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Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 81 (Al-Takwir - The Folding Up)

Commentary of Chapter 81 (Al-Takwir - The Folding Up) of the Holy Quran:
by Dr. Basharat Ahmad
Translated by Imam Kalamazad Mohammed

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

When the sun is folded up,
And when the stars are dust-coloured,
And when the mountains are made to pass away,
And when the camels are abandoned,
And when the wild animals are gathered together,
And when the cities are made to swell,
And when men are united,
And when the one buried alive is asked
For what sin she was killed,
And when the books are spread,
And when the heaven has its covering removed,
And when hell is kindled,
And when the Garden is brought nigh --
Every soul will know what it has prepared.
Nay, I call to witness the stars,
Running their course, (and) setting,
And the night when it departs,
And the morning when it brightens,
Surely it is the word of a bountiful Messenger,
The possessor of strength, established in the presence of the Lord of the Throne,
One (to be) obeyed, and faithful.
And your companion is not mad.
And truly he saw himself on the clear horizon.
Nor is he niggardly of the unseen.
Nor is it the word of an accursed devil --
Whither then are you going?
It is naught but a Reminder for the nations,
For him among you who will go straight.
And you will not, except Allah please, the Lord of the worlds.

This chapter, Al-Takwir (The Folding Up), is one of the early chapters revealed to the Holy Prophet. In this, a new line of argument has been used to highlight the fact that our ultimate recompense in the hereafter depends upon our deeds. In the beginning of this chapter, some great and grand prophecies have been made, prophecies that were to be fulfilled prior to the coming about of the great and final day of Judgement, at a time when materialism and atheism would be rampant. At that time also, there would be a very emphatic and widespread denial of the Day of Judgement as well as a non-acceptance of the belief what we would be rewarded or punished according to our conduct in this life.

Obviously, the said time is this very age in which we are living. By clear and beautifully disclosing fourteen hundred years ago the knowledge of the unseen, a knowledge lying hidden in the folds of the future, the argument has been brought home to the antagonists, that the same God Who is giving the news of the future, news fully true, is also giving notice of the fact that there is no doubt that we will be judged according to our acts and recompensed accordingly.

Eventually, a day will come, the Last Day, when a complete result of our acts will be determined, and none will remain outside this reckoning. And if these prophecies that contain news of the future turn out to be true, then the other news about the final reckoning of our deeds is also true and certain.

It must be remembered that these prophecies always contain a hidden aspect, and this hidden aspect is disclosed at the time of their fulfilment. In other words, the events of life lift the veil of secrecy from the face of these prophecies, and then the said prophecy, when fulfilled, begins to shine like the breaking of the day, and becomes a source of fortifying the faith of the believers and of driving the argument home to the antagonists.

This hidden aspect is usually stated in a metaphorical way. This metaphor, on the one hand, puts a veil of secrecy on the prophecy, and on the other, it lends forcefulness, eloquence and elegance to the statement. For example, Prophet Joseph (pbuh) was shown in a vision that the sun, the moon and eleven stars were making obeisance to him. What a fine and delicate metaphor it was. For, what finer metaphor can be devised for indicating to someone that he was going to inherit a spiritual legacy than by revealing to him the heavenly bodies bowing obediently before him.

Similarly, even in this chapter, Al-Takwir, there are to be found prophecies containing very subtle and wonderful news of future events, and along with these it is full of such fine metaphors that when the events foretold unfold themselves, the soul of the reader begins to throb with ecstasy as he realises the grandeur, the greatness and the profound knowledge contained in these verses.

At this point, a question arises: Why is there this hidden aspect to a prophecy? The answer to this is: to give clear proof that this knowledge of the unseen future is from God and not the outcome of a human brain. For, when the recipient of the prophecy and divine revelation himself cannot comprehend the reality disclosed therein at the time of the revelation, and until the events that are foretold in the prophecy manifest themselves, he, himself, has no knowledge of the real purpose and meaning of the prophecy, and if such a prophecy is true, then it can clearly be seen that the fountainhead of this news of the unseen is some All-Knowing and All-Wise Being, and not the brain of the recipient of divine revelation.

For instance, the Holy Prophet saw in a dream that after his death that the wife, who had the longest hands would be first to join him. All his wives measured their hands in the presence of the Holy Prophet and he did not stop them from doing so. As a result, it was taken to mean at that time that Hazrat Saudah would be the first to die. But when the first to die turned out to be Hazrat Zainab ('the mother of the destitute'), then it was realised that by the longest hands was meant the one who was foremost in generosity and charity, and Hazrat Zainab was the most fitting in this respect because she was the most generous of all. The news was absolutely correct, but the veil of secrecy that had been thrown on it through the use of a metaphor was lifted when the event itself unfolded. The fact that the recipient of this revelation himself was unaware of the actual import of the prophecy indicates that this news of the unseen was not a product of the recipient’s brain. Rather, it had come down from some All-Knowing Entity.

The second useful aspect of this secrecy surrounding a prophecy is to debar any impostor from making himself the fulfiller of the prophecy, one who, by fabricating and rigging up some circumstances in conformity with the apparent wording of the prophecy, might try to deceive people. That is why this news of the unseen has a hidden aspect to it, and the real significance of this mystery is not disclosed to anyone but the true claimant, that is, the actual person in whom the prophecy is fulfilled. This is a lengthy topic and this is not the occasion to go into it; the gist mentioned above should be sufficient. In order to fix the timing of the events that have been prophesied and portrayed in this chapter, events that would presage the coming of the Final Day of Resurrection, it was first necessary to portray the atheism and materialism of those times. Hence, Allah, the High, says at first:

When the sun (the fountainhead of divine light) is folded up, and when the stars (that are lit up with the divine light) become dust-coloured or faded.

