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Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 79 (Al-Nazi'at - Those Who Yearn)


Commentary of Chapter 79 (An-Naziat - Those Who Yearn) of the Holy Quran:
by Dr. Basharat Ahmad
Translated by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed


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Section 1: The Great Commotion:

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

01. By those yearning vehemently!
02. And those going forth cheerfully!
03. And those running swiftly!
04. And those that are foremost going ahead!
05. And those regulating the Affair!
06. The day when the quaking one shall quake --
07. The consequence will follow it.
08. Hearts that day will palpitate,
09. Their eyes downcast.
10. They say: Shall we indeed be restored to (our) first state?
11. What! After we are rotten bones?
12. They say: That would then be a return with loss.
13. It is only a single cry,
14. When lo! They will be awakened.
15. Has there not come to thee the story of Moses,
16. When his Lord called him in the holy valley, Tuwa?
17. Go to Pharoah, surely he has rebelled.
18. And say: Wilt thou purify thyself?
19. And I will guide thee to thy Lord so that thou fear (Him).
20. So he showed him the mighty sign;
21. But he denied and disobeyed.
22. Then he went back hastily,
23. So he gathered and called out.
24. Then he said: I am your Lord, the most High.
25. So Allah seized him with the punishment of the Hereafter and of this life.
26. Surely there is in this a lesson for him who fears.

This chapter was revealed at Makkah in the early period of the Holy Prophet's mission. Chapter 78, The Announcement, told us that every action of ours carries its own consequence. Here, we are advised that in as much as we have to act, our deeds should consequently be carried to the limit of perfection. The following verses explain how to do so:

01. By those yearning vehemently!
02. And those going forth cheerfully!
03. And those running swiftly!
04. And those that are foremost going ahead!
05. And those regulating the Affair!

Allah, Most High, has used oaths in the Holy Quran in several places. However, there is a difference in the oaths of man and those of the Almighty. When we swear, we call Allah to witness that if we are not speaking the truth, then we should be punished severely. In addition, we are always in need of means and instruments to support our claims. On the contrary, when Allah, Most High, swears, He presents certain evidence from nature in order to prove and emphasise the claims He makes later. There is no question of punishment for Him, nor finding means or instruments to buttress His oaths.

In this chapter, Allah, Most High, swears by five things, all of which point to the different stages our actions must traverse before they reach the point of perfection. The Arabic expression, aghraqa fil naza'i means that a person has done something to perfection or has reached the ultimate limit in a matter. Thus, the verse: Wan nazi'ati gharq (By those yearning vehemently) refers to those who, when they embark on a task, cut themselves off completely from all distractions and immerse themselves totally in their job with total concentration and devotion. And whether it is seeking knowledge or performing a job, they engage or "drown" themselves in it until they have accomplished it to perfection. (Gharaqa literally means: to drown.)

The Europeans are masters of this art. In order to become perfect in a particular field of knowledge, they leave off all other areas and specialise in that branch and pursue it to its limit. Fourteen hundred years ago, the Holy Quran was the first to teach man that when he begins a task, he must engross himself fully in it, for if he does not concentrate completely on it with single-mindedness of purpose, he will not be able to achieve perfection in his endeavour. For example, let us take the task of the propagation of Islam. If we do not devote our attention completely to it and are side-tracked by various political movements or fritter away our energies on all kinds of political resistance currents or boycotts or migration, then we will never be able to achieve success in disseminating the beauty of our religion.

2. And those going forth cheerfully!

In the beginning of every work, if there is an absence of total absorption and proficiency, then that task becomes a heavy burden to man and he does it with some degree of difficulty and a feeling of compulsion. On the other hand, if he immerses himself totally in it and focuses on it to the exclusion of everything else, he develops a feeling of love for his chosen work or area of knowledge, and instead of considering it as a burden, he now experiences a feeling of great joy for it.

3. And those running swiftly!

If a person devotes himself to his work in this manner, the next verse: And those running swiftly, tells us that he will acquire such skill and expertise that he will find no difficulty in accomplishing his task. In fact, he will do his job with such efficiency, ease and speed as if he were swimming effortlessly and gracefully in a river.

4. And those who are foremost going ahead!

The particle fa (then) is used to tell us the result of certain actions and it is employed in this and the following oath to disclose to us the consequences of our actions mentioned in the first three verses which enlightened us on the necessary pre-requisites for perfection in every affair. For example, the first verse tells us that we need total absorption in our task as well as concentration and proficiency. The second verse advises that we must develop a love for our work whilst the third exhorts us to brush aside every impediment and pursue our task with ease, efficiency and swiftness.

