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In the Shade of the Qur'an - Surah # 104

In the Shade of the Qur'an - Surah # 104
Syed Qutb
Sura # 104
                               The Slanderer
                                al Humazah

         In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful!

  Woe to every taunting slanderer and backbiter, who piles up wealth
  and keeps it counting again and again, thinking that his wealth will
  make him immortal. By no means! He will indeed be flung into the
  crushing one. Would that you know what the crushing one is! It is
  Allah's own kindled fire, which rages over men's hearts. It is
  closed on them from everyside, in towering columns.
                         In the Shade of the Qur'an

  This surah portrays one of the actual scenes in the early days of the
  Islamic call. Yet this scene is a pattern which is repeated in every
  environment and society. It is the scene of the vile, mean one who is
  given wealth and uses it to tyrannise over others - until even he cannot
  bear himself. He thinks that wealth is the supreme value in life, the
  value before which all values and all standards come toppling down. He
  feels that since he possesses wealth, he controls other people's destiny
  without being accountable for anything he does. He imagines that his
  money and his wealth is a god, capable of everything without exception,
  even of resisting death, making him immortal and stopping the judgement
  of Allah and His retribution.
  Deluded as he is by the power of his wealth, he counts it and takes
  pleasure in counting it again and again. A wicked vanity is let loose
  in his being which drives him on to mock other people's positions and
  dignity, to taunt and slander them. He criticises others with his
  tongue, mocks them with his movements, either by imitating their
  movements and voices or by ridiculing their looks and features - by
  words and mimicry, by taunts and slander.
  It is a vile and debased picture, one of the pictures of human beings
  devoid of the ideals of manhood and generosity and stripped of faith.
  Islam despises this abject sort of people because of its own high
  standards of morality. Islam emphatically forbids mockery and ridicule
  and fault-finding in others. But in this case the Qur'an describes these
  actions as sordid and ugly and adds warnings and threats to anyone who
  indulges in them. This suggests that it is referring to an actual case
  of some polytheists who have subjected the Prophet and the believers to
  their taunts and slander. The reply to these actions comes in the form
  of strong prohibition and fearful warning. There are some reports which
  name certain people as being the traducers meant here, but they are not
  authentic, so I will not discuss them, but shall be content with what I
  have just stated.

  The warning comes in the form of a scene of the hereafter portraying
  the mental and physical sufferings and giving an image of Hell which
  is both palpable and telling. It takes care to relate the crime to the
  punishment inflicted and to its effect on the culprit. On the one side
  there is the image of the taunting slanderer and backbiter who is given
  to mocking other people and ridiculing them while he gathers wealth
  thinking that he is guaranteed immortality in this way. This image of
  the cynical calumniator who seeks power through wealth is
  contrasted with the image of the slighted, neglected one flung into a
  crushing instrument which destroys all that comes in its way and thus
  crushes his structure and his pride.

  The crushing instrument is "Allah's own kindled fire". Its identification
  as the fire of Allah suggests that it is an exceptional, unfamiliar sort
  of fire and makes it sound full of terrors. This fire "rages" over his
  heart and mind from which spring mockery and ridicule and in which lie
  his vanity and conceit. To complete the image of the slighted, neglected
  and crushed, this fire closes in on him from all directions and locks him
  in. None can save him and none asks about him. Inside he is tied to a
  column, as animals are tied, without respect.

  The tone of the vocabulary used in this surah is very strong "Keeps
  counting it again and again; by no means! he will indeed be flung;
  rages, towering. " In the meaning of the expressions, forcefulness is
  conveyed by various forms of emphasis: "He will indeed be flung into
  the crushing one. Would that you knew what the crushing one is! It is
  Allah's own kindled, fire". The generalisation and cryptic expression
  first, then the exclamation suggesting great horrors, and then the clear
  answer - all these are forms of forceful expression. The style also
  conveys warnings: " Woe; he will be flung into, the crushing one; Allah's
  kindled fire; which rages over men's hearts, it is closed on them; in
  towering columns. " In all this there is a kind of harmony between
  imagery and feelings and the actions of the "taunting slanderer and

  At the time of its revelation, the Qur'an was following up the incidents
  faced by the Islamic call and leading it simultaneously along its road.
  The Qur'an is the infallible weapon which destroys the cunning of the
  conspirators, shakes the hearts of enemies, and fills the believers with
  courage and steadfastness. Indeed we recognise two significant facts in
  Allah's care here as He denounces this sordid example: firstly, we are
  shown the ugliness of moral decline and how people are rendered so
  abject. Secondly, we realise that He defends the believers, preserves
  their souls against their enemies' insults, shows them that Allah knows
  and hates what is inflicted on them, and that He will punish the wrong
  doers. This is enough to elevate their souls and to make them feel their
  position high above any wicked designs.





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