This metaphor is to be found elsewhere in the Holy Quran. For example, the Holy Prophet has been called a light-giving lamp (siraj munir). The aptness of this metaphor lies in the fact that just as the real sun is the fountain-head of heavenly light, so, too, are the personalities of the prophets, especially the Holy Prophet -- a personality who lit up the darkened hearts of the people through the light sent down by Allah in the form of the Holy Quran -- the fountain-head of spiritual light. And these darkened hearts, when lit up by this divine light, become perfect persons who begin to shine like stars in the spiritual heaven and are thus likened to the stars, as the Holy Prophet himself has said:

"My Companions are like the stars."

Hence, anyone who is enlightened by this spiritual light, whether a Holy Companion of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) or a saint or a God-gifted scholar of religion, is a star of the spiritual heaven. How beautifully have the present epoch’s atheism and materialism been portrayed here. Allah says that the fountainhead of the spiritual light will be folded up in that age (that is, the knowledge of the Quran and compliance with its injunctions will disappear), and the darkness of atheism and deviation from the straight path will engulf the world. The persons enlightened by this spiritual light, the righteous and the scholars, would have either departed from this world, or if any were still left, they would have no trace of resplendent light in them, or if there were some light, it would be very dim. What an exact portrayal is this of the religious condition of these times!

After depicting the religious degradation of the world, Allah, the High, portrays the material progress of these times. Culture and civilisation are pre-requisites for material progress, so that the distances between the villages and the cities are shortened and any hindrance to travel is removed, and such means of transport are made available that would facilitate travel and save time. This is so in order that people may benefit from one another’s knowledge, and through exchange of ideas, they may travel on the road to scientific, industrial and professional progress, and through mutual commerce and trade, they may partake of financial progress. Therefore, Allah, the High, first of all mentions these very things. As a result, He divides those factors that are obstacles to mutual interaction and exchange between people, obstacles that, once removed, clear the way to progress and perfection, into four parts: firstly, the presence of mountainous barriers on land, secondly, the long distances, thirdly, ignorance and barbarity, and fourthly, the impediment in the form of the oceans.

First of all He mentions the mountains:

And when the mountains will be made to pass away (or will become tourist resorts).

Since man has to make his settlements on land, the first hurdle in the way of mutual interaction and co-operation are the mountains. Indeed, take the case of Afghanistan: its separate identity and defence are mainly due to its mountain ranges that are like walls. Mountains shall be made to pass away, says Allah. Now, see how most of the mountains of the world have been made to pass away. Roads have been built and tunnels dug -- which mountainous height is there that has not been traversed by Gog and Magog, that is, the European nation? In fact, the mountains are no longer the obstacles that they used to be; rather, these have become tourist resorts. Efforts are underway to scale the highest peaks not yet conquered by man, and it will certainly come to pass that all of them will be conquered, for Allah, the High, says:

Even when Gog and Magog are let loose, and they sally forth from every elevated place (21:96).

No obstacle in the way of interaction and commerce between cities and towns will remain, says He, and even the mountains will be made to give way, and travel and interaction between communities shall be made possible by digging tunnels through them and building roads over them, and the green meadows and pastures in the mountains will become tourist resorts.

Allah next deals with the obstacle offered by long distances. Since the world cannot be made to shrink, the only way distances could be shortened in a practical manner would be to invent such speedy means of transport that distances would virtually contract: the shorter the time of travel, the shorter the distance, as it would appear to the traveller.

So He says:

When the she-camels are abandoned.

The word ‘ishar is applied to a ten-month pregnant she-camel. It is a rule that a female cow becomes more valuable when it is nearing the time of delivery. For instance, in our country, cows and buffaloes become more valuable when their time of delivery is near, and they are held in greater estimation. The reason is that there is hope of an imminent offspring. Similarly, when a she-camel was near its term of pregnancy, it was called ‘ishar in Arabia, that is, ten-month pregnant, and its value increased because there was an expectation of a young camel being born. In addition, a she-camel is faster and sturdier in traversing long distances. A special mention was made of the transport by camel because it is a type of mount that is used for riding and carrying of loads in terrain where no other means of transport or animal can be very effective. In deserts and dry mountain ranges, where there is not even a trace of water, a camel can go on for days on end without fodder and drink. It has the stamina to cover long distances whilst carrying heavy loads, a stamina that is not matched by any other animal. The Arabs could only traverse the waterless and verdure-less deserts and dry burnt-out mountain ranges by using the camel, and this they did. Horses were only useful in war. Accordingly, to them, the camel was a thing of great value and utility, their only way of traversing difficult routes. Thus, when we are told that a day would come when the camel would become redundant and no one would look for pregnant she-camels, it is a clear indication that such means of transport, such as railways and road transport, would be invented that would not only be more effective than the camel in transporting passengers and goods, but that they would also travel over those difficult routes over which only the camels were of any use in former days.

