Surah Ghashiyah, Chapter 88
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
This Surah is one of the Meccan Surahs which contains mainly the following three themes:
The first subject is the 'Resurrection' and the contrast between the destinies of the Good and the Evil in the 'Hereafter'.
The second subject is 'Monotheism' with reference to the creation of the sky, the earth, and the mountains. Man should consider these wonderful matters as admonishments.
The third subject is ‘Prophecy' and some of the duties that the holy Prophet (S) was required to perform. On the whole, the Surah strengthens the idea for the basis of religion and faith, as well as all Meccan Surahs do.
As for the virtue of studying this Surah, there is a tradition from the holy Prophet (S) that says:
“He who recites this Surah will be reckoned with an easy Reckoning by Allah.”1
And another narration from Imam Sadiq (as) says:
"He who continues reciting this Surah in his obligatory or voluntary prayers, Allah will put him in His Grace both in this world and the Next, and will keep him safe from fire in the Hereafter.”2
Certainly it will be so, if the person would only think about the Surah and act accordingly.
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ الْغَاشِيَةِ
وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ خَاشِعَةٌ
تَصْلَىٰ نَارًا حَامِيَةً
تُسْقَىٰ مِنْ عَيْنٍ آنِيَةٍ
لَيْسَ لَهُمْ طَعَامٌ إِلَّا مِنْ ضَرِيعٍ
لَا يُسْمِنُ وَلَا يُغْنِي مِنْ جُوعٍ
1. "Has the story reached thee, of Ghashiyah (the Overwhelming Event that covers all)?"
2. "Some faces, that Day, will be down cast;"
3. "Labouring (hard), weary,”
4. “Entering into Blazing Fire,”
5. "They will be given to drink from a boiling hot spring,”
6. "No food will there be for them but of Dari (a bitter and thorny plant loathsome in smell)."
7. "Which will neither nourish nor satisfy hunger."
In the first verse of this Surah we are introduced to another name for the Hereafter; Ghashiyah:
The term 'Ghashiyah' is based on /qiŝawat/ 'to cover'. The choice of this name for the Hereafter is for the reason that the terrible events of it will suddenly cover everything.
There are some other commentaries about the term 'Ghashiyah', but the one mentioned above is the most suitable.
The verse apparently addresses the Prophet (S) and it is he who is being questioned in order to show the importance of the Day. Some commentators have said that all human beings may be the addressees; which seems improbable.
Then, to explain the mood of the sinners, it says:
They are full of shame and fear, because of the horrible chastisement of the Day. Since it is man's face which mostly reflects spiritual moods, so, their faces will clearly show their complete debasement and horror.
This commentary is the most appropriate among the others.
They gain no profit, in their lives; only weariness, from their arduous efforts and endeavours. They have neither approvable good deeds nor can they take anything of their wealth with them, nor do they leave fame among people or a good child after them. They are tired from their striving, but, in fact, they own nothing.
What a suitable sentence about them:
This commentary seems to be the most agreeable.
Finally, those who struggle, in vain; who are weary, arrive at the blazing fire, so it says:
The term /tasla/ is based on /saly/ which means 'to enter into burning fire to suffer the pain of being burnt'.
This will not be their only punishment.
When they are thirsty:
The term /aniya/ is the feminine form of /ani/ 'boiling hot water, the temperature of which is at the highest degree'.
A similar meaning for the hot water is noted in Surah Kahf, No. 18, verse 29:
In the next verse, it tells about their food when they are hungry:
The opinions of the commentators are divided about the meaning of /dhari’/:
Some of them have said that it is a sort of plant, having large thorns and grows close to the ground. The people of Quraysh call it /ŝibriq/ when it is in its fresh state; and it is called /dhari'/ when it is in its dry state. It is also said to be a poisonous plant which no beast will approach, because of its harmful quality.
'Khalil', a philologist, says: /dhari'/ is a green plant with a bad smell which is cast out of the sea upon the beaches".
'Ibn-Abbas' has said that
"it is a tree of fire, fit for Hell, that if it were in this world, it would burn the earth and all the things on it."
But there is a narration from the Prophet (S) which says:
“/dhari`/ is something in Hell. It is like thorns, more bitter than aloes, more fetid than a putrid corpse, and more burning than fire. Allah has named the thing /dhari`/".3
Other people have also said that /dhari'/ is a hellish food, of which the condemned, in Hell, cry to Allah to get rid of it.
The above commentaries relate to each other and all of them may be correct for defining the meaning of the word.
