Surah Abasa (In Arabic: سورة عبس) is the 80th Surah of the Quran meaning in English as “He frowned”. It is a Meccan Surah meaning it’s revelation was before the Prophet (ﷺ) and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina. It is composed of 42 ayat (verses).
The Surah tells how the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) at one time was preaching Islam to some big chiefs of Mecca. It was an important meeting for Him, but at that moment a blind man named Abd-Allah ibn Umm-Maktum came and interrupted his presentation.
Prophet Muhammad disliked this interruption and ignored him. Thereupon Allah sent down this Surah with a beautiful message for the Messenger and for all believers.
“But as for he who came to you striving [for knowledge] While he fears [Allah] From him you are distracted.”
Surah Abasa Ayat 8-10
Below you can read Surah Abasa in it’s entirety with Arabic text. Below every ayat we’ve provided transliteration to help those who are not strong readers with pronunciation. We’ve also added Sahih International English translation to help with the understanding. To increase your knowledge you can find four different sources of Tafseer including one by Ibn Kathir.
Read Surah Abasa with Translation and Transliteration
Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful
‘Abasa wa tawallaa.
1. The Prophet frowned and turned away
أَن جَاءَهُ الْأَعْمَىٰ
An jaa-ahul ‘a-maa
2. Because there came to him the blind man, [interrupting].
وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ لَعَلَّهُ يَزَّكَّىٰ
Wa maa yudreeka la’allahu yaz zakkaa.
3. But what would make you perceive, [O Muhammad], that perhaps he might be purified
أَوْ يَذَّكَّرُ فَتَنفَعَهُ الذِّكْرَىٰ
Au yaz zak karu fatanfa ‘ahuz zikraa.
4. Or be reminded and the remembrance would benefit him?
أَمَّا مَنِ اسْتَغْنَىٰ
Amma manis taghnaa
5. As for he who thinks himself without need,
فَأَنتَ لَهُ تَصَدَّىٰ
Fa-anta lahu tasaddaa
6. To him you give attention.
وَمَا عَلَيْكَ أَلَّا يَزَّكَّىٰ
Wa ma ‘alaika allaa yaz zakka.
7. And not upon you [is any blame] if he will not be purified.
وَأَمَّا مَن جَاءَكَ يَسْعَىٰ
Wa amma man jaa-aka yas’a
8. But as for he who came to you striving [for knowledge]
9. While he fears [Allah],
فَأَنتَ عَنْهُ تَلَهَّىٰ
Fa-anta ‘anhu talah haa.
10. From him you are distracted.
كَلَّا إِنَّهَا تَذْكِرَةٌ
Kalla innaha tazkirah
11. No! Indeed, these verses are a reminder;
فَمَن شَاءَ ذَكَرَهُ
Faman shaa a zakarah
12. So whoever wills may remember it.
فِي صُحُفٍ مُّكَرَّمَةٍ
Fi suhufim mukar rama,
13. [It is recorded] in honored sheets,
Marfoo’atim mutah hara,
14. Exalted and purified,
15. [Carried] by the hands of messenger-angels,
16. Noble and dutiful.
قُتِلَ الْإِنسَانُ مَا أَكْفَرَهُ
Qutilal-insanu maa akfarah.
17. Cursed is man; how disbelieving is he.
مِنْ أَيِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقَهُ
Min aiyyi shai-in Khalaq
18. From what substance did He create him?
مِن نُّطْفَةٍ خَلَقَهُ فَقَدَّرَهُ
Min nutfatin khalaqahoo faqaddarah.
19. From a sperm-drop He created him and destined for him;
ثُمَّ السَّبِيلَ يَسَّرَهُ
Thummas sabeela yas-sarah
20. Then He eased the way for him;
ثُمَّ أَمَاتَهُ فَأَقْبَرَهُ
Thumma amatahu fa-aqbarah
21. Then He causes his death and provides a grave for him.
ثُمَّ إِذَا شَاءَ أَنشَرَهُ
Thumma iza shaa-a ansharah
22. Then when He wills, He will resurrect him.
كَلَّا لَمَّا يَقْضِ مَا أَمَرَهُ
Kalla lamma yaqdi maa amarah.
23. No! Man has not yet accomplished what He commanded him.
فَلْيَنظُرِ الْإِنسَانُ إِلَىٰ طَعَامِهِ
Falyanzuril insanu ilaa ta-amih
24. Then let mankind look at his food –
أَنَّا صَبَبْنَا الْمَاءَ صَبًّا
Anna sabab nalmaa-a sabba.
25. How We poured down water in torrents,
ثُمَّ شَقَقْنَا الْأَرْضَ شَقًّا
Thumma sha qaqnal-arda shaqqa.
26. Then We broke open the earth, splitting [it with sprouts],
فَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا حَبًّا
Fa ambatna feeha habba
27. And caused to grow within it grain
Wa ‘inabaw-wa qadba
28. And grapes and herbage
Wa zaitoonaw wanakh la’
29. And olive and palm trees
Wa hadaa-iqa ghulba
30. And gardens of dense shrubbery
Wa faki hataw-wa abba.
31. And fruit and grass –
مَّتَاعًا لَّكُمْ وَلِأَنْعَامِكُمْ
Mata’al-lakum wa li-an’amikum.
32. [As] enjoyment for you and your grazing livestock.
فَإِذَا جَاءَتِ الصَّاخَّةُ
Faiza jaa-atis saakhah.
33. But when there comes the Deafening Blast
يَوْمَ يَفِرُّ الْمَرْءُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ
Yauma yafir-rul mar-u min akheeh
34. On the Day a man will flee from his brother
Wa ummihee wa abeeh
35. And his mother and his father
Wa sahi batihee wa baneeh.
36. And his wife and his children,
لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مِّنْهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ شَأْنٌ يُغْنِيهِ
Likul limri-im-minuhm yaumaa-izin shaa nuy-yughneeh
37. For every man, that Day, will be a matter adequate for him.
وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ مُّسْفِرَةٌ
38. [Some] faces, that Day, will be bright –
Dahi katum mustab shirah
39. Laughing, rejoicing at good news.
وَوُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَلَيْهَا غَبَرَةٌ
Wa wujoohuy yauma-izin ‘alaiha ghabar a
40. And [other] faces, that Day, will have upon them dust.
41. Blackness will cover them.
أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَفَرَةُ الْفَجَرَةُ
Ulaa-ika humul-kafa ratul-fajarah.
42. Those are the disbelievers, the wicked ones.
Tafseer Surah Abasa
Here you can read from four different sources on the Tafseer of Surah Abasa including the one by Ibn Kathir. In the hadith it tells us there’s a reward for all those who read the Quran, but we must also remember the purpose the Quran was revealed.
It was sent down for guidance and to deliver a clear message. We should set aside some time out of our busy schedule to learn and understand this message. To do this we should read or listen to scholars who’ve made it their life mission to interpret the teachings of the Qur’an. That is exactly what the tafseer are.
We should continue to read the Quran but to also make it a study.
Surah Abasa Tafseer by Ibn Kathir
(In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
More than one of the scholars of Tafsir mentioned that one day the Messenger of Allah was addressing one of the great leaders of the Quraysh while hoping that he would accept Islam. While he was speaking in direct conversation with him, Ibn Umm Maktum came to him, and he was of those who had accepted Islam in its earliest days. He (Ibn Umm Maktum) then began asking the Messenger of Allah about something, urgently beseeching him. The Prophet hoped that the man would be guided, so he asked Ibn Umm Maktum to wait for a moment so he could complete his conversation. He frowned in the face of Ibn Umm Maktum and turned away from him in order to face the other man. Thus, Allah revealed,
(He frowned and turned away. Because there came to him the blind man. And how can you know that he might become pure) meaning, he may attain purification and cleanliness in his soul.
(Or he might receive admonition, and the admonition might profit him) meaning, he may receive admonition and abstain from the forbidden.
(As for him who thinks himself self-sufficient. To him you attend;) meaning, `you face the rich person so that perhaps he may be guided.’
(What does it matter to you if he will not become pure) meaning, `you are not responsible for him if he does not attain purification.’
(But as for him who came to you running. And is afraid.) meaning, `he is seeking you and he comes to you so that he may be guided by what you say to him.’
(Of him you are neglectful and divert your attention to another.) meaning, `you are too busy.’ Here Allah commands His Messenger to not single anyone out with the warning. Rather, he should equal warn the noble and the weak, the poor and the rich, the master and the slave, the men and the women, the young and the old. Then Allah will guide whomever He chooses to a path that is straight. He has the profound wisdom and the decisive proof. Abu Ya`la and Ibn Jarir both recorded from `A’ishah that she said about,
(He frowned and turned away.) was revealed.” At-Tirmirdhi recorded this Hadith but he did not mention that it was narrated by `A’ishah. I say it is reported like this in Al-Muwatta’ as well.
(Nay; indeed it is an admonition.) meaning, this Surah, or this advice in conveying knowledge equally among people, whether they are of noble or low class. Qatadah and As-Suddi both said,
(Nay; indeed it is an admonition.) “This means the Qur’an.”
(So, whoever wills, let him pay attention to Him (it).) meaning, so whoever wills, he remembers Allah in all of his affairs. The pronoun could also be understood to be referring to the revelation since the conversation is alluding to it. Allah said:
(In Records held in honor, exalted, purified.) meaning, this Surah or this admonition. Both meanings are connected to each other. Actually, all of the Qur’an is in honored pages, meaning respected and revered.
(exalted) meaning, elevated in status.
(purified) meaning, from impurity, additions and deficiency. Concerning Allah’s statement,
(In the hands of ambassadors (Safarah),) Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, and Ibn Zayd, all said, “These are the angels.” Al-Bukhari said, “Safarah (ambassadors) refers to the angels. They travel around rectifying matters between themselves. The angels when they descend with the revelation of Allah, bringing it like the ambassador who rectifies matters between people.” Allah said,
(Honorable and obedient.) meaning, they are noble, handsome, and honorable in their creation. Their character and their deeds are righteous, pure and perfect. Here it should be noted that it is necessary for one who carries the Qur’an (i.e., the angel) to be following righteousness and guidance. Imam Ahmad recorded from `A’ishah that the Messenger of Allah said,
(He who recites the Qur’an proficiently, will be with the noble, righteous, ambassador angels, and the one who recites it with difficulty will receive two rewards.) This Hadith was reported by the group.
Allah rebukes those who deny the Resurrection and the Final Gathering.
(Qutila mankind!) Ad-Dahhak reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said,
(Qutila mankind!) “May man be cursed.” Abu Malik also made a similar statement. He said, “This refers to the rejecting type of man, due to his abundant denial without any supporting argument. Rather he denies simply because he thinks it is farfetched and because he lacks knowledge of it.” Ibn Jurayj said,
(How ungrateful he is!) “This means none is worse in disbelief than he is.” Qatadah said,
(How ungrateful he is!) “This means none is more cursed than he is.” Then Allah explains how He created him from something despised and that He is able to bring him back to life just as He created him initially. Allah says,
(From what thing did He create him From a Nutfah He created him, and then set him in due proportion.) meaning, He decreed his life span, his sustenance, his deeds, and whether he would be miserable or happy.
(Then He made the path easy for him.) Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas, “Then He made his coming out of his mother’s belly easy for him.” This was also said by `Ikrimah, Ad-Dahhak, Abu Salih, Qatadah, As-Suddi, and it was the explanation preferred by Ibn Jarir. Mujahid said, “This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(Verily, We guided him on the path, he is either grateful or ungrateful.) (76:3) meaning, We explained it to him, clarified it, and made it easy for him to act upon.” Al-Hasan and Ibn Zayd both said the same. This is the most correct view and Allah knows best. Concerning Allah’s statement,
(Then He causes him to die and puts him in his grave.) After creating man, Allah causes him to die and makes him the inhabitant of a grave. Allah said;
(Then when it is His will, He will resurrect him.) meaning, He resurrects him after his death and this is called Al-Ba`th (resurrection) and An-Nushur (resuscitation).
