Surah Naba (Arabic: سورة النبأ) is the 78th chapter of the Qur’an and is classified as a Meccan Surah. The title of the Surah in English means “The Announcement” or “The Tidings”. It is composed of 40 ayat (verses).
One of the goals of the My Islam site is to make it easy to read and understand the Qur’an. Below you can read the entire Surah and under each ayat in Arabic we’ve provided transliteration to help with pronunciation. We’ve also added the Sahih international English translation to help you with the meaning. For those looking to get an in depth education into this Surah we recommend reading the different tafseer which are given at the end of the Surah.
“The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand in rows, they will not speak except for one whom the Most Merciful permits, and he will say what is correct.”
Surah Naba Ayat 38
Read Surah Naba with English Translation and Transliteration
Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful
1. About what are they asking one another?
عَنِ النَّبَإِ الْعَظِيمِ
2. About the great news –
الَّذِي هُمْ فِيهِ مُخْتَلِفُونَ
Allazi hum feehi mukh talifoon
3. That over which they are in disagreement.
Kallaa sa y’alamoon
4. No! They are going to know.
ثُمَّ كَلَّا سَيَعْلَمُونَ
Thumma kallaa sa y’alamoon
5. Then, no! They are going to know.
أَلَمْ نَجْعَلِ الْأَرْضَ مِهَادًا
Alam naj’alil arda mihaa da
6. Have We not made the earth a resting place?
Wal jibaala au taada
7. And the mountains as stakes?
Wa khalaq naakum azwaaja
8. And We created you in pairs
وَجَعَلْنَا نَوْمَكُمْ سُبَاتًا
Waja’alna naumakum subata
9. And made your sleep [a means for] rest
وَجَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ لِبَاسًا
Waja’alnal laila libasa
10. And made the night as clothing
وَجَعَلْنَا النَّهَارَ مَعَاشًا
Waja’alnan nahara ma ‘aasha
11. And made the day for livelihood
وَبَنَيْنَا فَوْقَكُمْ سَبْعًا شِدَادًا
Wa banaina fauqakum sab ‘an shi daada
12. And constructed above you seven strong [heavens]
وَجَعَلْنَا سِرَاجًا وَهَّاجًا
Waja’alna siraajaw wah haaja
13. And made [therein] a burning lamp
وَأَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْمُعْصِرَاتِ مَاءً ثَجَّاجًا
Wa anzalna minal m’usiraati maa-an thaj-jaaja
14. And sent down, from the rain clouds, pouring water
لِّنُخْرِجَ بِهِ حَبًّا وَنَبَاتًا
Linukh rija bihee habbaw wana baata
15. That We may bring forth thereby grain and vegetation
Wa jan naatin alfafa
16. And gardens of entwined growth.
إِنَّ يَوْمَ الْفَصْلِ كَانَ مِيقَاتًا
Inna yaumal-fasli kana miqaata
17. Indeed, the Day of Judgement is an appointed time –
يَوْمَ يُنفَخُ فِي الصُّورِ فَتَأْتُونَ أَفْوَاجًا
Yauma yun fakhu fis-soori fataa toona afwaaja
18. The Day the Horn is blown and you will come forth in multitudes
وَفُتِحَتِ السَّمَاءُ فَكَانَتْ أَبْوَابًا
Wa futiha tis samaa-u fakaanat abwaaba
19. And the heaven is opened and will become gateways
وَسُيِّرَتِ الْجِبَالُ فَكَانَتْ سَرَابًا
Wa suyyi raatil jibaalu fa kaanat saraaba
20. And the mountains are removed and will be [but] a mirage.
إِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ كَانَتْ مِرْصَادًا
Inna jahan nama kaanat mirsaada
21. Indeed, Hell has been lying in wait
Lit taa gheena ma aaba
22. For the transgressors, a place of return,
لَّابِثِينَ فِيهَا أَحْقَابًا
Laa bitheena feehaa ahqaaba
23. In which they will remain for ages [unending].
لَّا يَذُوقُونَ فِيهَا بَرْدًا وَلَا شَرَابًا
Laa ya zooqoona feeha bar daw walaa sharaaba
24. They will not taste therein [any] coolness or drink
إِلَّا حَمِيمًا وَغَسَّاقًا
Illa hamee maw-wa ghas saaqa
25. Except scalding water and [foul] purulence –
Jazaa-aw wi faaqa
26. An appropriate recompense.
إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا لَا يَرْجُونَ حِسَابًا
Innahum kaanu laa yarjoona hisaaba
27. Indeed, they were not expecting an account
وَكَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا كِذَّابًا
Wa kazzabu bi aayaa tina kizzaba
28. And denied Our verses with [emphatic] denial.
وَكُلَّ شَيْءٍ أَحْصَيْنَاهُ كِتَابًا
Wa kulla shai-in ahsai naahu kitaa ba
29. But all things We have enumerated in writing.
فَذُوقُوا فَلَن نَّزِيدَكُمْ إِلَّا عَذَابًا
Fa zooqoo falan-nazee dakum ill-laa azaaba
30. “So taste [the penalty], and never will We increase you except in torment.”
إِنَّ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ مَفَازًا
Inna lil mutta qeena mafaaza
31. Indeed, for the righteous is attainment –
Hadaa-iqa wa a’anaa ba
32. Gardens and grapevines
Wa kaawa ‘iba at raaba
33. And full-breasted [companions] of equal age
Wa ka’san di haaqa
34. And a full cup.
لَّا يَسْمَعُونَ فِيهَا لَغْوًا وَلَا كِذَّابًا
Laa yasma’oona fiha lagh waw walaa kizzaba
35. No ill speech will they hear therein or any falsehood –
جَزَاءً مِّن رَّبِّكَ عَطَاءً حِسَابًا
Jazaa-am mir-rabbika ataa-an hisaaba
36. [As] reward from your Lord, [a generous] gift [made due by] account,
رَّبِّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا الرَّحْمَـٰنِ ۖ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْهُ خِطَابًا
Rabbis samaa waati wal ardi wa maa baina humar rahmaani laa yam likoona minhu khitaaba
37. [From] the Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, the Most Merciful. They possess not from Him [authority for] speech.
يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الرُّوحُ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ صَفًّا ۖ لَّا يَتَكَلَّمُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ وَقَالَ صَوَابًا
Yauma yaqoo mur roohu wal malaa-ikatu saf-fal laa yatakallamoona illa man azina lahur rahmaanu wa qaala sawaaba
38. The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand in rows, they will not speak except for one whom the Most Merciful permits, and he will say what is correct.
ذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمُ الْحَقُّ ۖ فَمَن شَاءَ اتَّخَذَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِ مَآبًا
Zaalikal yaumul haqqu faman shaa-at ta khaaza ill-laa rabbihi ma-aaba
39. That is the True Day; so he who wills may take to his Lord a [way of] return.
إِنَّا أَنذَرْنَاكُمْ عَذَابًا قَرِيبًا يَوْمَ يَنظُرُ الْمَرْءُ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ وَيَقُولُ الْكَافِرُ يَا لَيْتَنِي كُنتُ تُرَابًا
In naa anzar naakum azaaban qareebaiy-yauma yan zurul marr-u maa qaddamat yadaahu wa ya qoolul-kaafiru yaa lai tanee kuntu turaaba
40. Indeed, We have warned you of a near punishment on the Day when a man will observe what his hands have put forth and the disbeliever will say, “Oh, I wish that I were dust!”
Tafseer of Surah Naba
Here you can read four different sources for the tafseer on Surah Naba including tafseer by Ibn Kathir.
In the hadith of Sunan Ibn Majah 3779 it explains the benefit for the one who reads the Quran with difficulty and how their rewards will be twice as large for their effort. We should make it a practice to continually read the Qur’an.
But let’s not also forget the purpose of it’s revelation which is to be a book of guidance and clarity for the believer. Let’s work towards understanding the meaning and interpretations of the Qur’an. We can do this by listening to lectures as well as reading the various tafseer and forming our own understanding of this book.
Learning about the Qur’an is a journey and process we must take responsibility for.
Tafsir of Surah Naba by Ibn Kathir
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
In rejection of the idolators’ questioning about the Day of Judgement, due to their denial of its occurrence, Allah says,
(What are they asking about About the great news,) meaning, what are they asking about They are asking about the matter of the Day of Judgement, and it is the great news. Meaning the dreadful, horrifying, overwhelming information.
(About which they are in disagreement.) meaning, the people are divided into two ideas about it. There are those who believe in it and those who disbelieve in it. Then Allah threatens those who deny the Day of Judgement by saying,
(Nay, they will come to know! Nay, again, they will come to know!) This is a severe threat and a direct warning.
Then, Allah begins to explain His great ability to create strange things and amazing matters. He brings this as a proof of His ability to do whatever He wishes concerning the matter of the Hereafter and other matters as well. He says,
(Have We not made the earth as a bed,) meaning, an established, firm and peaceful resting place that is subservient to them.
(And the mountains as pegs) meaning, He made them as pegs for the earth to hold it in place, make it stable and firm. This is so that it may be suitable for dwelling and not quake with those who are in it. Then Allah says,
(And We have created you in pairs.) meaning, male and female, both of them enjoying each other, and by this means procreation is achieved. This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(And among His signs is this that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy.) (30:21)
(And We have made your sleep as a thing for rest.) meaning, a cessation of movement in order to attain rest from the frequent repetition and going about in search of livelihood during the day. A similar Ayah has been mentioned previously in Surat Al-Furqan.
(And We have made the night as a covering,) meaning, its shade and darkness covers the people. This is as Allah says,
(By the night as it conceals it.) (91:4) Qatadah commented;
(And We have made the night as a covering,) meaning, a tranquil residence. Concerning Allah’s statement,
(And We have made the day for livelihood.) meaning, `We made it radiant, luminous, and shining so that the people would be able to move about in it.’ By it they are able to come and go for their livelihood, earning, business dealings and other than that as well. In reference to Allah’s statement,
(And We have built above you seven strong,) meaning, the seven heavens in their vastness, loftiness, perfection, precision, and adornment with both stable and moving stars. Thus, Allah says,
(And We have made (therein) a shining lamp.) meaning, the radiant sun that gives light to all of the world. Its light glows for all of the people of the earth. Allah then says,
(And We have sent down from the Mu`sirat water Thajjaj.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, “From the Mu`sirat means from the clouds.” This was also stated by `Ikrimah, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Hasan, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Ath-Thawri, and it is preferred by Ibn Jarir. Al-Farra’ said, “They are the clouds that are filled with rain, but they do not bring rain. This is like the woman being called Mu`sir when (the time of) her menstrual cycle approaches, yet she does not menstruate.” This is as Allah says,
(Allah is He Who sends the winds, so that they raise clouds, and spread them along the sky as He wills, and then break them into fragments, until you see rain drops come forth from their midst!) (30:48) meaning, from its midst. Concerning Allah’s statement,
(water Thajjaj) Mujahid, Qatadah, and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas all said, “Thajjaj means poured out.” At-Thawri said, “Continuous.” Ibn Zayd said, “Abundant.” In the Hadith of the woman with prolonged menstrual bleeding, when the Messenger of Allah said to her,
(I suggest you to make an absorbent cloth for yourself.)” Meaning, `dress the area with cotton.’ The woman replied, “O Messenger of Allah! It (the bleeding) is too much for that. Verily, it flows in profusely (Thajja).” This contains an evidence for using the word Thajj to mean abundant, continuous and flowing. And Allah knows best. Allah said,
(That We may produce therewith corn and vegetation, and gardens that are Alfaf.) meaning, `so that We may bring out great abundance, goodness, benefit, and blessing through this water.’
(grains) This refers to that which is preserved for (the usage) of humans and cattle.
(and vegetations) meaning, vegetables that are eaten fresh.