The next two verses reveal to us the results of such actions. That is, every individual or community that fulfils those conditions in seeking knowledge or in doing a particular work will excel and greatly surpass all others in excellence.

5. And those regulating the Affair.

That is, such a community or such people become so proficient that they are able to regulate or manage their affairs for themselves. They acquire such expertise that wherever management skills are needed, they are the first to be chosen, for their superior technique puts them way above all competitors. That is why in the short space of twenty-three years, Allah, Most High, turned the pure and righteous community of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) into management experts, for this blessed company had transcended every stage of this practical journey in the best manner and in the shortest possible time. They had become so accomplished in their affairs that they became the torchbearers of reformation, knowledge and culture to the rest of the world and thus politics and government fell to their lot automatically.

Today, Muslims are clamouring for self-governance, but if they do not travel through these five stages to perfection, how can they be truly independent? Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Imam of the Age, once received the following revelation from Allah, Most High: "Unless Muslims become Muslims in the truest sense of the word, their era of glory will not re-appear."

In short, Muslims can become true Muslims when in their daily lives, they go through all five stages given to us in the above verses. Today, Muslims are prey to the evils of negligence and indifference. The praiseworthy qualities of concentration and focussed attention have been lost and whatever work we undertake, whether of a worldly or a religious nature, is done haphazardly with the result that in the onward march of nations, we are left far behind.

Sad to say, we do not have a strong connection with Allah either, for if we perform our prayers, we do so half-heartedly. We seem not to realise that if we devote ourselves to our prayer with total attention and concentration then prayer becomes the source of our mir'aj (spiritual elevation) for us, as the Holy Prophet said: "Prayer (salah) is the mi'raj (spiritual ascension) of the believers."

To achieve union with Allah, the Sufis have employed the five steps given to us above in their prayer: 

a. Cutting off all low, egotistic desires and devoting one's self to Allah with total absorption in His love,
b. Finding joy and ecstasy in every posture and every aspect of prayer,
c. Attaining spiritual progress and perfection in prayer so as
d. To be way ahead of others, and
e. To become so worthy and qualified as to initiate and guide others in this journey towards spiritual bliss.

06. The day when the quaking one shall quake --
07. The consequence will follow it.

The word rajifah is generally believed to mean the first blowing of the trumpet when, on the day of Resurrection, the whole present system of the world will be completely destroyed. Radifah is believed to be the second blowing of the trumpet when all the nations of the world, first and last, will be gathered together in the presence of the Almighty and on that day those who were perfect in their actions in this life will be the recipients of success, prosperity and happiness.

This writer does not object to this belief and is of the opinion that most likely the above interpretation is indeed valid. However, he puts forward another view. He says that there is no doubt that the manifestation of the perfection of deeds and their consequences that took place in the Holy Prophet's lifetime were unparalleled in the history of mankind and cannot be surpassed in the future. Therefore, in this chapter, the rajifah (first blowing of the trumpet) refers to the coming of earthquakes which took the form of wars in the land of Arabia at the time of the Holy Prophet's advent. Thus, these verses mean that a day was fast approaching when the quaking one will quake. This is a subtle figurative expression signifying that heavy earthquakes will strike the land. That is, the disastrous wars, the great turbulence and the fierce storms that shook the whole of Arabia to its roots with the coming of Islam can be described as an earthquake of mighty proportions.

In the verse: The consequence will follow it, the Holy Quran tells us that an inevitable revolution will follow the earthquake. What is this phenomenon that will come after the earthquake? There is no doubt that it is an allusion to that majestic transformation that was to overtake the country in the wake of the agitation caused by the earthquake, for a revolution has to be preceded in the land by a tremendous upheaval which will cause a great commotion among the people. After this, there ensues a period of peace, success and prosperity. That is the transfiguration (radifah - second blowing) that comes on the heels of the rajifah (first blowing of the trumpet).

We are thus told that the community which will benefit from this earth-shaking revolution is the one that will employ the five above-mentioned steps in their lives and will thus achieve pre-eminence over all others. And this is exactly what happened in the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) when his community gained success and happiness and became worthy and qualified to take up the reins of government and administration. On the other hand, the fate of those who strained every muscle in trying to obliterate the Muslim community is described below:

8. Hearts that day will palpitate,
9. Their eyes downcast.

These verses make mention of the distress and shame of the enemies of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). If man merely suffers some pain or distress he can still endure it, but when this is joined with shame and regret then the burden becomes overbearing for him. Undoubtedly, this will occur on the day of Resurrection but his condition was also witnessed right here on the world stage after the radifah (second blowing of the trumpet) on the day when the city of Makkah was conquered. So intense was the agony as well as the shame and humiliation of the Makkan unbelievers that words cannot adequately describe their predicament.

