world you know not. And you surely know of the first creation. So why then do you not receive a reminder from it? (57-62)
Have you reflected on what you sow? Is it you who nourish it or We? If We intend, We can turn it into bits while you are engaged in frivolous conversation. Indeed we have been fined; in fact we have been completely deprived. (63-67)
Just reflect on the water which you drink! Was it you who sent it down from the clouds or We? If We desire, We can turn it totally bitter; so why do not you people express gratitude? (68-70)
Just reflect on the fire which you light. Did you create its tree or We? We made it a reminder, and for the traveller a very beneficial thing. (71-73)
Glorify, then, the name of your Lord, the Supreme One. (74)
نَحْنُ خَلَقْنَاكُمْ فَلَوْلَا تُصَدِّقُونَ (57)
The address is directed to those who have denied the Day of Judgement – those whose statement أَئِذَا مِتْنَا وَكُنَّا تُرَابًا وَعِظَامًا أَئِنَّا لَمَبْعُوثُونَ (would that when we die and turn to dust and bones, shall we be raised to life again) is cited earlier. The Almighty has said that when He has created them and they do not deny this reality, then why are they hesitant in testifying to the Day of Judgement. The implication is that when the Almighty was not helpless in creating them the first time, how can He be powerless to create them a second time? Is creating the first time more difficult or the second? It is strange logic on their part that they acknowledge the happening of an event which is more difficult and what is obviously easier than it is regarded to be impossible by them. After the verb تُصَدِّقُونَ, its object بِالدِّيْن or بِالْبَعْث is suppressed because of concomitant indications.
أَفَرَأَيْتُم مَّا تُمْنُونَ (58) أَأَنتُمْ تَخْلُقُونَهُ أَمْ نَحْنُ الْخَالِقُونَ (59)
These verses direct attention to man's creation: if a person thinks that his own planning has some role in his creation without which the Almighty could not have created him, then he should come forward and see what role he has in it. A person only deposits a drop of his semen in the womb of his wife and then goes away. Who takes it out from this womb in the form of a healthy child after making it pass through various stages in layers of darkness and who makes it pass through the phases of childhood, maturity, youth and old age? Obviously, all these take place by the power and wisdom of God. So the God who can cause such changes on a drop of fluid and does not need anyone to fashion it, how is it difficult for Him to recreate man from merely the particles of dust without making him pass through these stages?
نَحْنُ قَدَّرْنَا بَيْنَكُمُ الْمَوْتَ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَسْبُوقِينَ (60)
The implication of this verse is that there is no question for anyone to even imagine that he can escape from the clutches of God. The Almighty has spread out the web of death between people, and such is the nature of this web that everything is in its clasp. Whether a person is of high or low status and whether he is rich or poor, he is bound to face death. In this manner, the Almighty is gathering each and every person for the Day of Judgement. In verses 83-87, this subject will be brought up in detail.
عَلَى أَن نُّبَدِّلَ أَمْثَالَكُمْ وَنُنشِئَكُمْ فِي مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (61)
The implication of this verse is that if both life and death are in the control of God, how can He be unable to create in man's place a similar being? The fact of the matter is that God is not powerless to do this; He has the power to create someone similar, and to raise man up in a world he knows not.
The word عَلَىshows that the words وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَسْبُوقِينَ should be taken in their positive meaning ie. (having power). The meaning thus would be that God is not powerless; He is powerful. Readers have witnessed in this tafsīr the changes in ellipsis and brevity caused by a change in preposition. This topic is discussed in Sūrah Ma'ārij thus:
إِنَّالَقَادِرُونَ عَلَى أَن نُّبَدِّلَ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَمَانَحْنُبِمَسْبُوقِينَ(70: 40-41)
We can create them in a better form and We are not powerless in this regard, (70: 40-41)
The words وَنُنشِئَكُمْ فِي مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ imply that God will create man in a world whose physical laws will be totally different, and he is totally unaware of them. He expresses wonder and incredulity keeping in view the phenomenon of life and death found in this world at the fact that, mankind at the sound of a trumpet, will be recreated after its bodies decompose, and then each and every person will be faced with the account of his deeds. The fact of the matter is that all this will happen and then each person will be destined to live eternally in Paradise or in Hell.
وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْتُمُ النَّشْأَةَ الْأُولَى فَلَوْلَا تَذكَّرُونَ (62)
The implication of this verse is that if a person has not seen the world in which the Almighty will recreate Him, then this is not a logical reason for becoming adamant on its denial. A person does witness his creation in this world; why does he not learn the lesson from it that there is nothing improbable in being created again? Nothing is beyond the power of the Creator Who has brought mankind into this world. He can recreate them also and His providence and wisdom also entail that He do this. If He does not do this, then this would render this world to be meaningless and it is not befitting of the Creator of this universe do something like this.
أَفَرَأَيْتُم مَّا تَحْرُثُونَ (63) أَأَنتُمْ تَزْرَعُونَهُ أَمْ نَحْنُ الزَّارِعُونَ (64)
After mentioning the creation of man, mentioned now are the sources of His providence which the Almighty has made available for nurturing and nourishing him. Neither is a person entitled to these resources nor are they a result of his own planning. It needs to be kept in consideration that the Qur'ān at various places and in different styles cited as an argument in favour of reward and punishment the various favours the Almighty has blessed man with to which he had no entitlement: the fact that they have been bestowed on him even though he had not earned them shows that one day he will be asked about each of these favours. The Qur'ān has also mentioned at various instances the fact that for the majority these favours became a basis of their arrogance. They thought that they were a result of their own planning and ability and that they had a right to these favours and in this conceit disregarded the Hereafter. If anyone tried to remind them of it, they gave the same answer which is cited earlier in the sūrah through the tongue of the affluent.
The verse prods the addressees and asks them: Have they ever deliberated on what they sow in the land. Is it they who nurture the seeds sown or is it God Who does so; just as in the birth of children all that a person does is that he sprinkles the seeds in the earth and ploughs the land and he very well sees that after that all the remaining phases are completed by God in a very elaborate manner, similarly it is God Who has given land the ability to nourish the seeds sown in it. It is He who has instilled in a seed the ability to benefit from the heat and fluids of the earth and bring forth from it needles of the plant stem and then He endowed these needles with the power to cleave asunder the chest of the earth and come out and grow in the open. Then it is God alone who supports these needles with stalks and causes the leaves to grow from them, and brings forth the spikes and fruits and flowers from them. Finally, they ripen and fill the needs of the farmer. A person should reflect on which of these tasks is accomplished by him and which he is potentially capable of.
لَوْ نَشَاء لَجَعَلْنَاهُ حُطَامًا فَظَلَلْتُمْ تَفَكَّهُونَ (65)
In this matter, man's helplessness is evident from the fact that if God wants He can, by sending a strong wind or a hailstorm, rout the blooming harvest at the very time people are expressing joy at this success. The crop could be rendered to bits and pieces whilst people are busy indulging in frivolous talk.
The word تَفَكَّهُونَ is used here sarcastically. The implied meaning is that people will become so unnerved that they would not understand any explanation of this mishap and would have no clue of how others can help them in assessing the extent of this loss. Each person will have his own explanation to offer. Details are forthcoming.