(And gardens) meaning, gardens of various fruits, differing colors, and a wide variety of tastes and fragrances, even if it is ingathered at one location of the earth. This is why Allah says
(And gardens that are Alfaf.) Ibn `Abbas and other said, “Alfaf means gathered.” This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(And in the earth are neighboring tracts, and gardens of vines, and green crops, and date palms, growing into two or three from a single stem root, or otherwise, watered with the same water; yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat. Verily, in these things there are Ayat for the people who understand.) (13:4)
Allah says about the Day of Decision — and it is the Day of Judgement — that it is at a fixed time, with a set appointment. Its time cannot be added to or decreased. No one knows its exact time except Allah. This is as Allah says,
(And We delay it only for a term fixed.) (11:104)
(The Day when the Trumpet will be blown, and you shall come forth in crowds.) Mujahid said, “Groups after groups.” Ibn Jarir said, “This means that each nation will come with its Messenger. It is similar to Allah’s statement,
(The Day when We shall call together all human beings with their Imam.) (17:71)” Al-Bukhari reported concerning the explanation of Allah’s statement,
(The Day when the Trumpet will be blown, and you shall come forth in crowds.) Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(That which is between the two blowings is forty.) Someone asked, “Is it forty days, O Abu Hurayrah” But he (Abu Hurayrah) refused to reply, saying “no comment.” They then asked, “Is it forty months” But he (Abu Hurayrah) refused to reply, saying “no comment.” They asked again, “Is it forty years” But he (Abu Hurayrah) refused to reply, saying “no comment.” (Abu Hurayrah added:) “Then the Prophet went on to say,
(Then Allah will send down a rain from the sky and the dead body will sprout just as a green plant sprouts. Every part of the last person will deteriorate except for one bone, and it is the coccyx bone (tailbone). From it the creation will be assembled on the Day of Judgement.)”
(And the heaven shall be opened, and it will become as gates.) meaning, paths, and routes for the descending of the angels.
(And the mountains shall be moved away from their places and they will be as if they were a mirage.) This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(And you will see the mountains and think them solid, but they shall pass away as the passing away of the clouds.) (27:88) He also says,
(And the mountain will be like carded wool.) (101:5) And Allah says here,
(As if they were a mirage.) meaning, they appear to the one who looks at them as if they are something, but they are actually nothing. After this they will be completely removed. Nothing will be seen of them, and there will be neither base nor trace of them. This is as Allah says,
(And they ask you concerning the mountains, say: “My Lord will blast them and scatter them as particles of dust. Then He shall leave them as a level smooth plain. You will see therein nothing crooked or curved.”) (20:105-107) And He says,
(And the Day We shall cause the mountains to pass away, and you will see the earth as a leveled plain.) (18:47) Allah then says,
(Truly, Hell is a place of ambush) meaning, it is waiting in preparation.
(for the Taghun) These are the disobedient rejectors who oppose the Messengers.
(A dwelling place) meaning, a place of return, final destination, final outcome, and residence. Allah said,
(They will abide therein Ahqab.) meaning, they will remain in it for Ahqab, which is the plural of Huqb. Huqb means a period of time. Khalid bin Ma`dan said, “This Ayah, and the Ayah,
except your Lord wills. )11:107( both refer to the people of Tawhل0d. Ibn Jar0r recorded this statement. Ibn Jar0r also recorded from Sa0lim that he heard Al-Hلasan being asked about Alla0h s statement,
(They will abide therein Ahqab) “In reference to Ahqab, it has no specific amount of time other than its general meaning of eternity in the Hellfire. However, they have mentioned that the Huqb is seventy years, and every day of it is like one thousand years according to your reckoning (in this life).” Sa`id reported from Qatadah that he said, “Allah says,
(They will abide therein Ahqab.) (78:23) And it is that which has no end to it. Whenever one era comes to an end, a new era follows it. It has been mentioned to us that the Huqb is eighty years.” Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said,
(They will abide therein Ahqab) “No one knows how much time this Ahqab is, except for Allah, the Mighty and Sublime. It has been mentioned to us that one Huqb is eighty years, and the year is three hundred and sixty days, and each day is equivalent to one thousand years according to your reckoning (in this life).” Ibn Jarir has recorded both of these statements. Allah’s statement:
(Nothing cool shall they taste therein, nor any drink.) meaning, they will not find any coolness in Hell for their hearts, nor any good drink for them to partake of. Thus, Allah says,
(Except Hamim, and Ghassaq) Abu Al-`Aliyah said, “The Hamim has been made an exception to the coolness, and Ghassaq is the exception to the drink.” This has also been said by Ar-Rabi` bin Anas. In reference to the Hamim, it is the heat that has reached its maximum temperature and point of boiling. The Ghassaq is gathered from the pus, sweat, tears, and wounds of the people of Hellfire. It is unbearably cold with an intolerable stench. May Allah save us from that by His beneficence and grace. Then He continues,
(An exact recompense.) meaning, that which will happen to them of this punishment is in accordance with their wicked deeds, which they were doing in this life. Mujahid, Qatadah, and others have said this. Then Allah said,
(For verily, they used not to look for a reckoning.) (78:27) meaning, they did not believe that there would be an abode in which they would be taken to account.
(But they denied Our Ayat Kidhdhaba.) meaning, they used to deny the evidences of Allah and His proofs for His creation, which He revealed to His Messengers. So they met these proofs with rejection and obstinance. His statement,
(Kidhdhaba) it means rejection, and it is considered a verbal noun that does not come from a verb. Allah said;
(And all things We have recorded in a Book.) meaning, `surely We know the deeds of all of the creatures, and We have written these deeds for them. We will reward them based upon this.’ If their deeds were good then their reward will be good, and if their deeds were evil their reward will be evil. Allah then says,
(So taste you. No increase shall We give you, except in torment.) This means that it will be said to the people of the Hellfire, “Taste that which you were in. We will never increase you in anything except torment according to its type (of sin), and something else similar to it.” Qatadah reported from Abu Ayyub Al-Azdi, who reported from `Abdullah bin `Amr that he said, “Allah did not reveal any Ayah against the people of the Hellfire worse than this Ayah,
(So taste you. No increase shall We give you, except in torment.)” Then he said, “They will continue increasing in torment forever.”
Allah informs about the happy people and what He has prepared for them of esteem, and eternal pleasure. Allah says,
(Verily, for those who have Taqwa, there will be a success;) Ibn `Abbas and Ad-Dahhak both said, “A place of enjoyable recreation.” Mujahid and Qatadah both said, “They are successful and thus, they are saved from the Hellfire.” The most obvious meaning here is the statement of Ibn `Abbas, because Allah says after this,
(Hada’iq) And Hada’iq are gardens of palm trees and other things.
(And vineyards, and Kawa`ib Atrab,) meaning, wide-eyed maidens with fully developed breasts. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and others have said,
(Kawa`ib) “This means round breasts. They meant by this that the breasts of these girls will be fully rounded and not sagging, because they will be virgins, equal in age. This means that they will only have one age.” The explanation of this has already been mentioned in Surat Al-Waqi`ah. Concerning Allah’s statement,
(And a cup Dihaq.) Ibn `Abbas said, “Continuously filled.” `Ikrimah said, “Pure.” Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, and Ibn Zayd all said,
(Dihaq) “This means completely filled.” Then Allah says,
(No Laghw shall they hear therein, nor lying;) This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(Free from any Laghw, and free from sin.) (52:23) meaning, there will not be any vain, worthless speech therein, nor any sinful lying. Rather, it will be the abode of peace, and everything that is in it will be free of any shortcomings. Allah then says,
(Rewarded from your Lord with a sufficient gift.) meaning, `this that We have mentioned to you is what Allah will reward them with, and they will be given it by His favor and from Him. It will be a kindness, mercy, gift, and recompense from Him. It will be sufficient, suitable, comprehensive and abundant.’ The Arabs say, “He gave me and he sufficed me.” This means that he sufficiently provided for me.” From this comes the saying, “Allah is sufficient for me.”
Allah informs of His magnificence and His majesty, and that He is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and whatever is in them and between them. He explains that He is the Most Gracious, Whose mercy covers all things. Then He says,
(With Whom they cannot dare to speak.) meaning, no one is able to begin addressing Him except by His permission. This is as Allah says,
(Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His permission) (2:255) It is also similar to His statement,
(On the Day when it comes, no person shall speak except by His leave.) (11:105)
(The Day that Ar-Ruh and the angels will stand forth in rows, they will not speak) (78:38) The word Ruh here is referring to the angel Jibril. This has been said by Ash-Sha`bi, Sa`id bin Jubayr and Ad-Dahhak. This is as Allah says,
(Which the trustworthy Ruh has brought down. Upon your heart that you may be of the warners.) (26:193-194) Muqatil bin Hayyan said, “The Ruh is the noblest of the angels, the closest of them to the Lord, and the one who delivers the revelation.” Allah said;
(except him whom Ar-Rahman allows,) This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(On the Day when it comes, no person shall speak except by His leave.) (11:105) This is similar to what has been confirmed in the Sahih, that the Prophet said,
(And none will speak on that Day except the Messengers.)” Allah said,
(and he will speak what is right.) meaning, the truth. And from the truth is the fact that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah. This is as Abu Salih and `Ikrimah both said. In reference to Allah’s statement,
(That is the True Day.) meaning, it will come to pass and there is no avoiding it.
(So, whosoever wills, let him seek a place with His Lord!) meaning, a place of return, a path that leads to Him, and a way that he may pass by to get to Him.
(Verily, We have warned you of a near torment) meaning, the Day of Judgement. It is mentioned here to emphasize the fact that its occurrence has become close, because everything that is coming will certainly come to pass.
(the Day when man will see that which his hands have sent forth,) meaning, all of his deeds will be presented to him — the good and bad, and the old and new. This is similar to Allah’s statement,
(And they will find all that they did, placed before them.) (18:49) t It is also similar to His statement,
(On that Day man will be informed of what he sent forward, and what he left behind.) (75:13) Then Allah says,
(and the disbeliever will say: “Woe to me! Would that I were dust!”) meaning, the disbeliever on that Day will wish that he had only been dust in the worldly life.
He will wish that he had not been created and that he had never come into existence. This will be when he sees the torment of Allah and he looks at his wicked deeds that will be written down against him by the noble righteous scribes among angels. It has been said that he will only wish for that when Allah passes judgement between all of the animals that were in the worldly life. He will rectify matters between them with His just wisdom that does not wrong anyone. Even the hornless sheep will be allowed to avenge itself against the sheep with horns.
Then, when the judgement between them is finished, He (Allah) will say to them (the animals), “Be dust.” So they will all become dust. Upon witnessing this the disbeliever will say,
(Would that I were dust!) meaning, `I wish I was an animal so that I would be returned to dust.’ Something of similar meaning to this has been reported in the well-known Hadith about the Sur. There are also narrations recorded from Abu Hurayrah, `Abdullah bin `Amr, and others concerning this.
This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat An-Naba’. And all praise and thanks are due to Allah. He is the Giver of success and protection from error.
[78:1] About what are they asking each other?
عَمَّ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ (About what are they asking each other?…78:1). The word ` amma is made up of two particles: [ 1] The preposition’ عن an (about); and [ 2] the interrogative particle ما ‘ma’ (what?) (the last letter, that is, ‘ma’ has been omitted according to the grammatical composition. The sense is: About what are they asking each other?’ Allah Himself replies to the question when He says:
[78:2] About the Great Event عَنِ النَّبَإِ الْعَظِيمِ الَّذِي هُمْ فِيهِ مُخْتَلِفُونَ (About the Great Event in which they dispute!…78:2, 3). The word naba’ means ‘news’ but not every news is naba’. It means a ‘momentous news of a great event’. This refers to the news of the Day of Judgment. The verse purports to convey that the inhabitants of Makkah ask about the Day of Judgment in which they dispute [ while some of them believed in Resurrection, others did not.] Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ reports that when the revelation of Qur’an started, the pagan Arabs used to form circles and discuss and criticise it, especially about the tremendous import of Resurrection and Judgment referred to in the Qur’an. The pagans thought this was impossible, and they used to have protracted discussion. The disbelievers persuade themselves to believe that the predicted event will never take place, though there were others who believed in the event. The Surah opens by shunning the enquirers and the enquiry, it wonders that anyone should raise any doubts about Resurrection and Judgment. Some of the commentators express the opinion that their enquiry was not a genuine one where they were keen to learn about the truth. So they ask half-mockingly and half in doubt, when that event, so loudly pronounced, will happen. Qur’an has responded by asserting one statement twice for emphasis, thus:
[78:3] in which they dispute!