(And among His signs is this that He created you from dust, and then behold, you are human beings scattered.) (30:20)
(And look at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh.) (2:259) In the Two Sahihs it is narrated by way of Al-A`mash from Abu Salih, from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said,
(All of the Sons of Adam (men) will decay except for the bone of coccyx (tailbone). From it he (man) was created and by it he will be reconstructed.)” Concerning Allah’s statement,
(Nay, but has not done what He commanded him.) Ibn Jarir said, “Allah is saying, `Nay, the matter is not as this disbelieving man says. He claims that he has fulfilled Allah’s right upon him regarding himself and his wealth.
(But he has not done what He commanded him.) Allah is saying that man has not fulfilled for his Lord the obligations that were imposed upon him.” What seems apparent to me of its actual meaning — and Allah knows best — is that the Ayah
(Then when it is His will, He will resurrect him.) means, He will resurrect him.
(Nay! But he has not done what He commanded him.) means, He has not done it (resurrected them) as of yet, until the time period has expired and the extent of the earthly life of humanity is complete, according to the lives of all whom Allah has written it to exist from the time they are brought into existence into the world. Verily, Allah has decreed the existence of mankind, and its duration, therefore, when that is finished with Allah, He resurrects the creatures and repeats their creation just as He initially created them.
(Then let man look at his food) This is a call to reflect upon Allah’s favor. It also contains an evidence in the vegetation’s coming to life from the lifeless earth, that the bodies can be brought to life after being decayed bones and scattered dust.
(We pour forth water in abundance.) meaning, `We sent it down from the sky to the earth.’
(And We split the earth in clefts.) meaning, `We cause it (the water) to settle in it (the earth), and it enters into its boundaries, and mingles with the parts of the seeds that are left in the earth. From this the seeds grow, rise up and appear on the surface of the earth (in the form of vegetation).’
(And We cause therein Habb to grow. And grapes and Qadb,) Al-Habb refers to all types of seeds (or grains). Grapes are well-known. Al-Qadb are the moist (green) herbal plants that animals graze on. It is also called Al-Qat. Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and As-Suddi, all said this. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “Al-Qadb is fodder.”
(And olives) It is well-known, and it is a food just as its juice is a food. It is eaten for breakfast and used as an oil.
(And date palms,) It (i.e., its fruit) is eaten as Balah, Busr, Rutab and Tamr, Niya’ and Matbukh, all of which are varieties of dates that range from unripe, ripe and dried in their textures. Its juice is also extracted to make pulpy fruit drinks and vinegar.
(And Ghulb Hada’iq,) meaning, gardens. Al-Hasan and Qatadah both said, “Ghulb are gardens of date palms that are thick and handsome.” Ibn `Abbas and Mujahid both said, “It means everything that is gathered and collected.” Allah said,
(And fruits (Fakihah) and herbage (Abb).) Fakihah includes every type of fruit. Ibn `Abbas said, “Al-Fakihah is everything that is eaten ripe, and Al-Abb is what the earth grows that is eaten by grazing animals and not people.” In one narration reported from him he said, “It is the grass for the livestock animals.” Abu `Ubayd Al-Qasim bin Sallam reported from Ibrahim At-Taymi that he said, “Abu Bakr As-Siddiq was asked about Allah’s statement,
(And fruits (Fakihah) and herbage (Abb).) and he said, `What sky would shade me and what earth would carry me if I said about the Book of Allah that which I did not have knowledge of.’ ” hIn reference to what Ibn Jarir recorded from Anas, that he said, “Umar bin Al-Khattab recited
(He frowned and turned away.) then when he reached this Ayah
(And fruits (Fakihah) and herbage (Abb).) he said, `We already know what Al-Fakihah is, but what is Al-Abb’ Then he said, `By your life, O Ibn Al-Khattab, this is something over burdensome (i.e., unnecessary to ask about).”’ This report has an authentic chain of narration. More than one person has narrated it from Anas. The meaning of the narration is that `Umar wanted to know how it looks, its type and its exact description, because he (`Umar) and everyone who reads this Ayah knows that it is one of the plants that grows from the earth. This is clear due to the Allah’s saying,
(And We cause therein the Habb to grow. And grapes and Qadb, and olives and date palms. And Ghulb Hada’iq. And fruits (Fakihah) and herbage (Abb).) And then He says,
(A provision and benefit for you and your cattle.) meaning, a means of livelihood for you all and your cattle in this life until the (coming of) the Day of Judgement.
Ibn `Abbas said, “As-Sakhkhah is one of the names of the Day of Judgement that Allah has magnified and warned His servants of.” Ibn Jarir said, “Perhaps it is a name for the blowing into Trumpet.” Al-Baghawi said, “As-Sakhkhah means the thunderous shout of the Day of Judgement. It has been called this because it will deafen the ears. This means that it pierces the hearing to such an extent that it almost deafens the ears.”
(That Day shall a man flee from his brother. And from his mother and his father. And from his wife and his children.) meaning, he will see them and then flee from them, and seek to get away from them because horror will be so great and the matter will be so weighty. There is an authentic Hadith related concerning the intercession that states that every one of the great Messengers of firm resolve will be requested to intercede with Allah on behalf of the creation, but each of them will say, “O myself! O myself! Today I will not ask You (O Allah) concerning anyone but myself.” Even `Isa bin Maryam will say, “I will not ask Him (Allah) concerning anyone but myself today. I will not even ask Maryam, the woman who gave birth to me.” Thus, Allah says,
(That Day shall a man flee from his brother, and from his mother and his father, and from his wife and his children.) Qatadah said, “The most beloved and then the next most beloved, and the closest of kin and then the next closest of kin — due to the terror of that Day.” Allah said,
(Every man that Day will have enough to make him careless of others.) meaning, he will be preoccupied in his business and distracted from the affairs of others. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded from Ibn `Abbas that the Messenger of Allah said,
(You will all be gathered barefoot, naked, walking and uncircumcised.) So his wife said, “O Messenger of Allah! Will we look at or see each other’s nakedness” The Prophet replied,
(Every man among them on that Day will have enough (worries) to make him careless of others) — or he said: (he will be too busy to look.) Ibn `Abbas narrated that the Prophet said,
(You will all be gathered barefoot, naked and uncircumcised.) So a woman said, “Will we see or look at each others nakedness” He replied,
(O so-and-so woman! Every man among them on that Day will have enough (worries) to make him careless of others.) At-Tirmidhi said, “This Hadith is Hasan Sahih.”
(Some faces that Day will be bright (Musfirah), laughing, rejoicing at good news.) meaning, the people will be divided into two parties. There will be faces that are Musfirah, which means bright.
(Laughing, rejoicing at good news.) meaning, happy and pleased due to the joy that will be in their hearts. The good news will be apparent on their faces. These will be the people of Paradise.
(And other faces that Day will be dust-stained. Darkness (Qatarah) will cover them.) meaning, they will be overcome and covered with Qatarah, which is darkness. Ibn `Abbas said,
(Darkness (Qatarah) will cover them.) “This means that they (the faces) will be overcome with darkness.” Allah said,
(Such will be the disbelieving, the wicked evildoers.) meaning, they are disbelievers in their hearts, evildoers in their actions. This is as Allah says,
(And they will beget none but wicked disbelievers.) (71:27)
This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat `Abasa, and to Allah all praise and thanks are due.
[80:1] He (the Holy Prophet %) frowned and turned his face,
Circumstance of Revelation
Sayyidna Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum ؓ ، the companion of the Holy Prophet ﷺ was a blind man. It once happened that the Holy Prophet ﷺ was engaged in a talk with the leaders of Quraish about some matters of belief. Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum ؓ arrived there. Imam Baghawi adds that being blind and unable to see the surroundings, he did not realise that the Holy Prophet ﷺ was occupied with the others. He, therefore, burst into the circle and called the Holy Prophet repeatedly. Mazhari]. According to Ibn Kathir, he requested the Holy Prophet ﷺ to teach him a verse of the Qur’ an and insisted an immediate enlightenment on the question. On that occasion, the Holy Prophet ﷺ was occupied with the non-believing leaders of Makkah in the hope that they would embrace the faith of Islam. The leaders to whom the Holy Prophet ﷺ was speaking were ` Utbah Ibn Rabi` ah, Abu Jahl Ibn Hisham and the Holy Prophet’s ﷺ uncle ` Abbas ؓ who had until then not embraced the Islamic faith].
The Holy Prophet ﷺ disliked the intrusion, and showed his displeasure by turning aside from Sayyidth Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum, thinking that he was a committed Muslim who frequently visited him, and therefore he could speak to him at another appropriate time. There was no religious loss in postponing the response to him. On the other hand, the Quraish leaders neither frequented the Holy Prophet’s ﷺ company, nor could the Word of Allah be conveyed to them at any time. At that particular moment, they were listening to the Holy Prophet ﷺ .” discourse and there was hope that they would embrace the Islamic faith. But if the conversation was rashly interrupted, apparently they would have been deprived of the faith. In view of this situation, the Holy Prophet showed adverse reaction by turning aside from` Abdul)-ah Ibn umm Maktum ؓ ، and continued his discourse with the Quraish leaders. When the assembly broke up, the verses of Surah Abas were revealed to record Allah’s dislike for this attitude, and to give directions for future.
This attitude of the Holy Prophet ﷺ was based on ijtihad or ‘an opinion based on personal reasoning’. He thought that if a Muslim were to adopt a speech style that is not in keeping with etiquettes of a gathering, he needs to be reprimanded, so that in future he may be careful in future. That is the reason why Holy Prophet ﷺ turned his face away from Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum ؓ . Secondly, disbelief (kufr) and polytheism (shirk) are the most severe sins, and an effort to eradicate them should take priority over the subsidiary precepts of Islam on which Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum ؓ asked for enlightenment. Allah Almighty, through this Surah, did not confirm the correctness of this ijtihad of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، and explained to him that educating a genuine seeker will most certainly benefit him, while the benefit of discussion with the opponents (who disdainfully turn away their face when the Holy Prophet ﷺ talks to them) is shaky and doubtful. Doubtful thing cannot be preferred over certainty. As for the violation of etiquette committed by Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum ؓ ، its excuse is pointed out by the Holy Qur’an in the word ‘blind’. It is indicated by this word that being a blind man, he could not see what the Holy Prophet ﷺ was doing and with whom he was engaged in conversation. Thus he was excusable, and was not liable to be subjected to aversion. This indicates that if an excusable person were to break any rule of etiquette unwittingly, he should not be reprimanded.
عَبَسَ وَتَوَلَّىٰ (He the Holy Prophet ﷺ frowned and turned his face, 80:1). The word abasa means ‘he frowned’ and the word tawalla means ‘he turned aside’. Since the reference here is to the Holy Prophet ﷺ who himself is addressed, the verbs should have been in the second person: ‘you frowned and you turned aside’. But the Holy Qur’an on this occasion uses the third person in order to maintain the honour of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، as if this attitude were shown by some other person, and in a subtle way it alludes to the point that what the Holy Prophet ﷺ did was not befitting his high status. Then the next sentence وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ (and what could tell you? …80:3) alludes to the fact that the Holy Prophet ﷺ was excusable, because it did not come to his attention that the Companion is asking something whose effect will be certain and the effect of conversation with others is dubious. The second sentence abandons the third person, and switches to the second person in order to maintain the honour of the Holy Prophet ﷺ . Had he not been addressed in second person at all, it might have created the impression that he is not addressed directly because of his unapproved conduct, which would have been an unbearable pain and grief for the Holy Prophet ﷺ . Just as the third person in the first statement is meant to show respect to him, the second person in the following sentence is also meant to honor and console him.