إِنَّا لَمُغْرَمُونَ (66) بَلْ نَحْنُ مَحْرُومُونَ (67)
Some will say: "We have been burdened by a penalty and were not even able to reap what we sowed." Some others will say: "This calamity has totally deprived us; how can we now spend on the upbringing of the family and spend on our daily living." In Sūrah Qalam, the parable of the companions of the orchard is mentioned which portrays this complete situation:
إِنَّا بَلَوْنَاهُمْ كَمَا بَلَوْنَا أَصْحَابَ الْجَنَّةِ إِذْ أَقْسَمُوْا لَيَصْرِمُنَّهَا مُصْبِحِينَوَلَا يَسْتَثْنُوْنَفَطَافَ عَلَيْهَا طَائِفٌ مِنْ رَبِّكَ وَهُمْ نَائِمُوْنَفَأَصْبَحَتْ كَالصَّرِيمِ فَتَنَادَوْا مُصْبِحِينَ أَنْ اغْدُوْا عَلَى حَرْثِكُمْ إِنْ كُنتُمْ صَارِمِينَ فَانطَلَقُوْا وَهُمْ يَتَخَافَتُوْنَ أَنْ لَا يَدْخُلَنَّهَا الْيَوْمَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِسْكِينٌوَغَدَوْا عَلَى حَرْدٍ قَادِرِينَ فَلَمَّا رَأَوْهَا قَالُوْا إِنَّا لَضَالُّوْنَ بَلْ نَحْنُ مَحْرُوْمُوْنَ(68: 17-27)
We put them through a test just as We put the owners of the orchard through a test when they vowed that they would surely pluck the fruit of their orchard in the morning and would not leave anything. Then whilst they were asleep a mover from your Lord moved through it in such a manner that it was totally ravaged. At daybreak, they called out to one another: "Go early in the morning to your plantation if you are to pick its fruit." Then off they went whispering to one another: "No needy person should set foot in this orchard today." And they proceeded with great resolve and determination. But when they saw it, they cried out: "Surely we have lost our way; in fact, we have been ruined." (68: 17-27)
أَفَرَأَيْتُمُ الْمَاء الَّذِي تَشْرَبُونَ (68) أَأَنتُمْ أَنزَلْتُمُوهُ مِنَ الْمُزْنِ أَمْ نَحْنُ الْمُنزِلُونَ (69)
After mentioning the blessings related to food, attention is now drawn to the blessing of water. The question is asked by the Almighty: Have people deliberated on the water they drink; Is it they who bring it down from the clouds or is it We? The implication is that God's power, wisdom and providence converts the bitter water of the seas into water vapours and then once again rains it down on man in the form of pure, sweet and wholesome water; he drinks from it and so does his cattle and this rain also waters their lands. Who has this power to bring down rain from the clouds? It should remain in consideration that all the experiments done by scientists so far to create artificial rain are nothing beyond child play.
لَوْ نَشَاء جَعَلْنَاهُ أُجَاجًا فَلَوْلَا تَشْكُرُونَ (70)
If the Almighty wants, He can make this water so bitter and sour that it becomes useless for man. The implication is that when God is able to turn the bitter into sweet, it is not difficult for Him to turn the sweet into bitter.
The words فَلَوْلَا تَشْكُرُونَ mention what is entailed by providence: all these favours require that man remain obedient to his Lord or else get ready to face punishment for his ungratefulness. The status and significance of gratitude to God has already been highlighted in Sūrah Fātihah. Readers are required to look it up. It is this very sentiment which induces a person to take the first step towards his Lord, and after reaching his destination, he will express this very sentiment when he sees the results of his labour. The Qur'ānic words are: وَ آخردَعْوَاهُمْ أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلهِ رَبِّ العَالَميْن
أَفَرَأَيْتُمُ النَّارَ الَّتِي تُورُونَ (71) أَأَنتُمْ أَنشَأْتُمْ شَجَرَتَهَا أَمْ نَحْنُ الْمُنشِؤُونَ (72)
After water, fire occupied a very significant place in the needs of life, specially for people who had to undertake long journeys in the deserts. At that time neither were there any human settlements where in times of need fire could be made available nor is fire something of the sort which a person can carry with his provisions. Moreover, match sticks had not been invented till then. The Almighty in order to remind people in such need of His providence had created certain types of stones which can be rubbed together to produce fire. He was even more gracious in this regard by creating two particular trees which could produce fire after by rubbing two of its branches together. They are called markh and 'afār. Sūrah Yasīn also mentions this tree. The verse asks its addressees to reflect on the fact whether it is God who fulfils this very big need or it is them.
نَحْنُ جَعَلْنَاهَا تَذْكِرَةً وَمَتَاعًا لِّلْمُقْوِينَ (73)
The Almighty has made this tree a reminder as well as a benefit for those who travel in the deserts. The word مُقْوِينَ is used for travellers who journey through deserts and desolate lands where it is difficult to obtain fire. The antecedent of the feminine pronoun in جَعَلْنَاهَا can be شَجَرَةٌ (tree) as well as the fire which it produces. In both cases, there will not be any difference in meaning.
The word تَذْكِرَةٌ means "reminder". Though this reminder has many aspects, I will allude to two of them which occupy special significance.
First, this is a great sign of God's sustenance. His providence imposes the responsibility of accountability on a person. This entails that reward and punishment in Heaven and Hell respectively take place. I have been explaining this point at various places in this tafsīr.
