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Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 84 (Al-Inshiqaq - The Bursting Asunder)


Commentary of Chapter 84 (Al-Inshiqaq - The Bursting Asunder) 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.

01. When the heaven bursts asunder,
02. And listens to its Lord and is made fit
;
03. And when the earth is stretched,
04. And casts forth what is in it and becomes empty,
05. And listens to its Lord and is made fit.
06. O man, thou must strive a hard striving (to attain) thy Lord, until thou meet Him.
07. Then as to him who is given his book in his right hand,
08. His account will be taken by an easy reckoning,
09. And he will go back to his people rejoicing.
10. And as to him who is given his book behind his back,
11. He will call for perdition,
12. And enter into a burning Fire
.
13. Surely he was (erstwhile) joyful among his people.
14. Surely he thought that he would never return (to Allah) -
15. Yea, surely his Lord is ever Seer of him
.
16. But nay, I call to witness the sunset redness,
17. And the night and that which it drives on,
18. And the moon when it grows full,
19. That you shall certainly ascend to one state after another
.
20. But what is the matter with them that they believe not?
21. And when the Quran is recited to them, they adore (Him) not?
22. Nay, those who disbelieve give the lie -
23. And Allah knows best what they hide.
24. So announce to them a painful chastisement,
25. Except those who believe and do good - for them is a reward never to be cut off
.

This chapter is one of the earliest Makkan revelations. In the last two chapters, as regards deeds, good and evil were separately examined and their consequences clearly delineated. In this chapter, the importance of exerting oneself to the fullest in the doing of good is emphasised, for laziness and negligence can never bring success.

1. When the heaven bursts asunder.

Inshiqaq (bursting asunder) does not necessarily mean the splitting or breaking of a solid object. Instead, it has wider connotations and can be used for material as well as non-material things. Here, it refers to the overturning of the heavenly order and the demolition of the celestial regions and depicts a scene from the day of the Great Resurrection.

2. And listens to its Lord and is made fit.

This tells us that the bursting asunder of the heavens will come through the command of Allah in that as soon as the order is given, compliance will follow without the slightest delay. In other words, the command of Allah is bound to be obeyed. 

3. And when the earth is stretched,
4. And casts forth what is in it and becomes empty.

This is another scene from the day of Resurrection. The verse tells us that the earth will be stretched out beyond its normal limit and whatever is in its interior will be thrown out and it will become empty.

5. And listens to its Lord and is made fit.

Everything that will happen to the earth as revealed in the above verses will take place according to Allah's decree and the earth will have no choice but to obey.

 6. O man, thou must strive a hard striving (to attain) thy Lord, until thou meet Him.

This verse is telling us that man is created to achieve such progress and perfection as would enable him to meet his Lord, but for this to happen, he has to labour a mighty labouring. This, indeed, is tantamount to a resurrection which man has to bring on himself through obedience to the laws of his Lord. Then, after death, he will receive a new life and will meet his Lord. The resurrection which man is asked to bring about in his life on earth is described in a scene taken from those events which will take place on the day of Resurrection. On the one hand, we are presented with a description of the bursting of the heaven under the command of Allah, and on the other hand, it is said that the earth would obey the decree of its Lord and would stretch out to its fullest and would throw out its treasures and become empty.

The meaning is that since man, by himself, is a whole world and is the perfect microcosm of the entire universe and further contains within himself, in a small measure, all the elements of this universe, then when he has to work a resurrection with himself, it should be exactly along the lines of the resurrection that the greater universe will experience.

The past tense is employed to describe a picture of the future events of the big universe so that man may be better able to form a mental conception of this picture and so use it as a source of guidance for himself. In his mind, he can perceive the image that is presented to him - that the universe will split open in obedience to the will of its Creator and, similarly, the earth will be stretched forth to its utmost limit and will unburden itself of everything and become void.

Man is then addressed and told that it is the bounden duty of the heaven and the earth to do so for in this way, they will be acting according to the will of their Lord. Man, who strives in diverse ways, is then asked why he does not listen to the command of his Lord and obey it in the same manner as the heaven and earth, for obedience to Allah's will is his duty above everything else in the universe. Further, on this compliance hinges every facet of his advancement.

Thus, if man in his rank and glory is like the sky in height and elevation, then he should bow to the will of his Lord, and so humble should he become that he will lose his own identity in that of his Lord. Indeed, in obedience to his Creator's commands, he should accept a kind of death (over his passions) for it is his duty to show reverence continuously to his Lord.

On the other hand, if, in his power and resources he is like the earth, that is, he is liberal and extensive as the earth, then in obedience to his Lord's decrees he should become even more expansive and generous, and through his humility and meekness, favours and gifts, he should be beneficial to his Master's creation, for kindness to others is the other great duty for which he has been created. Therefore, in response to the dictates of his Creator, he should expel from his heart whatever love he may have in it for this transitory world, or whatever else besides Allah may have taken root in it. Indeed, his heart should be emptied of every frivolity and vanity in order to be made fit to receive the love of Allah and the resplendence of His spiritual light for to worship no other god besides Allah is his pre-eminent obligation.