[80:2] because the blind man came to him!
[80:3] And what could tell you (0 Holy Prophet about the prospects of the blind man?) May be, (if you had attended him properly,) he would have attained purity,
لَعَلَّهُ يَزَّكَّىٰ أَوْ يَذَّكَّرُ فَتَنفَعَهُ الذِّكْرَىٰ (May be, if you had attended him properly,] he would have attained purity, or have taken to the advice, and the advice would have benefited him….80:3-4).
In other words, because Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum ؓ was a genuine believer, any advice given to him would have benefited him and served to purify him. The companion sought enlightenment and its benefit was certain. If the Holy Prophet ﷺ enlightened him on the topic, he would have purified himself and attained perfection. If that did not happen, he would have at least attained the basic benefit of Divine remembrance. He would have improved the love and fear of Allah in his heart. The word dhikra means ‘to remember Allah abundantly’ Sihah].1
(1) This interpretation is based on taking the word ‘dhikra’ in the sense of remembrance of Allah’. However, some other exegetes have taken this word to mean ‘advice’, and the translation of the text, as well as the explanation following in the next paragraph, is based on it. (Muhammad Taqi Usmani)
On this occasion, the Qur’ an has used two sentences yazzakka and yazzakkaru. The first statement signifies ‘to be purified’ and the second statement signifies ‘he may take heed and the reminder may benefit him’. The first stage is that of the ‘righteous’ who cleanse their inner and outer selves. The second stage is that of mubtadi ‘beginners on the spiritual journey’. At this stage, the beginner is reminded of Allah which enhances the greatness and awe of Allah in his heart. The two sentences are disjoined by disjunctive particle sau (or) and technically they are not necessarily exclusive to one another. The sense is that` Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum ؓ would have attained either both benefits, or at least, the second one, that is, increase in Allah’s remembrance and in His awe, which is the initial step towards perfection
An Important Qur’ anic Principle of Teaching and Preaching
On this occasion, the Holy Prophet ﷺ was faced with two different requirements at the same time. On the one hand, he was required to teach a Muslim and to encourage him on attaining perfection. On the other hand, he had to provide guidance to non-Muslims. The principle laid down here makes it clear that the first requirement takes priority over the second one. It is improper to delay the first task (educating Muslims) because of the second task. This indicates that education of Muslims and their reform are more important than, and take priority over, getting the non-Muslims to embrace the faith.
Scholars should avoid any such indulgence when disposing of any doubts of the non-Muslims, which may create doubts or complaints in the minds of the general body of Muslims. The teachers, preachers and reformers need to keep in mind these Qur’ anic guidelines to maintain the welfare and priority of the Muslims. How beautifully Akbar Allahabadi, the Urdu poet, versifies this principle:
بے وفا سمجھیں تمہیں اہل حرم اس سے بچو دیر والے کج ادا کہ دیں یہ بدنامی بھلی
‘Protect yourselves from a position where people of the Haram (Muslims) call you unfaithful.
As opposed to this, if People of temple non-Muslims] call you ‘ill-mannered’, (because of your faithfulness to your religion), this dishonor is better.
The following verses clarify the principles more elaborately:
أَمَّا مَنِ اسْتَغْنَىٰ فَأَنتَ لَهُ تَصَدَّىٰ (As for the one who does not care about faith], you are anxious to pursue him!…80:5-6).
In other words: ‘Those who turn away from you and your religion, you are pursuing them under the hope that somehow they should become Muslims, while this is not your responsibility. If they do not embrace the faith, there will be no blame on you.
Thereafter, in verses 13 and 14, Allah Almighty has described the high status of the Holy Qur’ an, thus:
[80:4] or have taken to the advice, and the advice would have benefited him.
[80:5] As for the one who does not care (about faith),
[80:6] you are anxious to pursue him,
[80:7] while there is no blame on you, if he does not attain purity.
[80:8] as regards the one who has come to you rushing eagerly,
[80:9] while he fears (Allah),
[80:10] to him you pay no heed!
[80:11] Never! (you should never act in this way,) Indeed this (Qur’ an) is an advice.
[80:12] So, whoever so wills, let him remember it.
[80:13] It is (recorded) in those scripts (of the Preserved Tablet) that are honoured,
فِي صُحُفٍ مُّكَرَّمَةٍ مَّرْفُوعَةٍ مُّطَهَّرَةٍ (It is recorded] in those scripts of the Preserved Tablet] that are honoured, 13] exalted, purified – 14).
The word suhuf refers to lauh mahfuz ‘the Preserved Tablet’.
Although it is a single thing, but suhuf, the plural form of sahifah is used because all divine scriptures are written in it, or because the angels copy their scriptures from them. The word marfuah means ‘exalted in the sight of Allah’. The word mutahharah (purified) means ‘people in the state of sexual defilement, menstrual discharge, post-natal bleeding and people in the state of minor uncleanness are not permitted to touch it’.
[80:14] exalted, purified,
[80:15] in the hands of those scribes
بِأَيْدِي سَفَرَةٍ كِرَامٍ بَرَرَةٍ (in the hands of those scribes who are honourable, righteous. 80:15-16] )
The word safarah, with fathah [=a+a] on the first two letters, may be the plural of safir which means a ‘scribe’. In this case, it would refer to the recording angels, or to the Prophets (علیہم السلام) and those of their aides who write down the revelation. Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ and Mujahid (رح) hold this view.
[80:16] who are honourable, righteous.
[80:17] Death be unto the man! How ungrateful he is!
[80:18] From which stuff did He (Allah) create him?
The word safarah may be used as the plural of safir in the sense of ‘envoy’. In this case, it would refer to the angels who convey the revelation, and Prophets ﷺ and their companions who write the revelation. The ` ulama’ (knowledgeable persons) of the Muslim community’ are also included in this term, because they too are envoys between the Holy Prophet and the Muslim community. The messenger of Allah is reported to have said that he who recites the Qur’ an and is an expert in the art of recitation, he will be with the honorable, righteous envoys. He who is not an expert in the art of recitation, but recites it correctly with difficulty, he shall receive double reward. Transmitted by Shaikhain from ` A’ishah – Mazhari]. This shows that a non-expert will receive double reward – one for recitation of Qur’ an, and the other for bearing the difficulty. This also indicates that an expert will receive countless rewards. Mazhari]
The preceding verses mentioned that the Qur’ an is exalted and that belief in it is incumbent. Subsequently, the rejecters of Qur’ an are cursed and they are warned against showing ingratitude towards Divine favours. That the Holy Qur’an is a great Divine blessing is understood only by the men of Divine knowledge and understanding. Further, there is the mention of those Divine favours that Allah confers on man since his inception to the end of his life. These are material and physical things that a man with basic intellect can understand. Human creation is mentioned, thus:
مِنْ أَيِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقَهُ مِن نُّطْفَةٍ (From which stuff did He Allah] create him? From a drop of semen! ..80:18-19).
First a question is raised: ‘0 man! Consider what Allah has created you from?’ Since its reply is so obvious that there can be no other reply, the next verse itself says: ‘From a drop of semen!’ Thus the verse draws pointed attention to the very humble beginning of man, so that it may be brought home to him that Allah having created him from such an insignificant thing as a sperm-drop, created him and proportioned him:
[80:19] From a drop of semen! He created him, and designed him in due proportion,
خَلَقَهُ فَقَدَّرَهُ (He created him, and designed him in due proportion..80:19). In other words, He has made him with a special design and with great wisdom. His stature, body-structure, his face, his length and breadth of the limbs, his joints, his eyes, nose and ears are all well-proportioned in their creation. If any limb or organ loses its proportion, man’s face will go awry, and every activity will become a problem.
The word qaddara is derived from taqdir which is also used in the sense of ‘predestination’. Taking the word in this sense, the verse may also mean here that when man is under creation in his mother’s womb, Allah predetermines four things for him: his life span, his sustenance, his deeds and whether he would be miserable or happy as in the hadith of Ibn Mas’ ud ؓ recorded by Shaikhain].
[80:20] then He made the way easy for him,
ثُمَّ السَّبِيلَ يَسَّرَهُ (then He made the way easy for him…80:20) Allah through His consummate wisdom creates man in his mother’s womb, creation after creation, within three layers of darkness i.e. the belly, the womb and the amniotic membrane]. It is kept in a safe place in the belly. The mother in whose belly all this is happening is totally unaware of any of the details of this process. Thereafter, when the baby becomes perfect with all its limbs and organs, Allah made it possible that a body weighing 3 to 4 kg comes out through an extremely narrow passage, and the mother does not suffer unduly. So blessed be He Who is the best Creator!
[80:21] Later, he made him die, and put him into the grave,
ثُمَّ أَمَاتَهُ فَأَقْبَرَهُ (Later, he made him die, and put him into the grave..80:21) After mentioning the inception of human life, Allah points to its end, that is, death and grave. Death has been mentioned here in the context of blessings of Allah. It indicates that death is a blessing rather than a calamity. The Holy Prophet ﷺ is reported to have put it thus: تحفَۃ المؤمِن الموت “The gift of a believer is death.” Moreover, there is a profound wisdom in death at macro level for the entire world.
The phrase فَأَقْبَرَهُ fa-aqbarah (and put him into the grave) describes another blessing of Allah, in that when man is dead, he is not left lying on the earth like other animals where he might rot, blow up and burst and probably be ravaged by vultures or beasts]. But, even after death, he is honoured in the most befitting manner. His body is washed ceremonially, enshrouded in clean cloths, and buried in a grave with respect.
This verse also indicates that it is obligatory to bury a dead human body.
[80:22] thereafter, when He will intend, He will raise him up.
[80:23] No! He has not yet fulfilled what He (Allah) had commanded him.
كَلَّا لَمَّا يَقْضِ مَا أَمَرَهُ (No! He has not yet fulfilled what He Allah] had commanded him…80:23).
Having mentioned in the preceding verses the beginning and the end of human life, Divine Omnipotence and Divine blessings, the current verses warn the non-believing man that the demand of Divine Signs and blessings was to carefully ponder and believe in Allah, and comply with His injunctions, but the unfortunate creature failed to do so. Further, the Divine favours are mentioned that were conferred on man between the beginning and end of his life. Man is then asked to consider the sources of his food. Allah showers down water abundantly from the clouds. He cleaves the earth with new growth. Thereupon He causes grain to grow out of it. At first, a fragile shoot germinates and sprouts. Then many different kinds of grain, fruits and gardens come into existence. Having warned man several times about these Divine blessings, the Surah concludes with the mention of Resurrection, thus:
[80:24] So, let the man look to his food,
[80:25] how well We poured water,
[80:26] then how nicely We split the earth,
[80:27] then We grew in it grain,
[80:28] and grapes and greens,
[80:29] and olive and date-palms,
[80:30] and gardens, full of thick trees,
[80:31] and fruits and fodder,
[80:32] as a benefit for you and your cattle.
[80:33] So when there will come the Deafening Noise,
فَإِذَا جَاءَتِ الصَّاخَّةُ ( So when there will come the Deafening Noise..80:33). The word sakhkhah means ‘deafening cry or shout’ and it refers to the blowing of the trumpet, which will be a deafening sound.
[80:34] the Day when one will flee from his brother,
يَوْمَ يَفِرُّ الْمَرْءُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ (the Day when one will flee from his brother…80:34). This depicts the scene when all the people will have gathered in the Plain of Gathering. Each person will be worried about himself, and the situation will be so horrifying and tense that it will make people heedless of anything around them. In the world, there are relationships between people that make one willing to lay down his life for the other, but on the Day of Resurrection there will be such horror and chaos that they will be unable to take care of anyone. In fact, even if one sees the other in front of him, he will turn away from him. They will try to flee from their brothers, from their mothers and fathers, from their spouses and their children. They will not be able to help any of them in the Hereafter, despite the natural attachment they had with them in the world. Normally, one is more anxious in this world about his parents than about his brothers, and he is more anxious about his wife and children than about his parents. Keeping this in view, the relationships, in the present verse, are arranged from lower order to higher order.