Second, the information given by the Almighty that Hell will contain fire and also the tree of zaqqūm is a fact. No one should make fun of it thinking that it is against sense and reason. The God who can create fire from the evergreen branches of the trees of markh and 'afār has no problem in creating the tree of zaqqūm in Hell.
In verse sixty of Sūrah Banī Isrā'īl, it has been mentioned that the people of the Quraysh who had no fear of the Hereafter would make fun of the Qur'ān that it informs of fire in Hell and at the same time says that it will also have the trees of zaqqūm. At that instance, a rejoinder to their making fun was given through another aspect which I have explained. Since in verses fifty two and fifty three too zaqqūm is mentioned, so once the fire producing tree is mentioned, attention was also directed to the fact that people who regard the union of fire and tree in Hell as impossible should learn a lesson from this tree in which God has combined both.
فَسَبِّحْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الْعَظِيمِ (74)
Here at the end of the discussion, the Prophet (sws) is directed to strongly adhere to his stance and to keep glorifying God. The reason for emphasizing this is that as far as the arguments are concerned, they are in his favour, yet these stubborn people are not budging to accept them; therefore, the Prophet (sws) should not care about them; he should remain engaged in glorifying the Almighty i.e. celebrating his purity. The implication is that these people who have been blinded by their desires reckon that the Almighty has created this world only to bless them with luxury and comfort; they are not aware that the Almighty is above and too pure to create something for their jest or sport. It is incumbent upon Him to bring a day in which He rewards the grateful for their gratitude and takes to task the ingrates.
The preposition ب in بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ shows that the word here also embraces the meaning of إِسْتِعَانَةٌ (help) which would incorporate a further meaning in the expression viz. He should glorify the name of His Lord and seek His help to combat these circumstances.
The word اسْم shows that the only means of a person's association and relationship with the Almighty are His noble attributes. It is by comprehending them that one gets a comprehension of God which is the fountainhead of true knowledge and deeds.
Section III (Verses 75-96)
Coming up are the closing verses of the sūrah. The leaders of the Quraysh are addressed and told that the certain event the Qur'ān is informing them of is a reality. They should not try to escape from it or to refute it. The Qur'ān is not from among the nonsensical utterances of the soothsayers; it has come down from the preserved treasure of God's knowledge. It is a noble discourse which has been revealed through pure means to a pure Messenger. It is secure and free from tampering and interference of the devils. It is an eternal guidance and an everlasting spiritual food for them. They should not invite their doom by not valuing or honouring it and by refuting it. They should remember that no one can escape God's grasp and the upgrading and downgrading of which they are being informed will soon be seen by them with all its consequences and corollaries.
Readers may now proceed to read the subsequent verses.
فَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِمَوَاقِعِ النُّجُومِ (75) وَإِنَّهُ لَقَسَمٌ لَّوْ تَعْلَمُونَ عَظِيمٌ (76) إِنَّهُ لَقُرْآنٌ كَرِيمٌ (77) فِي كِتَابٍ مَّكْنُونٍ (78) لَّا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ (79) تَنزِيلٌ مِّن رَّبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (80) أَفَبِهَذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَنتُم مُّدْهِنُونَ (81) وَتَجْعَلُونَ رِزْقَكُمْ أَنَّكُمْ تُكَذِّبُونَ (82) فَلَوْلَا إِذَا بَلَغَتِ الْحُلْقُومَ (83) وَأَنتُمْ حِينَئِذٍ تَنظُرُونَ (84) وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنكُمْ وَلَكِن لَّا تُبْصِرُونَ (85) فَلَوْلَا إِن كُنتُمْ غَيْرَ مَدِينِينَ (86) تَرْجِعُونَهَا إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (87) فَأَمَّا إِن كَانَ مِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ (88) فَرَوْحٌ وَرَيْحَانٌ وَجَنَّةُ نَعِيمٍ (89) وَأَمَّا إِن كَانَ مِنَ أَصْحَابِ الْيَمِينِ (90) فَسَلَامٌ لَّكَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ الْيَمِينِ (91) وَأَمَّا إِن كَانَ مِنَ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ الضَّالِّينَ (92) فَنُزُلٌ مِّنْ حَمِيمٍ (93) وَتَصْلِيَةُ جَحِيمٍ (94) إِنَّ هَذَا لَهُوَ حَقُّ الْيَقِينِ (95) فَسَبِّحْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الْعَظِيمِ (96)