Thus, when man traverses every stage of this journey, that is, love for Allah and kindness to His creation, as well as worship of no other deity besides Allah, and in obedience to Allah's laws he creates a resurrection in himself, then he receives a new life and meets his Lord and through his rigorous labour he achieves the goal of perfection and ultimate success.

7. Then as to him who is given his book in his right hand,
8. His account will be taken by an easy reckoning,
9. And he will go back to his people rejoicing.

Those who will hold their books in their right hand on that day will be the ones who held the Book of Allah (the Holy Quran) in their right hand in this life, that is, those who established it firmly in their lives and acted upon its teachings with perseverance and steadfastness. Generally speaking, the grip of the right hand is strong whilst that of the left hand is weak. Thus, the expression "holding in the right hand" is used metaphorically, meaning that in this affair the person acted with all his power.

So, those who held Allah's Book of Law in their right hand in this life will receive their book of deeds in their right hand on the day of Resurrection. In other words, that will be an indication that they followed Allah's Book to the limit of their capability. Therefore, they will be given an easy reckoning for, at the time when account is taken into consideration, if a person's errors are few, the calamities he has to face will also be few.

It is common knowledge that if one's slate is clean, or there are few mistakes on it, or if a person passes an examination, then he returns brimming with joy and happiness to his family and friends. For example, when the results of a university examination are published, those who succeeded will find their names inscribed in a list of those students who passed the examination and one can imagine the ecstasy with which they will go back to their respective families. From this, we can form an estimate of the consequences of success in the next life - a success which will be permanent and real.

10. And as to him who is given his book behind his back,
11. He will call for perdition,
12. And enter into a burning Fire
.

Those who in this life threw the Book of Allah behind their backs, that is, they did not act upon it, will receive their book of deeds behind their backs in the Hereafter. In other words, that will constitute a sure sign that they did not follow its guidance whilst they were alive. Such people will surely wish for death to come to them to relieve them of their agony, but Allah says that they will not get their wish. Instead, they will enter a fire as retribution for their deeds. The very fire of passions and desires that they kindled in this life will be the one they will enter in the next life.

13. Surely he was (erstwhile) joyful among his people.
14. Surely he thought that he would never return (to Allah) -
15. Yea, surely his Lord is ever Seer of him
.

The meaning is that whatever comforts of this life Allah bestowed on the rejecters, they rejoice over them and enjoy with their families. They never stop to think that such a condition will not last forever and that they will have to face the inevitable reversals of fortune in life as everyone else and that they may have to taste the consequence of their actions in this world. But even if they escape suffering for their deeds in this world, they pay no regard to the fact that there is still a day when they will have to return to their Lord - a day when man will have to answer for his conduct on earth. Thus, wise is the man who regards time as a precious gift and makes the best use of it by scrupulously following the guidance enshrined in Allah's Holy Book. But if through heedlessness and luxurious living he casts the Book behind his back, then his condition of comfort and negligence will not last forever and a day will come when his actions will create their own repercussions. Allah is keeping a record of every action of his and no deed is hidden from him, so, on that day what can be the wrong-doer's lot except a severe chastisement? Change is inevitable. However, as the believer is not given to a slack and undisciplined life-style, he is in an excellent position to make use of change whilst the heedless one suffers loss in the face of altered circumstances.

16. But nay, I call to witness the sunset redness,
17. And the night and that which it drives on
18. And the moon when it grows full,
19. That you shall ascend to one state after another
.

The use of oaths in the Holy Quran has already been fully explained in chapter 79 (An-Nazi'at), but suffice it to say that an oath is taken in order to emphasise strongly any evidence or testimony. Here, three things are presented as evidence: the sunset redness, the night and what it gathers, that is, darkness, and the moon when it gradually becomes full.

Shafaq is that redness that is seen at sunset in the western horizon.

Scientific scholars and researchers have explained the nature of this natural phenomenon thus: they say that atoms and vapours rise from the earth and at sunset when the earth loses the light of the sun and darkness overspreads the land, then, because of their elevation, these atoms and vapours begin to glow as a result of the light cast upon them by the setting sun and the reflection of the sunlight on them is accentuated because of the darkness of the earth.

Now, if we examine these verses more carefully, we shall see that they really reveal to us the cause of man's bitter end for he persists in his heedlessness and change and vicissitudes of life have no effect on him.

On the other hand, the work of a believer is to value the wonderful gifts of time and before any reversals of fortune assail him, he should improve his condition in life through labour and exertion to such an extent that when trials and calamities come he will still be successful. He should also protect himself from useless and frivolous pursuits for in reality changes in fortune are really another manifestation of the consequences of one's actions.