[78:4] Truly, they will soon know. كَلَّا سَيَعْلَمُونَ ثُمَّ كَلَّا سَيَعْلَمُونَ (Truly, they will soon know. Again, truly, they will soon know….78:5) The particle kalla is negative, and means ‘never, by no means’. It means here that this matter cannot be understood by question and answer or by disputation and debate. Its reality will be understood by them when they will face it. It is such a reality that has no room for questions, disputation or denial. The Qur’an says that soon they will come to know about it [ and this statement is repeated twice for emphasis ]. In other words, when they die, they will discover the realities of the next world. They will see the horrors of the Hereafter with their eyes. Then the Holy Qur’an has pointed to different demonstrations of His power to prove that it is not impossible for Allah to destroy this entire world and re-create it once again. Reference is made to the creation of earth, mountains, human beings, males and females and the creation of suitable conditions for human life, health and activities. One of the things mentioned in this connection is:
[78:5] Again, truly, they will soon know. [78:6] Did We not make the earth as a floor, [78:7] and the mountains as pegs? [78:8] And We have created you in pairs,
[78:9] and made your sleep a source of rest, وَجَعَلْنَا نَوْمَكُمْ سُبَاتًا (and made your sleep a source of rest,…78:9). The word subat is derived from sabt which means to cut off. Sleep is something that cuts off the worries and tensions one may have, and thus gives him such a rest that cannot be attained from anything else. Therefore, some scholars translate the word subat as ‘rest’.
Sleep Is a Great Gift
After mentioning in verse [ 8] that Allah has created mankind in pairs, Allah Ta’ ala states in verse [ 9] that among the means of their comfort, He created sleep, which is a great divine gift. Sleep is a great source of relaxation for the entire creation – for rich as well as for poor, for learned people, as well as for the illiterate ones, for kings as well as for labourers. This gift is made available equally and simultaneously for all. Rather, experience shows that this gift is most readily available to the poor and labouring class, as compared to the affluent and the elite class. The latter class has all the means of comfort, they have comfortable homes, they have moderately warm and cold places, they have comfortable mattresses and pillows that are rarely available to the poor. But the gift of sleep is not dependent upon the mattresses, pillows, cottages and bungalows. It is purely a divine gift that is given directly by Allah. Often the poor, with no means of comfort and without bed or bedding, enjoy the best sleep in an open space. Sometimes, the affluent and the men of means suffer from insomnia and can only get sleep when they take sleeping pills. Often the pills do not work either. Not only that this great gift is given to all creatures – humans as well as animals – and it is given free of charge, without working for it. Allah has made it compulsory for everyone in a way that even if he wishes to keep awake because of load of work, sleep is imposed on him by Allah’s mercy, so that his tiredness is removed and he is refreshed to work further. This arrangement is a wonderful means of providing rest and peace for man.
[78:10] and made the night a covering, وَجَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ لِبَاسًا (and made the night a covering… 78:10) This points to the fact that man naturally feels sleepy when light decreases and darkness prevails, when there is tranquility all around and there is absence of noises. The verse under comment additionally signifies that Allah did not only give man sleep, but created in the entire world conditions that are suitable for sleep. That is to say: [ 1] darkness of night; [ 2] the state of sleep is imposed on all humans and animals simultaneously, so that they sleep at the same time. In this way, there will be peace and tranquility throughout the world. Like other works, if there are different times for different people to sleep, no one will have peace and tranquility.
[78:11] and made the day a source of livelihood.
Thereafter the verse reads:
وَجَعَلْنَا النَّهَارَ مَعَاشًا (and made the day a source of livelihood….78:11). Man requires, together with sleep, other essentials of life, such as livelihood. Otherwise, the sleep will turn into death. If the world would have had only nights and no days, and man would have continued to sleep all the time, how would he have obtained his livelihood and other essentials, whereas day is the time when he could work hard and make activities in the daylight in order to earn a living. Thus the verses under comment purport to say that Allah has, in order to complete the comforts of life, made the night a cloak and the day for earning a living. وَجَعَلْنَا سِرَاجًا وَهَّاجًا .
[78:12] And We have built seven strong (skies), [78:13] and created a luminous lamp (the sun).
[78:14] And We have sent down from the rain-laden clouds abundant water, وَأَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْمُعْصِرَاتِ مَاءً ثَجَّاجًا (And We have sent down from the rain-laden clouds abundant water,…78:14). The word mu’sirat is the plural of mu` sirah ‘rain-laden cloud’. This indicates that rain comes down from the cloud. There are verses, however, that indicate that rain comes down from the sky. Those verses too probably refer to ‘upper atmosphere’. There are many verses in the Qur’an where the word sama’ is used in that sense. Having mentioned these Divine blessings, the Surah reverts to its original theme of Resurrection and Judgment:
[78:15] so that We bring out there with grain and vegetation, [78:16] and thick gardens.
[78:17] Surely the Day of Decision is an appointed time, إِنَّ يَوْمَ الْفَصْلِ كَانَ مِيقَاتًا (Surely the Day of Decision is an appointed time…78:17). ‘The Day of Decision’ refers to the Day of Resurrection. It is a fixed appointment. Other verses indicate that the trumpet will be blown twice. When it is blown the first time, the entire world will come to an end. When it is blown the second time, people of the entire world, the earlier generations as well as the latter generations, will be resurrected and come in multitudes and droves. Sayyidna Abu Dharr Ghifari رضی اللہ تعالیٰ عنہ reports that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said: “On the Day of Resurrection, people will come in three different groups: [ 1] a group will come in the Plain of Gathering whose stomach will be full, wearing clothes and riding mounts; another group will come to the Plain of Gathering bare feet; and a third group will be brought on the Plain of Gathering being dragged on their faces.” [ Mazhari cites the following authorities: Nasa’i, Hakim and Baihaqi ] Some narratives report ten types of group. Some scholars say that the groups on the Plain of Gathering will be divided according to their deeds and character. The narratives are not conflicting. All of them may be true.
[78:18] a day when the trumpet will be blown, so you will come in multitudes, [78:19] and the sky will be opened, so it will become as gates, [78:20] and the mountains will be set in motion, so they will be as mirage. وَسُيِّرَتِ الْجِبَالُ فَكَانَتْ سَرَابًا (and the mountains will be set in motion, so they will be as mirage….78:20). The word suyyirat ‘set in motion’ signifies that mountains, which are taken as an example of firmness and strength, will be shifted from their positions, and will become like little particles of dust flying about in the atmosphere. The word sarab literally means ‘to disappear’ and it also refers to ‘mirage’ or an optical illusion, as of a sheet of water, that sometimes appears in a desert, because it seems to be a sheet of water from a distance, but when a person comes near it, it disappears. [ Sihah and Raghib ].
[78:21] Surely Jahannam (the Hell) is set in ambush. إِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ كَانَتْ مِرْصَادًا (Surely Jahannam [ the Hell ] is set in ambush. 78:21). The word mirsad means ‘an ambush’ or ‘lying in wait to attack unawares’ or ‘a secret position for surprise attack’. Here Hell refers to the bridge of Hell. The angels of reward and punishment will lie in wait. The angels of punishment will make a surprise attack on the inmates of Hell, and the angels of reward will lie in wait to accompany the inmates of Paradise and take them to their abode. [ Mazhari ] Sayyidna Hasan Basri (رح) said that there will be an outpost of guardian angels on the bridge of Hell. If anyone has a permit to enter Paradise, he will be permitted to enter; but if anyone does not have the permit to enter Paradise, he will be prevented from entering it. [ Qurtubi ]
[78:22] (It is) an abode for the rebellious people لِّلطَّاغِينَ مَآبًا ([ It is ] an abode for the rebellious people… 78:22). The combined sense of verses 21 and 22 is that the bridge of Hell is set in ambush for all, the good and the bad. They will have to go over it. But Hell is the abode of the rebellious people. The word taghin is the plural of taghi, being derived from tughyan, meaning ‘rebellion’. Thus the word taghi refers to a ‘person who exceeds the limit in disobeying the authority [ of Allah ] ‘. This is possible only when he gives up his faith. Hence, the word thin in this context would refer to the disbelievers. It may also refer to the stray groups of Muslims who have deviated from the limits of Qur’an and Sunnah, though they may not have adopted kufr expressly, such as Rawafid, Khawarij, Mu’tazilah and others. [ as in Mazhari ].
[78:23] who will be abiding in it for ages. لَّابِثِينَ فِيهَا أَحْقَابًا (who will be abiding in it for ages….78:23). The word labithin is the plural of labith which means ‘one who abides’. The word ahqab is the plural of hiqbah and means ‘ages or a long time’. Scholars differ on the exact length or specific amount of time meant by this word. Ibn Jarir has recorded that Sayyidna ` Ali ؓ states that hiqbah is eighty years, and the year constitutes twelve months, and every month comprises thirty days, and each day is equivalent to one thousand years, thus one hiqbah totalling about twenty million and eighty-eight hundred thousand years . Sayyidna Abu Hurairah, ` Abdullah Ibn ` Umar, Ibn ` Abbas ؓ and others say that one hiqbah is seventy years instead of eighty years. The rest of the calculation remains the same. [ Ibn Kathir ]. In Musnad of Bazzar, Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn ` Umar ؓ traces the following Hadith to the Holy Prophet ﷺ : لا یخرج احدکم من النّار حتّٰی یمکث فیہ احقاباً ، والحقب بضع و ثمانون سنۃ، کل سنۃ ثلثمایٔۃ وستّون یوما ممّا یعدّون “Those who will be put in Hell for punishment of their sins, they will not be able to come out until they tarry therein for a few Ahqib. One hiqbah will be a little over eighty years, and the year has three hundred and sixty days according to your reckoning [ in this life ].” This Tradition, though does not interpret this verse, it does explain the sense of the word ahqab. Some of the Companions mention that one day is equivalent to a thousand years. If they had heard this from the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، there is conflict in the narratives. In the face of such conflict, it is not possible to settle on one narration. However, there is a common denominator between the two conflicting narratives, that hiqbah means ‘an extremely long period of time’. Therefore, Baidawi has interpreted the word as ‘many long periods of time successively following the others.
Problem of Eternity of Hell
If it be argued, as some do, that the inmates of Hell, after serving the long ages in Hell, will be released because no matter what the length of hiqbah, it is, nonetheless, finite and limited and will come to an end sometime or other. But looking at other clear verses of the Qur’an, the argument does not hold up. We come across express text like:
خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا
‘[ They, the disbelievers ] shall remain therein [ in the Fire ] for ever’.
[78:24] They will taste nothing cool in it, nor a drink, [78:25] except boiling water and pus,
[78:26] this being a recompense in full accord (with their deeds). جَزَاءً وِفَاقًا (this being a recompense in full accord [ with their deeds ]..78:26). The punishment given to them in Hell will be based on justice and equity – a fitting recompense – on account of their false beliefs and evil deeds. They will not be wronged in the least.
[78:27] They did not expect (to face) accounting (of their deeds), [78:28] and they rejected Our signs totally. [78:29] And everything (from their deeds) is thoroughly recorded by Us in writing.