10. They say: Shall we indeed be restored to (our) first state (hafirah)?
11. What! After we are rotten bones.

Hafirah means returning something to its original or former condition. Here it signifies bringing back to life.

After speaking of the colossal transfiguration and the resultant abasement of the unbelievers, a new topic is now broached by the use of the word yaquluna (they say). This introduces the objection that unbelievers usually make in order to escape from the responsibility for their deeds as well as from the twinges of conscience and the effects of the Holy Prophet's warnings. And such is the common result of this type of conscience-placating excuses that when Allah gives the signal for a great revolution and the consequences of deeds are disclosed, the rejecters are left with nothing but shame and humiliating pain.

The stock response of these people is to fabricate all kinds of arguments to help them avoid having to face the responsibility for their actions. In order to still the voice of their conscience they evince doubt and amazement at the idea of being brought back to life after they have died and their bones become decayed. As this is beyond their power to conceive or to bring about, they give their hearts the false consolation that such an eventuality is beyond the realms of possibility. Nevertheless, the unique voice of their conscience continues to rise insistently from within them. From this we can gather that those people who do not want to assume responsibility for their doings have no choice but to deny the reality of life after death for they can contemplate nothing but ruin for themselves in such a life.

12. They say: That would then be a return with loss.

These are the words of their heart or the voice of their conscience. In other words, their conscience is telling them that if the belief of the Muslims in the life after death is true, then they will suffer a great loss. Hazrat Ali (rta) once drew the attention of some atheists to this matter. He said to them: "If there is no life after death, no harm will come to us, Muslims. However, if there is life, then you will be in great tribulation."

This is the very voice that arises from a disbelieving atheist's conscience telling him that if there is life after death, then he will be a great loser. The fact is that the real reason for disbelief in life after death is not an intellectual one but really a kind of false consolation that unbelievers give themselves in their attempt to evade taking responsibility for their actions. Otherwise, deep in their conscience there is a relentless, accusing voice.

Is there anything difficult for the God Who created the whole universe and brought forth living creatures from dead matter?

13. It is only a single cry,
14. When lo! they will be awakened.

Here, Allah reveals to us His omnipotence. Whenever He wishes to do something, His command or His warning is sufficient. In other words, to contradict the unbelievers who say that life after death is a difficult, nay, an impossible affair, Allah, Most High, replies that it is a very simple matter for Him. All He has to say is "Be," and it is.

A glimpse of this perfect power of the Almighty was shown to the world in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) when under a divine command the whole of Arabia was subdued. The day finally came when those powerful and haughty unbelievers assembled on the plain of Makkah to await the divine judgement. So, is it difficult or strange for the All-Powerful and Omnipotent God that at His command people should be gathered to hear His judgement and to face the consequences of their deeds on the day of Resurrection in a full and perfect measure?

An example of the full manifestation of Divine power in this world was given so that it may serve as proof of the Almighty's judgement on the day of Resurrection. When Allah decides to bring about a matter, He brings together the means for it. For example, the comparison between the Muslims and the Makkan unbelievers was like that of ants confronting an elephant and so a Muslim victory was far beyond the wildest flights of fancy. However, when Allah, Most High, decided to bring about that event, He assembled the means for it, and so quickly did He do so, that in the twinkling of an eye, the Muslims emerged triumphant, whilst after the conquest of Makkah, as retribution for their deeds, the defeated unbelievers had to beg for forgiveness.

So, in the same way, man may die and may become rotten, or anything else may happen to him, but when Allah desires that he should be recompensed in full for his deeds, then under His command, means are created for man to stand before his Lord in a new life in order to reap the reward for his actions.

When Allah says that it depends only on His command or threat for all to be assembled on a field, it is an example of His voice of glory and power informing negligent man that what seems difficult for human beings is very easy for Him. However, Allah, Most High, never makes a claim without providing proof and the Holy Quran is replete with instances of this. He never requires His faithful followers to authenticate or validate His assertions. Here, Allah's declaration that He only has to command or speak and lo! the transformation will come into being and people will be assembled on a plain to await His judgement can be established by two kinds of evidence: one, by means of prophethood, and the other by way of philosophy.

There is a fundamental difference between the argument of a prophet and that of a philosopher. The prophet works from the unknown to the known whilst the philosopher does the opposite - he starts from the known from which he makes inferences concerning the unknown. Thus, a philosopher who reasons from observable conditions or events can only go so far in his conclusions as to say: "Such and such a thing ought to be." On the other hand, the prophet receives knowledge directly from Allah, Most High, and so he confidently announces that such and such a thing is a reality. Their likeness is like the blind and the seeing. For example, a blind person will examine a chair by touching and feeling it. He makes a conjecture from what he feels with his fingers and draws the conclusion that this must be a chair, but the person with eyesight sees plainly that the piece of furniture is indeed a chair.

