بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.
He frowned and turned away (80:1).
أَنْ جَاءَهُ الْأَعْمَىٰ
when the blind man approached him. (80:2).
وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ لَعَلَّهُ يَزَّكَّىٰ
And how do you know, maybe he would refine himself, (80:3).
أَوْ يَذَّكَّرُ فَتَنْفَعَهُ الذِّكْرَىٰ
or take admonition, and the admonition would benefit him! (80:4).
أَمَّا مَنِ اسْتَغْنَىٰ
But as for someone who regards himself as self sufficient, (80:5).
فَأَنْتَ لَهُ تَصَدَّىٰ
you attend to him, (80:6).
وَمَا عَلَيْكَ أَلَّا يَزَّكَّىٰ
though you care not if he does not purify himself (80:7).
وَأَمَّا مَنْ جَاءَكَ يَسْعَىٰ
But he who comes hurrying to you, (80:8).
while he fears, (80:9).
فَأَنْتَ عَنْهُ تَلَهَّىٰ
you are neglectful of him. (80:10).
Because of the rebuke these verses contain, which should be obvious to anyone who ponders on them, it does not make sense that they should be referring to the Prophet (S), whom the Qur'an describes as being in possession of a great character (khuluq 'azim).1 If the Prophet (S) was not known to scowl even in the face of a disbeliever, then how could he in the face of the faithful? What more to one whom the Qur'an describes as blind, which would make him even more entitled to kindness. More so, to someone who came 'hurrying' with great effort, desiring to be one of those who 'feared'?
The moral qualities that emanate from a believer originate only from his own spiritual perfection (kamal dhati) and not out of a desire to be praised, thanked or otherwise rewarded! Scowling to other people's faces is something reprehensible, even to the face of a blind man who cannot see the scowl! A believer holds himself to a higher standard than that, because this is a quality that is detestable in the eyes of his Lord and in the eyes of his own self.
When the Qur'an speaks of guidance (hidayah) it mentions self-refinement (tazkiyah) as the axis for the movement of the Prophets (‘a).2 Their teachings in their entirety exist only to liberate Man from enslavement to his desires and free him to accept guidance. And we know that the way to self-refinement is through being given admonition that awakens you from indolence, which is why the verses mention refinement and admonition together.
The preaching of those who call to Allah is not always to bring people out of ignorance (jahl), such that their mission is merely teaching. Rather, it is also, to bring people out of unawareness (ghafla), so, their mission is also, admonition! This is why this verse mentions admonition as benefitting some people, even if they are unaware:
“or take admonition, and the admonition would benefit him!” (‘Abasa, 80:4).
and it is obvious that this does not apply to those who are opposed to the message; in fact, it will only increase their animosity and disbelief.
It is the habit of the worldly people to incline to whatever they think is a benchmark of success, and behold! One such benchmark is complacency:
'But as for someone who regards himself as self-sufficient, you attend to him' (‘Abasa, 80:5).
It is because this is an apparent virtue that is in harmony with their own disposition, unlike someone who comes hurrying in a state of fear, for their disposition renders them incapable of perceiving his virtue, causing them to dismiss those who possess it. This trait, which is common amongst worldly persons, also, does not accord with the spiritual rank of the Prophet (S), and thus it also, serves to demonstrate again that this rebuke cannot have been directed at him.
Those verses rebuking he who turned away from the blind man because of the latter's lack of social rank, want us to form our preferences about people according to religious standards, namely the principle that someone is only nobler in God's eyes because of his piety (taqwa),3 which was never given any regard during the Age of Ignorance, nor even after the advent of Islam, in many circles.
The above verse explicitly cites one of the harmful effects of failing to use this principle as a guide, namely turning away while scowling at someone who possesses two very great attributes; striving to refine himself ('comes hurrying to you') and attiring himself with a continuous state of fear - as is indicated by the verse 'while he fears.' In fact, the verse mentions an effect worse still, by which I mean attending to someone else - as indicated by the verse:
“you are neglectful of him.” (‘Abasa, 80:10).
