In the Shade of the Qur'an - Surah # 79
In the Shade of the Qur'an - Surah
Surah # 79
In the name of Allah, the
Beneficent, the Merciful.
By those that pluck out vehemently
and those that move forward rapidly;
by those that swim vigorously
and those that outstrip swiftly
and those that conduct a certain affair.
On the day when the earth shall quake,
followed soon afterwards by the sky,
all hearts shall be filled with terror,
and all eyes shall be downeast.
They say, "What, are we being restored as we
What, when we have been turned to old, hollow bones?
They say, "That will be a losing return."
But with just one blast
they shall be alive on earth.
Have you heard the history of Moses?
His Lord called out to him in the
holy valley of Towa,
saying: "Go to Pharoah: he has tyrannised and transgressed
and say to him: 'Would you like to reform yourself?
I will guide you to your Lord, so thst you may be in awe of Him.'"
He showed Pharaoh the mightiest miracle,
but Pharaoh cried lies and rebelled.
He then turned away hastily.
He summoned all his men and made a proclamation to them:
"I am your supreme Lord", he said.
Allah smote him with the scourge of
the life to come
and that of this life as well.
Surely in this there is a lesson
for the godfearing.
Which is stronger in constitution: you or the beaven 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
and the mountains He set firm,
for you and your cattle to delight in.
Then, when the Greatest Catastrophe comes
on the day when man shall
call to mind what he has done,
When Hell is brought in sight of
all who are looking on;
then, he who tyrannised and transgressed
and chose this present life
will have Hell for his dwelling place.
But he who feared to stand before his Lord
and forbade his soul its caprice
will dwell in Paradise.
They question you about the Hour of Doom, when will
But why should you be concerned witb its exact timing?
The final word concerning it belongs to your Lord.
Your mission is merely to warn those who fear it.
On the day when they see that hour, it will seem to them that
on earth had spanned only one evening, or one morning.
In the Shade of the Qur'an
This surah is just one example of many in this thirtieth part of the Qur'an
which have one common objective, namely, to drive home to man the reality
of the hereafter, its inevitability,
and its awesome and serious nature,
and to stress its importance to the Divine planning of man's life in this
world. Such planning culminates in man's death and subsequent resurrection
for the life to come. As it sets out
to drive this idea home to man, the
surah touches the emotions in different ways which are directly relevant
to its central idea.
First we have an ambiguous opening which creates an air of fear and worried
expectation. The rhythm here is quick and throbbing; it helps evoke
feelings of fear, surprise and wonder:
By those that pluck out vehemently, and those that move out rapidly,
that swim vigorously, and those that outstrip swiftly, and
those that conduct a certain affair.
This equivocal, shaking opening is followed by the first of the scenes of
the hereafter. The scene shares
style and tempo with the opening which
thus serves as a framework for the scene:
On the day when the earth shall quake, followed soon afterwards by
the sky, all hearts shall
be filled with terror, and all eyes shall
be downcast. They say, 'What, are we being restored
as we were before?
What, when we have been turned to old, hollow bones?' They say, 'That
will be a losing return.' But with just one blast they shall be alive
Having spread an air of awe, the surah gives an account of the end met by
some of the disbelievers in the story
of Moses and Pharaoh. Here the rhythm
is quieter and more relaxed to suit the narrative style:
Have you heard the history of Moses? His Lord called out to him in the
holy valley of Towa, saying:
'Go to Pharaoh: He has transgressed all
bounds, and say to him; "Would you like to reform yourself?
I will guide
you to your Lord, so that you may be in awe of Him.' He showed Pharaoh
the mightiest miracle, but Pharaoh cried lies and rebelled. He then
turned away hastily. He summoned
all his men and made a proclamation to
them: 'I am your supreme Lord,' he said. Allah smote him with
of the life to come and that of this life as well. Surely in this there
is a lesson for the godfearing.'
This account serves as an introduction to the great principle
aims to establish.
Leaving history aside, the surah takes up the open book
of the universe. It
paints some of the great scenes of the universe which testify to the
and careful planning of Allah, the Creator of the universe
Who controls its destiny both in this life and in the
life to come. These
scenes are drawn here with powerful style and strong rhythm in harmony with
opening of the surah and its general cadence.