The Chapter ends on a note of warning to disbelievers that if they reject the Qur’ anic message and persist in opposition to the Holy Prophet ﷺ they will have to face a day of reckoning when misery, shame and ignominy will be their lot. The righteous believers, however, will reside in Gardens of Bliss, their faces beaming with joy and happiness.
[80:35] and from his mother and father,
[80:36] and from his wife and sons,
[80:37] every one of them will have enough concern to make him careless of others.
[80:38] Many faces, on that day, will be bright,
[80:39] laughing, rejoicing,
[80:40] and many faces, on that day, will be stained with dust,
[80:41] covered by darkness.
[80:42] Those are the disbelievers, the nefarious.
The commentary on
This surah discusses certain principles of grave importance. It is unique in its images and the impressions it leaves. Furthermore, it combines its marked spiritual effect with superb musical rhythm.
Its first part treats a certain incident which took place in the early days of Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was busy with a few Quraysh dignitaries, explaining to them the Islamic message, when Ibn Umm Maktum, a poor blind man, interrupted him. Unaware that the Prophet was busy, the blind man asked him repeatedly to teach him some verses from the Qur’an. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was not very pleased at this interruption. He frowned and turned away from Ibn Umm Maktum. This surah opens by criticizing the Prophet’s behaviour in this incident. It lays down clearly the values and principles upon which Islamic society is founded and states the true nature of the message of Islam. “He frowned and turned away when the blind man came to him. How could you tell? He might have sought to purify himself. He might have been reminded and the reminder might have profited him. But to the one who considered himself self-sufficient you were all attention. Yet the fault would not be yours if he remained uncleansed. As to him who comes to you with zeal, and with a feeling of fear in his heart, him you ignore. No indeed! This is an admonition. Let him who will, bear it in mind. It is written on honoured pages, exalted, purified, by the hands of noble and devout scribes.” (Verses 1-16)
Man’s ungrateful attitude towards God and his denial of Him come up for discussion in the second part. Here man is reminded of his origin; how his life is made easy; how God determines his death and resurrection; and how, after all this, he fails to carry out His orders: “Perish man! How ungrateful he is! Of what did God create him? Of a drop of sperm. He created him and proportioned him. He makes his path smooth for him. He then causes him to die and puts him in his grave. He will surely bring him to life when He pleases. But by no means has man fulfilled His bidding.” (Verses 17-23)
The third part directs man to reflect upon things of immediate concern to him, namely, his food. Absolute perfection of creation is obvious in the provision of food for man as it is obvious in the creation, proportioning and development of man himself: “Let man reflect on the food he eats: how We pour down the rain in torrents, and cleave the earth in fissures; how We bring forth the corn, the grapes, and the fresh vegetation, the olive and the palm, the dense- treed gardens, the fruit-trees and the green pastures, for you and your cattle to delight in.” (Verses 24-32)
The final part touches upon “the stunning blast” and its fearful effects. The very sound of the words gives the impression of horror. It makes people unaware of anything around them. Their faces, however, provide a lucid account of what is happening to them. “But when the stunning blast is sounded, on that day everyone will forsake his brother, his mother and his father, his wife and his children: for each one of them will on that day have enough preoccupations of his own. Some faces on that day shall be beaming, smiling and joyful. Some other faces on that day shall be covered with dust, veiled with darkness. These shall be the faces of the unbelievers, the hardened in sin.” (Verses 33- 42)
A quick preview of the surah leaves a profound effect on the reader. Its message and its implications are so powerful that no human heart can avoid being deeply touched, even by a quick perusal of it. In the following pages we will attempt to illustrate some of the far-reaching effects certain parts of the surah have and which may not be immediately apparent.
The Basis of Social Values
He frowned and turned away when the blind man came to him. How could you tell? He might have sought to purify himself. He might have been reminded and the reminder might have profited him. But to the one who considered himself selfsufficient you were all attention. Yet the fault would not be yours if he remained uncleansed. As to him who comes to you with zeal and with a feeling of fear in his heart, him you ignore. No indeed! This is an admonition. Let him who will, bear it in mind. It is written on honoured pages, exalted, purified, by the hands of noble and devout scribes. (Verses 1-16)
The divine instructions which followed this incident are much more far reaching than appears at first sight. They are indeed a miracle. These instructions, the principles they seek to establish and the change they aim to accomplish in human society are, perhaps, the most important miracle of Islam. But the instructions are made here as a direct comment on a single incident. It is part of the Qur’anic method to make use of isolated incidents in order to lay down fundamental and permanent principles. The principles established here and their practical effects, as seen in the early Islamic society, are indeed the essence of Islam. They constitute the truth which Islam, and all divine religions that preceded it, seek to plant in human life.
The point at issue here is not merely how an individual or a class of people should be treated. This is indeed the significance of the Qur’anic comment on the incident itself, taken in isolation. The heart of the matter is, however, something far more important. It is: how should people evaluate everything in their lives? From where should they derive the values and standards necessary for such an evaluation?
What the divine instructions contained in the opening part of the surah seek to establish is that people must base their values and standards on divine considerations, laid down by God. No social circumstances, traditions or practices, nor any concept of life derived from them should be allowed either to encumber or determine these values and standards. There is no denying the difficulties involved in conducting human life on the basis of values and standards laid down by the Divine Being, free from the pressure of all worldly considerations.
If we consider the pressure of society on the individual’s feelings and attitudes, and the weight of considerations to be taken into account such as traditional values, family and social ties, as well as the values that prevail in one’s own environment, we can appreciate the difficulty of carrying out these divine instructions. Our appreciation of such difficulty is even greater when we remember that in order to convey it to people, Muhammad himself (peace be upon him) needed this special directive, or rather censure. Reference to this is sufficient to convey the gravity of the matter. For Muhammad (peace be upon him) attained greater heights of sublimity and greatness than any man can aspire to. Yet the fact that special instructions were required for him to convey a certain principle makes that principle greater than greatness, subliminally unique.
This is, indeed, a true description of the principle established here, namely that mankind should derive their values and standards from the Divine Being, after they have freed themselves from the pressure of their social set-up with all its values and standards.
The basic standard God has, through His prophets, commanded mankind to adopt is: “The noblest of you in God’s sight is he who fears Him most.” (49:13) This is the standard by which all values, traditions and practices should be evaluated. It establishes a purely divine criterion which has nothing to do with any worldly considerations. But people live on earth and establish a multitude of ties, each having its own weight and gravity. They have considerations of family relations, power, and wealth. The distribution or concentration of these creates certain practical and economic results which determine the position of every man, woman or class of people in relation to others. Thus, some acquire a position superior to that of others, in worldly standards.
When Islam declares, “The noblest of you in God’s sight is he who fears Him most,” it simply indicates that all these values and considerations are void, however important they seem to us. It substitutes for them a single value derived directly from God. Moreover, it is the only value acceptable to Him. The incident depicted here serves to establish this value in an actual situation. Thus, the essential principle is established: the scales recognized are those of God; the supreme value which should govern human life is the divine one. Hence, the Muslim community must abandon all human values, standards, traditions, and concepts.
Who Takes Priority?
Let us now consider the incident itself. Ibn Umm Maktum, a poor blind man, comes to the Prophet (peace be upon him) at a time when he is busy with a group of the most powerful and influential personalities in Makkah, including ‘Utbah and Shaybah, sons of Rabi`ah, Abu Jahl, `Amr ibn Hisham, Umayyah ibn Khalaf, alWalid ibn al-Mughirah. Also present is al-`Abbas ibn `Abd al-Muţţalib, the Prophet’s uncle. It is a crucial meeting. The Prophet explains the message of Islam to them and hopes for a favourable response. He feels that the cause of Islam stands to gain much by such a response. Islam is facing a hard time in Makkah. Those very people have been using all their wealth, power and influence to check its advancement, and stop people from accepting it. They have managed to freeze Islam in Makkah and hinder its progress elsewhere. Outside Makkah, the other tribes have adopted an attitude of wait and see. For they feel this to be their best stand in a society which gives paramount importance to the tribe’s attitude. They are aware that against Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, stand his own kinsmen, who, theoretically speaking, should be his most ardent supporters.
It must be emphasized that when we say that the Prophet is busy with these people, he has no personal interest in them. He is simply working for Islam. Acceptance of Islam by these influential and powerful people means the removal of all impediments from the path of Islam in Makkah. It also ensures for Islam the freedom to progress in the rest of Arabia.
While this crucial meeting is in progress, a poor man comes and interrupts the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying: ‘Messenger of God! Teach me some verses of what God has taught you.’ Although he could sense that the Prophet is busy, he repeats his request several times. The Prophet dislikes this interruption. His face, which remains unseen by the blind man, expresses his aversion. He frowns and looks away from the poor man. Indeed, the Prophet’s motive has been his great enthusiasm to win badly needed support for Islam.
Here, heaven intervenes to say the final word in this matter and to put landmarks along the whole length of the road the Islamic message should take. Thus we are given the scales by which to weigh our values regardless of all other considerations, including those which may appear to serve the interests of Islam, as seen by human beings, including Muhammad, the greatest of all mankind. This is why the Prophet who has been described elsewhere in the Qur’an as having “great and sublime nature”, (68:4) is strongly censured by God, the Most High. It is the only point in the Qur’an where the Prophet, who is very dear to God, is addressed by the term kalla, [inadequately translated as “no indeed”]. Kalla is a term of censure and an order to desist. This is because the contravened principle is central to this religion.
The reproof is made in a unique style, which defies translation into ordinary language. Written language has to apply certain rules and observe some well defined norms. These would dampen the effects of the very vivid style which is characterized in this instance by its rapid touches and short phrases which are more like reflex actions and instant pictures.
“He frowned and turned away when the blind man came to him.” (Verses 1-2) The use of the third person here is significant. It suggests that the subject matter is so distasteful to God that He does not like to confront His beloved Messenger with it. This in itself is a gesture of mercy and kindness to the Prophet. Thus, the action which necessitated the reproof has been disguised with great subtlety. The reproof then takes the form of direct address, starting somewhat mildly: “How could you tell? He might have sought to purify himself. He might have been reminded and the reminder might have profited him.” (Verses 3-4) How could you tell but that a great gain might have been made? That is to say that the poor, blind man who came to you seeking light might have profited by God’s reminder and set about purifying himself. His heart might have been brightened by God’s light and he might have become like a lighthouse, guiding people to safety. This is exactly what happens every time a human being genuinely accepts the faith. It is, indeed, what carries real weight on God’s scales.
The reproof then takes a stronger tone. It wonders at the action in question: “But to the one who considered himself self-sufficient you were all attention. Yet the fault would not be yours if he remained uncleansed. As to him who comes to you with zeal and with a feeling of fear in his heart, him you ignore.” (Verses 5-10) The one who pretends that he can do without you and your religion, light, goodness and purity is the one who receives your attention! You go to him yourself when he turns away, and you are at pains to try to persuade him to accept the faith. “Yet the fault would not be yours if he remained uncleansed.” (Verse 7) What is it to you if he chooses to remain in filth? You are not answerable for his sins. He will not secure your victory. “As to him who comes to you with zeal,” out of his own free will, “and with a feeling of fear in his heart,” groping his way with outstretched hands, fearful of pitfalls, “him you ignore.” What a strong description of not paying due attention to the man who came to seek right guidance. The tone becomes even stronger and the reproof then takes the form of outright censure: kalla or “no indeed”, this must never be the case.