One of the qualities of worldly people (ahl al-dunya) and those who seek complacency is a lack of concern with guiding people to the right path, because they are fundamentally uninterested in their own guidance and self-refinement; so, why should they bother with the refinement of others? This is why the verse before us makes the condition of neglecting other people's refinement an occasion for reprimand:
“though you care not if he does not purify himself.” (‘Abasa, 80:7).
We could say that this state of indifference is an instance of 'Whoever does not concern himself with the affairs of the Muslims is not of them,'4 as one of the most important affairs of the Muslims is striving for the refinement of others.
كَلَّا إِنَّهَا تَذْكِرَةٌ
No indeed! These are a reminder (80:11).
فَمَنْ شَاءَ ذَكَرَهُ
- so, let anyone who wishes remember it - (80:12).
فِي صُحُفٍ مُكَرَّمَةٍ
in honoured scriptures, (80:13).
exalted and purified, (80:14).
in the hands of envoys, (80:15).
noble and pious. (80:16).
قُتِلَ الْإِنْسَانُ مَا أَكْفَرَهُ
Perish man! How ungrateful is he! (80:17).
مِنْ أَيِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقَهُ
From what has He created him? (80:18).
مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ خَلَقَهُ فَقَدَّرَهُ
He has created him from a drop of fluid, and then proportioned him. (80:19).
ثُمَّ السَّبِيلَ يَسَّرَهُ
Then He made the way easy for him; (80:20).
ثُمَّ أَمَاتَهُ فَأَقْبَرَهُ
then He made him die and buried him; (80:21).
ثُمَّ إِذَا شَاءَ أَنْشَرَهُ
and then, if He wished, resurrected him. (80:22).
كَلَّا لَمَّا يَقْضِ مَا أَمَرَهُ
No indeed! He has not yet carried out what He had commanded him. (80:23).
The verses in this section, which pertain to the Qur'an, demonstrate its greatness insofar as it is:
a. A collection 'in honoured scriptures' in the unseen realm, and not those scriptures which we possess.
b. It is of a lofty degree, 'exalted' because of the measure of its rank.
c. It is 'purified' from every impurity, and is beyond the reach of any distortion.
d. And it is in the hand of noble and pious envoys, who are the assistants of the greatest angel, Gabriel (‘a) who is the deliverer of revelation:
“In the hands of envoys” (‘Abasa, 80:15).
“noble and pious” (‘Abasa, 80:16).
And it is in this sense that he was obeyed (muta’):
“obeyed and trustworthy” (at-Takwir, 81:21).
and valuable things are usually entrusted to a number of hands to ensure that they are honoured or protected to the utmost.
Just as the Qur'an was borne by the hands of
“envoys noble and pious” (‘Abasa, 80:16).
in the realm from whence it is dispatched, so, is the manner it is borne by the noblest of the final ummah in the realm it was received. It is the infallibles (‘a) who bear the realities of the Qur'an in every age, followed by those who are most exemplary in purity and nobility after them. Honoured and purified scriptures require receptacles approximate to them in purity and sanctity, hence no one grasps the realities of the Qur'an, not even amongst the scholars, save he who is pure and purified;
“no one touches it except the pure ones.” (al-Waqi'ah, 56:79).
The Lord who calls the immoderate to His mercy and shows affection for His creatures who are sinners,5 calls a group of His creatures - namely those who are ungrateful His blessings - with the harshest expression, namely being slain:
“Perish man...!” (‘Abasa, 80:17).
The difference between the arches of Divine Mercy and Divine Wrath is vast indeed, and that is because ingratitude (kufr) contains a kind of challenge to the station of Lordship.
After reflecting on this, perhaps we can say that His wrath is actually a branch of His mercy, as erecting justice and cultivating His servants by effectuating His wrath in its proper place is to make known His mercy in its proper place as well.
The greatest act of ingratitude (kufr) is represented by covering the source of blessings with the veil of denial:
“…… How ungrateful he is!” (‘Abasa, 80:17).
And a lesser act of ingratitude is represented by covering the blessings themselves; the perpetrators of both of these sins can be called 'disbeliever' (kafir), but the harsh rebuke contained in these verses is appropriate for denying Lordship.