Then, again about the same food, it says:
It is certain that such a thing is a food that will neither give nourishment, to the body, nor in any way satisfy the burning pangs of hunger.
It is a punishment for the unbelievers as Surah Muzzammil, No. 73, verse 13 says:
They prepared sweet and delicious foods of many varieties for themselves, in this world, through cruelty and the violation of people's rights: they forced the oppressed to use unedible, choking food.
So, the oppressors should have a kind of food in Hell that is
As it has been mentioned several times, neither the blessings in Heaven nor the punishments in Hell can be thoroughly described for us; we prisoners of this world. In fact, these are but some allusive hints to the Reality.
وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ نَاعِمَةٌ
فِي جَنَّةٍ عَالِيَةٍ
لَا تَسْمَعُ فِيهَا لَاغِيَةً
فِيهَا عَيْنٌ جَارِيَةٌ
فِيهَا سُرُرٌ مَرْفُوعَةٌ
8. “(Other) faces that Day will be joyful,”
9. “Pleased with their Striving"
10. “In a Garden on high,”
11. “Where they shall hear no (word) of vanity."
12. “Therein is a fountain flowing,”
13. “Therein are thrones raised high,”
14. "And goblets placed (ready),”
15. “And Cushions set in rows,”
16. “And rich carpets (all) spread out."
After the description of the sinners' status, in the Next World, and their punishments in Hell in the aforementioned verses, the following verses refer to the situation of the believers and good-doers and their heavenly blessings; to inform them about both Allah’s Wrath and Grace; punishment and reward.
These faces contrast with the sinners' 'down cast, weary' faces that were described in the former verses.
The term /na’imah/ is based on /ni'mat/ 'comfort and convenience of life'.
Here, it means the joyful faces which beam bright with the comfort of Bliss; as is said in Surah Mutaffiffin, No. 83, verse 24:
These faces look happy, because they are:
They are content with the result of their hard struggle, in contrast with the sinners who are
and gain no profit from their striving.
The doers of good, under the light of Allah’s favour and beneficence, have gained additional rewards; sometimes tenfold, sometimes seven hundred times as much, and sometimes even more than that.
And, sometimes, they may be given
for their deeds, as Surah Zumar, No. 39, verse 10 says:
Then, to describe that state, it says:
The term /'aliyat/ may refer to the height of a place that means 'they are in a high place in Heaven', or it refers to the highness of their rank, or both of them, but, the second commentary seems more suitable, though both of the ideas are probable.
Then, it describes Bliss from a spiritual point of view, and says:
They will hear neither hypocrisy nor enmity or conflict. They will hear nothing, there, unbecoming, foolish or vain: no word of discord, enmity, hatred; not a die, accusation, back-biting, nor idle talk.
And what a comfortable environment is such a place where none of these inappropriate words is heard. In fact, they are the origin of many troubles, and discomforts of our life in this world. They disturb the peace of our spirit and the regularity of societies; which lights the fire of sedition.
After the explanation about the existence of the spiritual blessing of hearing no vain word, it continues and explains a part of the material blessings of Heaven, saying:
The word 'fountain' is singular in its Arabic text. Similar cases occur in the Qur’an, like Surah Zaiyat, No. 51, verse 15 which says:
where 'spring' is used in the plural form, then the indefinite singular form of
in this verse, means ' some numerous other fountains'.
Some commentators have said that since there is a spring in every castle, in Heaven belonging to the believers, which flows in every direction that they wish it to, without digging special canals, so,
is mentioned in the singular form, but they are numerous, indeed, and are useful for their beauty, different wholesome sweet water, and whenever the Righteous wish to, they drink, therefrom.
Then attention is paid to thrones and says:
The term /surur/ is the plural form of /sarir/ based on /surur/ 'a throne' (which is usually used in felicitous gatherings).
The thrones are raised high for the Righteous to see all of their surroundings, enjoy the beautiful breath-taking sceneries and find great pleasure in them.
Ibn-Abbas says that these high thrones are set in such a way that when the Righteous are going to sit on them they lower themselves in humility, for their owners, and then when the righteous sit down the thrones rise again.
It is probable that 'the thrones are raised high' means that they are very precious, because it is said that they are made of gold and are decorated with topaz, pearls, and rubies.
However, both commentaries are possible.
As they need some kind of utensil to drink the pure drink from the springs, it says:
Whenever they wish, the goblets are filled from the springs and are ready, in front of them, to drink and enjoy, to their hearts content. Its pleasure is impossible for the dwellers of this world to describe. The term /akwab/ is the plural form of /kub/ which means 'either a goblet or any cup with a handle'.