The unbelievers' objection against life after death, the results of deeds and accountability for actions are fallacious and self-deceiving and are refuted in two ways in this chapter: by philosophical arguments and by the evidence of prophethood.

Arguments from prophethood are specially chosen because all prophets preached the same basic message from Allah concerning the certainty of life after death when the consequences of deeds will be disclosed. The example of Prophet Moses (pbuh) is cited because he was the like of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the Holy Quran says: Surely We have sent to you a messenger, a witness against you, as We sent a messenger to Pharaoh (73:15).

15. Has there not come to thee the story of Moses.

This section of the Holy Quran sketches in a few brief but comprehensive words the incidents surrounding Prophet Moses' life and the commands given to him by Allah, Most High.

16. When his Lord called him in the holy valley, Tuwa?

Tuwa comes from taiyyun and means to roll up. Thus, Tuwa really means "closeness," that is, a person on whom space has been "rolled up." The reference here is to the proximity to Allah that Prophet Moses achieved and his consequent selection as a prophet.

This is why the name Tuwa has been given to this valley, otherwise it was not known by that name before by anyone in the world. In other words, it was called Tuwa because there Prophet Moses attained the distinction of achieving self-annihilation in Allah and closeness to Him.

Before this, he had fled from Pharaoh in Egypt to Madian for he had killed an Egyptian and the government was anxious to avenge this killing. A few years later, through Divine intimation, he was travelling secretly with his pregnant wife with the intention of visiting his family, when in the journey through the wilderness, his wife was seized by the pangs of childbirth on a cold, dark night. What a delicate moment it was! In this state of bewilderment, he saw in a vision a flash far in the distance, but so clear and bright was it that Prophet Moses mistook it for a fire. He went in search of the fire but a different picture confronted him! Divine words of revelation started to come to him and he found himself commissioned as a messenger of Allah and lo and behold! he was ordered to go to that very Pharaoh who was so desirous of taking his life!

17. Go to Pharaoh, surely he has rebelled.

Despite Pharaoh's known rebelliousness and inordinate transgression, Prophet Moses was commanded to go to him with a message from Allah, Most High. What was that message? A summary of it is given in a few concise words:

18. And say: Wilt thou purify thyself?
19. And I will guide thee to thy Lord so that thou fear (Him).

Consider for a moment the spectacle of this arrogant, hostile and bloodthirsty king and bear in mind the glory, majesty and self-sufficiency of Allah, Most High. What is the significance of this question to so proud a man: Do you wish to purify yourself? The real intention behind this inquiry is to tell Pharaoh that there was not the slightest trace of purity in him. But that was not all. He was also told that his claim to godhead was a very great error. Prophet Moses also promised to show him the way to Allah, Most High, and teach him the nature and magnificence of the true Lord, for if he should learn more of Him, he would come to fear Him and thus give up his outrageously rebellious ways. Fear of Allah is a sure indication of purity of heart and right guidance. If a person does not have perfect faith in Allah and is not a recipient of His help and assistance, to issue such a warning and to give such a daring message to a harsh tyrant is a formidable undertaking.

The noble Companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and the righteous ones of the past boldly proclaimed the message of truth right in the courts of the greatest of kings without the slightest suspicion of fear in their hearts. But to today's Muslims, propagating the message of Islam seems such a forbidding task that an invitation to the faith can hardly escape their lips. They fear that the invited person may become angry at them or that they may be coldly repulsed by responses like: "What right do you have to meddle in my religious affairs?"

A true believer should not betray such weakness in disseminating the truth. Allah, Most High, has raised the Muslim nation specifically to enjoin the right and forbid the wrong or, in other words, to spread the religion of Islam. But it is a fact that the enthusiasm in the heart of a person for propagating the religion depends on the strength of his connection with Allah, Most High. The word tazkiyyah comes from zaka which, besides purity, means growth and advancement. As a person advances in purity, so, too, does his spiritual faculties increase in strength and power.

20. So he showed the mighty sign.

As Pharaoh refused to listen to words of great wisdom and logic, the necessity arose, therefore, for divine signs to appear in his support in order to prove that he was a messenger of Allah.

21. But he denied and disobeyed.

A rebellious person neither listens to the words of reason nor pays any regard to divine signs. Pharaoh gave the lie to the signs of Allah and disdainfully rejected His message.

22. Then he went back hastily.

Not only did he disobey the word of Allah, but he began to make attempts and devise plans to oppose Prophet Moses and prove him a liar.