Another explanation is that the roadways would be made so easy that there would be no special need for camels. Rather, these new modes of transport would be able to travel on those difficult routes where camels used to go, and better and speedier modes of transport would run on these roads and save time. Thus, the question of obstacles of the road and long distances would no longer be pertinent.

And so it has happened. Today, distance means nothing in the face of the fast-flying aircraft, railways and road transport, and even the most arduous routes were made easy and available to these vehicles and a world-wide network of roads and rails has made the use of camels obsolete. Now, who would go looking for a ten-month pregnant she-camel? How great a saving of time and how easy the growth of international communication and interaction, and how tremendously international trade has grown because of these new means of transport!

This also applies to the Hijaz. Nowadays, hajis (pilgrims) travel on road transport to go to perform the Pilgrimage, and camels have become redundant there. Here, I will mention an incident that betrays the mentality of the so-called 'ulama (religious scholars) of these times. It was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Renewer of the Faith of this age, who drew our attention to this prophecy. At that time, the Hijaz railway was under construction, but due to the revolution in Turkey, the project stopped when the railway line reached Madinah. Thereupon, certain 'ulama of the Punjab started to dance with joy, only because they thought they had got a chance to prove Hazrat Mirza wrong, not realising that their stand, in fact, was against the Holy Quran, itself, because it is the Quran which says that there would come into existence such transport as would render camels redundant. Their view was also against the Holy Prophet who had prophesied:

"The she-camels will be abandoned and will no longer be used."

The only fault of Hazrat Mirza was that he had lifted the veil from the face of this prophecy after getting the news from Allah. But woe to the jealousy and prejudice of those 'ulama that, though their interpretation was contrary to the Holy Quran and the Hadith, yet they danced with joy over the possibility of proving Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be in the wrong.

But Allah, the High, soon ended the joy of those adversaries and road transport became a reality between Jeddah and Makkah and Madinah and the she-camels became redundant. Now, instead of camel caravans, the motor transport is used on this route and there is a proposal for constructing a railway also, thus fulfilling the prophecies of the Holy Quran and the Hadith.

In short, it is obvious that by virtue of the overcoming of the obstacles posed by mountains, construction of roads, and the invention of fast-moving transport, which makes the covering of very great distances in a matter of minutes, the interaction and mingling of various nations have increased, and modern civilisation has also reached people living in remote and far-off places and who, because of their ignorance, were classified as wild, jungle people. This interaction and mingling was bound to dispel their ignorance and wildness and render them civilised and cultured. Thus, culture and civilisation could spread throughout the world. So Allah, Most High, refers to this very fact of the elimination of ignorance and wildness by saying:

And when the wild ones (men and animals) are gathered together.

That is to say, the wild people who used to live in jungles and mountains like nomads would now come into towns and cities to settle there, and would partake of the benefits of every aspect of culture and civilisation. Just look at the savage people of Africa’s jungles and see how they are coming and settling down in towns. The same applies to other countries. What was Europe after all? Just a collection of savage people. Observe how their society has progressed today and then ponder over the verse:

When the wild ones are gathered together

and experience the joy of truth unfolded.

As the ignorance and savagery of those jungle people gradually disappeared, they kept progressing through various stages of culture and civilisation. But this civilising process could not reach its climax until all the countries and continents were so connected that the whole world would become like one city; the commerce of one country would readily reach another, and the people of one country would visit other countries, meet one another and, by benefiting from one another's expertise in wisdom and knowledge, arts and crafts, commerce and civic organisation, develop and progress in every field. So it was necessary, in order to achieve this, that the obstacle offered by the oceans be removed. So Allah, Most High, says:

When the seas will be filled-up (or overcome)

That is, the rivers and the oceans that separate continents and countries would be "filled up" (their existence would be of no consequence); bridges over rivers and modern transport over the seas would become so common that the seas and rivers would become like ordinary highways.

Now, see how today, Asia and Africa, Europe and America, Australia and thousands of islands in the world have become like one city. The sea is no longer a barrier between them. Rather, it serves as a highway and travel over these sea lanes, as also through the airways, has become so comfortable and swift, and there is such an armada of grand and comfortable ships and aircraft plying these lanes, that sea and air travel have become more comfortable and more luxurious than overland travel.

And when people will be joined together,

says the next verse.

How clearly this prophecy has been fulfilled. Where in the world do you find people who do not travel abroad and intermingle with others? Now, when distances have been obliterated and all barriers removed, a whole multitude of people are meeting with others and are benefiting from this interaction, and from the sharing of their knowledge and ideas and from mutual trade and commerce. The result is that culture and civilisation have reached their zenith.

The next two verses are:

And when the one buried alive is asked
For what sin she was killed

Allah, Most High, says that as a result of this international interaction and intermingling, as well as the development of culture, civilisation, education and learning, the human intellect will evolve to such a level that a perception of the honour and rights of women will be engendered in the minds of people. In other words, culture and civilisation can only reach their full potential when there is a realisation of the respect and honour due to women and their rights are upheld.

A distinctive feature of savage and uncivilised people is that there is no respect accorded to women in their society. Rather, they are considered a source of shame and embarrassment. That is why during the days of ignorance in Arabia it was considered a requisite of nobility and honour that a female child should be put to death at its very birth. Such was also the custom among the Rajputs in Hindustan/India and even now, there occur odd incidents of this nature among them. But in Arabia, things were much worse: they used to bury their daughters alive.