Thus no! I swear by the place in which the stars fall! And indeed this is a mighty oath if you but know it! Indeed, this is a glorious Qur'ān! In a protected book. None touch it except the purified; a revelation from the Lord of the Universe. So do you people show indifference to this discourse and refute what is sustenance for you! (75-82)
If you think that you are subservient to no one, then at that time why do not you when under your very eyes a man's soul reaches his throat and We are nearer to him than you, though you cannot see Us. So why do not you restore this person's life if you are subservient to no one if you are truthful. (83-87)
Thus, if he is from among the favoured ones, for him is bliss and ecstasy and a garden of delight. And if he is from among the companions of the right hand, the peace be to you O companion of the right hand. And if he is from those who have denied and has been led astray, then for him is the feast of scalding water and entry to Hell. (88-94)
Indeed all these things are true and inevitable. Praise, then, the name of your Lord, the Supreme One. (95-96)
فَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِمَوَاقِعِ النُّجُومِ (75)
Here the particle لَاis not connected to the next word أُقْسِمُ. It is totally separate from it. Before the affirmation, the particle serves to negate the wrong view of the addressee. Such a negation is very common in Arabic as well as in the Qur'ān. In Sūrah Nisā' the words are: فَلاَ وَرَبِّكَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىَ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ (4: 65) (but they will not – I swear by your Lord – they will not be true believers until they seek your arbitration in their disputes, (4: 65)). In other words, if these Hypocrites think that by merely uttering words they have embraced faith, then this notion of theirs is absolutely wrong. After this, it is stated on oath that these people cannot be true believers until they accept Muhammad (sws) as the arbitrator in all their disputes.
In the verse under discussion too, before the oath, the particle لَاserves to refute the false notion of the addressees that the Qur'ān, God forbid, is not a revelation from among the nonsensical utterances of the soothsayers. After that, an oath is sworn by the exaltedness and sanctity of the Qur'ān and by the fact that it is the word of God. This style of language is a very natural style and for this reason is found in every language. It is even present in the Urdu language (the case of English is no different). When it is said:"No by God! The truth is this," we employ this very style and the objective is to negate some notion, view or objection of an addressee before affirming the real truth. The eloquence in this style is that so baseless is the objection of the objector that the speaker does not even want to wait for a moment to put up with it. He is not even ready to negate it after explaining the true aspect.
Most people regard لَا to be superfluous. However, in the first place, there are no superfluous words in an eloquent discourse, but if, for the sake of supposition there are, then there is great danger in regarding the letter لَاto be so. If without any principle, this letter is regarded to be superfluous, then this can open up a lot of forbidden things in religion. However, a detailed discussion on this issue is not required here. Inshallāh under verse twenty nine (لِئَلَّا يَعْلَمَ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ) of the coming sūrah, Sūrah Hadīd, I will discuss this issue in detail. The لَا in that verse too has been regarded as superfluous by the exegetes. I will, God willing show, that this is in full accordance with the linguistic style of Arabic.