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
After all these introductory scenes and inspiring touches comes the
statement concerning the
"Greatest Catastrophe" accompanied by the
distribution of rewards for actions alone in this life. The rewards are
portrayed in scenes which fit in harmoniously with the Greatest
Then, when the Greatest Catastrophe comes, on the day when man will
call to mind what he has done,
when Hell is brought in sight of all
who are looking on; then, he who has transgressed and chosen this
present life will have Hell for his dwelling place. But he who feared
before His Lord and forbade his soul its caprice will dwell
At this point,
when we are overwhelmed with the effects of the scenes of
the Greatest Catastrophe, Hell brought near, the end
of the transgressors
who prefer this life to the next, and that of the godfearing who restrain
and do not give in to their own caprice, at this point, the
surah turns to those who deny resurrection and ask
the Prophet to fix its
time. The rhythm here is superb: it adds to the feeling of awe produced by
account of the Hour of Doom.
They question you about the Hour of Doom, when will it come?
should you be concerned with its exact timing. The final word
it belongs to your Lord. Your duty is merely to warn those
who fear it. On the day when they see that
hour, it will seem to them
that their life on earth had spanned only one evening, or one morning.
Perhaps we should note that these verses end with the sound 'aaha' which
adds length to the meter, intensifying
the effect of majesty and awe.
By those that pluck vehemently and those that move forward
those that swim vigorously and those that outstrip swiftly and those
that conduct a certain affair.
Some commentators say of these verses that they refer to
the angels who
pluck out the souls vehemently, move along actively with ease and speed,
swim along as
they move in the outer world, outstrip other creatures to
embrace the faith and carry out Allah's commands and
affairs they are charged with. Other commentators maintain that they
refer to the stars
who pluck out as they run in their orbits, move
rapidly in phases, swim in space, outstrip others as they run fast
and bring about certain phenomena and results which are entrusted to
them by Allah and which affect
life on earth. A third group of commentators
are of the view that the pluckers, runners, swimmers and outstrippers
refer to the stars while the conductors of affairs are the angels.
Another group believe
that the pluckers, runners and swimmers are the stars
while the outstrippers and conductors of affairs are the
Whatever the referents of these terms are, we feel from the general
that mentioning them in this particular manner produces a
shock and a feeling of expectation of something fearful.
contribute, right at the outset, to preparing our minds for the fearful
account of the first
and second quakes and of the Greatest Catastrophe
later on in the surah.
Perhaps it is better
not to go into great detail in trying to explain and
discuss these verses. It is perhaps more fruitful to let these
produce their effect naturally. The Qur'an seeks to achieve its objective
of awakening men's
hearts in different ways. If we do this we simply
follow the example of Umar ibn Al-Khattab. He once read the surah
"The Frowning" . When he reached the verse which reads "wafakihatan wa
abba"' he wondered,
"We know the fruit trees 'fakihatan', but what is
'abba'?" But then he reproached himself saying: "You Ibn Al-Khattab,
being really fussy today! What harm is there in your not knowing the
meaning of a word used in Allah's
book?" He then said to the people
around: "Follow what you understand of this book; what you do not
understand you may leave alone." His statement, aimed at discouraging
people from trying to explain what may be
equivocal to them without the
backing of perfectly sound authority, represents an attitude of veneration
towards Allah's words, some of which may have been deliberately left
equivocal so that they may fulfil a certain
The opening of the surah takes the form of an oath, to confirm the event
related in the
following few verses:
On the day when the earth shall quake followed soon afterwards by
sky, all hearts shall be filled with terror, and all eyes shall be
They say, 'What are we being restored as we were before?
What, when we have been turned to old, hollow
bones?' They say. 'That
will be a losing return. ' But with just one blast they shall be alive
It has been suggested that the "quaker" is the earth. This is based on
what the Qur'an says in another surah:
On the day when the earth and the mountains
will quake" (73:14)
It has also been suggested that the "follower" is the sky, as it follows
the earth and witnesses its own upheaval which causes it to split and
causes the stars to scatter. An
alternative suggestion claims that the
"quaker" refers to the first blast on the Trumpet which causes the earth,
the mountains and all creation to quake and tremble and makes all who are
in heaven and on earth fall
down fainting except those who shall be spared
by Allah. "The follower" it is claimed, refers to the second blow
Trumpet which brings all creation back to life (as stated in surah 39,
Whichever suggestion is the correct one, the very verses make men's hearts
feel the quake and shake with fear and
worry. They prepare them to realise
what sort of terror will fill the hearts on the day of judgement:
All hearts shall be filled with terror and all eyes shall be downcast.