Then follows a statement affirming that Islam is an honourable and noble call. It has no need for anybody’s support. It cares only for the one who accepts it on its merits, regardless of his position in human society! “This is an admonition. Let him who will, bear it in mind. It is written on honoured pages, exalted, purified, by the hands of noble and devout scribes.” (Verses 11-16) It is a noble and honoured message in every respect. Its pages are purified and exalted, entrusted to ‘noble and devout’ angel ambassadors who convey it to those human beings selected to convey it to their people. It is also dignified. No one who pretends that he is self-sufficient need be approached about accepting this message of Islam. It is only for those who know its value and seek to be purified by it.
So this is the divine standard by which all values and considerations should be evaluated, and all people should be judged. This is also God’s word, which is the final judgement in all situations.
But where and when was this laid down? The answer is in Makkah when the Muslims were few in number, and Islam was the weaker side in an unequal battle. The attempt to win a group of powerful and influential men was not motivated by any personal interest. Ignoring the poor blind man was not occasioned by any personal consideration. All was for the sake of the new message. But the message itself calls for the adoption and application of this very standard and these very values. For Islam can never acquire any real power or achieve any true victory except through the establishment of these values and standards.
As stated earlier, the essential principle involved is far greater and wider in scope than this single incident. It is that humanity should derive its values and standards from God, not from any worldly source. “The noblest of you in God’s sight is he who fears Him most.” (49:13) Indeed, the one whom God considers noble is the one who deserves to be attended to and looked after, even if he is completely lacking in family relations, power and wealth, assets highly valued by worldly standards. These and all other worldly values are worthless when they part ways with faith and fear of God. This is the great issue which divine instruction in this surah seeks to settle.
A Reproach and a Principle
The Prophet was deeply touched by these divine instructions and by God’s reproof. Throughout his life, he worked tirelessly for the establishment of this great principle in Islamic society.
The first action he took was to announce these instructions and the reproof in public. This in itself is something very great. Taken from any point of view, no person other than a messenger from God would have announced in public that he had been censured so strongly for his slip. It would have been enough for any other great man to recognize his mistake and to avoid any repetition in the future. With God’s Messenger however, things acquire different proportions. No person other than God’s Messenger could have had the courage, in such circumstances as Islam was facing, to make this declaration, challenging with it the masters of the Quraysh, who were very proud of their lineage, power and wealth.
These were, at the time, the only considerations of any importance in Makkan society, where people wondered: “Why was this Qur’an not revealed to some great man from the two towns?” (43:31) They were, of course, aware of Muhammad’s lineage, and that he was a descendant of the noblest family in Arabia. His ancestors were masters of Makkah. They nonetheless asked the question because Muhammad himself did not occupy a position of power in Makkah before his prophethood.
In such a society, at that particular time, such a great principle could never have been the product of any earthly factor, or factors. It could only have had one source: God. No power could have ensured it other than divine will. Islamic society received it directly from the Prophet. Thereafter it became well established acquiring depth and momentum, which helped it to continue its operation in the Islamic community over the centuries.
The establishment of this principle was, indeed, a rebirth of humanity. It was greater in importance than the birth of the first man. Man was able to free himself from all worldly bonds and standards, and substitute for them a set of heavenly values independent of all earthly considerations. These new values were soon understood and accepted by everybody. Soon the grave matter which had required a special directive to be issued to Muhammad, God’s Messenger, and an order to him to deliver it in detail, became the operative principle of the Islamic conscience and the basic code of Islamic society. It remained so for a very long time.
Perhaps we cannot fully appreciate the true nature of this rebirth of humanity, because we cannot conceive the practical significance of our release from the pressures of social environment, values, standards, traditions and practices. In order to appreciate the magnitude of these pressures we have only to remember that advocates of a materialistic view of history consider that the economic condition of a certain society determines its beliefs, arts, literature, laws and customs, as well as its view of life and its destiny. What a narrow and mistaken view of man’s true nature! It was with this basic principle that Islam accomplished the miracle of the rebirth of man.
Instilling a New Value
Since then the values attached to this great principle have become supreme. Their ascendancy, however, was by no means easy, neither in the Arabian society, nor in the minds of the Muslims themselves. Through his actions and directives, coloured by the profound effect the divine instructions in this surah left on him, the Prophet was able to implant this basic Islamic principle into his Companions’ consciences and into the life of the Islamic society he had established. He looked after his new plant with unfailing care until it had established deep roots and spread its branches wide. Hence why this principle remained for centuries the guiding principle of the Muslim community.
After this incident the Prophet always welcomed Ibn Umm Maktum warmly. Whenever he met him, he said: “Welcome to the man for whose sake my Lord reproved me.” Twice, he appointed him as his deputy governor in Madinah when he himself had to be away.
The Prophet married his own cousin Zaynab bint Jahsh of the Asad clan to his former slave Zayd ibn Harithah. Marriage has always been a very delicate issue, and it was particularly so in the Arabian Peninsula at that time. The Prophet’s motive was to deal a deadly blow to all the social values and standards based on worldly considerations.
Soon after the Makkan Muslims settled in Madinah the Prophet established a bond of brotherhood between every two Muslims. He made his own uncle, Hamzah, a brother to his former slave, Zayd; and Khalid ibn Ruwayhah of the Khatham tribe and Bilal, the former slave, were made brothers.
He appointed Zayd as Commander-in-Chief of the Muslim army which fought the Battle of Mu’tah. Zayd’s first deputy was the Prophet’s own cousin Ja`far ibn Abi Ţalib. The second deputy was `Abdullah ibn Rawahah of the Ansar. A number of well-known personalities from Makkah and Madinah were in that army of three thousand men, including the most famous Muslim commander of all time, Khalid ibn al-Walid. The Prophet himself went out to bid them farewell. It is also worth mentioning that Zayd and his two deputies were killed during that battle.
The Prophet’s last action was to appoint Usamah ibn Zayd, a young man, as commander of an army he had raised to fight the Byzantines. A large number of early Muslims, from both the Muhajirin (Makkans) and the Ansar (Madinans), including his two most distinguished Companions and immediate successors, Abu Bakr and `Umar, as well as his own relative Sa ‘d ibn Abi Waqqas, one of the very earliest people to embrace Islam, were in that army. Some people, however, grumbled about the fact that Usamah had been made commander, young as he was. `Abdullah ibn `Umar takes up the story: “When some people complained about giving the army command to Usamah, the Prophet said: ‘You are deprecating his appointment as commander in the same way as you previously deprecated his father’s appointment. By God, his father was a worthy commander, and one of the dearest people to me. Usamah is also one of the dearest people to me.” [Related by al-Bukhari, Muslim and al-Tirmidhi.]
Some people spoke in derogatory terms about the Prophet’s Companion, Salman, the Persian. They took a narrow nationalistic view and spoke of the inferiority of the Persians in relation to the Arabs. The Prophet took a decisive step to eradicate such narrow tendencies. He declared: “Salman belongs to the Prophet’s family.” [Related by al-Ţabarani and al-Hakim.] This statement transcends all lineage, tribal and national considerations, which carried immense weight in Arabia.
Furthermore, a disagreement occurred between Abu Dharr and Bilal, two of the Prophet’s highly esteemed Companions. In a fit of temper, Abu Dharr called Bilal “the son of a black woman”. The Prophet was extremely upset at this. He rebuked Abu Dharr saying: “That is too much, Abu Dharr. He who has a white mother has no advantage which makes him better than the son of a black mother.” [Related by Ibn al-Mubarak with slightly different wording.] Thus the Prophet put the dispute into its proper perspective. What distinguishes people is their faith, not their colour. This is the Islamic criterion, which is so unlike the worldly criteria of jahiliyyah societies. The Prophet’s rebuke had a profound effect on Abu Dharr, who was very sensitive. He wanted to atone for his mistake, so he put his head on the ground swearing that he would not raise it until Bilal had put his foot over it.
Bilal achieved a position of great distinction in Islamic society. What made his achievement possible was the application of heaven’s values. Abu Hurayrah related that the Prophet once said to Bilal: “Tell me, which of your actions do you hope to be the most rewarding for you, for last night I heard your footsteps as you drew near to me in heaven?” Bill answered: “I do not think that since becoming a Muslim I have ever done anything which I hope to be more rewarding than that every time I perform ablution at any time of the day or night I pray whatever I can.” [Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.]
Once Ammar ibn Yasir asked for permission to see the Prophet. The Prophet said: “Let him come in. Welcome to the cleansed, good man.” [Related by al-Tirmidhi.] He also said of him: “Ammar is full of faith to the top of his head.” [Related by al- Nasa’i.] Hudhayfah related that the Prophet said: “I do not know how long I shall be with you, so accept the leadership of the two who will follow me [and he pointed to Abu Bakr and `Umar], and follow `Ammar’s guidance. Believe whatever Ibn Mas`ud tells you.” [Related by al-Tirmidhi.]
Ibn Mas`ud was so close to the Prophet that any stranger in Madinah would have thought him a member of the Prophet’s household. Abu Musa said: “I came to Madinah from the Yemen with my brother. For quite some time we were under the impression that Ibn Mas`ud and his mother belonged to the Prophet’s household, an impression we had formed because of the frequency of their comings and goings from the Prophet’s homes, and their long companionship with him.” [Related by alBukhari and Muslim and al-Tirmidhi.]
The Prophet himself sought the hand of an Ansari woman in marriage for Julaybib, a former slave. “Her parents were reluctant to sanction such a marriage. She, however, said to them: ‘Do you mean to reject the Prophet’s suit? If the Prophet thinks that this man is suitable for us, then let this marriage go through.’ So they gave their consent.” [Related by Ahmad.]
Soon after his marriage, Julaybib took part in an armed expedition. After the battle, which resulted in a victory for the Muslims, the Prophet asked his Companions: “Is anybody missing?” They named a few people. He repeated the question and they named a few others. He asked the same question for the third time and they answered in the negative. He said: “I think Julaybib is missing.” They looked for him and found his body next to seven enemy soldiers whom he had killed. The Prophet went over, stood near him, and said: “He killed seven before he himself was slain. This man belongs to me and I belong to him.” He lifted him into his arms until a grave had been dug. He then put him in his grave. The tradition does not say whether Julaybib was given a death wash or not. [Related by Muslim.]
The Principle in Practice
With this divine instruction and the Prophet’s guidance, the rebirth of humanity was accomplished in a unique manner. Thus a new society came into existence, which imported its values and standards from heaven, and lived on earth, unhampered by earthly restrictions. This is the greatest miracle of Islam; a miracle which could not have happened except by God’s will, and through the Prophet’s actions. This miracle is, in itself, proof that Islam is a religion revealed by God, and that the man who conveyed it to us was His Messenger.
It was divine will that leadership of the Islamic society, after the Prophet’s death, should be assigned successively to Abu Bakr and `Umar, the two who were most keenly aware of the true nature of Islam and most vividly impressed by the Prophet’s guidance. Indeed, Abu Bakr and `Umar surpassed everyone else in their love for the Prophet and determination to follow very closely in his footsteps.
Abu Bakr was well aware of the Prophet’s object in assigning the army’s command to Usamah. His first action after he became Caliph was to send the army raised by the Prophet and commanded by Usamah on its original mission. Abu Bakr, the Caliph, went along with the army to the outskirts of Madinah to bid it farewell. It was a strange scene: ‘Usamah on his horse while Abu Bakr walked. Usamah, the young commander, felt embarrassed that he should ride while the Caliph, an old man, should walk. He begged Abu Bakr to ride, or else he would walk alongside him. Abu Bakr refused, saying: “You shall not walk and I shall not ride. It will do me no harm to walk for an hour if my walking is for God’s cause.”
Abu Bakr felt that he needed `Umar to help him shoulder the responsibilities of government. `Umar, however, was a soldier in Usamah’s army, so he had to ask Usamah’s permission to discharge him. Hence, the Caliph, the Head of State, said to his army commander: “If you think you can spare `Umar to help me, then please do so!” What a request! It is the height of magnanimity, attainable only with God’s will, by individuals well taught by God’s Messenger.