After swearing an oath (la uqsimu), the verses go on to say that the person who sits happily in his home in the thought that he is insulated from change and upheavals is in serious error. He is told to reflect on the evidence presented to us by natural phenomena. Evening time provides an example of a striking change in fortune: just as the earth gradually turns away its face from the sun which is the source of heavenly light with the result that darkness and gloom steadily increase over it, so, too, those who turn away from the prophets and the divinely-sent guidance they bring, that is, the sun of guidance, and who throw the Book of Allah behind their backs, bring upon themselves darkness and misguidance by slow but sure degrees and engage in fruitless and worthless occupations.

Totally different are those people who rise above the creatures of the earth and steadily advance in closeness to Allah, Most High. Indeed, as they rise above their low desires and clothe themselves in heavenly garb, they partake of divine light as a result of their lofty rank and celestial effulgence. And when trials and reversal in life reach their pinnacle, the heavenly light of the righteous correspondingly increase in brilliance and their noble qualities become even more perspicuous. As a matter of fact, the splendours of their beautiful nature, their spiritual light and the manifestation of their inner beauty assume even more perfectly scintillating colours in times of calamities, and on such occasions darkness does not enshroud them. Instead, as they are filled with heavenly light, their spiritual heart becomes even more resplendent.

On the other hand, worldly people turn their faces away from the sun of guidance and so find themselves gradually overtaken by all kinds of difficulties and miseries. However, in direct contrast to these people are the pious ones who, like the moon, turn their faces steadily to the sun of guidance and receiving blessings from the Divine, they become brighter and brighter until they are fully effulgent.

Unbelievers or transgressors behave like the earth and turn their faces away from heavenly light with the result that they are steeped more and more in darkness. However, believers are like the moon. They turn their faces more and more to Allah and His divine light and so day by day they increase in perfection. All this takes place by slow degrees just as at the end of every day when night comes the moon faces the sun and becomes brighter and fuller than it was on the previous night. Similarly, the believer advances steadfastly in every trial and calamity and steadily progresses to perfection, and with every misfortune and reversal he becomes more and more perfect.

Thus, after drawing attention to change and revolution and their results and the ascent or decline of man according to his deeds, the next verse asks:

20. But what is the matter with them that they believe not?
21. And when the Quran is recited to them, they adore (Him) not?

The meaning is that the Holy Quran is the source of heavenly light; so to disbelieve in it and cast it behind one's back leads to increasing darkness whilst to obey its teachings elevates a person to perfection. So, to reject such a beautiful teaching that is so full of light and perfect guidance is a cause for consternation. Indeed, it is a fact that if the people of the world should read the Holy Quran with deep thought and understanding they would be forced to accept its truth as one of Europe's famous philosophers himself admitted when he said: "I sat down to read the Holy Quran with feelings of hatred and contempt. But as I started to read, I began to feel the power of its noble sentiments surging in my breast, so that by the time I had finished it, my heart was brimming with love for it."

As the Holy Quran is a veritable light and possesses such truth and guidance, it captivates the heart of every intelligent person. Thus, it is such a glorious book that man should bow in submission to its truth and should never delay nor hesitate to obey its commands. However, this is what happens:

22. Nay, those who disbelieve give the lie.

But instead of obeying, ungrateful people are not satisfied with merely denying the truth of the Holy Book, but they go further and exert all their thoughts in trying to devise means of obliterating and destroying it completely as the next verse intimates:

23. And Allah knows best what they hide.

But Allah is fully aware of their secret plans to efface the Holy Quran even though they conceal these plots in their hearts.

24. So announce to them a painful chastisement.

In other words, tell them that their secret machinations will avail them naught. On the contrary, they will have to suffer the evil consequences of their efforts. And such, indeed, was the case, for those who tried to destroy the Holy Quran suffered a most painful retribution and their end was nothing but one of failure, loss and disgrace. So, too, today, those who try to nullify and discredit the teachings of the Holy Quran can very well expect the same fate, if Allah wills.

25. Except those who believe and do good - for them is a reward never to be cut off.

Illa ('except' or 'but') is used here as a particle of exclusion. That is, it is employed to indicate that there is no relation between what is said here and what preceded it. Instead, it is a separate matter.

We are told that those who believe in the Holy Book and act upon it by following the paths of guidance laid down in it will certainly make progress and attain perfection and their reward, growth and perfection will, through Allah's grace, never be cut off. A palpable example for the world is the manner in which the moon gradually becomes full, and this is mirrored by the slow but steady acquisition of perfection by man through the bounteous favours of Allah. However, superior to everything will be the unending progress and perfection which are destined for the believer in the next life.

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Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 84 (Al-Inshiqaq - The Bursting Asunder)


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