The word مَوَاقِعِ is the plural of مَوْقَع which means the place were something happens or falls. Here it is used for the abodes and check-posts from where shooting stars are pelted at the devils who try eavesdrop on divine secrets. It is evident from the Qur'ān that there were devils among the jinn who had selected some special abodes in the heavens in which they would sit for this purpose. At the time of the revelation of the Qur'ān, the Almighty made special arrangements to protect his revelations from their interference: those who would try to sit in these abodes to eavesdrop would be pelted with shooting stars. The jinn themselves have acknowledged this fact, as recorded in Sūrah Jinn thus:
وَأَنَّا لَمَسْنَا السَّمَاء فَوَجَدْنَاهَا مُلِئَتْ حَرَسًا شَدِيدًا وَشُهُبًا وَأَنَّا كُنَّا نَقْعُدُ مِنْهَا مَقَاعِدَ لِلسَّمْعِ فَمَن يَسْتَمِعِ الْآنَ يَجِدْ لَهُ شِهَابًا رَّصَدًا (72: 8-9)
And we deeply observed the heavens and found it filled with stern guards and darting stars. And we were able to sit in some of its stations to eavesdrop, but now whoever tries to eavesdrop finds a darting meteor waiting for him. (72:8-9)
In my opinion, the word used for the ambuscades of the jinn in Sūrah Jinn is called مَوَاقِعِin the verse under discussion. The only difference is that the first word refers to their ambuscade and the second to the targets of the shooting stars. The word النُّجُومِ here refers to shooting stars. In Sūrah Mulk, the words used are: وَلَقَدْ زَيَّنَّا السَّمَاء الدُّنْيَا بِمَصَابِيحَ وَجَعَلْنَاهَا رُجُومًا لِّلشَّيَاطِين (67: 5) (And We have adorned the lowest heaven with lamps and made them a means of bombardment on the devils,(67:5)). Explanation on these shooting stars is found in verses1-5 of Sūrah Najm and verse 35 of Sūrah Rahmān. Readers may look it up.
وَإِنَّهُ لَقَسَمٌ لَّوْ تَعْلَمُونَ عَظِيمٌ (76)
This is a very apt parenthetical sentence between the object of the oath and the complement of the oath. The implication is that just as these people very stubbornly regard the Qur'ān to be inspired by the devils, in the same manner they will ask what the relation of shooting stars with the bombardment of the devils is; however, if they reflect, they will come to know that this oath carries a great testimony in it: the jinn and the devils have no access to the divine realm as claimed by the soothsayers. If anyone wants to get there, the Almighty has made elaborate arrangements to deal with him. No one can protect himself from the shooting stars of God. In other words, whether they are able to know this or not and whether they believe in it or not, the Almighty has revealed a great secret of this universe in this oath.
إِنَّهُ لَقُرْآنٌ كَرِيمٌ (77) فِي كِتَابٍ مَّكْنُونٍ (78) لَّا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ (79) تَنزِيلٌ مِّن رَّبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (80)
After the oath, this is the complement of the oath. It has been explained many a time in this tafsīr that the oaths which occur in the Qur'ān are meant to bear witness. In other words, after referring to the fact that there exists an arrangement to pelt the devils on their interference, the addressees are warned that they should not regard this Qur'ān to be a discourse of the soothsayers; it is a very noble and exalted discourse. It is found in a protected book with the Almighty and no one except His pure angels can have access to it; only the angels which are close to God can touch it; the jinn and devils cannot even come near it.
The implication of the words تَنزِيلٌ مِّن رَّبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ is that they should not, God forbid, equate Satanic revelations that come to the soothsayers with the Qur'ān. It is not inspired by the devils; it is inspired by the Almighty. The guarded tablet is its source. Except for the angels which are close to God, no one has access to it. It is Gabriel, the trustworthy who is the closest among angels to God who brings it down, and devils can in no way influence them. It was revealed to Muhammad (sws) whom the Almighty has protected from any kind of misguidance and deviation.
Our jurists have deduced a certain etiquette relating to ritual purity from the verse: لَا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ. In their opinion, it is only in the state of this purity that a person is allowed to touch or read the Qur'ān. However, it is evident from the context of the verse that this etiquette has no direct bearing on it. For this reason, whether our readers in the light of arguments accept these deductions or reject them, they fall beyond the ambit of our discussion. So I will not attempt to raise it here. However, I will only say that the view of those jurists who impose the same conditions of ritual purity in orally reading the Qur'ān or touching it which are required for offering the prayer are based on extremism. The Qur'ān is the book of God and hence worthy of respect from every aspect. At the same time, it is a means for us to find out good and evil, truth and untruth; it is also a reference for making inferences and the basis of religious reasoning. If it is necessary for a person to be ritually pure and in the state of wudū if he needs to touch it or read any of its verses or sūrahs, or given its reference, then this would be an unbearable burden which would be against the religion of nature. By imposing such unnatural restrictions, the same concept of Qur'ān's respect would arise for which Jesus (sws) has used the following words: "No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house." (Matthew, 5:15)
أَفَبِهَذَا الْحَدِيثِ أَنتُم مُّدْهِنُونَ (81)
The word إدهانmeans "to be indifferent, careless and lazy". After mentioning the exaltedness of the Qur'ān, the question is posed to them: Does this Qur'ān which has been revealed in such an elaborate manner by the Almighty deserve the indifference from them that they are showing?