It is necessary to note that there are different names given for the containers of 'the pure drink', in Heaven, mentioned in the holy Qur’an.
Here, in this verse, as in some other verses, it is called /abariq/, the plural form of /ibriq/ a cup with a spout and handle to pour the drink; or /ka's/ 'a cup full of drink' as Surah Waqi'ah, No. 56, verses 17-18 say:
It describes further details about Heaven and says:
The term /namariq/ is the plural form of /numruqah/ 'a pillow or soft pad for sitting or kneeling on, or reclining against usually for relaxing'.
And the term
denotes that there are numerous cushions arranged in order for some people to have a meeting in which they hear no vain talk, but the words are about the endless blessings of Allah and being saved from both the troubles and struggles of the physical world and the punishments of the spiritual world. It is so enjoyable and excellent that nothing can match it.
Finally, it points to the splendid carpets in Heaven and says:
The term /zarabiyy/ is the plural form of /zaribah/ which means ‘piled, lush carpets off high quality, that are both comfortable, with a high nap, and costly'.
It is clear that there are also other facilities equal to what is mentioned above; which are a means of enjoyment and comfort, of which only a few examples are given, indicating that there are numerous of them in Heaven.
There are seven heavenly blessings mentioned in these verses; each of which is finer than the other.
In short, Heaven, an eternal home, is a unique place of no fear or grief, free from any toil or weariness, no vanity or untruth; completely in peace and security; joyful, with different kinds of fruits and pure drinks in attractive goblets and cups of gold placed, ready, over some bejewelled thrones of dignity raised high, with rich carpets spread out, beside the flowing springs with youths of perpetual freshness serving among good companions and chaste women.
In conclusion, there are immense blessings that one can neither describe with the limited human vocabulary of this world nor can one conceive in the imagination. All of them, and beyond what anyone can contemplate, are ready-made for the Righteous who obtain permission to enter Allah’s Bliss because of their righteous deeds.
Besides the physical pleasures, there are the spiritual pleasures, the best of which is the meeting with Alah, in Heaven, while Allah is well pleased with them, and they also with Him.
أَفَلَا يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَى الْإِبِلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ
وَإِلَى السَّمَاءِ كَيْفَ رُفِعَتْ
وَإِلَى الْجِبَالِ كَيْفَ نُصِبَتْ
وَإِلَى الْأَرْضِ كَيْفَ سُطِحَتْ
فَذَكِّرْ إِنَّمَا أَنْتَ مُذَكِّرٌ
لَسْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ بِمُصَيْطِرٍ
إِلَّا مَنْ تَوَلَّىٰ وَكَفَرَ
فَيُعَذِّبُهُ اللَّهُ الْعَذَابَ الْأَكْبَرَ
إِنَّ إِلَيْنَا إِيَابَهُمْ
ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا حِسَابَهُمْ
17. "Do they not look at camels, how they are created?"
18. "And at the Sky, how it is raised high?"
19. "And at the mountains, how they are fixed firm?"
20. "And at the Earth, how it is spread out?"
21. "Therefore do thou give admonition, for thou art one to admonish."
22. "Thou art not one to manage (men's) affairs."
23. "But whoever turns back and disbelieves,”
24. "Allah will punish him with a mighty punishment."
25. "Surely to Us will be their Return;"
26. "Then surely upon Us will be the taking of their account."
In the commentary of the last verses, there was a broad discussion about Heaven and its blessings. The next verses refer to 'the knowledge of Allah'; the necessary key that enables us to obtain those blessings. In these verses, four examples of Allah’s signs of power, in His wonderful Creation, are mentioned. Meanwhile, they point to Allah’s endless power which can be a solution to the question of Resurrection.
First, we are encouraged to observe camels:
The first thing mentioned is a domesticated animal; the camel. But, why is the camel mentioned first and before all others? Commentators have put forth many ideas, but it is clear that in the beginning, the Arabs of Mecca were addressed; those who often dealt with camels in their everyday lives more than any other animal.
Moreover, this animal has some wonderful characteristics which separate it from other animals, and truly he is one of the signs of Allah.
Some of these characteristics are as follows:
1. Some of the domesticated four-footed animals are useful only for their meat, some others mostly for their milk; the rest are used only for riding or carrying loads, but the camel is used for all of them. The flesh can be eaten. The milk can be used. It can carry men, goods, and so on.