Thus, it is a combination of worry, fear, humiliation and breakdown. This
is what happens on that day, and it is
the fact which the oath at the
opening of the surah seeks to establish. In both sense and rhythm, the
scene portrayed by these verses fits in perfectly with the opening.
The surah goes on to speak of their
surprise and wonder when they are
They say, 'What, are we being
restored as we were before? What, when
we have been turned to old, hollow bones?
They wonder whether they are being returned to life again. Amazed, they
ask how this can be done after
they have been dead for so long that their
bones have become hollow. Then they realise that their awakening does
take them back to their life on earth, but to their second life. At this
point they feel their great
loss and cry:
They say, 'That will be a losing return.'
They have not banked on such a return, and have
not prepared for it, so
they have everything to lose by it. The Qur'anic comment is to state what
But with just one blast
they shall be alive on earth.
The "blast" is a shout, but it is described here as a blast to emphasise
its force, and to strike a note of perfect harmony between this scene and
the other scenes of the surah. The term
used for "the earth" here refers
to a bright white earth which is the land of resurrection. We do not know
its exact location. All we know of it is that which the Qur'an or the
authentic traditions of the Prophet relate.
We have no intention of adding
anything unauthoritative to their account. Other Qur'anic statements lead
us to the conclusion that this one blast is most probably the second blow
on the Trumpet, i.e. the blow of resurrection.
The expression used here
gives a sense of speed. The blast itself is associated with speed, and the
general rhythm of the surah is a rapid one. The terrified hearts also beat
fast. Hence the perfect harmony between
the sense, the rhythm, the scenes
and the surah as a whole.
The rhythm then slows down a bit
in order to suit the style of narration.
For next we have an account of what had taken place between Moses and
Pharaoh, and the end which Pharaoh met after he had tyrannised and
transgressed all bounds:
Have you heard the history of Moses? His Lord called out to him in the
valley of Towa, saying: 'Go to Pharaoh: he has transgressed all
bounds, and say to him: 'Would you
like to reform yourself? I will guide
you to your Lord, so that you may havefear of Him.' He showed
the mightiest miracle, but he cried lies and rebelled. He then turned
away hastily. He summoned all his men and made to them a proclamation:
'I am your supreme Lord, 'he
said . Allah smote him with the scourge of
the life to come and that of this life as well. Surely in
this there is
a lesson for the godfearing.'
The story of Moses is the most frequent and
most detailed of the Qur'anic
stories. It is mentioned in many other surahs, in different styles and with
varying emphasis. At times, certain episodes are given greater prominence.
This variation of style and emphasis
aims at striking harmony between the
historical account and the surah in which it occurs. Thus, the story helps
to make the message of the surah clearer. This method is characteristic of
the Qur'an. Here the historical
account is given in quick successive scenes
which open with the call Moses receives in the holy valley and end
destruction of Pharaoh in this life and the life to come. Thus, it fits
very well with the
main theme of the surah, namely the hereafter. The part
given here of Moses's history spans a long period, but
it is covered by a
few short verses, so that it may fit in well with the rhythm and message
of the surah.
These short verses include several stages and scenes of the
They start with an introductory question addressed to the Prophet,
Have you heard the history of Moses?
The question serves to prepare us to listen to the history and contemplate
its lessons. Moses's story is described here as history to emphasise that
it has actually happened.
It starts with the scene of Moses being called by
His Lord called out to him in the holy valley of Towa.
Towa is probably the name of the valley which lies to
the right of the
Mount Toor, as one comes up from Madian in North Hijaz. The moment when
this call was
made was awesome. The call from Allah Himself to one of His
servants, great beyond description, embodies a secret
of Divinity, and a
secret of how Allah has made man susceptible to receiving His call. No
one can comprehend
what is involved here without inspiration from Allah
The communication between
Allah and Moses is discussed in more detail
elsewhere in the Qur'an. In this surah, however, it is touched upon
briefly, before Allah's command to Moses is stated:
Go to Pharaoh. He has
tyrannised and transgressed all bounds, and
say to him ' Would you like to reform yourself? I will
to your Lord, so that you may be in awe of Him.' Go to Pharaoh, he
has tyrannised and transgressed all bounds.
Tyranny and transgression should not have taken place and must not
They lead to corruption and to what displeases Allah. So Allah (praised
be He) selects
one of His noble servants and charges him with the task of
trying to put an end to them. They are indeed
so hateful that Allah
Himself commands one of His servants to go to the tyrant in an attempt to
turn him away from his erring ways, so that he may have no excuse should
Allah decide to exact His retribution.