The implication is that they are not so naive and visionless that they are not able to distinguish a pebble from a pearl; they very well know the difference but do not want to accept the Qur'ān; for this reason they are showing indifference to it by regarding it to be the discourse of the soothsayers; however, they should remember that showing indifference to a reality cannot change it; a reality is always a reality and they will have to face it; it would have been in their own interest if they had given it due importance.
وَتَجْعَلُونَ رِزْقَكُمْ أَنَّكُمْ تُكَذِّبُونَ (82)
The word رِزْق here refers to divine revelation or in other words to the Qur'ān. In ancient scriptures as well as in the Qur'an, divine revelation is called رِزْق at various places. I have already cited examples of this usage at an appropriate place of this tafsīr. Jesus (sws) is reported to have said: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew, 4:4). The Qur'ān has also called divine revelation as life: اسْتَجِيبُواْ لِلّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُم لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ (24:8) (obey God and the messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life, (8:24)). The verse would mean that the Almighty revealed divine sustenance for them so that they could attain eternal life from it; however, it is their misfortune that they are showing a degrading attitude towards it and not giving it its due importance.
فَلَوْلَا إِذَا بَلَغَتِ الْحُلْقُومَ (83) وَأَنتُمْ حِينَئِذٍ تَنظُرُونَ (84) وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنكُمْ وَلَكِن لَّا تُبْصِرُونَ (85) فَلَوْلَا إِن كُنتُمْ غَيْرَ مَدِينِينَ (86) تَرْجِعُونَهَا إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ (87)
The implication of these verses is that a person should be able to save himself or any of his near ones from the jaws of death if he is obdurately making fun of the Qur'ān and thinks that the reward and punishment he is being threatened with is merely a bluff and that he is subservient to no one and that he will not be held accountable to anyone for his words and deeds. When death overtakes a person, at that time he finds himself to be alone and helpless and has to consign his soul to the angel of death. So while observing one's helplessness why does he regard himself to be all in all and free from any accountability? In verse sixty above, the words were: نَحْنُ قَدَّرْنَا بَيْنَكُمُ الْمَوْتَ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَسْبُوقِينَ (We have ordained death among you, and We are not helpless). It is this reality which is divulged here in another way so that no one should consider himself to be all in all; no one is beyond God's grasp; everyone is bound to face death and death is destined for the very reason that it gathers all the dead so that they can be presented before God on an appointed day.
The subject of the verb بَلَغَتْin فَلَوْلَا إِذَا بَلَغَتِ الْحُلْقُومَ is نَفْسٌ(the soul) and is suppressed here because of concomitant indications. The meaning of the verse is: when the soul of a person gets stuck in his throat at the time of death. The subject of the verb is similarly suppressed in Sūrah Qiyāmah: (75: 26) كَلَّا إِذَا بَلَغَتْ التَّرَاقِي(Certainly not! On the Day when the soul will be stuck in the collar-bone,(75:26)). With respect to eloquence, the benefit of such an ellipses is that the horror of the event because of ambiguity becomes even more potent and effective.
The answer to لَوْلَا is coming up ahead in a very effective manner.
The implication of the verse وَأَنتُمْ حِينَئِذٍ تَنظُرُونَ is that it is not so that the event of death takes place without other people knowing it; the fact of the matter is that the near ones of the dying person and his well-wishers including his doctor are present around him; however, before their very eyes, the angel of death claims his soul and no one can stop him. No one can say that had he been near, he would have stopped the angel of death from doing his job; all their efforts and plans turn out to be useless in this regard.
The antecedent of the pronoun إِلَيْهِ in وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنكُمْ وَلَكِن لَّا تُبْصِرُونَ is the dying person. His attendants are with him and God is even nearer to him but they cannot see Him. They can see the hand of their doctor but not the hand of the angel of death – how efficiently he claims the soul.