Once, a desert Arab presented himself at the court of the Holy Prophet and narrated the details of one such wrongdoing thus:

"I had a little daughter who could not be buried alive at birth because of her mother’s love for her. She loved me a lot and had grown up quite a bit when one day I took her to the wilderness with the intention of burying her alive. I enticed her by promising her wild berries growing in the jungle. When I started to dig a pit for burying her alive, some dust would occasionally arise due to my digging and would soil my clothes, but each time she would keep dusting my clothes very lovingly with her scarf to remove the dust. At last, when I started to bury her, she kept calling ‘Father, Father,’ but I turned a deaf ear to her pleadings, and came away after burying her."

On hearing this harrowing account, tears began to flow involuntarily from the Holy Prophet’s eyes. Eventually, the spiritual power of the loving heart of this gracious and merciful personage accomplished a purpose that could not be fully achieved even by the mighty law of the British in India.

It was the coming down of this very verse that served as the turning point that helped to wipe out this vile custom of female infanticide from Arabia with one stroke of the pen, for when the Arabs heard that this was a foul act that they would have to answer for, in this world maybe, but certainly in the court of the Almighty God, even the stoutest of Arab hearts began to tremble.

In reality, it was the inner purification and spiritual munificence brought about by the sanctified soul of Muhammad (pbuh) that wrought this miracle and made the proud and arrogant heads of the entire nation of Arabs bow before the divine edict.

Islam not only wiped out the custom of female infanticide from the Arabian peninsula, but it went further: it brought women up to the same level of respect and honour as men, women who were, for all intents and purposes, buried alive before the advent of Islam, for they enjoyed no respect, and no rights nor were they given any education. Islam restored their honour and respect and recognised their rights and gave instructions for their education and training.

However, at that time, there was no international intercourse nor any contacts as now, and women continued to be buried alive, so to speak, in countries -- Europe among them -- where the influence of Islam had not penetrated. That is why Allah, the Almighty, says that a time would come when international intercourse would increase and culture and civilisation would have sufficiently evolved, and then a realisation of the rights and respect for women would emerge, and they would be rescued from their "buried-alive" condition and have their rights legally recognised.

And when the books are spread,

says Allah in the next verse.

That will be the time, says He, when great emphasis will be placed on knowledge and wisdom; newspapers, tracts, magazines and books will be published in great numbers.

He will also lift the veil from His Knowledge of things. Accordingly, He says:

And when the heaven will have its covering removed.

By the mention of removal of the heaven’s veil is meant that the veil will be lifted from heavenly knowledge and mysteries. That is to say, the mysteries and intricacies of heavenly knowledge and spiritual verities will be disclosed. The usual custom is that such disclosure is conveyed to the purified heart of some godly personage and it is through him that the people of the world are enriched with this treasure-trove of heavenly knowledge.

So it was this very age that was destined for this purpose and about which the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had said:

"Even if the faith should ascend to the Pleiades, a person from among the sons of Persia shall bring it back."

And this prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Renewer of the Faith for this century.

At a time when the fountainhead of heavenly enlightenment had dried up, when the understanding and knowledge of the Quran had disappeared from the earth, and the God-inspired 'ulama (theologians) had ceased to exist -- and those that were there were not blessed with the heavenly inspiration and light -- Allah, the High, in this epoch of the wide-spread dissemination of knowledge and wisdom, caused a servant and a slave of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to rise up, and through him the veil from the face of heavenly insights and knowledge was removed, and through his pen and spiritual munificence a river of heavenly knowledge began to flow. He it is who made Islam dominant over the false religions of the world and who stood like a rock against the surge of atheism and materialism. He lifted the veil from the face of heavenly knowledge, mysteries and intricacies in such a forceful manner that it left the world wonder-struck and amazed. Further, he made religion appear like a science in a manner that caused the wise to bow their heads before his forceful arguments.

At this juncture, certain questions arise: when the world had reached the zenith of progress in civilisation and culture, where was the necessity for raising a person especially for the service of Islam and why the need to raise the veil from heavenly insights at his hands? Further, why was a necessity felt for humanity’s need for heavenly knowledge and insights and for a heavenly teacher to teach them?

Allah, the High, answers this in the following verse:

And when hell is kindled.

That is to say, despite his progress in culture and civilisation, man will not be emancipated from the chains of his carnal passions and selfish desires; rather, along with material progress, his carnal passions and selfish desires will be further aroused. And this kindling of animal passions, like the fires of hell, and to which the Holy Quran has alluded in another place thus: It is the fire kindled by Allah, which rises over the hearts, will be further intensified.

We can see for ourselves how progress in material sciences and material achievements has not been able to liberate man from slavery to his carnal self and to Satan. This love for wealth and sensual gratification not only gives birth to an unholy display of debauchery, alcoholism, adultery, gambling, usury and thus further intensifies the fires of hell within, but even more so, the savage rages and jealousies so magnify the stoking of hell in the form of dangerous wars that no better portrayal of the verse, when hell is kindled, is possible.

The next verse says:

And when the Garden is brought nigh.

That is, this would be the time, He says, when service to the faith of Islam would be a very praiseworthy and valuable thing, and even a little effort in this respect would bring large recompense.

In principle, doing some good in the way of Allah and obedience to His Commandments at a time when the earth is filled with inordinacy and transgression, with deviation and straying from the Path, carries a higher reward than the same thing done at another time. The Holy Prophet once delivered a sermon and said: "Anyone who donates even a handful of barley at this time will earn a much bigger reward than a person who gives a heap of gold as high as the mountain of Ohud at another time."