23. So he gathered and called out.
24. Then he said: I am your Lord, the Most High.

Why did he assemble his people? Besides his desire to counteract Prophet Moses' miracle of the rod (turning into a serpent), he wanted to overawe them with regal authority and power for his nobles had told him that Prophet Moses' request for freedom for his people was really a subterfuge. According to them, his ulterior motive was to gain control of Pharaoh's kingdom. Therefore, it became necessary for him to summon his people and to announce his mastery and lordship over them and thus console his heart after receiving a pledge of allegiance from them. 

25. So Allah seized him with the punishment of the Hereafter and of this life.

Look at the magnitude of Pharaoh's power that he could summon his people and declare his godhead and no one dared utter a word of dissent! Can there be a greater example of tyranny in the history of the world? However, in spite of this vast power of his, what was the result of his actions? Only this, that Allah inflicted on him an exemplary punishment in the Hereafter as well as in this life. It is true that he was chastised first in this world and then in the Hereafter, but in this verse the punishment in the next life is mentioned first. This is because the real torment comes in the hereafter. This world's chastisement comes only as a lesson and a proof and a warning of the agony the rejecters will have to face in the next life.

Let us reflect on this world's retribution when Prophet Moses, in order to free his people from slavery and captivity, led them secretly away from the Egyptians under cover of darkness. This haughty king, in his boundless pride and arrogance, pursued them with his mighty army in order to capture them and trample them in the dust. Now look at the result! This tyrant was drowned in the sea before the eyes of his own people and his body lies in a museum in Egypt and by its very existence, serves as testimony to the world of the truth of the teaching that deeds do indeed have inescapable consequences.

26. Surely there is a lesson ('ibrat) in this for him who fears.

'Ibrat is derived from 'abara which means "to cross" and thus 'ibrat means to cross over secretly from one event to another. What is the lesson or "crossing over" in this incident? The answer is that every action has its consequence and the message of every prophet - that everyone will have to stand one day in the presence of his Lord to account for his actions - is true and cannot be refuted.

Accordingly, Prophet Moses warned Pharaoh of that inevitable day and advised him that as actions bear fruit, he should not be heedless of what he did. He further counselled him that this world's punishment is evidence of the chastisement of the hereafter and so if he did not desist from his evil ways, he would have to stare destruction in the face. And this is exactly what happened. The word of Allah that Prophet Moses conveyed to Pharaoh came to pass, for just as he had prophesied, Pharaoh suffered perdition in this world for his deeds and the word of the prophet was fulfilled, thus confirming the fact that he was a messenger of Allah. The mention of Prophet Moses, here, is only a specimen of what took place in every part of the world. Allah, Most High, sent His prophets to every nation with the same message of accountability for deeds. Those who rejected suffered a bitter fate in this very life whilst those who followed the prophets enjoyed success and bliss. All this served as a demonstration of what will take place on the promised day about which all the prophets warned their respective peoples.

Now, as regards the future, the knowledge of the prophets carries great conviction for it comes directly from Allah, Most High, and so they can announce without any doubt whatsoever, that such and such a thing will take place. On the other hand, as regards the future, the reach of the philosophers is limited merely to reasoning and inference from which the only conclusion they can draw is that there is a strong possibility of a particular thing taking place. They cannot be more definite than that. For example, with reference to this same matter that deeds have consequences, and that after man's death there is another life in which he will have to account for his deeds and his agony or ecstasy depends on the results of his actions, the prophet can say with total certainty that such an occurrence is bound to happen, for he receives information straight from Allah, Most High.

However, the philosopher can give no knowledge of the future except for an educated guess or a rational opinion.

In short, as regards this question, the philosopher can argue on only two points: firstly, does the Being Who originated this creation have the power to do so again or not, and secondly, is there a need for Him to do so or not?

As Allah does not do anything in vain, these questions are addressed in the second section of this chapter.

Section 2: The Great Calamity:

27. Are you the stronger in creation or the heaven? He made it.
28. He raised high its height, and made it perfect,
29. And He made dark its night and brought out its light.
30. And the earth, He cast it after that.
31. He brought forth from it its water and its pasture.
32. And the mountains, He made them firm,
33. A provision for you and for your cattle.
34. So when the great Calamity comes;
35. The day when man remembers all that he strove for,
36. And hell is made manifest to him who sees.
37. Then as for him who is inordinate,
38. And prefers the life of this world,
39. Hell is surely the abode.
40. And as for him who fears to stand before his Lord and restrains himself from low desires,
41. The Garden is surely the abode.
42. They ask thee about the Hour, When will that take place,
43. About which thou remindest?
44. To thy Lord is the goal of it.
45. Thou art only a warner to him who fears it.
46. On the day when they see it, it will be as if they had but tarried for an evening or a morning.