A few years later `Umar assumed the leadership of the Muslim community, as its second Caliph. One of his actions was to appoint Ammar ibn Yasir, who formerly belonged to the lower classes of Makkah, as governor of the Kufah region in Iraq.
One day a number of dignitaries from the Quraysh, including Suhayl ibn `Amr and Abu Sufyan, sought to see `Umar. He let them wait and admitted first Suhayb and Bilal, two former slaves, on the grounds of their early acceptance of Islam and their taking part at the Battle of Badr. Abu Sufyan was angry and said: “I have never seen a day like this. These slaves are admitted, and we are kept waiting!” Suhayl, who was more keenly aware of the true nature of Islam, said: “Gentlemen! I see in your faces an expression of what you feel, but I say to you that if you are angry you should be angry with yourselves. Both they and you were called upon to accept Islam at the same time. They were quick to respond but you were slow. What will you do if on the Day of Judgement, you find that they are included among the chosen and you are left behind?”
Umar allotted Usamah ibn Zayd a larger share of the spoils of war than he allotted his own son Abdullah. When `Abdullah queried his father’s decision `Umar said: “Son, the Prophet used to love Zayd more than he loved your father, and he loved Usamah more than he loved you. What I did was simply to attach to the Prophet’s love higher value than I attached to my own love.” As he said this `Umar was, of course, fully aware that the Prophet measured his love by divine standards.
Umar sent Ammar to question Khalid ibn al-Walid, the victorious commander of the Muslim army who belonged to a noble family, about certain charges. `Ammar tied Khalid’s robes round his neck. Some reports add that he tied Khalid’s hands throughout the interrogation with his own turban. When the investigation proved Khalid’s innocence, `Ammar untied him and put Khalid’s turban back on his head with his own hands. Khalid did not object to this treatment. He knew that `Ammar was one of the Prophet’s early Companions. Khalid also knew what the Prophet used to say about `Ammar, which we have already quoted.
It was `Umar himself who used to say about Abu Bakr and Bilal: “Abu Bakr is our master and he freed our master.” This refers to the days when Bilal was Umayyah ibn Khalaf’s slave, who tortured him mercilessly in order to turn him away from Islam. Abu Bakr bought Bilal from Umayyah and set him free. This former slave, Bilal, is described by `Umar, the Caliph, as “our master”.
Umar was the one who said, “Had Salim, the former slave of Abu Hudhayfah, been alive I would have nominated him to succeed me.” This statement must be taken against the background that `Umar did not nominate anyone to succeed him, not even `Uthman, `Ali, Ţalhah or al-Zubayr. He only appointed a consultative committee of six, so that the next Caliph should be chosen from among them.
Ali ibn Abi Ţalib sent `Ammar and al-Hasan, his own son, to Kufah to seek its people’s support against `A’ishah [may God be pleased with her]. His message said, “I know that she is your Prophet’s wife in this life and in the life to come. You are, however, faced with a test which will prove whether you follow your Prophet or his wife.” [Related by al-Bukhari.] The people of Kufah accepted his case against `A’ishah, mother of the believers and Abu Bakr’s daughter, [may God be pleased with them all].
Bilal was asked by his brother in Islam, Abu Ruwayhah of Khatham, to speak on his behalf to the family of a Yemeni woman he wished to marry. Bilal did so, saying: “I am Bilal ibn Rabah and this is my brother, Abu Ruwayhah. He lacks good manners and firm belief. You may please yourselves whether you give him your daughter in marriage or not.” He did not deceive them by hiding the truth, nor did he behave as a mediator, unmindful of his accountability to God. The family concerned were pleased with such honesty. They married their daughter to Abu Ruwayhah, the noble Arab whose advocate was Bilal, a former slave from Abyssinia.
This fundamental principle remained firmly entrenched throughout Islamic society for centuries, despite the various factors working for a setback. `Abdullah ibn `Abbas was always remembered with his slave `Ikrimah, while `Abdullah ibn `Umar was remembered with his slave Nafi`. Anas ibn Malik was always associated with his slave Ibn Sirin, as was Abu Hurayrah with his slave `Abd al-Rahman ibn Hurmuz. 2 In the generation that followed, the most distinguished men of learning were al-Hasan in Basrah, Mujahid ibn Jabr, `Aţa’ ibn Rabah and Ţawus ibn Kaysan. In Egypt, Yazid ibn Abi Habib, a black slave from Dengla, was the grand Mufti [holder of the highest position of religious authority] during the reign of `Umar ibn Abd al-`Aziz. 3
This divine standard continued to win great respect for the pious and God-fearing, even when they were deprived of all things to which worldly considerations attached great value. It is only in comparatively recent times that this divine standard has ceased to operate. For now the whole world is overwhelmed by a tide of jahiliyyah, wherein there is a total disregard for divine values. In the United States, the leading Western country, a man is valued according to the size of his bank balance. In the Soviet Union, 4 where Communism, the ruling philosophy, looks at life as no more than matter, and a man is worth less than a machine. The land of Islam, on the other hand, has sunk back into jahiliyyah. The creeds of jahiliyyah, which Islam had rooted out, have now been revived. The divine standard has been abandoned in favour of materialistic values which are completely alien to Islam.
The only hope that remains is that the Islamic revivalist movement will rescue mankind once again from the clutches of jahiliyyah and bring about humanity’s second rebirth, similar to the one announced by the decisive verses at the opening of this surah.
Man’s Arrogant Attitude
The second part of the surah wonders at man’s conceit as he turns his back on the true faith. It wonders at how man forgets his humble origins, and how he remains totally oblivious of the care God has taken of him and His complete power over every stage of his existence, both in this life and in the hereafter. In his ingratitude man fulfils nothing of his duties towards his Lord, who has created and sustained him and who will hold him to account for his actions: “Perish man! How ungrateful he is! Of what did God create him? Of a drop of sperm. He created him and proportioned him. He makes his path smooth for him. He then causes him to die and puts him in his grave. He will surely bring him back to life when He pleases. But by no means has man fulfilled His bidding.” (Verses 17-23)
“Perish man!” He deserves to die. The mode of expression employed also adds to the sense of horror excited by this abominable attitude. “How ungrateful he is!” He strongly denies the claims of his creation. Had he been mindful of these claims he would have been humbly grateful to his Lord who created him. He would not have shown such conceit and he would have remembered the end he is certain to meet.
Indeed, how can man be so arrogant and conceited? What are his origins: “Of what did God create him?” (Verse 18) His is a very humble origin, worthless indeed except for God’s grace. “Of a drop of sperm. He created him and proportioned him.” (Verse 19) A drop of sperm of no significance; that is man’s beginning. God, the Creator, then proportioned him. The Arabic verb used here qaddara denotes precise and meticulous proportioning. It also denotes bestowing weight and value. This is how man has been created, honoured and raised from his humble origins to a high position in which the whole world has been put at his disposal.
“He makes his path smooth for him.” (Verse 20) The path of life has been smoothed for him. He has also been given the ability to recognize and follow the right path.
When the journey of life is over, when every living being meets its inevitable end, “He then causes him to die and puts him in his grave.” (Verse 21) So in the end the case is just the same as in the beginning: man submits to his Lord who brings him to life when He wills and ends his life when He wills. He honours him by making the earth his last abode, rather than leaving him as food for wild animals. He has made it part of human nature to bury the dead. When the time He has appointed arrives, He brings him back to life for the reckoning: “He will surely bring him back to life when He pleases.” (Verse 22) So man will not be left without reward or retribution.
But has man prepared himself for this reckoning? It would seem that “by no means has man fulfilled His bidding.” (Verse 23) Mankind as a whole, from the very first to the very last, will not have fulfilled God’s bidding. This is the inference of the Arabic expression used here, lamma Yaqđi ma amarah. Man will always remain negligent of his duties. He will never remember his origins and creation as he should, nor will he thank and praise his Creator who has guided and looked after him as He should be thanked and praised. Man does not prepare himself in this life for the day of reward and retribution. This applies to humanity as a whole. In addition, the great majority of people arrogantly turn their backs on divine guidance.
Next, the surah invites man to reflect upon his food and that of his cattle, which is one of the great many things God has provided for him: “Let man reflect on the food he eats: how We pour down the rain in torrents, and cleave the earth in fissures; how We bring forth the corn, the grapes, and the fresh vegetation, the olive and the palm, the dense-treed gardens, the fruit trees and the green pastures, for you and your cattle to delight in.” (Verses 24-32)
This is the full story of man’s food, related here stage by stage. Let man reflect: does he play any significant role in it? Can he determine or change its course? Indeed, the same hand which has brought him to life has brought forth the food which sustains him.
“Let man reflect on the food he eats.” (Verse 24) Food, the first necessity of human life, deserves a few thoughts. It is made readily available day after day. But behind all this is a simple and wonderful story. Yet such simplicity makes man forget its wonder. Nevertheless, it is as miraculous as man’s own creation. Every step is determined by the Supreme Will that creates man.
“How we pour down the rain in torrents.” (Verse 25) The pouring rain is a fact known to every human being, wherever he lives, regardless of his level of experience or knowledge. It is, therefore, taken up in this address to all human beings. As man’s knowledge has increased, he is now able to appreciate the meaning of this verse more fully. He knows that something happened a long time before the daily phenomenon of rain came to be established. Perhaps the theory closest to the truth concerning the formation of the oceans, whose water evaporates and then returns is rain, claims that they were formed somewhere above the earth and were then poured down in torrents. A contemporary scientist says on this subject:
If it is true that the temperature of the earth at the time of its separation from the sun was about 12,000 degrees, or that of the surface of the sun, then all the elements were free and, therefore, no chemical combination of importance could exist. Gradually, as the earth, or the earth-forming fragments, cooled, combinations would take place and a nucleus of the world as we know it is formed. Oxygen and hydrogen could not combine until the temperature was reduced to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point these elements would rush together and form water. What we know as the atmosphere must have been enormous at that time. All the oceans were in the sky and all those elements not combined were in the air as gases. Water, having formed in the outer atmosphere, fell towards the earth but could not reach it, as the temperature near the earth was higher than it was thousands of miles out. Of course, the time came when the deluge would reach the earth only to fly up again as steam. With whole oceans in the air, floods that would result as cooling progressed are beyond calculation. 5
Although we do not claim any definite link between this theory and this particular Qur’anic statement, we acknowledge that the theory gives us a better understanding of what it means and the period of history it refers to, i.e., the period of water pouring down in torrents. The theory may be proved right. On the other hand, other theories may be put forward to explain the origins of water. The Qur’anic statement, however, remains valid for all ages and societies.
This is how the production of food starts: “We pour down the rain in torrents.” (Verse 25) No one can claim either to have produced water, at any stage of its formation, or to have caused it to be poured, so that the process of food production could be set in motion.
“And cleave the earth in fissures.” (Verse 26) Primitive man sees the rain falling and realizes that he has no power over it. He sees the water splitting the earth and penetrating the soil. He also sees the plants cleaving the earth with the Creator’s will and growing over its surface. He notices that the plants are thin and the earth heavy yet the Creator’s hand enables the plants to split the earth and move through it. Anyone who contemplates how plants grow can recognize the miracle involved here.
As human knowledge expands, a new understanding of this statement may be developed. The cleaving of the earth so that it became suitable for vegetation may have taken place a long time ago. The Qur’anic statement may refer to the multiple break up of the earth’s surface rocks caused by the great floods and by the various climatic factors which, according to modern scientists, contributed to the formation of a soil layer where vegetation could grow. This interpretation fits more closely with the sequence of events as it is reported here.