2. The camel is the strongest and the most persevering domestic animal which can carry heavy loads. It is also a wonder that when it is lying on the ground and loaded heavily with goods, it can rise easily, in a motion, while other beasts cannot do so.
3. The camel can bear thirst for a long time (about seven to ten days), and can remain hungry for a time, also.
4. The camel can travel a long distance, every day, on impassible roads and sandy deserts where no other animal can, and that is why the Arabs call it the 'ship of the desert'.
5. The camel can live on a diet of thorny plants, so, its food is inexpensive, and it is also a valuable asset when one wants to purchase a camel, because it is one of the least expensive beasts of burden.
6. Having this wonderful structure, the camel is par excellence for the sandy deserts where terrible storms hurt the eyes and ears, because Allah has created him with special eyes, ears, and nose that allow him to continue to walk through the blowing, stinging sand, and its limbs are adopted to this life, as well.
7. The camel is a very gentle animal. It is so gentle that a little child can hold the lead-rope of a string of camels and take them wherever he or she wishes.
In short, the specialties of this animal, are so amazing that anyone who takes into consideration its creation realizes that the Creator of the animal; his Creator, is very great. In the case men neglect the Hereafter and think of it as of no account, they are asked, in the Qur'an, to contemplate on the camel which they can see in their everyday lives and which is full of meaning in its unique design and is of the goodness Allah bestows upon man.
It is quite clear that the word
in the verse does not mean a simple look, but it means 'a careful look' with deep contemplation.
Attention is then paid to the second sign; the sky, and it says:
The lofty sky with its wonders: bright stars, galaxies and all other beauties that attract everyone's attention so that one, comparing himself with this great and glorious universe, which is full of order and regularity, finds himself as if he is nearly nothing before the Creator of them, the Infinite.
How wonderful these great celestial bodies are fixed on their orbits! They have no pillars, but stand firm. Stars and planets in the solar system are millions of years old, but their orbits are unchanged.
Although the creation of sky has always been a wonder, its facts seem more surprising and its glory glitters more brightly, today, than ever before under the light of recent scientific investigations and amazing explorations.
Are we not to contemplate on the Creator and the Wisdom of this great world and approach the main goal of its creation?
Then our attention, which was previously attracted to the sky, is turned to the ground and says:
Mountains, whose underlying formations have joined to each other and have formed a shell over the earth, work like a shield against the inner shaking resulting from molten lava and outer fluxes and refluxes produced by the gravities of the moon and the sun.
If these safe shelters and storm controllers, the mountains, were not on the ground, there would be only deserts all over the earth. Mountains store wholesome water for both man and green plants.
High mountains symbolize grandeur and generosity as well as grace and blessings. Perhaps this is why man can meditate and contemplate, there, better than at any other place, and perhaps it was for the same reason that the holy Prophet (S) spent a lot of his time praying in 'Jabal-un-Nur' and the cave of Hirra in the side of Mount Hirra near 'Arafat before his appointment to prophecy.
The term /naşabat/ is based on /naşb/ which means 'to place, fix, erect', and it may touch on the conditions of the creation of the mountains, at the beginning. The science of geology considers some various factors for the formation of different kinds of mountains:
1. Mountains are formed by folds in the earth.
2. Mountains are formed by volcanoes.
3. Mountains are formed by erosion.
4. Mountains are formed in the seas by sediments and the remains of animals.
Each of these ideas is noteworthy for the formation, merit, and grandeur of mountains. They are good signs of Allah’s power for those who pay careful attention.
Then, attention is paid to the Earth and says:
man should look at the earth and how rain washes the mountains away, continually, and spreads their dust into furrows and makes the land both level and fit for him to farm or to build houses on.
Suppose the Earth were totally covered with hills and valleys. How difficult would it be to live on? Who had made it smooth and flat for our use before we came to being? The Holy Qur’an advises us to contemplate on these facts and find the real answers.
Here, there is a question about what kind of relation there is between these four things: the camel, the sky, the mountains, and the Earth.
In his commentary, Fakhr-i-Razi says:
“This is because the Qur'an was revealed in the Arabic language. Arabs often traveled here and there since they did not have enough farmlands and agricultural products for their lives. Those trips were made on camels.
When they were traveling in the frightful lonely deserts, where there was no habitant to talk with and nothing to look at or to listen to, they would contemplate on: the wonderful camel, the only animal they were riding on; the sky, the only vault they could see high above them; the mountains they had on their right and left; and the Earth, their only companion when they looked down.”