[78:30] “So now taste! We will never add to you anything except torment.” فَذُوقُوا فَلَن نَّزِيدَكُمْ إِلَّا عَذَابًا (“So now taste! We will never add to you anything except torment.”….78:30). In other words, in the world they continued to add disbelief. If death did not overtake them by coercion, they would have continued to add disbelief, and today their punishment will be increased. Thus far the punishment of disbelievers was depicted. As opposed to this, the reward and blessings of the righteous believers are depicted below.
[78:31] For the God-fearing there is sure achievement, [78:32] gardens and grapes, [78:33] and buxom maidens of matching age, [78:34] and goblets filled up to the brim. [78:35] They will not hear therein any vain talk, nor lies,
[78:36] this being a reward from their Lord, a sufficing grant, زَاءً مِّن رَّبِّكَ عَطَاءً حِسَابًا (this being a reward from their Lord, a suffering grant…78:36). The blessings of Paradise described above is the reward of the believers and is an abundant grant from their Lord. Here two things are mentioned. First, these blessings are a reward of their deeds. Secondly, they are a Divine grant. Apparently, they seem to be contradictory, because reward means receiving something in lieu of doing some service, whereas grant is given gratis. The Qur’an has combined the two words in order to indicate that the blessings of Paradise are reward for the inmates of Paradise only apparently, and in reality they are a Divine grant given to them gratis, because human deeds cannot be the reward of even those blessings which were given to him in the world, let alone the blessings of the Hereafter which depend entirely on Divine grace as is confirmed by the Tradition of the Holy Prophet ﷺ : “No one can enter Paradise merely by virtue of his deeds, unless Allah shows His grace.” The Companions asked: “What about you, Messenger of Allah ﷺ . “He replied: “Nor will I enter Paradise merely by virtue of my action.” The word hisaban has two meanings: [ 1] a grant [ that is ] sufficient [ and ] abundant. This meaning is adapted from the following idiom: اَحسبتُ فُلاناً ای اَعطَیتُہ، ما یَکفِیہِ حَتَٰی قَالَ حَسبِی ‘ahsabtu means that I gave him so much so that it was sufficient for him until he yelled out “enough, this is too much for me”; and [ 2] the second meaning ‘balancing of account’ and ‘comparing’. Sayyidna Mujahid ؓ says that in this context the verse purports to say that the Divine grant will be given gratis to the inmates of Paradise. The grant will be in keeping with the degree of sincerity as reported in authentic Traditions. The deeds of the noble Companions are greater than the deeds of the rest of the Ummah. If a Companion were to spend in the way of Allah one mudd = [ 815, 39 grams ] and a non-Companion were to spend to the equivalent of Mount Uhud, the Companion’s one mudd will weigh heavier than the mountain. And Allah knows best!
[78:37] (from) the Lord of the heavens and the earth and what is between them, the All-Merciful. No one will have power to address Him, لَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْهُ خِطَابًا (…No one will have power to address Him,…78:37) This sentence is probably connected to the preceding verse: جَزَاءً مِّن رَّبِّكَ عَطَاءً حِسَابًا (this being a reward from their Lord, a sufficing grant…78:36) In this case, it would mean that when Allah grants a certain grade of reward, no one dare speak about the grade as to why someone got more and others got less. But if this sentence is treated as an isolated one, it will mean that no one in the Plane of Gathering will have the power to speak to Him without His permission. This permission will be granted in some of the positions of Gathering, and not in others.
[78:38] on the Day when the Spirit and the angels will stand in rows. They will not speak, except the one who is permitted by the Ralhman (the All-Merciful) and speaks aright. یوْمَ يَقُومُ الرُّوحُ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ صَفًّا ۖ لَّا يَتَكَلَّمُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ وَقَالَ صَوَابًا (on the Day when the Spirit and the angels will stand in rows. They will not speak, except the one who is permitted by the Rahman [ the All-Merciful ] and speaks aright -78:38). Ruh (Spirit), according to some of the commentators, refers to the angel Jibra’il He has been mentioned before the other angels in general in order to show the greatness of his status. According to certain Prophetic traditions, Ruh is not an angel but a huge army of Allah. They have heads, hands and legs. In this interpretation, there will be two rows. One row will be that of Ruh and the other will be that of the angels.
[78:39] That is the Day which is sure to come. So whoever so wishes may take refuge with his Lord. [78:40] We have warned you of an approaching torment (that will be inflicted) on a day when one will see what his hands have sent ahead, and the disbeliever will say, “0 would that I had become dust!” يَوْمَ يَنظُرُ الْمَرْءُ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ day when one will see what his hands have sent ahead….78:40) Apparently, this refers to the Day of Judgment. Every person will see his deeds with his own eyes in the Plane of Gathering. This might happen in one of two ways: [ 1] his ledger of deeds will be given in his hands and he will see it; or [ 2] his deeds will appear in the Plane of Gathering, epitomized in a visible shape, as certain narratives confirm this. Still a third possibility exists. The word ‘day’ may refer to ‘the day of death’. And the words ‘will see’ means to see in the grave or barzakh, as explained by Mazhari. وَيَقُولُ الْكَافِرُ يَا لَيْتَنِي كُنتُ تُرَابًا (and the disbeliever will say, “0 would that I had become dust…78:40) Sayyidna ` Abdullah Ibn ` Umar ؓ reports that on the Day of Resurrection the entire earth will become a plane surface where all human beings, Jinn, domesticated animals and wild animals will be gathered. If one animal had wronged another animal in the world, it will be given the opportunity to take its revenge. If a goat with horns had wronged a goat without horns, it will be granted the opportunity to take its avenge. When this phase is over, all animals will be commanded to become dust. They will become dust. At that moment the disbelievers will wish that they were also animals and would become dust like them, so that they would have been spared the torment of reckoning and punishment of Hell. We seek refuge in Allah from it! Allah knows best! Al-hamdulillah The Commentary on Surah An-Naba’ Ends here
This volume contains 37 surahs forming what is traditionally known as the thirtieth part of the Qur’an, on the basis that divides the Qur’an into 30 parts of equal length, so as to make it easy to read the whole book once a month. Yet this part has a special, distinctive colour. All the surahs it includes are Makkan, except two, The Clear Proof and Divine Help, which take numbers 98 and 110 respectively. Although they vary in length, they are all short. More significant, however, is the fact that they form a single group with more or less the same theme. They enjoy the same characteristics of rhythm, images, connotations, and overall style. They are, indeed, like a persistent and strong knocking on a door, or a series of loud shouts seeking to awaken those who are fast asleep, or those who are drunk and have lost consciousness, or are in a night club, completely absorbed in their dancing or entertainment. The knocks and the shouts come one after the other: Wake up! Look around you! Think! Reflect! There is a God! There is planning, trial, liability, reckoning, reward, severe punishment, and lasting bliss. The same warning is repeated time after time. A strong hand shakes them violently. They seem to open their eyes, look around for a second and return to unconsciousness. The strong hand shakes them again. The shouts and knocks are repeated even more loudly. They may wake up once or twice to say obstinately, “No!” They may stone the person warning them or insult him and then resume their position of inattention. He shakes them anew.This is how I feel when I read this part of the Qur’an. It places much emphasis on a small number of significant facts and strikes certain notes which touch people’s hearts. It concentrates on certain scenes in the universe and in the world of the human soul, as well as certain events which take place on the Day of Decision. I note how they are repeated in different ways, which suggests that the repetition is intended. This is how one feels when one reads: “Let man reflect on the food he eats.” (80:24) Or: “Let man then reflect of what he is created.” (86:5) Or: “Let them reflect on the camels, how they were created; and heaven, how it is raised aloft; and the mountains, how they are hoisted; and the earth, how it is spread out.” (88:17-20) Or: “Which is stronger in constitution: you or the heaven He has built? He raised it high and gave it its perfect shape, and gave darkness to its night, and brought out its daylight. After that He spread out the earth. He brought out water from it, and brought forth its pastures; and the mountains He set firm, for you and your cattle to delight in.” (79:2733) Or: “Have We not spread and levelled the earth, and made the mountains as pegs? We created you in pairs, and made your sleep a cessation of activity. We made the night a mantle, and appointed the day for gaining a livelihood. We built above you seven mighty ones, and placed therein a blazing lamp. We send down out of the rain- clouds water in abundance, by which We bring forth grain and varied plants, and gardens thick with trees.” (78: 6-16) We entertain similar feelings when we read: “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.” (80: 24-32) Or: “O man, what has lured you away from your gracious Lord, who created and moulded you and gave you an upright form. He can give you whatever shape He wills.” (82: 6-8) Or: “Extol the limitless glory of the name of your Lord, the Most High, who creates and proportions well, who determines and guides, who brings forth the pasturage, then turns it to withered grass.” (87: 1-5) Or: “We indeed have created man in the finest form, then We brought him down to the lowest of the low, except for those who believe and do good deeds; for theirs shall be an unfailing recompense. Who, then, can henceforth cause you to deny the Last Judgement? Is not God the most just of judges?” (95: 4-8) Or: “When the sun is darkened, when the stars fall and disperse, when the mountains are made to move away, when the camels, ten months pregnant, are left untended, when the wild beasts are brought together, when the seas are set alight, when people’s souls are paired (like with like), when the infant girl, buried alive, is asked for what crime she was slain, when the records are laid open, when the sky is stripped bare; when hell is made to burn fiercely, when paradise is brought near, every soul shall know what it has put forward.” (81: 1-14) Or: “When the sky is cleft asunder, when the stars are scattered, when the oceans are made to explode, when the graves are hurled about, each soul shall know its earlier actions and its later ones.” (82: 1-5) Or: “When the sky is rent asunder, obeying her Lord in true submission; when the earth is stretched out and casts forth all that is within her and becomes empty, obeying her Lord in true submission.” (84: 1-5) Or: “When the earth is rocked by her [final] earthquake, when the earth shakes off her burdens, and man asks: ‘What is the matter with her?’ On that day she will tell her news, for your Lord will have inspired her.” (99: 1-5) We experience the same feeling as we meditate on the scenes of the universe portrayed at the beginning or in the middle of some of the surahs in this part of the Qur’an: “I swear by the turning stars, which move swiftly and hide themselves away, and by the night as it comes darkening on, and by the dawn as it starts to breathe.” (81: 1518) Or: “I swear by the twilight, and by the night and what it envelops, and by the moon in her full perfection.” (84: 16-18) Or: “By the dawn, by the ten nights, by that which is even and that which is odd, by the night as it journeys on!” (89: 1-4) Or: “By the sun and his morning brightness, by the moon as she follows him, by the day, which reveals his splendour, by the night, which veils him. By the heaven and its construction, by the earth and its spreading, by the soul and its moulding and inspiration with knowledge of wickedness and righteousness.” (91: 1-8) Or: “By the night when she lets fall her darkness, by the day in full splendour, by Him who created the male and the female.” (92: 1-3) Or: “By the bright morning hours, and the night when it grows still and dark.” (93: 1-2) Strong emphasis is laid, throughout this part of the Qur’an, on the origin of man as well as on the origin of life, in both its vegetable and animal forms. Emphasis is also given to various scenes in the universe, such as the Day of Resurrection, which is described in different places as the Greatest Catastrophe, the Stunning Blast, the Enveloper, etc. Scenes of the reckoning, fine reward and severe retribution are also given prominence. They are drawn with images which leave a stunning effect. All these are given as a proof of the reality of creation and the elaborate planning of the universe by God, as well as evidence confirming the reality of the life to come, and its decisive reckoning. These scenes are, at times, combined with scenes of the fate of some of the communities which rejected the divine messages. The whole of this part exemplifies all this. We will make, however, a brief reference in this introduction to some examples. The present surah, The Tiding, lays its emphasis on the realities of creation and resurrection, and on scenes of the universe and the hereafter. The same applies to the next surah, The Pluckers. The third surah in this part, The Frowning, begins with a reference to a certain incident during the early days of Islam. The rest of the surah is devoted to a discussion of the origins of man and plants before it tackles what it terms the ‘Stunning Blast’: 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. (80:34-41) Surah 81, The Darkening, portrays scenes of the great upheaval which envelops the whole universe on the Day of Resurrection. It also draws some fine and inspiring scenes of the universe in the context of affirming the reality of revelation and the Prophet’s honesty. The next surah, Cleaving Asunder, also contains scenes of universal upheaval, coupled with