The point is that anyone who is of assistance at a time of need is more praiseworthy than the one who assists at an ordinary time. When the Faith stands in need of funds, the money spent at that time will earn a much higher recompense than spending money in this cause at a time when the Faith is in no special need of financial aid. As for our times, the Holy Prophet himself has said that even a single prostration to Allah at that time would be worth more than the entire world and what it contains. The reason for this is that to live a religious life in the midst of atheism is something worthy of great appreciation. It is at such a time that the Garden is brought nigh, and a little service brings man a lot of reward.

After stating all these prophecies, Allah, the High, says that if all this is true then it is also true that:

Every soul will know what it has prepared.

That is, every person is responsible and answerable for his deeds, and a day will finally come when he will be called to account for his acts, and he will not be able to avoid this questioning.

Now, after mentioning the kindling of the hell-fire and the nearness of the Garden, it will be only appropriate, as Allah says, to say that one’s actions will one day bring about their results, because Paradise and Hell are only two manifestation of this process.

The gist of all this is that if the above twelve prophecies turn out to be true then one will also have to accept the thirteenth prophecy about the hereafter, and to realise that this is the great news for the sake of which the preceding twelve prophecies have been made.

The next two verses read:

Fa la uqsimu bil khun-nas
(Nay, I call to witness the stars)

Al jawaril kun-nas
(Running their course (and) setting)

The word qasam (oath) means to bear witness and it carries a connotation of emphasis.

The word khun-nas is the plural of khanis, which means one who slinks away or draws back.

In the Hadith it says:

"Ash-shaitanu yu-was-wi-su ilal 'ibadi, fa idha dhakaral-Laha, khanas(a)" (the devil casts evil suggestions in man’s mind, but when the latter starts remembering Allah, the devil withdraws).

Note: Khanasa properly speaking, means to withdraw when the name of Allah is mentioned and, hence, Satan is called al-khan-nas.

From the same root is derived the word khan-nas, as we find in the chapter, An-Nas (The Men):

Min shar-ril was-wa-sil khan-nas (from the evil of the whisperings of the slinking devil).

And the Holy Quran itself has defined the word khan-nas by saying:

Al ladhi yu-was-wi-su fi su-dur-in na-si minal jin-nati wan-nas (who whispers in the hearts of men, from among the jinn and the men).

That is, an entity that puts insinuations and doubts in the minds, be they minds of men or the jinn.

The word al-jawar (from jara: to run) is an entity that travels quickly in the earth and spreads out.

The word al-kun-nas is the plural of kanis which means, one who disappears, or hides.

In this verse, the expression Al khun-nas ... al jawar-il kun-nas (The slinking insinuators who spread out quickly and then disappear), the identity of the insinuators has not been specified, but only their traits have been mentioned. And, obviously, the things that are being cited as evidence must also relate to the same epoch to which the preceding prophecies apply.

Now, we have to find out who are the people who cast insinuations and doubts in people’s minds and then slink away and who are those who are spread out all over the world. Obviously, these are none other than the Christian missionaries who are busy, day and night, in churning out anti-Islamic literature and propaganda, the sole aim of which is to cast doubts in the minds of the people about God’s faith, Islam. Other detractors of Islam, for example, the Arya Samajis, have also borrowed from none other than Christian anti-Islamic literature in order to attack Islam.

The real enemies of Islam are these very missionaries, who very subtly and subversively make insinuations about Islam and then slink away. Once a Hindustani/Indian missionary, Father ‘Imad-ud-din of Amritsar, wrote:

"Even if we do not succeed in converting these Muslims to Christianity, we shall certainly succeed in causing them to become non-Muslims through the immense literature we have produced against Islam."

The purpose behind all these mission hospitals, mission schools, and mission colleges is nothing else but to poison the impressionable minds of young Muslim men and women and students by casting in their tender minds all types of insinuations against Islam. Where the onslaught of Christianity does not succeed, they bring out the idol of materialism. The ultimate aim is that somehow the devout Muslim should be made to abandon his strong faith.

This explains the connotation of the word al-khan-nas. Now, as for the word al-jawar (those spreading out quickly), it portrays how the missionaries have reached all corners of the world. The speed with which this party of missionaries has spread into all parts of the world finds no parallel. They even gain access to forbidden places secretly, and after charting out the place and compiling all relevant information about them, they convey it to their respective governments. These aspects clearly indicate that the entities mentioned in the expression, al-khan-nas ... al jawa-ril kun-nas, are none other than these Christian missionaries.

In this chapter, after Allah, the High, has made extremely powerful prophecies about this epoch fourteen centuries ago and after portraying the worldly and spiritual condition of the world in this era, He makes another powerful prophecy and says:

"Not only this ... listen to another important event ... there will a group of people whose main mission will be to insinuate doubts in the minds of men regarding God’s Faith, Islam, and then slink away. They will take their mission rapidly to the far corners of the earth ... but a time will come when this Dajjal (Anti-Christ) will melt as salt dissolves in water. And these instigators of doubts who slink away after their evil suggestions, and who spread rapidly in the world, will eventually begin to disappear from the world scene."