In either case, the third stage is that of the growth of all kinds of vegetation. The kind mentioned here is the best known to the people immediately addressed by the Qur’an. “How We bring forth the corn.” (Verse 27) ‘The corn’ refers to all cereals and grains used for human or animal food. “The grapes, and the fresh vegetation.” (Verse 28) The reference here is to the well-known vine fruits and to all vegetables which can be eaten raw and picked time after time. “The olive and the palm, the dense-treed gardens, the fruit trees and the green pastures.” (Verses 29-31) The olive and the palm fruits are well-known to all Arabs. ‘The gardens’ refer to the fenced fields of fruit trees. They are described here as being dense with trees. The Arabic term ‘abb’, translated here as green pastures, refers in all probability to the herbage used for cattle. As mentioned in the commentary on the preceding surah, `Umar asked what ‘abb’ meant and then blamed himself for asking. So we follow `Umar’s suit and add nothing to what has already been mentioned.
This is the story of food, the provision of which is carefully planned by the hand which created man. Man plays no role in any of its stages. Even the seeds and grains he casts on the earth are not of his making. The miraculous aspect here lies in the original production of these seeds and grains, which is beyond man’s comprehension. Various seeds may be planted on the same piece of land, irrigated by one kind of water; yet each produces its own fruit. It is the hand of the Creator which makes this infinite collection of plants and their fruits, and preserves in the little seed the characteristics of its mother plant so that they may reappear in the plant which issues from it. Man remains ignorant of the secrets of this process. He has no power over it. It is God’s own production: “For you and your cattle to delight in.” (Verse 32) This delight is, however, for a limited period. There follows something totally different which needs to be carefully considered by man before it actually arrives.
A Signal for Resurrection
But when the stunning blast is sounded, on that day everyone will forsake his brother, his mother and his father, his wife and his children: for each one of them will on that day have enough preoccupations of his own. Some faces on that day shall be beaming, smiling and joyful. Some other faces on that day shall be covered with dust, veiled with darkness. These shall be the faces of the unbelievers, the hardened in sin. (Verses 33-42)
This is the end of all delight and enjoyment. It fits perfectly with the planning and designing which included every stage of man’s development. The end portrayed here fits perfectly with the scene at the beginning of the surah which shows someone coming forward with zeal and with a feeling of fear in his heart, and another considers himself self-sufficient and turns away from divine guidance. Here we have an exposition of their standing in God’s view.
‘The stunning blast’ is the nearest translation of an Arabic term, al-sakhkhah, which carries a very sharp tone; it almost pierces the ears. This effect simply prepares us for the following scene in which we see “everyone will forsake his brother, his mother and his father, his wife and his children.” (Verses 34-36) Such ties between a person and his nearest relations cannot be severed in the normal course of events. Yet the stunning blast destroys these very links and throws them up into the air.
The fearfulness depicted in this scene is purely psychological. It strikes the soul, isolates it and holds it in its grip. The result is that each of us will think only of ourselves. None shall have any time or power to think of others: “For each one of them will on that day have enough preoccupations of his own.” (Verse 37) The description is vivid; yet there can be no shorter and yet more comprehensive statement to describe the general condition of worried minds and souls.
When the stunning blast takes place the condition is universal. Then follows a description of the conditions of the believers and the unbelievers after the two groups have been assigned their values by divine standards and given their respective positions: “Some faces on that day shall be beaming, smiling and joyful.” (Verses 38-39) These faces beam with a happiness overflowing with delight. They are hopeful and reassured because they feel that their Lord is pleased with them. These people are spared the terror of the stunning blast, so they can afford to smile and demonstrate their joy. Or probably the smiles and manifestations of happiness are seen after these people have realized the good end awaiting them.
“Some other faces on that day shall be covered with dust, veiled with darkness. These shall be the faces of the unbelievers, the hardened in sin.” (Verses 40-42) Such faces are covered with the dust of sadness and misery, darkened with humiliation and depression. They know what they have done in this life and they await their inevitable punishment. “These shall be the faces of the unbelievers, the hardened in sin.” (Verse 42) These people are devoid of faith. They do not believe in God or in the divine message. Moreover, they are hardened in their erring and sinful ways. They persistently violate divine commandments.
The destiny of each group is portrayed in their faces. It is a vivid portrait drawn with words and expressions — a fact which testifies to the immense power characteristic of the Qur’anic style. The opening and the close of the surah are in perfect harmony. The opening lays down a fundamental principle and a general standard, and the close shows us the results of applying this standard. The surah is a short one; yet it states a number of major facts and principles, portraying a large number of scenes, utilizing different rhythms. Furthermore, the style brings out these images in full relief.
2. All these were scholars of the highest calibre, with the four mentioned first being Companions of the Prophet. The others passed on their scholarship to the succeeding generations. — Editor’s note.
3. These details are based on information given by A.H. al-Guindi in his book Abu Hanifah, Cairo.
4. The author is referring here to the former Soviet Union, which was one of the two superpowers in his own time. — Editor’s note.
5. A. Cressy Morrison, Man Does Not Stand Alone, London, 1962, pp. 25-26.
Tafsir by Abul A’la Maududi
80. Surah Abasa (He Frowned)
The Surah is so designated after the word `abasa with which it opens.
Period of Revelation
The commentators and traditionists are unanimous about the occasion of the revelation of this Surah. According to them, once some big chiefs of Makkah were sitting in the Holy Prophet’s assembly and he was earnestly engaged in trying to persuade them to accept Islam. At that very point, a blind man, named Ibn Umm Maktum, approached him to seek explanation of some point concerning Islam. The Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) disliked his interruption and ignored him. Thereupon Allah sent down this Surah. From this historical incident the period of the revelation of this Surah can be precisely determined.
In the first place, it is confirmed that Hadrat Ibn Umm Maktum was one of the earliest converts to Islam. Hafiz Ibn Hajar and Hafiz Ibn Kathir have stated that he was one of those who had accepted Islam at a very early stage at Makkah.
Secondly, some of the traditions of the Hadith which relate this incident show that he had already accepted Islam and some others show that be was inclined to accept it and had approached the Holy Prophet in search of the truth. Hadrat Aishah states that coming to the Holy Prophet he had said: “O Messenger of Allah, guide me to the straight path.” (Tirmidhi, Hakim, Ibn Hibban, Ibn Jarir, Abu Ya’la. According to Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas, he had asked the meaning of a verse of the Qur’an and said to the Holy Prophet: “O Messenger of Allah, teach me the knowledge that Allah has taught you.” Ibn Jarir, Ibn Abu Hatim). These statements show that he had acknowledged the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace as a Messenger of Allah and the Quran as a Book of Allah. Contrary to this, Ibn Zaid has interpreted the words la allahu yazzakka of verse 3 to mean: la allahu yuslim: “maybe that he accepts Islam.” (Ibn Jarir) And Allah’s own words: “What would make you know that he might reform, or heed the admonition, and admonishing might profit him?” and “The one who comes to you running, of his own will, and fears, from him you turn away”, point out that by that time he had developed in himself a deep desire to learn the truth: he had come to the Holy Prophet with the belief that he was the only source of guidance and his desire would be satisfied only through him; his apparent state also reflected that if he was given instruction, he would benefit by it.
Thirdly, the names of the people who were sitting in the Holy Prophet’s assembly at that time, have been given in different traditions. In this list we find the names of `Utbah, Shaibah, Abu Jahl, Umayyah bin Khalaf, Ubayy bin Khalaf, who were the bitterest enemies of Islam. This shows that the incident took place in the period when these chiefs were still on meeting terms with the Holy Prophet and their antagonism to Islam had not yet grown so strong as to have stopped their paying visits to him and having dialogues with him off and on. All these arguments indicate that this is one of the very earliest Surahs to be revealed at Makkah.
Theme and Subject Matter
In view of the apparent style with which the discourse opens, one feels that in this Surah Allah has expressed His displeasure against the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) for his treating the blind man with indifference and attending to the big chiefs exclusively. But when the whole Surah is considered objectively, one finds that the displeasure, in fact, has been expressed against the disbelieving Quraish, who because of their arrogant attitude and indifference to the truth, were rejecting with contempt the message of truth being conveyed by the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace). Then, besides teaching him the correct method of preaching, the error of the method that he was adopting at the start of his mission has also been pointed out. His treating the blind man with neglect and disregard and devoting all his attention to the Quraish chiefs was not for the reason that he regarded the rich as noble and a poor blind man as contemptible, and, God forbid, there was some rudeness in his manner for which Allah reproved him. But, as a matter of fact, when a caller to Truth embarks on his mission of conveying his message to the people, he naturally wants the most influential people of society to accept his message so that his task becomes easy, for even if his invitation spreads among the poor and weak people, it cannot make much difference. Almost the same attitude had the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) also adopted in the beginning, his motive being only sincerity and a desire to promote his mission and not any idea of respect for the big people and hatred for the small people. But Allah made him realize that that was not the correct method of extending invitation to Islam, but from his mission’s point of view, every man, who was a seeker after truth, was important, even if he was weak, or poor, and every man, who was heedless to the truth, was unimportant, even if he occupied a high position in society. Therefore, he should openly proclaim and convey the teachings of Islam to all and sundry, but the people who were really worthy of his attention, were those who were inclined to accept the Truth, and his sublime and noble message was too high to be presented before those haughty people who in their arrogance and vanity thought that they did not stand in need of him but rather he stood in need of them.
This is the theme of vv. 1-16. From verse 17 onward the rebuke directly turns to the disbelievers, who were repudiating the invitation of the Holy Messenger of Allah (upon whom be peace). In this, first they have been reproved for their attitude which they had adopted against their Creator, Providence and Sustainer. In the end, they have been warned of the dreadful fate that they would meet in consequence of their conduct on the Day of Resurrection.
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
(80:1) He frowned and turned away (80:2) that the blind man came to him. (80:3) How could you know? Perhaps he would cleanse himself, (80:4) or he might be mindful and good counsel might avail him. (80:5) Now he who waxes indifferent, (80:6) you attend to him, (80:7) though you are not to blame if he would not cleanse himself. (80:8) But he who comes to you running, (80:9) and fears (Allah), (80:10) you pay no heed to him. (80:11) No indeed; this is only a Reminder. (80:12) So whoso wills may give heed to it. (80:13) It is contained in scrolls highly honoured, (80:14) most exalted and purified, (80:15) borne by the hands of scribes, (80:16) noble and purified.
1. The style of this first sentence is elegant and subtle. Although in the following sentences the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been directly addressed, which by itself shows that the act of frowning and turning aside had issued forth from him, the discourse has been opened in a manner as though it was not him but someone else who had so acted. By this style the Prophet (peace be upon him), by a subtle method, has been made to realize that it was an act unseemly for him. Had somebody familiar with his high morals witnessed it, he would have thought that it was not him but some other person who had behaved in that manner.
The blind man referred to here implies, as we have explained in the Introduction, the well-known companion, Ibn Umm Maktum. Hafiz Ibn Abdul Barr in Al-Istiab and Hafiz Ibn Hajar in Al-Isbah have stated that he was a first cousin of the Prophet’s wife, Khadijah. His mother, Umm Maktum, and Khadijah’s father, Khuwailid, were sister and brother to each other. After one knows his relationship with the Prophet (peace be upon him), there remains no room for the doubt that he had turned away from him regarding him as a poor man having a low station in life, and attended to the high-placed people, for he was the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) brother-in-law and a man of noble birth. The reason why the Prophet (peace be upon him) had shown disregard for him is indicated by the word aama (blind man), which Allah Himself has used as the cause of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) inattention. That is, the Prophet (peace be upon him) thought that even if a single man from among the people whom he was trying to bring to the right path, listened to him and was rightly guided, be could become a powerful means of strengthening Islam. On the contrary, Ibn Umm Maktum was a blind man, who could not prove to be so useful for Islam because of his disability as could one of the Quraish elders on becoming a Muslim. Therefore, he should not interrupt the conversation at that time; whatever he wanted to ask or learn, he could ask or learn at some later time.