scenes of perfect happiness and eternal suffering in the hereafter. As it portrays these it aims to shake and awaken people’s hearts: “O man, what has lured you away from your gracious Lord?” (82: 6) Scenes of both types are also portrayed in Surah 84, The Rending. Surah 85, The Constellations, touches very briefly on aspects of the universe and the hereafter by way of introduction to its main theme. The surah then tackles the history of a group of believers who were subjected to extreme fire torture by the unbelievers. It also states how God will inflict greater and more severe torture with fire on those unbelievers. The next surah, The Night Visitor, draws some scenes of the universe and speaks of the origins of man and plants prior to an oath, by all these, affirming that “This is surely a decisive word; it is no idle talk.” (86: 13-14) Surah 87, The Most High, speaks of creation, planning, divine guidance and the various stages of the growth of pastures. All this is given by way of introduction to the theme of the hereafter, reckoning, reward and retribution. The next surah, The Enveloper, provides some images of the believers’ happiness in the hereafter, and the unbelievers’ misery. It also draws attention to the creation of camels, heaven, earth and the mountains. The same applies right through to the end of this part, with the exception of a few surahs which are devoted to the exposition of the fundamental principles of faith, such as those surahs entitled Purity of Faith, The Unbelievers, Small Kindness, The Declining Day, Power, and Divine Help. Also excepted are a few surahs which give encouragement and solace to the Prophet and direct him to seek refuge with his Lord against all evil, such as those entitled, The Morning Hours, Solace, Abundance, The Daybreak, and Mankind. Another aspect of this part is its artistic use of fine expressions, images, rhythm, meter and rhyme to touch upon areas of exceptional beauty in the human soul and in the universe at large. It does this in order to achieve better results as it addresses those who have lost sight of the truth, trying to attract their attention and awaken their feelings. This is clearly evident, for example, in its portrait of the stars as they turn in their orbits, rise and set, in the image of deer disappearing in their dens then appearing again, its image of the night as a living being walking quietly in the dark, and the dawn breathing with the first rays of light: “I swear by the turning stars, which move swiftly and hide themselves away, and by the night as it comes darkening on, and by the dawn as it starts to breathe.” (81: 15-18) It is also clear in the description of sunset, the night and the moon: “I swear by the twilight, and by the night and what it envelops, and by the moon in her full perfection.” (84: 16-18) And in the scenes of dawn and the travelling night: “By the dawn, by the ten nights, by that which is even and that which is odd, by the night as it journeys on!” (89: 1-4) Or: “By the bright morning hours, and the night when it grows still and dark.” (93: 1-2) Again it is markedly evident in the inspiring address to the human heart: “O man, what has lured you away from your gracious Lord, Who created and moulded you and gave you an upright form? He can give you whatever shape He wills.” (82: 6-8) The same applies to scenes from heaven: “Other faces on that day are jocund, well pleased with their striving, in a sublime garden, where they hear no babble.” (88: 8-11) And in a similar fashion it applies to scenes from hell: “But he whose weight is light in the balance, shall have the abyss for his home. Would that you knew what that is like! It is a scorching fire.” (101: 8-11) Allegory is often employed and an unusual derivation is sometimes preferred in order to obtain the intended musical effect. All this shows the artistry which so entirely pervades this part of the Qur’an. The present surah is a good example of the general bent of this part, its themes, the fundamental principles it seeks to establish, the scenes and images it portrays, its inferences, its music and its fine touches, as well as its artistic selection and manipulation of terms and expressions to enhance its effect. It opens with a form of question imparting a sense of gravity to the matter in dispute, yet it is something that admits of no dispute. This is followed by an immediate warning of what will happen on the day when they will realize its nature: “About what are they asking? About the fateful tiding on which they dispute. No indeed; they shall certainly know! Again, no indeed; they shall certainly know!” (Verses 1-5) Discussion of this fateful tiding is then temporarily dropped. The surah draws attention to what we see around us in the universe and what we feel in our souls which give an unmistakable indication of what will follow: “Have We not spread and levelled the earth, and made the mountains as pegs? We created you in pairs, and made your sleep a cessation of activity. We made the night a mantle, and appointed the day for gaining a livelihood. We built above you seven mighty ones, and placed therein a blazing lamp. We send down out of the rain- clouds water in abundance, by which We bring forth grain and varied plants, and gardens thick with trees.” (Verses 6-16) After this multitude of images taken from actual life the surah takes up the issue of the event of which they have been warned. It explains to them its nature and how it takes place: “Fixed is the Day of Decision. On that day the Trumpet is blown and you shall come in crowds, and heaven is opened, and becomes gates, and the mountains are made to move away, and seem to have been a mirage.” (Verses 17-20) Then follows a scene of misery, that is at once both violent and infinitely powerful: “Hell stands as a vigilant watch guard, a home for the tyrants and the transgressors. Therein they shall abide for ages, tasting neither coolness nor any drink, except boiling fluid and decaying filth, a fitting recompense. They did not expect to be faced with a reckoning, and roundly denied Our revelations. But We have placed on record every single thing, [and We shall say]: ‘Taste this, then; the only increase you shall have is increase of torment.’“ (Verses 21-30) The scene of happiness, on the other hand, overflows with beauty: “The Godfearing shall have a place of security, gardens and vineyards and high-bosomed maidens, of equal age, for companions, and a cup overflowing. There they shall hear no idle talk, nor any falsehood. Such is the recompense of your Lord, a truly sufficient gift.” (Verses 31-36) The surah closes with a distinctive note which accompanies a majestic scene of the day when all this takes place: “Lord of the heavens and earth and all that lies between them, the Most Gracious, with whom they have no power to speak. On the day when the Spirit and the angels stand in ranks, they shall not speak, except those to whom the Most Gracious has given leave, and who shall say what is right. That day is a certainty. Let him who will seek a way back to his Lord. We have forewarned you of an imminent scourge, on the day when man will look on what his hands have forwarded and the unbeliever will cry: ‘Would that I were dust!” (Verses 37-40) This is the fateful tiding about which they ask, and this is what will happen on the day when they realize the true nature of this great event. Needless Enquiry About what are they asking? About the fateful tiding on which they dispute. No indeed; they shall certainly know! Again, no indeed; they shall certainly know! (Verses 1-5) The surah opens by shunning the enquirers and the enquiry. It wonders that anyone should raise doubts about resurrection and judgement, which were central points of bitter controversy. For the unbelievers could hardly imagine that resurrection were possible, despite the fact that it is most logical. The surah asks what they are talking about: “About what are they asking?” (Verse 1) We are then given the answer. The question is not meant to solicit information but rather draws attention to the subject of their questions and stating its nature: “About the fateful tiding on which they dispute.” (Verses 2-3) The answer does not name the event but describes it to enhance the feeling of wonder and amazement at such people. The dispute was between those who believed in resurrection and those who denied it, but the questions were raised by the latter only. The surah does not provide any more details about the event in question. It simply describes it as great before adding an implicit threat which is much more frightening than a direct answer. “No indeed, they shall certainly know! Again, no indeed, they shall certainly know!” (Verses 4-5) The phrase, ‘no indeed,’ is used here as the nearest possible rendering of the Arabic term, kalla, which denotes strong shunning. The whole sentence is repeated to add force to the threat implied. Around Man’s World The surah then puts aside, apparently, that great event which is at the centre of controversy, only to pick it up later on. We are then taken on a quick round of the universe in which we see a multitude of scenes, creatures and phenomena. Contemplation of which strongly shakes any human heart: “Have We not spread and levelled the earth, and made the mountains as pegs? We created you in pairs, and made your sleep a cessation of activity. We made the night a mantle, and appointed the day for gaining a livelihood. We built above you seven mighty ones, and placed therein a blazing lamp. We send down out of the rain-clouds water in abundance, by which We bring forth grain and varied plants, and gardens thick with trees.” (Verses 6-16) In this round we traverse the vast universe, observing a great multitude of scenes and phenomena, which are sketched out with great economy of words. This helps make the rhythm sharp and penetrating, like an incessant hammering. The form of questioning implying a statement is also used here deliberately. It may be likened to a strong hand shaking those who are still unaware. It draws their attention to all these creatures and phenomena which provide strong evidence of the deliberate planning and designing which go into their creation, the ability to create and recreate, and the wisdom behind creation, which dictates that no creature will be left out of the great reckoning. Hence we come back to the fateful tiding, the subject of the argument. The first leg in this round takes us across the earth and the mountains: “Have We not spread and levelled the earth, and made the mountains as pegs?” (Verses 6-7) Both facts mentioned here can be easily recognized and appreciated by everyone. Indeed, even primitive man can be affected by them once his attention is drawn to them. As human knowledge advances and man acquires better insight into the nature of the universe and its varied phenomena, his appreciation of these two aspects is enhanced. He recognizes more fully God’s elaborate planning of the universe, the accurate balance maintained between the individual kinds of creation and their respective needs, the preparation of the earth for human existence and man’s adaptability to his environment. That the earth has been specially prepared as a comfortable home for human life in particular is irrefutable evidence of the careful designing of this existence. It is sufficient to break one relation in the conditions available on earth or in the conditions and proportions required for life and the earth would no longer be that comfortable home for mankind to tread on. Man recognizes easily, by eyesight, that the mountains are very much like the pegs of a tent. From the Qur’an we learn that they steady the earth and keep its balance. This may be because the height of the mountains offsets the depth of the seas and oceans. An alternative explanation is that mountains balance out the inner with the outer movements of our planet. Or probably they merely increase the weight of the earth at certain spots to prevent its violent shaking with earthquakes, volcanoes or internal tremors. There may be another explanation not yet known to man. In the Qur’an we find numerous references to natural laws the essence of which was completely unknown to man at the time of revelation, but knowledge of which was acquired a few centuries later. In its second leg, this round touches upon various aspects of human existence: “We created you in pairs.” (Verse 8) Again, this is a well established phenomenon, easily recognized by every human being. God has made the survival and continuity of mankind conditional on each of the two different sexes, male and female, playing its role in life fully. Not much knowledge is required to appreciate what this involves of comfort, pleasure and recreation. Hence the Qur’anic statement stands to be appreciated by every generation in every society according to its abilities and knowledge. Beyond the primitive importance of this fact there is the wider scope of contemplation as man’s knowledge increases and his feelings become more refined. We may contemplate how one sperm produces a male child while another, absolutely similar to the first, produces a female one. Our contemplation, however penetrating, is bound to lead us to the inescapable conclusion that it is God’s perfect planning which gives each sperm its distinctive characteristics, so that we may eventually have a male and a female, for life to continue. “And made your sleep a cessation of activity. We made the night a mantle, and appointed the day for gaining a livelihood.” (Verses 9-11) God has willed that sleep should overpower man and make him lose consciousness and activity. When asleep, man is in a state which is unlike life and unlike death. It ensures rest for his body and mind and compensates both for whatever effort they have exerted during wakefulness. All this happens in a way the true nature of which man cannot conceive. His will plays no part in it and it is impossible for him to discover how it happens. When awake, man does not know his condition while he is asleep. He is also unable, when asleep, to observe his condition and how sleep affects him. It is one of the secrets of man’s constitution and of all living creatures, unknown except to the Creator Who has made sleep essential for life. For there is no living creature who can stay without sleep except for a limited period. If he were forced, by external means, to stay awake, he would certainly die. Sleep does not merely satisfy some of man’s physical and mental needs. It is, indeed, a truce for the human soul from the fierce struggle of