It seems as if Allah makes them contemplate on these four things (naturally) when they are alone."4
If we think about Islam, not only for the people of the Arabian Desert, but also as a religion for the people of a very vast environment, the four things mentioned, in these verses, can be considered as the basis of man's life; besides water and air, we receive our light and warmth from the sky. The Earth is a bed for the growth of different kinds of food products.
The mountains are the site of quietude and the storing of water, as well as minerals. And the camel is a good example, from domesticated beasts, which humans can use.
Therefore, these four things contain both agricultural and industrial affairs and contemplating about them takes man to the thought of their Creator and causes him to be thankful to Allah; this contemplation is his beginning step towards the knowledge of the one god; Allah.
After this monotheistic description; it addresses the Prophet (S) and says:
Verily, the creation of the sky, earth, mountains, and animals indicate that there is a plan and purpose for the creation of man and the world. The Prophet's mission is to make people acquainted with the goal of that creation, with his admonishments and lead them to the path of development and nearness to Allah.
Of course, the path of development is paved when they do it willingly and without any outer forces, otherwise it is meaningless. The Prophet (S) cannot force them to obey Allah and even if he could, it would be useless.
Some have supposed that this instruction has been abrogated when the verses of the command for Holy War were revealed.
What a great mistake! The Prophet's mission for publicity of Islam and admonition began from the early days of his prophecy and continued until the last moments of his life. It has been continuing since then; at first by his sinless successors and then by the Islamic scholars. This responsibility will never stop.
The lack of obligation on the people, in accepting Islam, is also a permanent principle. However, Holy War is different. The goal is mainly to stand against transgressors and remove the hindrances from the path of true believers.
This matter is somewhat similar to that of Surah Nisa, No.4, verse 80 which says:
It is the same in Surah An’am, No. 6, verse 107 and Surah Shura, No. 42, verse 48.
The term /musaytir/ is based on /satr/ ‘a line of a book or writing' and means 'a person who arranges the lines of a book' or 'one who has absolute authority over a thing or a person and writes down its manner of action, or makes him do something by force’.
In the next verse, as an exception, it says:
Opinions are divided about the commentary of this 'exception':
The first idea says that the exception is from the object of the verb /fathakkir/ to 'give admonition'. Accepting this, it means 'you do not need to give ad monition to the enemies who reject Allah and do not take your advice'.
This is similar to what is said in Surah Zukhruf, No. 43, verse 83:
The second idea denotes that if the sentence is considered as a conditional sentence, there is something omitted in the sentence and hence the meaning is, 'Do thou give admonition, because admonishment is useful for all, unless they are enemies of Allah'.
It is similar to what is said in Surah A'1a, No. 87, verse 9:
The third idea says that the exception is from the pronoun /'alayhim/ in verse 22, then it would mean: 'Thou art not one to manage (men's) affair, except in so far as you receive authority to do so against those who reject Allah and do wrong with you.'
This commentary seems more agreeable.
The 'exception' may be unrelated; if so, the meaning is: 'But those who turn back and reject Allah, He has authority over them, or He will punish them with a mighty punishment'.
is the punishment in the Hereafter and is compared with the punishment in the present life as it is said in Surah Zumar, No. 39, verse 26:
It is probable that the purpose of the 'mighty punishment' is a definite intensive punishment in Hell for some sinners in the Hereafter, because the punishment of all evildoers will not be the same in Hell.
At the end of the Surah, it says with a threatening tone that:
This is, in fact, a kind of consoling for the Prophet (S) in order for him not to be upset about their obstinacy and to keep his responsibility in view. It is also a threat for all those who are obstinate in understanding who it is that will reckon with them.
Thus, Surah Ghashiyah which began by speaking about the Hereafter, ends by speaking about the Hereafter also, but in between, 'monotheism' and 'prophecy', are discussed which is the basis of Resurrection.
Meanwhile, in the beginning verses, a portion of the severe punishments for the evildoers, and then a great part of the rewards of the good-doers are mentioned. By the way, people are free either to believe and follow the way or not, but they are warned that their return will certainly be to Allah and it is He Who will take care of their account.
Therefore, it clearly states that the Holy Prophet (S) is sent to teach and direct people on the way and he is not responsible for people's rejections and corruptions. All prophets of Allah have been commissioned in like manner.
O Lord! On the Day that all human beings will return to you and upon you will be the taking of their account, bestow your Grace on us.
O Lord! Save us from the mighty Punishment on That Day.
O Lord! Your heavenly blessings, a few of which You described for us in this Surah, are very valuable and encouraging. If we do not deserve them, with Your beneficence, please bestow them on us.