Elaborating on the same theme, Allah, the High, goes on to say:

And the night when it departs, and the morning when it brightens,

Meaning, thereby, that these people, who are busily engaged in anti-Islamic projects, can only operate during the deep darkness of the night of deviation. But just like all the offspring of darkness, be they night insects or carnivores, or thieves or other anti-social elements who only come out at night to carry out their activities and disappear with the first sign of dawn, similarly, as and when the sun of Islam begins to rise, all these instigators who inject doubts in the hearts and then withdraw, will become ineffective and all their endeavours will become null and void.

It says in the Hadith that this sunrise will occur from the West, that is, at that time the guiding sun of Islam will cast its light especially on Europe and America. So you can witness for yourself these days the scene of the sunrise of Islam peeping through in Europe, and how a new dawn is breaking out from the Woking Muslim Mission and from our Mission in Berlin.

See, also, how the Christian priests of Europe and their missions are gradually becoming ineffective, especially from the day the light of Islam reached Europe through the efforts of the "Renewer of the Faith", Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and his band of followers, and through their dissemination of Islamic literature there. All the sons of darkness become nervous when confronted by Ahmadi dialectics and literature -- both replete with a heavenly sunlight of spiritual truth -- and soon disappear when confronted by this divine light. The Christian missionaries shy away as soon as they hear an Ahmadi missionary approaching, and their religion is now on the way to becoming extinct. It is no longer reigning over the hearts of the people in Christian countries, because its illogical and unreasonable principles can no longer evoke their former heart-felt allegiance.

Now, after these four oaths, Allah, the High, gives us the object of these four prophecies, along with the twelve prior prophecies, and says that all these are witnesses to the fact that:

Surely it (the Quran) is a word of a gracious Messenger,

meaning, thereby, that this Quran that you are hearing from the mouth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), it is not his own word, but rather, it is a message that he, as a messenger, is delivering on behalf of the Sender of the message.

That is why the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) is called a messenger, that is, he is the bearer of the text of the message; in other words, he is sent into this world as a messenger in order to deliver the message of his Lord to the people. Thus, the Word that he delivers as a messenger is not his own word; rather, it is the Word that has come from Allah, the High. Thus, anyone who obeys this Word obeys Allah, the High, and anyone who opposes this message fights against Allah, the High. All the Messenger has to do is to deliver Allah's message to the people. In other words, he is merely a messenger bearing a message.

The same thing has also been said in chapter 69, Al-Haqqah (The Sure Truth) in verses 40 to 46:

Surely, it is the word of an honoured Messenger,
And it is not the word of a poet. Little is it that you believe!
Nor the word of a soothsayer. Little is it that you mind!
It is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds.
And if he had fabricated against us certain sayings,
We would certainly have seized him by the right hand,
And then cut off his jugular vein.

It cannot be made any clearer. Here we have been clearly told that this Word that is being presented by Muhammad (pbuh), the Messenger of Allah, is not his own word as a human being. It is true that it is the Holy Prophet who is speaking but he is only a messenger who is delivering the word of his Master.

And then Allah says that it is not the composition of a poet, nor the word of a soothsayer. Rather, it is a text that has come down as a revelation from the Lord of the worlds, and this is recited to you by him as a messenger, and he does it so carefully that not even one extra word is attributed to Allah by him. This caution is essential, because if he does attribute any unauthorised word of his own to Allah, a word that Allah has not revealed, Allah will cut off his jugular vein.

In another place in the Quran, in the chapter 53, An-Najm (The Star), verse 3, Allah, the High, says:

Nor does he speak out of his own desire.

That is, he speaks only what is revealed to him.

So, after stating these prophecies, prophecies that comprise the most subtle news of the unseen future, Allah, the High, says that all these prophecies are evidence and a witness to the fact that Muhammad (pbuh) is a true Messenger of God, and the Word that he recites, is the Word of the God Who has sent him as a messenger. And again, the word "gracious" has been added to the word "Messenger", indicating that this is an honourable messenger.

It is a rule that when an ambassador comes from a king, his respect and honour are assured, and to humiliate him would be tantamount to humiliating the king, himself, who has sent him. If those to whom he is sent as an emissary desire to humiliate him, then the sender of the emissary considers it is an insult to his own person and gets ready to fight on the emissary’s behalf. So, Allah says: This is an emissary from Me and his rank of an honourable and gracious personality is assured. Anyone who attempts to disgrace or humiliate him and attacks his honour is fighting against Me, and, therefore, will be humiliated and destroyed. And this messenger, since he is from God, will certainly gain respectability and honour. Had he been an impostor, I, Myself, would have become his enemy and would have disgraced and destroyed him. Hence, this steady increase of respect and honour is a sign and an argument in favour of the fact that he is true messenger of Mine.

World events that unfolded later fully attested to his being honourable and respected. Not only did the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula bow their heads before him, but hundreds of millions also considered being his servants an honour and do so even today. However hard the antagonists of Islam may try to present Islam in a distorted manner, yet the person who has been addressed as "honourable and gracious" by Allah, the High, will always remain so in the eyes of the world and, indeed, the time has now come when his honour will become more and more manifest to the world.

Next, Allah, the High, goes on to say:

The possessor of strength and of high status in the estimation of the Lord of the Throne.