Go to Pharaoh: he has tyrannised and transgressed all bounds.
Allah then teaches Moses how to address the tyrant
in the most persuasive
manner, so that he may desist and try not to incur upon himself the dis
and say to him. 'Would you like to
The first question to be put to the tyrant is whether he would like to
purify himself of the stains of tyranny and the filth of disobedience to
Allah. Would he like to know
the path of the pious, the blessed:
I will guide you to your Lord, so that you
may be in awe of Him.
The offer made here to Pharaoh is to be shown the way acceptable to
Once he knows it, he will feel the fear of Allah in his heart. Man does
not transgress and tyrannise
unless he loses his way and finds himself
taking a road which does not lead to Allah. His heart hardens as a result,
and he rebels and tyrannises.
Moses has been told this in the scene of Allah's call to him. He of
puts these questions to Pharaoh when he encounters him. The surah, however,
does not repeat them
when it describes the encounter. It skips over what
happens after Allah's call to Moses and deletes what Moses
says when he
conveys his message. It is as if the curtain falls after the scene of the
call. When it
is lifted again, we are presented with the end of the
Pharaoh the mightiest miracle, but Pharaoh cried lies and
Thus, Moses conveys
the message with which he has been entrusted in the
manner Allah has taught him. This warm, friendly attitude,
win over a heart that has been hardened by tyranny and ignorance of the
Lord of the
universe. So Moses shows him the great miracles of the stick
turning into a snake and Moses's hand becoming brilliant
white in colour,
(as they are explained in other surahs), "but he cried lies and rebelled."
of Moses's encounter with Pharaoh and his conveying the message
to him ends with Pharaoh's rejection and rebellion.
It is then followed by
a scene in which Pharaoh turns away to mobilise his forces and bring
his magicians for an encounter between magic and the truth.
Pharaoh adopted this course of action because
he was determined not to
accept the truth or submit to right.
He then turned
away hastily. He summoned all his men and made a
proclamation to them: 'I am your supreme Lord, ' he
The surah does not give any details of Pharaoh's efforts to muster his
magicians and sorcerers
and summon all his men. It simply says that he
went away to do that, and then boasted with his impertinent proclamation
which betrays his infinite ignorance and conceit:
I am your supreme Lord, he said.
Pharaoh's declaration betrays the fact that he was deceived by his people's
ignorance and their submission to his authority. Nothing deceives tyrants
mort than the ignorance and
the abject submission of the masses. A tyrant
is in fact an individual who has no real power or authority. The
submissive masses simply bend their backs for him to ride, stretch out their
necks for him
to fit them with reins, hang down their heads to give him a
chance to show his conceit, and forego their rights
to be respected and
honoured, thus giving him a chance to tyrannise. The masses do all this
they are deceived and afraid at the same time. Their fear has no
real basis except in their imagination. The tyrant,
an individual, can
never be stronger than thousands or millions, should they attach the
to their humanity, dignity, self-respect and freedom. Every
individual in the nation is a match for the tyrant
in terms of power. No
one could tyrannise in a nation which is sane, or which knows its true
in Him and refuses to submit to any creature who has no
power over its destiny.
however, found his people so ignorant, submissive and devoid of
faith that he was able to make his insolent, blasphemous
am your supreme Lord!' He would have never dared to make it had he found
that his nation
had the qualities of general awareness, self-respect and
faith in Allah.
With such an intolerable
insolence on Pharaoh's part coming on top of his
grim tyranny, the Supreme Power moved in:
Allah smote him with the scourge of the life to come and that of this
life as well.
The scourge of the life to come is mentioned first because it is much
harsher and perpetual. It is indeed
the real punishment for the tyrants
and the transgressors because of its severity and endlessness. It is also
more appropriate to give it prominence since the life to come is the main
theme of the surah. Besides, it fits
perfectly with the general rhythm of
The scourge of this life is fearful and severe,
but that of the life to
come is much more so. Pharaoh had power, authority and glory, yet none of
was of any use to him. One can only imagine what will be the fate of
the disbelievers who do not have similar power,
authority or glory but
still resist the call of Islam and try to suppress it.
Surely in this there is a lesson for the god fearing.
