Surah Insan Ayat 1 in Arabic Text
Here you can read various translations of verse 1
Has there [not] come upon man a period of time when he was not a thing [even] mentioned?
Has there not been over Man a long period of Time, when he was nothing – (not even) mentioned?
Was there a period of time when man was not even worthy of a mention?
Has there not been over man a period of time, when he was nothing to be mentioned?
Hath there come upon man (ever) any period of time in which he was a thing unremembered?
Has there come upon man a while of (an) era when he was not a thing to be remembered?
Was there not a period of time when man was nothing to speak of?
Quran 76 Verse 1 Explanation
For those looking for commentary to help with the understanding of Surah Insan ayat 1, we’ve provided two Tafseer works below. The first is the tafseer of Abul Ala Maududi, the second is of Ibn Kathir.
(76:1) Was there a period of time when man was not even worthy of a mention? 
1. Most of the commentators and translators have takenhal in the first sentence hal ata alal-insan-i, in the meaningof qad. Accordingly, they interpret this sentence to mean;”No doubt, there has indeed passed on man a time.” But, infact, the word hal in Arabic is used only as an interrogativeparticle, and its object is not to ask a question in every case,but this apparently interrogative particle is used indifferent meanings on different occasions. For example,sometimes, in order to find out whether a certain incidenthas taken place or not, we ask: “Has this thing happened?”Sometimes, we do not mean to ask a question but to denysomething and we express the denial, thus: “Can any otheralso do this?” Sometimes, we want somebody to affirmsomething and so ask him: “Have I paid what was due toyou?” And sometimes, we do not intend to have somethingjust affirmed but we put a question in order to make theaddressee pay particular attention to something whichfollows his affirmation as a sequel. For example, we asksomeone: “Have I harmed you in any way?” The object isnot only to make him affirm that one has not done him anyharm, but also to make him think how far one is justified toharm somebody who has not harmed him in any way. Theinterrogative sentence in the verse before us illustrates thislast meaning. The object is not only to make man affirmthat there has indeed passed on him such a time but also tomake him think that the God Who developed and shapedhim into a perfect man from an insignificant, humblebeginning, would not be helpless to create him once again.
In the second sentence, hin um-min ad-dahr the word dahrimplies the endless time, the beginning and end of whichare unknown to man and this is the particular period oftime which might at some time have passed during thisendless period. What is meant to be said is that in thisimmensely long span of time there has passed a long periodwhen human race was altogether non-existent. Then a timecame in it when a species called man was created, and inthe same period a time has passed on every person when abeginning was made to bring him into existence fromnothingness.
The third sentence, “When he was not a thing (even) to bementioned” implies that a part of him existed in the formof a microscopic gene in the sperm drop of the father and apart in the form of a microscopic ovum in the mother. Forlong ages man did not even know that he comes into beingwhen the sperm gene and the ovum combined. Now bothhave been observed by means of powerful microscopes buteven now no one can say how much of man exists in thefather’s sperm and how much in the mother’s ovum. Then,the initial cell that comes into being by the combination ofthe two at the time of conception is such an insignificantthing that it can be seen only through highly powerfulmicroscopes, and seeing it also no one at first sight canclaim that it is a man taking shape, nor that even if a manemerges from this humble beginning, what will be his sizeand stature, what will be his form and figure, and what willbe his capabilities and personality like. This is the meaningof the sentence that at that time he was not yet a thingworthy of any mention although a beginning of his being asa man had been made.
1. Has there not been over man a period of time, when he was not a thing worth mentioning 2. Verily, We have created man from Nutfah Amshaj, in order to try him, so, We made him hearer and seer. 3. Verily, We guided him to the way, whether he be grateful or ungrateful.
Allah informs that He brought man into existence after he was not even a thing worth mentioning, due to his lowliness and weakness. Allah says,
(Has there not been over man a period of time, when he was not a thing worth mentioning) Then Allah explains this by saying,
(Verily, We have created man from Nutfah Amshaj,) meaning, mixed. The words Mashaj and Mashij mean something that is mixed together. Ibn `Abbas said concerning Allah’s statement,
(from Nutfah Amshaj,) “This means the fluid of the man and the fluid of the woman when they meet and mix.” Then man changes after this from stage to stage, condition to condition and color to color. `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Al-Hasan and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas all made statements similar to this. They said, “Amshaj is the mixing of the man’s fluid with the woman’s fluid.” Concerning Allah’s statement,
(in order to try him,) means, `We test him.’ It is similar to Allah’s statement,
(That He may test you which of you is best in deed.) (67:2) Then Allah says,
(so, We made him hearer and seer.) meaning, `We gave him the faculties of hearing and sight so that he would be able to use them for obedience and disobedience.’
(Verily, We guided to him the way,) meaning, `We explained it to him, made it clear to him and showed it to him.’ This is as Allah says,
(And as for Thamud, We guided them but they preferred blindness to guidance.) (41:17) Allah also said,
(And We guided him to the two ways.) (90:10) meaning, `We explained to him the path of good and the path of evil.’ This is the statement of `Ikrimah, `Atiyah, Ibn Zayd and Mujahid from what is well-known from him and the majority. Allah then says,
(Whether he be grateful or ungrateful.) This is his decree. Thus, with this he is either wretched or happy. This is like what has been recorded by Muslim in a Hadith from Abu Malik Al-Ash`ari. He said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(All of mankind wakes up in the morning the merchant of his own soul. So he either imprisons it or sets it free. )
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