The expression dhi quw-wah occurring here means "possessor of strength", that is, this prophet is in possession of both physical and spiritual powers, and soon the spiritual munificence of this powerful Prophet will be exhibited in as much as he will lift the entire Arab people out of the morass of polytheism, the filth of transgression and inordinacy, and the slavery of the carnal self, and will elevate them to the highest stages of monotheism, piety, purity and high morals. The mundane powers of the world will not be able to overcome him; nay, his power will overcome all other powers. And why not, for he is the Messenger of a God Who is All-powerful, and so the power of that God, Himself, is with him.

Now, see how, on the one hand, all the forces of evil were destroyed by the spiritual power of the Holy Prophet and the entire Arab people was rejuvenated spiritually, and on the other, how the temporal powers, of the Arabs as well as of Kaiser and Chosroe, crumbled before his power.

The expression 'inda dhil 'arshi makin means a person of status with the Lord of the Throne. And when this Messenger is one of the close ones to Allah, the High, the Lord of the Throne, (meaning the Lord of the entire spiritual and physical realm), then it necessarily follows that his position of eminence in Allah’s Court and his high status there will also be reflected in this world. And this Messenger, who is a messenger from the Lord of the entire spiritual and physical realm, will be made beloved in the hearts of vast multitudes. Thus, all these words that came out of God’s Mouth were fulfilled in the very lifetime of the Holy Prophet.

In the next verse He says:

One to be obeyed and faithful and trustworthy.

The word muta' here means one to be obeyed, that is, countless multitudes will obey him.

One must ponder over the fact that at the time of the revelation of this verse those who obeyed the Holy Prophet were few and far between. Yet, a time came when not only the whole of Arabia pledged their obedience to him, but more than that, great kings were wont to consider subservience to him a matter of pride and this holds good even in this age.

The expression tham-ma draws our attention to the fact of his immense faithfulness and trustworthiness. Until now, Allah, the High, was making some powerful prophecies about the Holy Prophet, each one of which was an argument in favour of his being true and having been sent by Allah.

But now Allah puts forth another argument to the Holy Prophet's truth, and He does so by turning the attention of the listener from the future to the past, and addresses him thus: "Consider another aspect of the matter. You all know that this messenger has tarried among you a whole lifetime, and you also know well how righteous a person he is. In fact, his honesty as well as his trustworthiness, is common knowledge among you. So, do you think that such a righteous and trustworthy person can now fabricate a lie against God? Indeed, his earlier life, which is full of honesty and trustworthiness, to which you are a witness, is an incontrovertible argument to his truth."

The next verse reads:

And your companion is not mad

After drawing the opponents’ attention to the fact this messenger has lived among them for a long time, and to whose truthfulness and trustworthiness they attest and vouch for, Allah, the High, addresses another misgiving that may arise in people’s mind: that although such a truthful and trustworthy man cannot fabricate a lie, yet it is possible that he has become mentally deranged and may have made this claim to messengership during a fit of insanity. He has given the reply to this in just one word -- sa-hi-bu kum (your companion). That is, this comrade of yours, who remains in your company day and night, cannot be mad.

There is a type of madness in which the insane person continually mouths all kinds of nonsense and this is not difficult to diagnose. But there are mentally ill people who have a mental aberration about a particular thing, and such persons are kept under observation for many days. Some are locked up in jails or clinics for observation and only then an opinion is formed about their mental state because their particular abnormality is bound to surface at some time or the other during observation or conversation when they begin to talk nonsensically and illogically about that particular neurosis that is affecting their brain.

So, Allah, the High, draws the opponents’ attention to this fact by asking them whether they can point out any thing abnormal in the Prophet's behaviour during his constant association with them. And if they cannot, how, then, can they consider him to be mad? How can the mental illness of a person who remains in their company day and night remain hidden? His madness must manifest itself at some time or the other for he would have betrayed his madness by saying something nonsensical or illogical. Is an everyday association not sufficient to make them distinguish between a godly person adorned with high morals and a mad man?

The next verse reads:

And verily he saw himself (or Allah) on the clear most distant horizons.

The word ufuq means the highest station or point. Which station is this? It is the point that marks the limit of man’s upward spiritual progress. In this verse we have been told that Muhammad (pbuh), the Messenger of Allah, is not mad; instead, he has seen himself reach the highest point of human perfection and closeness to Allah beyond which it is not humanly possible to proceed. Alternatively, the verse can signify that he has seen Allah with the mind's eye and attained to His gnosis up to the limit of human capabilities, that is, the farthest limit to seeing Allah and perceiving His gnosis which a human being can attain. This fact is proved not only by his high morals and perfect gnosis, but Allah, the High, made such an abundant disclosure of the knowledge of the Unseen and the divine mysteries to him that human knowledge cannot attain such comprehension without the assistance of Divine help and revealed knowledge. And the prophecies in this chapter are just a small sample of this fact. Can an impostor or mad person accomplish such feats?

Allah says:

Nor is he niggardly of the Unseen.

That is, are mad persons and impostors bestowed with such abundant disclosure of the Unseen, comprising manifest prophecies that are full of very subtle and intricate knowledge of the Unseen? This clearly proves that the Fountainhead of this Word is Divine knowledge and the person who is disclosing it is in communion with Allah, the Knower of all things.

Nor is it the word of an accursed devil. Whither then are you going?

This means that the notion that it could be the fabrication of a devil is erroneous in the extreme and is tantamount to putting oneself deliberately on a wrong track, because the devil, from the very beginning, is a rejected entity, driven away and alienated from Allah’s court. His call will always be towards the instigation of evil, and towards filth, disgrace and perdition. On the contrary, the Quran calls us to Allah and invites us to rectitude.