Only those who know their true Lord
and fear Him will benefit from the
lessons of Pharaoh's history. Those who do not fear Allah will continue
in their erring ways until they reach their appointed end, when they
shall suffer the scourge of both this life
and the life to come.
Having mentioned the end met by the tyrants who thought themselves very
the surah turns to the present disbelievers who also depend on
their own power. It directs their attention to some
manifestations of the
work of the Supreme Power in the universe.
Their power does not stand
any comparison with that of Allah:
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
its depth, and brought forth its
pastures; And the mountains He set firm, for you and your cattle to
The question these verses start with:
Which is stronger in constitution: you or the heaven He has built?
admits of one answer only:
Heaven. So the question seems to infer another:
Why should you think so highly of your own power
when heaven is much
stronger in constitution than you and the Lord Who created it is much
stronger than it?
The question may also be carried forward in a different direction:
you think resurrection impossible? He has created heaven, the creation of
which requires more
power than your own creation? Resurrection is merely a
repetition of creation. It follows that He who has built
heaven will find
your resurrection an easier proposition.
"He has built" heaven. The term
"build" suggests strength and firm
constitution. Heaven is so indeed. Its planets are held together in a
perfect system. They neither scatter, nor fall away from their orbits.
"He raised it high and gave it
its perfect shape. " A glance is enough to
recognise the perfect coherence and harmony in the building of heaven.
Knowledge of the laws which govern the existence of the creatures in the
sky above us and provide a
perfect balance between their movements and
between their mutual effects enhances awareness of the significance
this verse. It intensifies the feeling of the limitlessness of their very
real world, of which human
knowledge has uncovered only a small part. This
part, however, is enough to make man overwhelmed with wonder and
astonishment. He stands speechless at the infinite beauty of the universe.
He can give no explanation
for it except that a superhuman power has
planned it and governs it. This explanation is now accepted even by those
who profess not to believe in any religion.
And gave darkness
to its night, and brought out its daylight.
The Arabic words used in this verse add to the strength of
tone. They also have stronger connotations than the translation suggests.
They are used
here because they are more fitting with the general context.
The succession of darkness at night and light in the
morning is a
phenomenon recognised by all, but it may be overlooked because of its
being so familiar.
Here, the Qur'an reminds us of its permanent novelty.
For it is repeated anew every day, producing the same eflfects
reactions. The natural laws governing this phenomenon are so precise
and miraculous that they continue
to impress and astonish man as his
After that He spread
out the earth. He brought out water from it,
and brought forth its pastures, and the mountains He set
Spreading out the earth is a reference to the levelling of its surface so
that it becomes easy
to walk on, and to the formation of a layer of soil
suitable for cultivation. Setting the mountains firm is a result
final shaping of the surface of the earth and its cooling down to a level
suitable for the emergence
of living organisms. Allah also brought out
water from the earth. This applies to the springs that allow the deep
waters to flow out on the surface of the earth. It applies also to the
rain water, since it comes originally
from the earth. He also brought
forth the pastures, which is, in this context, a reference to all plants
upon which man and animals feed, and which directly and indirectly sustain
All this happened
after the heaven was built, the night darkened and the
earth spread. The recent theories of astrology support this
statement, for they assume that the earth was moving in its orbit, with
day and night succeeding
each other for hundreds of millions of years
before it was levelled and spread out, became suitable for the growth
vegetation, and before its surface took its final, present shape of plains,
valleys and mountains.
The Qur'an declares that all this is "for you and your cattle to delight
in." This is a reminder
for man of what Allah has made for him, and of His
perfect and elaborate planning. It is not by chance that the
built in this fashion and that the earth was spread out to take its present
existence, as Allah's vicegerent, was taken into account.
Man's existence and development depend on so many factors
in the universe generally, and in the solar system in particular, and more
in the earth itself. All these factors must be made to
function in absolute harmony.
the Qur'anic approach of giving a short statement which embodies
the basic fact, yet is rich with hints and inferences,
the surah names just
a few of these harmonised factors - the building of heaven, darkening of
bringing out the daylight, spreading out the earth, bringing
out its waters and pastures and setting the mountains
firm - for man and
his cattle to delight in. This statement makes the idea of elaborate
the universe understood by everybody. It makes use of some of
its manifestations which require no particular standard
of education to
appreciate. This enables the Qur'an to be a universal address, to all men,
in all ages
and societies, whether primitive or advanced. The reality of
meticulous and elaborate planning of the whole universe,
however, goes far
beyond the level mentioned here. The very nature of this universe rules
out any possibility
of its formation by chance, for no chance could result
in such perfect and absolute harmony on such an immeasurable
The harmony starts with the fact that our solar system is unique among
millions and millions
of planetary systems, and our earth is also a unique
planet with regard to its location in the solar system. It
uniqueness which makes life on earth possible. We have not yet discovered
among the many thousands
of similar planets anyone which enjoys similar
harmonisation of the essential factors which help the emergence
sustenance of life.