life. It is a respite which allows man to lay down his armour, willingly or unwillingly, and enjoy a period of perfect peace which he needs no less than he needs food and drink. Sometimes, when one is low-spirited, mentally exhausted, possessed by fear and alarm, sleep may overpower one, for a few minutes perhaps, and bring about a total change in one’s condition. Sleep does not merely renew one’s strength, but it may revive one in such a way as to wake up a new person altogether. This is miraculous, yet very true. It happened on a large scale to the early Muslims who fought in the Battles of Badr and Uĥud. God mentions both occasions in the Qur’an, reminding the Muslims of His favours. “He made slumber fall upon you, as an assurance from Him.” (8: 11) “Then, after sorrow, He let peace fall upon you, in the shape of a slumber which overtook some of you.” (3: 154) Many other people have had the same experience in similar conditions. Cessation of activity and consciousness through sleep is a prerequisite for the continuity of life. Yet it can be given only by God. It is mentioned here by way of inviting man to contemplate his own creation and constitution. God’s perfection of creation has provided a correspondence between the movement of the universe and that of living creatures. As man requires sleep after his day’s work, so God has provided the night as a covering mantle for man to enjoy his slumber. Day is also provided as a period of activity for man to pursue his livelihood. Thus perfect harmony is established. The world is perfectly suited to the creatures who live in it, and God’s creation is endowed with those characteristics which fit in easily and gently with the universe. What perfect planning by a scrupulous Designer! The final leg of this round touches on the creation of heaven: “We built above you seven mighty ones, and placed therein a blazing lamp. We send down out of the rain-clouds water in abundance, by which We bring forth grain and varied plants, and gardens thick with trees.” (Verses 12-16) The seven mighty ones God has built above the earth are the seven heavens or skies, the precise nature of which is known only to God. They may be seven galaxies which have a bearing on our planet or on our solar system. The phrase may also refer to something else that is unknown to us. What we know for certain, however, is that these seven have a strong constitution and do not easily disintegrate. This much we know about the stars and we observe in what we call ‘the sky’. The surah also points out that the construction of the seven mighty ones is in perfect harmony with the creation of the earth and the world of man. This is implied in the following verses: “And placed therein a blazing lamp.” (Verse 13) This is a reference to the sun which shines and gives the heat necessary for the earth and its living creatures. It also plays an important part in forming the clouds by evaporating sea water: “We send down out of the rain-clouds water in abundance.” (Verse 14) The Arabic text refers to these clouds as something squeezable. But who squeezes them to extract their juice? The winds, maybe, or perhaps some kind of electric charge in the atmosphere! Beyond both types, however, there is the hand of the Designer, who has assigned to everything in the universe its respective qualities. The use of the word ‘lamp’ to refer to the sun is very apt, for a lamp gives heat and light. It also shines as if it is ablaze. The heat and the light provided by the sun combine with the water flowing in abundance, time after time, from the ‘squeezable’ clouds to help the seeds send out their shoots. This is how grains, vegetables, bushes and wide-branching trees grow. This consonance in the design of the universe could not have been achieved without God’s careful planning. Any man can appreciate this if his attention is drawn to it. If he acquires advanced knowledge, he finds even more consonance and congruity in the universe, which leaves him wondering in complete amazement. He then finds completely insupportable the argument that all this is the result of coincidence. He considers those who evade admitting the fact of elaborate and conscious planning pigheaded and unworthy of respect. Reckoning and Reward All this has been for work and pleasure, but there are reckoning and reward to follow, on the appointed day: “Fixed is the Day of Decision. On that day the Trumpet is blown and you shall come in crowds, and heaven is opened and becomes gates, and the mountains are made to move away, and seem to have been a mirage.” (Verses 17-20) Creation is not without purpose. The Creator, who has accurately measured human life and carefully provided perfect harmony between it and the universe, will not let people just live and die in vain. Reason cannot accept that those who do good and the evildoers should both end in dust. The rightly-guided and the straying folk, the just and the tyrants cannot all share the same fate. There must be a day when everything is judged and evaluated. The day is appointed by God: “Fixed is the Day of Decision.” (Verse 17) It is a day when upheaval overtakes the universe and destroys its systems. “On that day the Trumpet is blown and you shall come in crowds, and heaven is opened and becomes gates, and the mountains are made to move away, and seem to have been a mirage.” (Verses 18-20) The ‘Trumpet’ is a kind of horn of which we know nothing except its name and that it will be blown. We need not waste our time trying to discover how, for such discovery will not strengthen our faith. God has revealed to us what we need to know of the secrets of the universe so that we may not waste our energy in the futile pursuit of useless knowledge. We can imagine, however, a blast on a Trumpet which people answer by arriving in droves. We can visualize the scene whereby all the generations of mankind rise up, walking in their multitudes, from all directions, to attend the great reckoning. We can imagine the fearful sight of people rising from their graves and the great, huge, endless crowd they form. We can feel the horror of the day, people’s helplessness and fear. We do not know where all this will happen, nor when, for the universe is full of great events: “And heaven is opened and becomes gates, and the mountains are made to move away, and seem to have been a mirage.” (Verses 19-20) Heaven, the mighty heaven, is opened up so that it becomes gates. It is, as described elsewhere in the Qur’an, rent asunder. So, it will look very unfamiliar to us. The firmly dug-in pegs, i.e. the mountains, are made to move away. They are hammered, scattered, turned into dust, blown by the wind, as other Qur’anic verses describe. Hence, they become non-existent, like a mirage which has no reality. Or, probably, different rays are reflected against them after they have been turned into dust and they look like a mirage. All in all, horror is apparent in the upheaval which envelops the universe as well as in men’s resurrection after the Trumpet is blown. Such is the Day of Decision carefully and wisely fixed. The Fateful Day The surah takes another step, beyond resurrection, to describe the fate of the tyrant unbelievers and also that of the righteous. It begins with the former group who raise doubts about the fateful tiding: “Hell stands as a vigilant watch guard, a home for the tyrants and the transgressors. Therein they shall abide for ages, tasting neither coolness nor any drink, except boiling fluid and decaying filth: a fitting recompense. They did not expect to be faced with a reckoning, and roundly denied Our revelations. But We have placed on record every single thing, [and We shall say]: ‘Taste this, then; the only increase you shall have is increase of torment.’” (Verses 21-30) Hell has been created so that it may watch the tyrants and transgressors and await their arrival. They find it well prepared to receive them, as if they are returning to their natural home after having sojourned on earth a while. It is a home in which they stay endlessly. But they taste “neither coolness nor any drink.” (Verse 24) The next verse provides an exception to this, but the exception is even worse: “except boiling fluid and decaying filth.” (Verse 25) Their throats and stomachs burn as they drink the boiling fluid, which is the only ‘coolness’ they have, while their other drink is the filth of the burning bodies, decaying in the enormous heat. The Qur’an comments that this is ‘a fitting recompense’. It is in keeping with what they have done in their lives. For they thought they would never return to God: “They did not expect to be faced with a reckoning, and roundly denied Our revelations.” (Verses 27-28) Their denial, as the Arabic verse suggests, is strongly emphatic and stubbornly upheld. But God keeps a meticulous record which does not leave out anything they do or say: “But We have placed on record every single thing.” (Verse 29) Then follows a reproach coupled with the tiding that they can hope for no change in their condition and no abatement of its intensity: “Taste this, then; the only increase you shall have is increase of torment.” (Verse 30) We then have the corresponding scene of the righteous in complete bliss. “The God-fearing shall have a place of security, gardens and vineyards, and high-bosomed maidens, of equal age, for companions, and a cup overflowing. There they shall hear no idle talk, nor any falsehood. Such is the recompense of your Lord, a truly sufficient gift.” (Verses 31-36) If hell is a vigilant watch guard which the tyrants cannot escape, the righteous, the God-fearing will end in a place of security. What a place it is: “gardens and vineyards.” (Verse 32) The vine tree is specifically mentioned because it is well known to the addressees. The God-fearing will also have companions who are described here as high-bosomed and of equal age. They also drink from a cup overflowing with refreshing beverage. These luxuries are given a physical description so that we may better appreciate them. The precise nature of these luxuries and how they may be enjoyed remain unknown to us as our understanding is restricted by our limited world. But the enjoyment provided to the righteous is not purely physical. “There they shall hear no idle talk, nor any falsehood.” (Verse 35) So it is a pure life there, free of the idle chatting and falsehood which give rise to controversy. The reality is known to everyone, which means that there is no room for futile argument. It is a sublime state of affairs suitable for eternal life. Then follows the Qur’anic comment: “Such is the recompense of your Lord, a truly sufficient gift.” (Verse 36) In God’s Presence The surah closes with the final scene of the day when all this happens. It is a scene in which we see the angel Gabriel, who is the Holy Spirit, and all the angels standing in ranks before God, their Most Merciful Lord. They stand in awe of Him; no one dares utter a word without prior permission from Him. “Lord of the heavens and earth and all that lies between them, the Most Gracious, with whom they have no power to speak. On the day when the Spirit and the angels stand in ranks, they shall not speak, except those to whom the Most Gracious has given leave, and who shall say what is right.” (Verses 37-38) The recompense given to the righteous and to the tyrant transgressors, which was detailed in the previous section, is from your Lord. “Lord of the heavens and earth and all that lies between them, the Most Gracious.” (Verse 37) What a befitting context to reaffirm the eternal truth of Godhead. God is the Supreme Lord of man, the heavens and earth, this life and the next, who metes out reward for righteousness and punishment for transgression and tyranny. But above all He is the Most Gracious. The reward He assigns to each group is a manifestation of His mercy. Even the torment endured by the transgressors originates from God’s mercy. For it is indeed part of mercy that evil should be punished and that it should not have the same end as good. The other divine attribute implied here is majesty: “with whom they have no power to speak.” (Verse 37) In this awesome situation neither man nor angel can speak without permission from the Most Gracious. Whatever is said will be right because He does not permit anyone to speak whom He knows will not be saying what is right. When we think that the angels, who are favoured by God, and absolutely pure from sin, stand silent in front of God and dare not speak without His permission, we are bound to feel how awesome the atmosphere is. Having motivated such a feeling, the surah delivers a warning to those who have chosen not to hear or see: “That day is a certainty. Let him who will seek a way back to his Lord. We have forewarned you of an imminent scourge, on the day when man will look on what his hands have forwarded and the unbeliever will cry: ‘Would that I were dust!” (Verses 39-40) Those who raise doubts and question the reality of the Day of Resurrection are here shaken violently: “That day is a certainty.” (Verse 39) There is no room left for doubt and controversy. Yet there is time for mending one’s erring ways before the fearful watch guard, i.e. hell, becomes a permanent home: “Let him who will seek a way back to his Lord.” (Verse 39) The warning is stern enough to make the drunken awake: “We have forewarned you of an imminent scourge.” (Verse 40) It will not be long coming, for man’s life is but a short period. The scourge is so fearful that the unbelievers, when faced with it, will send up that great cry expressing the wish that they had never lived: “On the day when man will look on what his hands have forwarded and the unbeliever will cry: ‘Would that I were dust!” (Verse 40) This is the cry of one who is in great distress, who feels ashamed for what he has been and what he has done. He feels that it is better not to be, or to be something as worthless as dust, than to witness such a fearful occasion. The terrible position of the unbelievers is the subject of the questions and doubts they raise concerning that fateful tiding.
78. Surah An Naba (The News)
The Surah derived its name from the word an-Naba in the second verse. This is not only a name but also a title of its subject matter, for Naba implies the news of Resurrection and Hereafter and the whole Surah is devoted to the same theme.
Period of Revelation
As we have explained in the introduction to Surah Al-Mursalat, the theme of all the Surahs, from Al-Qiyamah to An-Naziat, closely resembles one another’s, and all these seem to have been revealed in the earliest period at Makkah.