It is naught but a Reminder for the nations

The word dhikr in this verse means admonishment and reminding people of the religion of nature, by acting on which man may attain the dignity and honour for which he was created. Look at the teachings of the Quran, says Allah, how sublime they are and how they are based on sublime principles -- teachings that lead humanity to honour and dignity, that is, by following which a man can achieve the honour and dignity for which he was created. Can such teachings be from the devil, teachings leading man to honour and dignity and the highest ranks of nobility?

The reader can see for himself how comprehensive and universal is the teaching of the Quran, how all the nations of the world, of all times, can benefit from it. Of course, for doing so, it is essential that a man must take the initiative and make an effort to benefit from it. That is why Allah says in the next verse:

For him among you who will go straight. And you will not (go straight), except Allah please, the Lord of the worlds.

Unfortunately, our theologians have interpreted this verse to mean: You do not wish except what Allah wishes; so anyone who wants to go straight is acting on Allah’s will, and anyone who doesn’t want to go straight is also doing so according to Allah’s will. This interpretation makes man quite helpless, without a will of his own, and so to punish him for going wrong will be very unjust. Hence, these meanings are patently false and contrary to the intention of the Quran. If one reads this verse together with the preceding verse, the meaning becomes quite clear. That is, it was mentioned above that this Book has been sent down to help people attain a position of honour and dignity, and, along with this, it was said that this honour and dignity are attainable only by those who want to walk on the straight path. Then comes this verse under discussion and only those who want to follow the straight path are addressed in it.

Allah, Most High, is speaking to us thus: As for wishing to adopt the straight path, you and your Lord are at one in this desire; you are desiring exactly what your Lord desires. If you want to adopt the straight path, this is what He also wants, that is, that you should tread the straight path.

And that is why this Quran, a Book that brings honour to all, has been sent down by Him. His attribute of Beneficence requires that all humanity should adopt the right course. However, He does not secure compliance through force. Since man has been created with a will of his own, it is but essential that he should adopt the right course through exercising his will and common sense and not leave his capacity of volition in abeyance.

In short, Allah, the High, desires nothing more than that people should adopt the right way, because He is the Nourisher of all the worlds, and that is why He has sent down the Quran, a Book which is a Reminder for all the nations of the world.

So, those who want to adopt the right way are acting exactly in line with Allah’s Will; and those who do not adopt the right course are doing so against Allah’s intention and will.

In short, here the people who are on the right path have been addressed, and are told that their desire is exactly in accord with their Lord's will. There is no mention here of those who do not tread the right path.

Is it possible, Allah forbid, that Allah, the High, may desire that man should not walk along the right path? If this is so, then why has He sent down the Quran, which is a Reminder to all the nations, and why did He mention His attribute of the Nourisher of all the worlds (Rabb)? Is it a requisite of the nourishment of all the worlds that man should not be allowed to follow the right path? The Rububiyyat (Providence) used in this expression means to take one gradually higher, from one stage to the next stage, till such time that the thing nourished reaches its perfection. Thus, the attribute of being the Nourisher of all the worlds would require that man should go forward on the straight path and progress to higher stages. Therefore, it can be said for a person who wants to walk along the straight path that such a person wants what the Rububiyyat (the quality of nourishing) of the Lord wants. And if anyone desires the contrary, then obviously his ambition is contrary to the will and pleasure of the Lord and thus his wish certainly cannot be the wish of Allah, the High, who is the Nourisher of all the worlds.

Now, let us recapitulate the last portion of this chapter and see how Allah, the High, has given forceful arguments to prove that the Holy Prophet was sent by Him as was the Divine revelation he received.

Although these prophecies comprising a significant part of the knowledge of the Unseen were at that time hidden under the veil of the future -- though today these have been fulfilled in the form of world events before our very eyes, like a sunlit day -- yet this much was conceded even by the unbelievers of Makkah at that time: they fully attested to the trustworthiness, honesty and righteousness of the Holy Prophet, a prophet who had lived among them a whole lifetime. So, that is why Allah, after mentioning the prophecies, has put forth this argument first of all that this person has lived among you all his life as a truthful and trustworthy person, and even now you admit his righteousness, trustworthiness and honesty, so how can such a person fabricate a lie against Allah?

They could have objected to this by saying: Granted that there is no doubt about his righteousness, but maybe he has become mentally deranged. To this Allah replies: He lives among you day and night. Can you point out any symptom of mental derangement? On the contrary, you will find him to be possessed of complete Divine gnosis and a profound knowledge of divine mysteries. Is this knowledge of the Unseen, which is being disclosed to him all the time, ever revealed to those who suffer from insanity or who are impostors? Nay, it is disclosed only to those who have developed a special relationship with Allah and who are recipients of Divine communication.

To this, another objection could be raised that it was possible that this could be a word from the devil. To this He says: Can the devil, an entity rejected and driven away from Allah’s court, give a teaching that would make man acquire honour and dignity, and would thus make him succeed in attaining the higher purposes of man’s creation?

In other words, keeping all the doubts and objections in view, Allah, the High, has given such forceful arguments in support of the truth of the mission of the Holy Prophet and the Quran being from Allah, the High, that He has left no aspect of doubt and suspicion unanswered.


Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 81 (Al-Takwir - The Folding Up)


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