Life may appear on a certain planet if certain conditions are met:
planet must be of suitable size, at a medium distance from the sun, and it
has to be of a composition
which mixes the elements in the right proportion
to permit the emergence of life. The suitable size is necessary
atmosphere of the planet is conditioned by the force of its gravity. The
is also a necessary condition because the planets which
are near to the sun are so hot that nothing can solidify
on them, and
those that are far from the sun are so cold that nothing on them can have
any measure of
elasticity. The right composition of elements is necessary
because such a composition in the right proportion is
a must for the
growth of vegetation which is, in turn, essential for the sustenance of
life. The Earth
has the ideal location to satisfy all these conditions
which help the emergence of life in the only form which
we now know. 
The establishment of the fact of elaborate planning of the grand universe,
and giving man a special place in it prepares man's heart and mind to
receive and accept the statement of the realitv
of the hereafter and its
final judgement and rewards with a feeling of reassurance. If the origins
the universe and of man are so, then the cycle must be completed, and
everyone must have his reward. It is inconceivable
that the final end comes
with the end of man's short life in this world, or that evil and tyranny
get away without retribution, or that good, justice and right can be
left to suffer whatever hardship is visited
on them in this life, without
there being a chance to put matters right. Such an assumption is, its
very essence, contrary to the fact of elaborate planning, so apparent
everywhere in the universe. Hence the reality
touched upon in this part
of the surah serves as an introduction to the reality of the hereafter
is the main theme of the surah.
Then, when the Createst Catastrophe comes, on the day when
call to mind what he has done, when Hell is brought in sight of all
who are looking on; then, he who transgressed and chose this present
life will have Hell for his dwelling
place. But he who feared to stand
before his Lord and for bade his soul its caprice will dwell in
This present life is a period of comfort and enjoyment which are given in
precise and accurate
measure. Its duration is determined according to the
overall planning relating to the universe and human life.
Its comfort and
enjoyment will end at the time appointed for their expiry. When the
comes it ravages all and overwhelms all. The fleeting
comfort of this life is extinguished, the whole universe,
its built heaven,
spread out earth, firm mountains are overturned and all living creatures
At that moment "man will call to mind what he has done."
He might have been distracted by the events and comforts
of this life and
he might have overlooked what he had done. But he will recall it all then,
brings to him nothing but sadness and grief as he
realises what miserable end he is facing.
When Hell is brought in sight of all who are looking on.
The term used here for "bringing
in sight" is particularly powerful. It is
rich in its connotations and makes the rhythm even stronger. The result
that the image is so vivid that we almost see the whole scene in front of
Then, people will have different destinies and the aim of the earlier
planning of the first life will be revealed:
Then, he who tyrannised and transgressed and chose this present life
will have Hell for his dwelling place.
The two verbs "tyrannise" and "transgress" are used
here to render the
meaning of one Arabic term, namely, "tyrannise" which is used here, as
in the Qur'an, in a much wider sense than strict despotism of
rulers and dictators. "Tyranny" is used here as synonymous
the limits of right and truth. Hence these three verses refer to all those
the boundaries of right, prefer this life to the future
life, taking no heed of the latter.
Since consciousness of the hereafter defines the values and standards to
be applied, he who prefers this present
life will suffer a breakdown of
values and standards which results in his adoption of faulty standards of
behaviour. This puts him in the category of despots and transgressors.
Thus, Hell which is brought in sight of
everybody on the day of the
Catastrophe will be "his dwelling place ".
who feared to stand before his Lord and forbade his soul its
caprice will dwell in Paradise.