2. This is the real point which the Prophet (peace be upon him) had overlooked in the preaching of Islam on that occasion, and for teaching him the same Allah first reproved him on his treatment of Ibn Umm Maktum, and then told him what really deserved to occupy his attention as preacher of the truth and what did not. There is a man whose apparent state clearly shows that he is a seeker after truth: he fears lest he should follow falsehood and invite Allah’s wrath; therefore, he comes all the way in search of the knowledge of the true faith. There is another man, whose attitude clearly reflects that he has no desire for the truth; rather on the contrary, he regards himself as selfsufficient, having no desire to be guided to the right way. Between these two kinds of men one should not see whose becoming a Muslim would be of greater use for Islam and whose becoming a believer could not be of any use in its propagation. But one should see as to who was inclined to accept the guidance and reform himself, and who was least interested in this precious bargain. The first kind of man, whether he is blind, lame, crippled or an indigent mendicant, who might apparently seem incapable of rendering any useful service in the propagation of Islam, is in any case a valuable man for the preacher to the truth. To him therefore he should attend, for the real object of this invitation is to reform the people, and the apparent state of the person shows that if he was instructed he would accept guidance. As for the other kind of man, the preacher has no need to pursue him, no matter how influential he is in society. For his attitude and conduct openly proclaim that he has no desire for reform; therefore, any effort made to reform him would be mere waste of time. If he has no desire to reform himself, he may not, the loss would be his, the preacher would not at all be accountable for it.
3. That is, you should never do so: do not give undue importance to those who have forgotten God and become proud of their high worldly position. The teaching of Islam is not such that it should be presented solicitously before him who spurns it, nor should a man like you try to invite these arrogant people to Islam in a way as may cause them the misunderstanding that you have a selfish motive connected with them, and that your mission would succeed only if they believed, otherwise not, whereas the fact is that the truth is as self-sufficient of them as they are of the truth.
4. The allusion is to the Quran.
5. Purified: free from all kinds of mixtures of false ideas and thoughts, and presenting nothing but the pure truth. There is no tinge whatever in these scrolls of the impurities with which the other religious books of the world have been polluted. They have been kept pure and secure from all kinds of human speculation and evil suggestions.
6. This refers to the angels who were writing the scrolls of the Quran under the direct guidance of Allah, were guarding them and conveying them intact to the Prophet (peace be upon him). Two words have been used to qualify them: karim, i.e. noble, and barara, i.e. virtuous. The first word is meant to say that they are so honored and noble that it is not possible that such exalted beings would commit even the slightest dishonesty in the trust reposed in them. The second word has been used to tell that they carry out the responsibility entrusted to them of writing down the scrolls, guarding them and conveying them to the Messenger with perfect honesty and integrity.
7. If the context in which these verses occur, is considered deeply, it becomes obvious that here the Quran has not been praised for the sake of its greatness and glory but to tell the arrogant people, who were repudiating its message with contempt, plainly: The glorious Quran is too holy and exalted a Book to be presented before you humbly with the request that you may kindly accept it if you so please. For it does not stand in need of you as you stand in need of it. If you really seek your well-being, you should clear your head of the evil thoughts and submit to its message humbly; otherwise you are not so self-sufficient of this Book as this Book is self-sufficient of you. Your treating it with scorn and contempt will not affect its glory and greatness at all, rather your own pride and arrogance will be ruined on account of it.
(80:17) Accursed  be man!  How stubbornly he denies the Truth.  (80:18) Out of what did Allah create him? (80:19) Out of a sperm-drop  did He create him and then determined a measure for him,  (80:20) and then made the course of life easy for him,  (80:21) then He caused him to die and brought him to the grave, (80:22) and then, whenever He wishes, He will raise him back to life.  (80:23) Nay, but man did not fulfill what Allah had enjoined upon him. (80:24) So let man just consider his food:  (80:25) We poured water, pouring it in great abundance,  (80:26) and cleaved the earth, cleaving it asunder;  (80:27) then caused the grain to grow out of it, (80:28) together with grapes and vegetables, (80:29) and olives and palms, (80:30) and dense orchards, (80:31) and fruits and pastures – (80:32) all this as a provision for you and your cattle. 
8. From here the rebuke turns directly against the disbelievers, who were treating the message of the truth with scant attention. Before this, from the beginning of the Surah to verse 16, the address though apparently directed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), was actually meant to reprimand the disbelievers, as if to say: O Prophet (peace be upon him), why are you ignoring a seeker after truth and paying all your attention to those who are worthless from your mission’s point of view? They do not deserve that a great Prophet like you should present a sublime thing like the Quran before them.
9. At all such places in the Quran, man does not imply every individual of the human race but the people whose evil traits of character are intended to be censured. At some places the word man is used because the evil traits are found in most of human beings, and at others for the reason that if the particular people are pin-pointed for censure, it engenders stubbornness. Therefore, admonition is given in general terms so as to be more effective. (For further explanation, see (E.N. 65 of Surah HaMim As- Sajdah); (E.N. 75 of Surah Ash-Shura).
10. Another meaning also can be: “What caused him to be inclined to kufr?” Or, in other words: “On what strength does he commit kufr?’ Kufr?” then means denial of the Truth as well as ingratitude for the favors of one’s benefactor and also rebellious attitude against one’s Creator, Providence and Master.
11. That is, let him first consider out of what he was created, where he was nourished and developed, by what way he came into the world, and from what helpless state he began his life in the world. Why does he forget his such beginning and becomes involved in conceit and haughtiness and why does he feel so puffed up as to resist his Creator and stand before Him as an adversary? (The same theme has been expressed in (Surah Yaseen, Ayats 77-78).
12. That is, he was yet developing and taking shape in his mother’s womb when his destiny was set for him. It was determined what would be his sex, his color, his size; the extent and volume of his body, the extent to which his limbs would be sound or unsound, his appearance and voice, the degree of physical strength and mental endowments, what would be the land, the family, the conditions and environments in which he would take birth, develop and be molded into a specific person, what would be the hereditary influences and effects of the surroundings and the role and impact of his own self in the make-up of his personality, the part he would play in his life of the world, and how long he would be allowed to function on the earth. He cannot swerve even a hair-breadth from his destiny, nor can effect the slightest alteration in it. Then, how strange is his daring and stubbornness! He commits disbelief of the Creator before Whose destiny he is so helpless and powerless.
13. That is, He created all those means and provisions in the world, which he could utilize, otherwise all the capabilities of his body and mind would have remained useless, had not the Creator provided the means and created the possibilities on the earth to employ them. Furthermore, the Creator also gave him the opportunity to choose and adopt for himself whichever of the ways, good or evil, of gratitude or ingratitude, of obedience or disobedience that he pleased. He opened up both the ways before him and made each way smooth and easy so that he could follow any way that he liked.
14. That is, not only in the matter of birth and destiny but also in the matter of death he is absolutely helpless before his Creator. Neither can he take birth by his choice nor die by his choice, nor can defer his death even by a moment. He dies precisely at the appointed time, in the appointed place, under the appointed circumstances that have been decreed for his death, and he is deposited in the type of grave destined for him whether it is the belly of the earth, the depths of the sea, a bonfire or the stomach of a beast. Nothing to say of the man. The whole world together cannot change the Creator’s decree in respect of any person.
15. That is, he does not either have the power to refuse to rise up when the Creator may will to resurrect him after death. When he was first created, he was not consulted: he was not asked whether he wanted to be created or not. Even if he had refused, he would have been created. Likewise, his resurrection is also not dependent upon his will and assent that he may rise from death if he so likes, or refuse to rise if he does not like. In this matter, he is also absolutely helpless before the Creator’s will. Whenever He wills, He will resurrect him, and he will have to rise whether he likes it or not.
16. He commanded him: Implies the duty that Allah has enjoined on every man in the form of natural guidance as well as the duty to which man’s own existence and every particle of the universe, from the earth to the heavens, and every manifestation of divine power are pointing, and also that duty which Allah has conveyed in every age through His Prophets and Books and disseminated through the righteous people of every period. (For explanation, see (E.N. 5 of Surah Ad-Dahr). In the present context the object is to express the meaning that on the basis of the truths stated in the above verses, it was man’s duty to have obeyed his Creator, but, contrary to this, he adopted the way of disobedience and did not fulfill the demand of his being His creature.
17. That is, let him consider the food, which he regards as an ordinary thing, how it is created. Had God not provided the means for it, it was not in the power of man himself to have created the food on the earth in any way.
18. This refers to rainwater. Water vapors are raised in vast quantities from the oceans by the heat of the sun, then they are turned into thick clouds, then the winds blow and spread them over different parts of the earth, then because of the coolness in the upper atmosphere the vapors turn back to water and fall as rain in every area in a particular measure. The water not only falls as rain directly on the earth but also collects underground in the shape of wells and fountains, flows in the form of rivers and streams, freezes on the mountains as snow and melts and flows into rivers in other seasons as well than the rainy season. Has man himself made all these arrangements? Had his Creator not arranged this for his sustenance, could man survive on the earth.
19. Then We split the earth in clefts: Implies cleaving it in a way that the seeds, or seed-stones, or vegetable seedlings that man sows or plants in it, or which are deposited in it by winds or birds, or by some other means, should sprout up. Man can do nothing more than to dig the soil, or plough it, and bury in it the seeds that God has already created. Beyond this everything is done by God. It is He Who has created the seeds of countless species of vegetable; it is He Who has endowed these seeds with the quality that when they are sown in the soil, they should sprout up and from every seed, vegetable of its own particular species should grow. Again it is He Who has created in the earth the capability that in combination with water it should break open the seeds and develop and nourish every species of vegetable with the kind of food suitable for it. Had God not created the seeds with these qualities and the upper layers of the earth with these capabilities, man could not by himself have arranged any kind of food on the earth.
20. That is, a means of sustenance not only for you but also for those animals from which you obtain items of food like meat, fat, milk, butter, etc. and which also perform countless other services for your living. You benefit by all this and yet you disbelieve in God Whose provisions sustain you.
(80:33) But when the deafening cry shall be sounded  (80:34) on the Day when each man shall flee from his brother, (80:35) and his mother and his father; (80:36) and his consort and his children;  (80:37) on that Day each will be occupied with his own business, making him oblivious of all save himself.  (80:38) Some faces on that Day shall be beaming with happiness, (80:39) and be cheerful and joyous. (80:40) Some faces on that Day shall be dust-ridden, (80:41) enveloped by darkness. (80:42) These will be the unbelievers, the wicked.
21. The final terrible sounding of the Trumpet at which all dead men shall be resurrected to life.
22. A theme closely resembling to this has already occurred in Surah Al-Maarij, Ayats 10-14. Fleeing may also mean that when he sees those nearest and dearest to him in the world, involved in distress, instead of rushing forth to help them, he will run away from them lest they should call out to him for help. And it may also mean that when they see the evil consequences of committing sin for the sake of one another and misleading one another, fearless of God and heedless of the Hereafter, in the world, each one would flee from the other lest the other should hold him responsible for his deviation and sin. Brother will fear brother, children their parents, husband his wife, and parents their children lest they should become witnesses in the case against them.
23. A tradition has been reported in the Hadith by different methods and through different channels, saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: On the Day of Resurrection all men will rise up naked. One of his wives (according to some reporters, Aishah, according to others, Saudah, or a woman) asked in bewilderment: O Messenger of Allah, shall we (women) appear naked on that Day before the people. The prophet (peace be upon him) recited this very verse and explained that on that Day each one will have enough of his own troubles to occupy him, and will be wholly unmindful of others. (Nasai, Tirmidhi, Ibn Abi Hatim,