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27. Are you stronger in creation or the heaven? He made it.

What is the real position of man? He enjoys a very brief existence and compared to the heavens and the earth and the rest of the universe what is he in truth? To measure the grandeur and majesty of the heavens is an impossible task. Look at the magnificence of our solar system alone, for example. But bear in mind that so far three billion suns each with its own system has already been discovered and the search for more is still in progress. Only Allah, Most High, knows their condition and what goes on in them. So what is man's existence in relation to this vast creation? Thus, can the Creator of this boundless universe have any difficulty in creating man for a second time (after his death)?

28. He raised high its height, and made it perfect.

How high does the heaven extend? To ponder over it at length will confuse our minds. To calculate the distance of the Pole Star from the earth we have first to consider the fact that light travels at 186,000 miles per second. It is written in a scientific journal that light from the Pole Star takes seventy-five light years to reach our planet whilst from some other stars it takes longer - a few hundred years! Despite the incalculable height and extensiveness of the entire heavenly system, so beautiful, harmonious and ordered is its organisation that it has no equal, and wherever something is created and for whatever purpose it was made it can never be surpassed in perfection and suitability.

29. And He made dark its night and brought out its light.

Today, scientific researches have come to a conclusion on this point that before anything else in this physical world came into existence, ether was created and this is the quintessence of darkness. After darkness came light, for the sun was created later. However, in this verse the word used is light (duha) and not sun (shams) and that is because the light of the heavens comes not from one sun, but from countless suns.

30. And the earth, He cast it (dahaha) after that.

Daha means to be separated and flung like a stone. So much scientific knowledge is concealed in this word (daha) that it leaves man astonished. Today, after extensive astronomical researches, scientists have discovered that in the beginning, the sun was a large orb that was revolving with immense speed and after colliding with a large heavenly body, it broke up into many different pieces somewhat like sparks which were violently propelled far out into open space. One piece from among them is our planet which cooled and after passing slowly through several stages, became fit for habitation. Fourteen hundred years ago, the Holy Quran revealed to the world that the heavens were created first and then the earth came after (ba'da dhalika).

In making reference to the creation of these magnificent bodies, Allah, Most High, is reminding man that his creation is nothing compared to them. In fact, it is these objects that provided the first stage in man's creation after which life came into being. So, if Allah can create all these mighty bodies, what difficulty can there be in His creating and giving life to him a second time?

31. He brought forth from it its water and pasture.

After the earth was cast off from the sun, the first thing Allah made in it was water from which all life-forms came into being as the Holy Quran says: ... And We made from water everything living (21:30).

From water came vegetation which provided fodder as sustenance for animals. So far, man was not yet created, but provision in the form of water and fodder were already made for him.

32. And the mountains, He made them firm.

There was water on earth but it was salty, and so it could not generate the growth of fodder nor be of use to sustain man's life, for it could not be drunk. Therefore, water rises from the sea in the form of water-vapour which is driven by the monsoon winds. The mountains stand as an impenetrable barrier, but this causes the vapour to rise higher and to be transformed into clouds from which rain falls on earth and causes the growth of vegetation upon which the continuity of animal and human life depends.

However, the rain-bearing winds do not blow continuously nor is the rain cycle unending. Therefore, some of the rain that falls is absorbed by the mountains and from this reservoir springs burst forth and rivers flow. And just as there are surface rivers so, too, there are also underground streams from which wells are formed. Some water is also stored on the mountains in the form of ice which melts in the hot, dry season and feeds the rivers which then irrigate the land. In short, the role of the mountains in maintaining the existence of man is beyond estimation.

In addition to all these benefits, the mountains also serve as pegs that keep the earth firm, otherwise, without them, earthquakes will constantly rock the earth and make it uninhabitable.

33. A provision for you and your cattle.

Everything needed for the animal life of man and beasts has been created. The expression "animal life" is used because food and drink merely help to perpetuate man's physical existence and in this regard man and animal are on equal footing. Thus, if the purpose of man's creation is solely to eat and drink, then there is no distinction between him and animals. If there is a distinguishing feature between the two, it lies in his deeds, that is, in the differentiation between good and evil for that constitutes the essence of man's humanity.

Man has been given every equipment - intellect, sagacity, conscience - so that he can act by using his knowledge and the gift of choice and so become responsible for his actions. Thus, the humanity of man demands that beyond this present world there be another world which will reflect the present life and where man will have to give account for his deeds, for this existing universe and all the forces in operation in it do not fully determine the range of man's actions. If there were no other world besides this one, man's creation would be pointless for this world can cater only for the perfection of his physical life. For the growth, nourishment and perfection of his higher life, another world is needed.