The one who fears to stand in front of Allah does not indulge in sin. If
he slips and commits a
sin, in a moment of human weakness, his fear of
facing Allah will lead him to repent and pray for forgiveness.
remains within the area of obedience, the central point of which is the
control of one's caprice
and desires. Indulgence of desire and caprice
is essentially the cause of all forms of tyranny and transgression.
is the spring of evil. Man hardly ever falls for any reason other than
succumbing to caprice and
desire. Ignorance is easy to cure. Desire,
after ignorance has been cured, is the plague which requires a long
hard struggle to overcome. The fear of Allah is the solid defence against
the violent attacks of
desire. Indeed, there is hardly any other defence
which can withstand such attacks. Hence, the surah mentions the
Allah and the control of caprice together in one verse. This fact is
here asserted by Allah,
the Creator of man and the only one Who knows
the human soul, its weaknesses and their effective cure.
Allah does not ask man to suppress his desires, because He knows that it
is not possible for him to
do so. He simply asks man to control his desires
and not to let them control him. He tells him that fear of standing
his Lord, the Almighty, should be of great help to him. He has fixed his
reward for this hard
struggle: Paradise as a dwelling place. For Allah
knows perfectly well the hardships involved in this struggle
and the high
standards to which man is elevated by it. This struggle, self-control and
man fulfil his humanity. Such fulfilment cannot be achieved
by giving way to all distres, and following caprice
wherever it leads, on
the pretext that desire and caprice are part of human nature. Allah, who
man sensitive to certain urges, also gave him the ability to control
such urges by self discipline. He also gives
him Paradise as a reward when
he wins and elevates himself to the high standard of humanity.
are two types of freedom. The first is the one achieved through
scoring a victory over one's desires and releasing
oneself from the chains
of caprice. When man achieves such a victory he finds himself able to
these desires and caprices in a controlled and balanced way which
emphasises man's freedom of choice. This type
of freedom is the human
type, the one which suits the honour Allah has bestowed on man. The other
is the animal freedom, represented in man's defeat, his enslavement
by his desires, and his loss of control over
himself. This type of freedom
is advocated only by those who have lost their humanity, so they try to
cover their slavery with a dress of deceptive freedom.
The first type is enjoyed by those who elevatc
and prepare themselves for
the sublime and free life in their future dwelling place of Paradise. The
second is indulged in by those who sink into the cesspool of desire, thus
preparing themselves for Hell where they
are deprived of their humanity.
The end is the natural one, in both cases, according to Islam which gives
everything its true and proper value. The last part of the surah is
expressed in a rhythm which evokes awe.
They question you about the Hour of Doom, when will it come? But why
you be concerned with its exact timing? The final word
concerning it belongs to your Lord. Your mission
is merely to warn
those who fear it. On the day when they see that hour, it will seem
to them that their life on earth had spanned only one evening, or one
Every time the die hards of thc polytheists heard a description of the
fearful events of the Day of
Judgement, and the reckoning which takes
place then, they used to ask the Prophet (peace be on him) to specify
its time: " When will it come?" The answer given here to such questions
is a rhetorical question, "But
why should you be concerned with its exact
timing? " It is an answer which suggests that the Hour of Doom, or thc
of Judgement, is so great and majestic that the questions put by the
disbelievers concerning it
sound stupid and pitiful. Moreover, such
questions can be put forward only by the impudent. The great Prophet
himself is asked, "Why should you be concerned with its exact timing?"
It is so great that neither you nor anyone
else should ask to be informed
of its exact time. This knowledge belongs to Allah alone, not to anybody
else. "The final word coneccting it belongs to your Lord." He himself is
the master of everything which relates
to it. The Prophet's own duties,
and the limits he should not, and need not exceed are well defined: "Your
mission is merely to warn those who fear it." He is to warn those who
will benefit by such warnings. Such people
will feel that it is true and
fear the out-come, so they conduct their lives according to their firm
belief that it will arrive at the time appointed by Allah.
The majesty and awe of the Hour of Doom is
explained through the
description of its effects on men's feelings and the comparison they draw
its duration and the length of this present life.
On the day when they see that hour, it
will seem to them that their
life on earth had spanned only one evening, or one morning.
It so grips the soul that our present life with all its epics, events and
luxuries will seem to those
who lived them shorter than a single day- just
one evening or one morning. So, the whole world, its centuries and
will shrink to nothing longer than one morning or one evening in the
sight of the very people who
quarrel and fight for it, preferring it to
their share in the life to come, and who commit all sorts of sin,
tyranny and transgression to achieve their ends in it, yielding to their
desire and caprice. Yet for such a passing
enjoyment they abandon
the hereafter and forego the certain prospect of dwelling in Paradise.
definitely the greatest stupidity of all, which no man who has
ears and eyes to hear and see can ever perpetrate.