Theme and Subject Matter
Its theme also is the same as of Surah Al-Mursalat, i. e. to affirm the Resurrection and Hereafter, and to warn the people of the consequences of acknowledging or disacknowledging it.
When the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) first started to preach Islam in Makkah, his message consisted of three elements: (1) That none be held as an associate with Allah in Godhead; (2) that Allah had appointed him as His Messenger; (3) that this world will come to an end one day and then another world will be established when all the former and the latter generations will be resurrected with the same bodies in which they lived and worked in the world; then they will be called to account for their beliefs and deeds and those who emerge as believing and righteous in this accountability will go to Paradise and those who are proved to be disbelieving and wicked will live in Hell for ever.
Of these although the first thing was highly unpleasant for the people of Makkah, yet in any case they were not disbelievers in the existence of Allah. They believed in His Being the Supreme Sustainer, Creator and Providence and also admitted that all those beings whom they regarded as their deities, were themselves Allah’s creatures. Therefore, in this regard the only thing they disputed was whether they had any share in the attributes and powers of Divinity and in the Divine Being itself or not.
As for the second thing, the people of Makkah were not prepared to accept it. However, what they could not possibly deny was that during the 40 years life that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) had lived among them before his claim to Prophethood, they had never found him a lying deceitful person or the one who would adopt unlawful methods for selfish ends. They themselves admitted that he was a man possessed of wisdom, righteousness and moral superiority. Therefore, in spite of charging him with a thousand false accusations, nothing to say of making others believe, they were finding it difficult even for themselves to believe that although he was an honest and upright man in every other affair and dealing of life, yet, God forbid, a liar only in his claim to be a Prophet.
Thus, the first two things were not in fact so perplexing for the people of Makkah as the third thing. When this was presented before them, they mocked it most of all, expressed unusual wonder at it, and regarding it as remote from reason and impossible, started talking against it as incredible, even inconceivable, in their assemblies. But in order to bring them to the way of Islam it was absolutely essential that the doctrine of the Hereafter should be instilled into their minds, for without belief in this doctrine, it was not at all possible that they could adopt a serious attitude with regard to the truth and falsehood, could change their standard of values in respect of good and evil, and giving up worship of the world, could be inclined to follow the way that Islam urged them to follow. That is why in the earliest Surahs revealed at Makkah the doctrine of the Hereafter has been impressed and stressed more than anything else. However, the arguments for it have been given in such a way that the doctrine of the Oneness of God (Tauhid) also is impressed on the minds automatically. This also contains brief arguments, here and there, to confirm the truth of the Holy Messenger of Allah and the Qur’an.
After understanding well why the theme of the Hereafter has been so frequently repeated in the Surahs of this period, let us now have a look at the subject matter of this Surah. In it first of all, allusion has been made to the common talk and the doubts that were being expressed in every street of Makkah and in every assembly of the people of Makkah on hearing the news about Resurrection. Then, the deniers have been asked: “Don’t you see this earth which We have spread as a carpet for you? Don’t you see the high mountains which we have so firmly placed in the earth?Don’t you consider your own selves how We have created you as pairs of men and women?Don’t you consider your sleep by which We make you seek a few hours rest after every few hours labour and toil so as to keep you fit for work in the world? Don’t you see the alternation of the night and day which We are so regularly perpetuating precisely according to your needs and requirements?Don’t you see the strongly fortified system of the heavens above you? Don’t you see the sun by means of which you are receiving your light and heat? Don’t you see the rains which fall from the clouds and help produce corns and vegetables and luxuriant gardens? Do these things only tell you that the power of the Almighty Being Who has created them, will be unable to bring about Resurrection and establish the Next World? Then, from the supreme wisdom which is clearly working in this world around you, do you only understand this that although each part of it and each function of it is purposive, yet life is meaningless? Nothing could be more absurd and meaningless that after appointing man to the office of foreman and granting him vast powers of appropriation, in this workhouse, when he leaves the world after fulfilling his role, he should be let off without any accountability. He should neither be rewarded and granted pension on satisfactory work, nor subjected to any accountability and punishment on unsatisfactory performance of duty.
After giving these arguments it has been emphatically stated that the Day of Judgment shall certainly come to pass on its appointed time. No sooner is the Trumpet sounded than whatever is being foretold shall appear before the eyes, and whether you believe in it today, or not, at that time you will come out in your multitudes from wherever you would be lying dead and buried to render your account. Your denial cannot in any way avert this inevitable event.
Then, in vv. 21-30; it has been stated that every single misdeed of those who do not expect any accountability to take place and have thus belied Our Revelations, lies reckoned and recorded with Us, and Hell is ever lying an ambush to punish them and punish them fully for all their doings. Then, in vv. 31-36, the best rewards of those who lived as responsible people in the world and have provided for their Hereafter beforehand have been mentioned. They have been reassured that they will not only be rewarded richly for their services but in addition they will also be given sufficient gifts.
In conclusion, the Divine Court in the Hereafter has been depicted, making it plain that there will be no question of somebody’s being adamant in the matter of getting his followers and associates forgiven, none will speak without leave, and leave will be granted on the condition that intercession be made only for the one to whom leave of intercession will have been given, and the intercessor will say only what is right. Moreover, leave for intercession will be given only for those who had acknowledged the Truth in the world but were sinners; rebels of God and rejectors of the Truth will deserve no intercession at all.
The discourse has been concluded with this warning: The Day the coming of which is being foretold, shall certainly come to pass. Do not think it is yet far off, it is close at hand. Now, whoever wills, let him believe in it and take the way towards his Lord. But he who disbelieves, in spite of the warning, “will have all his deeds placed before him: and he will exclaim regretfully: “Oh, would that I were not born in the world!” At that time, his regrets will be about the same world of which he is so enamored today!
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
(78:1) About what are they asking one another? (78:2) Is it about the awesome tiding (78:3) that they are in utter disagreement?1 (78:4) No indeed;2 soon will they come to know;3 (78:5) again, no indeed; soon will they come to know. (78:6) Have We not spread the earth like a bed,4 (78:7) and fixed the mountains like pegs,5 (78:8) and created you in pairs (as men and women),6 (78:9) and made your sleep a means of repose,7 (78:10) and made the night a covering, (78:11) and made the day to seek livelihood,8 (78:12) and built above you seven strong firmaments,9 (78:13) and placed therein a hot, shining lamp,10 (78:14) and sent down abundant water from the clouds (78:15) so that We may thereby bring forth grain and vegetation, (78:16) and gardens dense with foliage?11 (78:17) Surely the Day of Judgement has an appointed time; (78:18) the Day when the Trumpet shall be blown, and you will come forth in multitudes;12 (78:19) and when the sky shall be opened up and will become all doors; (78:20) and the mountains will be set in motion and become a mirage.13 (78:21) Surely the Hell is an ambush,14 (78:22) a resort for the rebellious; (78:23) therein they shall abide for ages,15 (78:24) they shall taste in it no coolness, nor any pleasant drink (78:25) save boiling water and wash of the wounds;16 (78:26) a befitting recompense for their deeds. (78:27) For indeed they did not look forward to any reckoning, (78:28) and roundly denied Our Signs as false.17 (78:29) And everything have We recorded in a Book.18 (78:30) So taste (the fruit of your deeds). We shall only increase your torment.
1. The great news: the news of the Resurrection and Hereafter, which the people of Makkah heard with amazement, then raised questions and doubts about it in their assemblies. When they met each other they would ask: Did you ever hear that the dead will be resurrected to life? Is it credible that life will be infused once again into the bones which have decayed and become rotten? Does it stand to reason that the former and the latter generations will rise up and gather together at one place? Is it possible that these huge mountains which are so firmly set in the earth will fly about like flakes of wool? Can it so happen that the sun and the moon and the stars should be extinguished and the order and system of the world be overturned and upset? What has happened to him who was until yesterday a sane and wise man among us? Today he is giving us strange, impossible news. Where were this Hell and Heaven of which we had never heard from him before? Wherefrom have they appeared suddenly so that he has started depicting them so vividly before us?
Another meaning of fi-hi mukhtalifun also can be: As these people themselves have not agreed on any one view about the end of the world, they hold varying views about it. Some one has been influenced by the Christian belief and believes in the life after death but thinks that the second life would not be a physical but only a spiritual life. Another does not deny the Hereafter absolutely but doubts whether it was possible or not. The Quran relates the view of these very people when it says: We do only guess: we are not certain. (Surah Al-Jathiyah, Ayat 32). And another plainly said: There is no other life than this present life, and we shall never be raised back to life after our death. (Surah 6. Al- Anaam, Ayat 29). Then, there were some atheists, who said: Life is only this worldly life of ours. Here we shall die and live and nothing but the change of time destroys us. (Surah Al-Jathiyah, Ayat 24). There were some others who were not atheistic but they regarded the second life as impossible. According to them it was beyond the power of God to raise the dead back to life. They said: Who will give life to these bones when they are rotten. (Surah YaSeen, Ayat 78). Their different views by themselves were a proof that they had no knowledge in this regard; they were only conjecturing and guessing. Had they any knowledge, they would have agreed on one view. (For further explanation, see E.N. 6 of Surah Adh-Dhariyat).
2. That is, whatever they say about the Hereafter is false, and all their concepts about it are wrong.
3. That is, the time is not far off when the same thing about which they are expressing all sorts of meaningless doubts and misgivings, will appear before them as a reality. Then they will realize that what the Messenger (peace be upon him) had foretold was absolutely true and what they were saying on the basis of conjecture and speculation had no truth in it.
4. Enough light has been thrown at several places in the meaning of the Quran on the supreme wisdom and power of Allah that underlies His making the earth a carpet, i.e. an abode of perfect peace and rest. For explanation, see E.Ns 73, 74, 81 of Surah An-Naml; E.N. 29 of Surah YaSeen; E.Ns 90, 91 of Surah Al-Momin; E.N. 7 of Surah Az-Zukhruf; E.N. 7 of Surah Al-Jathiyah; E.N. 18 of Surah Qaaf.
6. For explanation of the supreme wisdom that underlies the creation of men and women into pairs, see E.N. 69 of Surah Al-Furqan; E. Ns 28 to 30 of Surah Ar-Rum, E.N. 31 of Surah YaSeen; E.N. 77 of Surah Ash-Shura; E N. 12 of Surah Az-Zukhruf; E.N. 25 of Surah Al-Qiyamah.
7. The explanation of the wisdom for which Allah Almighty has placed a desire for sleep in man’s nature in order to make him fit for work in the world, and which impels him to a few hours’ sleep after every few hours of work, has been given in E.N. 33 of Surah Ar-Room.
8. That is, the night has been made dark so that protected from light, you could enjoy a peaceful sleep more easily and made the day bright for the reason that you could work for your livelihood with greater ease and facility. Reference has been made to only one benefit out of countless benefits of the continuous alternation of night and day regularly on the earth to tell that all this is not happening without a purpose or accidentally, but there is supreme wisdom underlying it, which has a deep connection with your own immediate interests. The darkness that was needed for the peace and rest of your body in view of its structure has been provided in the night and the light that was needed for earning livelihood has been provided in the day. This arrangement that has been made precisely in accordance with your needs by itself testifies that it could not be possible without the wisdom of a Wise Being. (For further explanation, see E.N. 65 of Surah Yunus; E.N. 32 of Surah YaSeen; E.N. 85 of Suarh Al-Muminun; E.N. 4 of Surah Az- Zukhruf).
9. Strong, in the sense that their boundaries are so strongly fortified that no change whatever occurs in them, nor does any of the countless stars and planets in the heavens, violating these boundaries, collide with the other, nor falls down to the earth. (For further explanation, see E.N. 34 of Suarh Al-Baqarah; E.N. 2 of Suarh Ar-Rad; E.Ns 8, 12 of Surah Al-Hijr; E.N. 15 of Surah Al-Mominoon; E.N. 13 of Surah Luqman; E.N. 37 of Surah Ya Sin; E.Ns 5, 6 of Surah As-Saaffat; E.N. 90 of Surah Al-Momin; E.Ns 7, 8 of Surah Qaf).