In short, the two points on which philosophers can argue have been completely dealt with here. In answer to the first question of the philosopher, the Holy Quran counters: Can the Being Who originated the heavens and the earth not have the power to create man a second time? After all, compared to them, the creation of man presents no difficulty whatsoever. As a matter of fact, man has been created from them.

As regards the second point, the verses tell us that there surely exists a demand for another life, for if the results of deeds is not brought into the open, then man's humanity will be meaningless and his status will rise no higher than that of a quadruped. Shaikh Sa'di has given a beautiful explanation of this point when he says: "Man was not born merely to eat, drink and procreate like the animals. Instead, he was created for deeds, and if his actions have no higher purpose nor consequence then the pre-eminence he has been given over the animals becomes wasted."

34. So when the great Calamity comes (tammatul kubra).

After giving evidence to establish the truth of the hereafter, a picture of it is sketched in this verse. Tammah means the coming event which will overcome everybody. For example, the expression tammal ma'u means: "the water rose and covered everything." Here, tammah refers to the day of Resurrection and signifies a comprehensive and overwhelming event.

The meaning here is that when the results of actions are disclosed, so overpowering an occasion will it be that man will neither be able to escape from it nor evade nor put if off.

 35. The day when man remembers all that he strove for.

When the results of deeds are brought forth in the open, man will recall all that he did and all the effort and energy he expended in this life and a complete picture of all his actions will appear before his eyes.

By using the words great Calamity (tammatul kubra), the intention is to point out that on many occasions in this very life we have to face the consequences of our deeds in some measure or the other, as for instance, when examination results are published and students have to examine the lists to see if their names are there or not and experience consequent happiness or pain, as the case may be. However, on the great Calamity, the results of deeds will be witnessed with total clarity and there will be no place of refuge nor asylum for anyone. 

36. And hell is made manifest for him who sees.

If the eyes of man's inner self should remain open, then in this very world will he see the hell that he is preparing with his own hands. But if such insight is lacking and man should deliberately close his eyes to the consequences of his own evil deeds, then that is a different matter. If his conscience is not dead, then in this very life he will begin to feel the heat of the hell-fire that is lit by the repercussions of evil. However, on the day of Resurrection, the triumph of the results of actions will enjoy such a glorious and powerful manifestation that hell will appear before the very eyes of all those who can see. Even those whose inner eyes were closed in this life and whose conscience was dead, will, on that day, come face to face with hell. 

37. Then as for him who is inordinate,
38. And prefers the life of this world,
39. Hell is surely the abode.

To give precedence to the life of this world means to give preference to egotistic desires and passions over the commands of Allah, Most High, and to break the limit established by Him as well as to deviate from the straight path laid down by Him. The result of this is hell. Today, wherever we turn our gaze we can plainly see that the predilection for worldly life is holding sway and people have forgotten the Creator and His religion. It was precisely for this reason that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Mujaddid of the fourteenth century was sent by Allah, Most High, as the Promised Messiah. He immediately recognised the scourge of the times and in order to generate spiritual elevation, he placed a significant obligation on the oath taken as one of the clauses of the pledge of allegiance (bai'at) to him: "I shall hold religion above the world."

A more accurate analysis of the prevailing nature and the need of the times cannot be found. Indeed, the healing of the spiritual malady of the present age lies in this covenant. 

40. And as for him who fears to stand before his Lord and restrains himself from low desires,
41. The Garden is surely the abode.

These verses make it clear that in order to build a heavenly life for ourselves we must fulfil the following conditions: we must believe with total conviction that every deed has a consequence and that we will have to stand before our Lord to give an account of our conduct on earth; we must fear Allah and suppress our low desires in favour of winning His pleasure.

The noble Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) were a heavenly group whose overwhelming fear of Allah made them suppress their base emotions to such an extent that whatever the trials they had to face in life, they emerged unscathed. A brief account of two incidents will bear out the point.

The Companion, Uthman/Usmsn (rta), had become Caliph of the Muslim Empire. Once he got angry at a servant and, in a fit of temper, he gave the servant's ear a good tweak. Hardly had he done so than he remembered that he would have to account to Allah for that action and so he asked the servant to give his ear the same treatment. At first the servant refused, but on the Caliph's insistence, he gave it a slight squeeze. The Caliph protested that the retaliation was too lenient and demanded that the servant administer an equally harsh punishment, for, as he explained: "I fear having to stand before my Lord to give account."

The servant in turn replied that he, too, had the same concern as the Caliph, and feared going above the limit in retaliation.

Such was the righteousness of that community that both king and servant entertained the same fear of their Lord.