The verses فَلَوْلَا إِن كُنتُمْ غَيْرَ مَدِينِينَ تَرْجِعُونَهَا إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ are an answer to the لَوْلَا mentioned above. Since the conditional clause and its answer were distanced from one another, the conditional clause has been repeated here. The verse says that if they think that they are not subservient to anyone who can seize them and punish them, then why do not they bring back the soul claimed by the angel of death right before their eyes to its body. The word مَدِينِينَ means "to be subservient and to be under control".
فَأَمَّا إِن كَانَ مِنَ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ (88) فَرَوْحٌ وَرَيْحَانٌ وَجَنَّةُ نَعِيمٍ (89)
People should not remain under the misconception that once a person dies everything will end; the fact of the matter is that the real phase will ensue after death which is mentioned above by the words: وَكُنتُمْ أَزْوَاجًا ثَلَاثَةً (7). On that day, people will be necessarily divided into three categories: either a person will belong to the favoured ones or the companions of the right hand or the companions of the left hand. The verses under discussion say that if the person is from among the favoured ones, then for him there is eternal bliss and ecstasy and a blessed orchard. The word رَوْحٌ means "bliss" and the word رَيْحَانٌ here means "ecstasy". In Sūrah Rahmān, this word has been discussed. The real meaning of رَيْحَانٌ is that of a flower; however, it is also used in what it entails, ie. ecstasy and sweet smell.
وَأَمَّا إِن كَانَ مِنَ أَصْحَابِ الْيَمِينِ (90) فَسَلَامٌ لَّكَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ الْيَمِينِ (91)
If the person is from among the companions of the right hand, he will receive praise from God and His angels: O one from the companions of the right hand! For you is peace and congratulations.
The word مِنْin فَسَلَامٌ لَّكَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ الْيَمِينِ does not occur as a preposition as has been generally understood by our exegetes. It occurs as an explanation of the pronoun of address in لَّكَ. For this reason, in my opinion, following is an incorrect translation of the second verse: "Peace be to you from the companions of the right hand". The correct translation would be: "O companion of the right hand! Peace be for you". Concealed in these salutations and peace is everything which is mentioned earlier regarding the status of the companions of the right hand,
وَأَمَّا إِن كَانَ مِنَ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ الضَّالِّينَ (92) فَنُزُلٌ مِّنْ حَمِيمٍ (93) وَتَصْلِيَةُ جَحِيمٍ (94)
Mentioned in these verses is the fate of the companions of the left hand. However, they are not mentioned by this title; they are addressed with reference to their real crime الْمُكَذِّبِينَ الضَّالِّينَ (the rejecters and the misled) so that besides their fate, their crime is also delineated, and so that this crime is fully associated with the misguided and rejecters of the Quraysh. Earlier in verses 51-54, the Quraysh are addressed and told: ثُمَّ إِنَّكُمْ أَيُّهَا الضَّالُّونَ الْمُكَذِّبُونَ (51) لَآكِلُونَ مِن شَجَرٍ مِّن زَقُّومٍ (52) فَمَالِؤُونَ مِنْهَا الْبُطُونَ (53) فَشَارِبُونَ عَلَيْهِ مِنَ الْحَمِيمِ. This same thing is stated here in a concise manner. I have already explained the difference between الضَّالُّونَ and الْمُكَذِّبُونَ.
It is evident from the words فَنُزُلٌ مِّنْ حَمِيمٍ (93) وَتَصْلِيَةُ جَحِيمٍ (94) that the very first nourishment they will be greeted with will be boiling water. After that, they will be flung into the real torment of Hell.
إِنَّ هَذَا لَهُوَ حَقُّ الْيَقِينِ (95) فَسَبِّحْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الْعَظِيمِ (96)
These verses urge the Prophet (sws) to exercise patience and perseverance and they assure him. He is told that whatever has been mentioned earlier are certain facts. There is no possibility of any doubt in them. If the people of his nation refuse to believe in them, then he should leave them to themselves and glorify the Almighty. I have already explained the background and meaning of the word تَسْبِيْحٌ (glorification) under verse seventy four.
With these lines, I come to the end of this sūrah's tafsīr. فَالْحَمْدً لِلّهِ عَلَى إِحْسَانِهِ (so gratitude be to God for His favours).
24th October, 1977 AD
11th Dhū al-Qa'dah, 1397 AH