10. A bright, blazing lamp: the sun. The word wahhaj used for the sun means both intensely hot and intensely bright. Hence our rendering. In this brief sentence, allusion has been made to a most wonderful and glorious sign of Allah Almighty’s power and wisdom which the sun is. Its diameter is 109 times that of the earth’s and its size more than 333,000 times that of the earth’s. Its temperature is 14,000,000°C. In spite of shining 93,000,000 miles away from the earth, its light and brightness is dazzling, and man can look at it with the naked eye only at the risk of losing his eye-sight. As for its heat, temperature in some parts of the earth reaches 140°F because of its radiation. It is only Allah Who by His wisdom has placed the earth at the right distance from it, neither it is too hot for being close to it, nor too cold for being very far away from it. For this very reason life of man, animal and vegetable became possible on it. Measureless treasures of energy from it are reaching the earth and sustaining life. It helps ripen our crops to provide sustenance to every creature; its heat causes vapors to rise from the seas, which spread to different parts of the earth by means of the winds and fall as rain. In the sun Allah has kindled such a mighty furnace that has been constantly radiating light, heat and different kinds of rays throughout the entire solar system since millions and millions of years.
11. For the details of the wonderful manifestations of Allah Almighty’s power and wisdom in making arrangements for the rain and the growth of vegetation thereby, see E.N. 53 (a) of Surah An-Nahl; E.N. 17 of Surah Al-Mominoon; E.N. 5 of Surah Ash-Shuara; E.N. 35 of Surah Ar-Room; E.N. 19 of Surah Fatir; E.N. 29 of Surah YaSeen; E.N. 20 of Surah Al- Muminun; E.Ns 10, 11 of Surah Az-Zukhruf; E.Ns 28 to 30 of Surah Al-Waqiah.
After presenting a number of the signs and testimonies, one after the other, in these verses, the deniers of the Resurrection and Hereafter have been exhorted, so as to say: If you consider the earth and the mountains and your own creation, your sleep and wakefulness, and the system of the day and night intelligently, and consider the well-fortified system of the universe and the shining sun in the heavens, the rain falling from the clouds and the vegetables growing thereby, you will see two things very clearly: first, that all this could neither come into existence without a mighty power, nor continue to exist and function so regularly; second, that in each of these great wisdom is working and nothing that happens here is purposeless. Now, only a foolish person could say that the Being Who by His power has brought these things into existence, does not have the power to destroy them and create them once again in some other form, and this also could be said only by an unreasonable person that the Wise Being Who has not done anything without purpose in this universe, has given to man in His world understanding and intelligence, discrimination between good and evil, freedom to obey or disobey, and powers of appropriation over countless of His creatures, without any purpose and design: whether man uses and employs the things granted by Him in the right way or the wrong way, it does not make any difference; whether man continues to do good throughout life till death, he will end up in the dust, or continues to do evil till death, he will likewise end up in the dust. Neither the virtuous man will receive any reward for the good deeds nor the bad man will be held accountable for his evil deeds. These very arguments for life after death and Resurrection and Hereafter have been given here and there in the Quran, e.g. see E.N. 7 of Surah Ar-Raad; E.N. 9 of Surah Al-Hajj; E.N. 6 of Surah Ar-Rum; E.Ns 10, 12 of Surah Saba; E.Ns 8, 9 of Surah As-Saffat.
12. This implies the final sounding of the Trumpet at which all dead men will rise back to life forthwith. You implies not only those who were the addressees at that time but all those humans who will have been born from the beginning of creation till Resurrection. (For explanation, see E.N. 57 of Surah Ibrahim; E.N. 1 of Surah Al-Hajj; E.Ns 46, 47 of Surah YaSeen; E.N. 79 of Surah Az-Zumar).
13. One should bear in mind the fact that here also, as at many other places in the Quran, the different states of Resurrection have been mentioned all together. In the first verse, mention has been made of what will happen at the final sounding of the Trumpet and in the following two verses of the state which will appear at the second sounding of the Trumpet. This we have already explained in E.N. 10 of Surah Al-Haaqqah above. The heavens shall be opened means: All obstacles in the heavens will be removed and every heavenly calamity from every side will befall freely as though all doors for it were open and no door had remained closed to obstruct its happening. The mountains will be set in motion till they become as a mirage means: In no time will the mountains be uprooted from their places and then will be scattered away in particles leaving nothing but vast, empty sand plains behind. This same state has been described in Surah TaHa, thus: They ask you, well, where will the mountains go on that Day? Say to them: My Lord will reduce them to fine dust and scatter it away. He will turn the earth into an empty level plain, wherein you will neither see any curve nor crease. (verses 105-107 and the corresponding E. N . 83).
14. An ambush: a place contrived to entrap game by surprise. Hell has been described as an ambush, because the rebels of God are fearless of it and are enjoying life thinking that the world is a haven of bliss for them. They do not know that Hell is lying in ambush for them, which will trap them suddenly and keep them trapped.
15. The word ahqab as used in the original means successive periods of long time appearing continuously one after the other. From this word some people have tried to argue that there will be eternity in the life of Paradise but no eternity in the life of Hell. For however long these ages may be, they will not be endless but will come to an end at some time. But this argument is wrong for two reasons. First, that lexically, the word haqab (sing. of ahqab) itself contains the meaning that one haqab should be closely followed by another haqab; therefore, ahqab will necessarily be used only for such periods of time as continue to appear successively one after the other and there should be no period which is not followed by another period. Second, that as a rule it is wrong to put a meaning on a verse of the Quran pertaining to a particular theme which clashes with other statements of the Quran pertaining to the same theme. At 34 places in the Quran the word khulud (eternity) has been used concerning the dwellers of Hell. At three places not only the word khulud has been used but the word abadan (for ever and ever) also has been added to it; and at one place it has been clearly stated: They will wish to get out of Hell but shall not be able to come out of it and theirs shall be an everlasting torment. (Surah Al-Maidah, Ayat 37). At another place it has been said: Therein they shall abide forever, as long as the earth and the heavens shall last, unless your Lord ordains otherwise. And the same thing has been said about the dwellers of Paradise too: They shall dwell in Paradise forever, as long as the earth and the heavens shall last, unless your Lord wills something else. (Houd, Ayats 107- 108). After these explanations, how can one argue, on the basis of the word ahqab, that the stay of the rebels of God in Hell will not be eternal, but it will come to an end at some stage in time?
16. The word ghassaq as used in the original applies to pus, blood, pus-blood and all those fluids that flow out from the eyes and skins as a result of a grievous penalty. Besides, this word is also used for a thing which stinks and gives out horrid, offensive smell.
17. This is the reason for which they will deserve this dreadful penalty of Hell. Firstly, they lived in the world thinking that the time will never come when they will have to appear before God and render an account of their deeds; second, that they utterly refused to accept and acknowledge the revelations that Allah had sent through His Prophets for their instruction and treated them as falsehood.
18. That is, We were continuously preparing a complete record of their sayings and doings, their movements and occupations, even of their intentions, thoughts and aims in life and nothing was being left un-recorded, whereas the foolish people in their heedlessness thought that they were living in a lawless kingdom where they were free to do whatever they pleased and desired, and there was no power to call them to account.
(78:31) Surely the state of triumph awaits the God-fearing:19 (78:32) gardens and vineyards, (78:33) and youthful maidens of like age,20 (78:34) and an overflowing cup. (78:35) Therein they shall hear no idle talk, nor any falsehood;21 (78:36) a recompense from your Lord and an ample reward22 (78:37) from the Lord of the heavens and the earth and of that which is between them; the Most Merciful Lord before Whom none dare utter a word.23 (78:38) The Day when the Spirit24 and the angels are ranged row on row. None shall speak save he whom the Merciful Lord will permit; and he too will speak what is right.25 (78:39) That Day is sure to come. So let him who will seek a resort with his Lord. (78:40) Lo! We warn you of a chastisement near at hand;26 the Day when a man will look on what his own hands have sent forth, and the unbelievers shall say: “Oh would that I were utter dust.”27
19. Here, the word righteous has been used in contrast to those who did not expect any accountability and who had belied Allah’s revelations. Therefore, this word inevitably implies those people who believed in Allah’s revelations and lived in the world with the understanding that they had to render an account of their deeds ultimately.
20. This may mean that they will be of equal age among themselves as well as that they will be of equal age with their husbands. This same theme has already occurred in Surah Suad, Ayat 52 and Surah Al-Waqiah, Ayat 37.
21. At several places in the Quran this has been counted as among the major blessings of Paradise. Human ears there will remain secure against idle, false and indecent talk. There will be no nonsensical, meaningless gossiping in Paradise; no one will tell lies nor belie others; nor will there be any use of abusive language, slandering; calumnies and false accusations which are so common in the world. (For further explanations, see E.N. 28 of Surah Maryam, E.Ns 13, 14 of Surah Al-Waqiah).
22. A reward and generous gift: that is, they will not only be given their due rewards which they will deserve for their good deeds, but over and above these they will be given additional and generous gifts and prizes as well. Contrary to this, in respect of the dwellers of Hell it has been said: They will be recompensed fully for their misdeeds. That is, they will neither be punished less than what they will deserve for their crimes nor more. This theme has been explained at length at many places in the Quran, for example, see Surah Younus, Ayats 26-27; Surah An-Naml, Ayats 89-90; Surah Al-Qasas, Ayat 84; Surah Saba, Ayats 33-38; Surah Al-Momin, Ayat 40.
23. That is, the court of Allah Almighty will be so aweinspiring that no one, whether belonging to the earth or to the heavens, will dare open his mouth of his own will before Allah, nor interfere in the court’s work and proceedings.
24. According to most commentators, the Spirit implies the Angel Gabriel, who has been mentioned separately from the angels because of his high rank and position with Allah. (For further explanation, see E.N. 3 of Surah Al-Marij).
25. To speak: to intercede, and intercession has been made conditional upon two things: (1) That the person who is granted permission by Allah to intercede for a sinner will alone be allowed to intercede and for the particular sinner only. (2) That the intercessor will say only what is right and proper, and nothing derogatory, and the one for whom he is interceding should have at least acknowledged the truth in the world. That is, he should only be a sinner, not an unbeliever. (For further explanation, see E.N. 281 of Surah Al-Baqarah; E.N. 5 of Surah Younus; E.N. 106 of Surah Hud; E.N. 52 of Surah Maryam; E.Ns 85, 86 of Surah TaHa; E.N. 27 of Surah Al-Anbiya; E.Ns 40, 41 of Surah Saba; E.N. 32 of Surah Al-Momin; E.N 63 of Surah Az- Zukhruf; E N. 21 of Surah An-Najm; E.N. 36 of Surah Al- Muddaththir).
26. Apparently, one might think that the people who were the audience of this verse died fourteen centuries ago, and even now it cannot be said how many hundreds or thousands or millions of years Resurrection will take to come. Then, in what sense has it been said: The torment of which you have been warned, has approached near at hand? And what is the meaning of saying in the beginning of the Surah: Soon they shall know? The answer is that man can have the feeling of time only until he is passing a physical life in the world within the bounds of space and time. After death when only the soul will survive, he will lose every feeling and consciousness of time, and on the Day of Resurrection when man will rise back to life, he will feel as though some one had aroused him from sleep suddenly. He will not at all be conscious that he has been resurrected after thousands of years. (For further explanation, see E.N. 26 of Surah An-Nahl; E.N. 56 of Surah Al Isra; E.N. 80 of Surah TaHa; E.N. 48 of Surah YaSeen).
27. Would that I were mere dust: “Would that I had not been born in the world, or had become mere dust after death, and thus reduced to nothingness.