The second example tells of another of the Holy Prophet's Companions. He went to the market to buy a horse and on looking at a colt he felt that it was worth more than the seller, a young boy, was asking for it. He examined several of its movements, each time increasing the price for himself, until he eventually paid the youth four times the asking price, telling him:

"Son, you were unaware of the excellent qualities of the horse and so you were selling it below its real value. I, however, did not want to take advantage of your ignorance and underpay you. The reason is that I fear having to give account of my actions before my Lord."

This is taqwa (righteousness) and these are the people who will enjoy an angelic life.

The Muslims who came after the Companions of the Holy Prophet also possessed that laudable quality and the early history of Islam is replete with examples of those who feared Allah, Most High, and put religion above worldly concerns and selfish considerations. The following is an instance from the life of the Caliph, Harun-ur-Rashid, who lived more than a hundred years after the Holy Prophet (pbuh). Once his beloved wife, Queen Zubaidah, angrily told him during a heated argument that he was an inhabitant of hell. The King, in a fit of temper, retorted: "If I am such a wicked person, then you are forbidden (haram) to me." When his anger cooled, he regretted what he had said and was very contrite, but the Queen was in no way appeased and refused to relent.

In his predicament, he appealed to the leading religious personalities ('ulama) for a way out of his difficulty, but no one could offer him assistance saying that Allah alone knew whether he was an inhabitant of hell or heaven, and so, as they lacked that knowledge they could not make a decisive pronouncement. And so he was unable to approach the Queen even though he wanted to.

At that time, Hazrat Imam Shafi'i was still a young student but he told his teacher that he could settle the matter on condition that he was put on the throne and the King stand before him as a petitioner. The King complied and related the whole incident, whereupon the youth asked him: "In spite of your great desire to be with the Queen, what is it that restrained you?"

The King replied: "The fear of Allah."

On hearing this, the young student gave the following verdict together with the reason for his judgement. This was his ruling:

"You are an inhabitant of heaven and the Queen is lawful for you for the Holy Quran itself has designated you a dweller of paradise."

He quoted the verses under discussion in support of his pronouncement: And as for him who fears to stand before his Lord and restrains himself from low desires, the Garden is surely the abode (79:40-41).

The King and his courtiers were very pleased with this evidence from the Holy Quran whilst the learned ones ('ulama) were stunned and embarrassed.

42. They ask thee about the Hour, when will that take place.

When mention is made of the great Calamity, instead of reflecting on the state of their life, scrutinising it closely and taking advantage of the warning to effect a reformation of their conduct, those addicted to perverse and fallacious reasoning begin to carp and demand that the Holy Prophet should tell them the precise year, month or hour of its appearance. This is the established custom of those professional objectors that whenever an announcement from Allah, Most High, is conveyed to them, instead of profiting from it, they begin to raise foolish objections and put forward questions about the message, not for the purpose of ascertaining the truth, but purely for the sake of objecting. 

43. About which thou remindest?
44. To thy Lord is the goal of it.

To whom is this question addressed? The Holy Prophet is not a supervisor over them. By giving them this message he is only desirous of warning them beforehand of that momentous hour that was to overtake them and everyone else. Should they accept the warning, it will lead to their benefit. If they do not, then it will be only to their own detriment. Furthermore, their acceptance is not a favour to the Holy Prophet (pbuh). So why their useless questions? His duty is to warn them of the calamitous hour and he has done so. There is no obligation on him to answer their silly questions.

Another meaning of about that which you warn them is that the very sending of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) by Allah constituted a sign of the day of Resurrection, for through his presence, Allah, Most High, not only clearly revealed to the world the consequences of deeds, but He also brought about such a wonderful demonstration of it that people saw with their own eyes a preview of that day when both good and evil will be requited in full. In short, the Holy Prophet's duty was only to give the people a forewarning of that hour. As regards the time of its occurrence, no one knows except Allah, Most High.

45. Thou art only a warner to him who fears it.

Those who indulge in false arguments do not benefit from this warning. However, those who fear this day profit from the Holy Prophet's admonition and reform their lives and are always conscious of the responsibility for deeds. Thus, the Holy Prophet's reminder proves useful for them. 

46. On the day when they see it, it will be as if they had but tarried for an evening or morning.

When punishment comes, it appears as if one's period of happiness lasted only as long as the wink of an eye. Life passes by unawares and it seems as if one's existence on earth has vanished in a flash. Thus, we are warned to value time and take advantage of the guidance contained in the Holy Quran and the warning the Holy Prophet (pbuh) has given so as to improve the quality of our lives. When there comes that about which people concoct false arguments so as to evade its reality, they will then express regret and repentance. However, lost time cannot be recovered, neither can a spent life be recalled. Blessed are those who appreciate the precious gift of time.

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Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 79 (Al-Nazi'at - Those Who Yearn)


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