However, this rebuke may also, encompass ingratitude towards His blessings (kufr bil-ni'mah) on some level, and even if we were to lighten this rebuke, what remained would still weigh heavy on the servants, and that is why those who squander His blessings are called 'brothers of the devils' (Surah al-Isra', 17:27), because this is a kind of ingratitude of theirs.
If the Creator of the Universe uses an expression of astonishment for anything, this is striking indeed! The One who sees nothing exceptional in the universe - because of His great authority and boundless sovereignty - displays astonishment in His Book. ('How ungrateful he is!’) This shows how severe the matter is. And what calamity is graver than denying the One who describes Himself elsewhere in this manner:
“Is there any doubt about Allah, the originator of the heavens and the earth?” (Ibrahim, 19:10).
When Allah invokes ‘perishing’ upon a disbeliever - an expression that is more eloquent than a curse (la'n) in illustrating his exclusion from the compass of Divine Mercy - the object of his invocation does not always come to pass in this world, as someone who has had death invoked upon him by his Lord might live a full and comfortable life. But worse than the death of the body is the death of the soul, which is like killing it;
“They are dead, not living, and are not aware when they will be resurrected.” (an-Nahl, 16:21).
This is because their inner faculties, such as hearing, sight and thought are idle and unused; what kind of life is this?
The Qur’an frequently reminds man of his origins with various phrases;
“Was he not a drop of emitted semen?” (al-Isra', 17:27).
“……from an extract of a base fluid.” (as-Sajda, 32:8).
This verse reminds the disbeliever of his origins, first so, that he may remember his lowly beginnings:
“He fashioned him from a drop of fluid, and then proportioned him” (‘Abasa, 80:19).
That he is made from an impure liquid with an unpleasant odour, and secondly to demonstrate the magnificence of his creation. In three months, Allah brings forth from the shadows of the womb a being that amazes human minds by virtue of their beautiful and precise fashioning; and this is why man deserves to perish when he denies the Source of his being!
In short, any being whose beginnings were such has no right to pronounce anything that would suggest ingratitude.
“……then proportioned him” (‘Abasa, 80:19).
suggests that there are two proportioning hands that want to intervene in this short duration to produce a wonderful being, after which the Creator leaves the affair of the servant to himself, to do as he pleases! But if the servant were to entreat his Master to watch over him - after emerging from the world of the womb - with his speech in the same manner as the servant entreated Him to watch over him in the womb through his state therein, would he not attain that moral excellence in this world just as he attained his physical excellence in the womb, when the hands that shape him in each are actually one and the same?
Allah created mankind, and everything is made easy for the purpose for which they were created:
'Then He made the way easy for him.' (‘Abasa, 80:20).
The servant can see this ideal clearly at the beginning of his journey, even if he is a sinner. But, with repeated sinning - and especially of major sins - he will reach a state where he no longer sees the way as made easy, rather:
“We shall surely ease him into hardship" (al-Layl, 92:10).
and he sees himself inclining against his will towards falsehood, while the devils who have taken over his life drive him towards things that will cause him hardship; this is what it means to be under the guardianship (wilayah) of Satan for some of those who do not follow the path of guidance.
Being attentive to the first stage of the life of this world:
“He fashioned him from a drop of fluid and then proportioned him” (‘Abasa, 80:19).
and to its last:
“then He made him die and buried him” (‘Abasa, 80:21).
breaks a person's selfish conceits, especially when they see themselves destined for that; such as those of the person being mentioned at the beginning of this surah, who was attentive to a complacent person but neglected a God-fearing one.
The Qur'an's mentioning death and burial in the context of reprimanding someone whom it has invoked death upon might be a way of deriding someone who lives a life of arrogance and disbelief in God; sometimes he has been reminded that he sprang from a lowly fluid;
“Have We not created you from a base fluid?” (al-Mursilat, 77:20).
And in this surah, he is reminded that he will ultimately become a rotting corpse6 that has to be buried to contain its stench, so, how can he be conceited when confronted by the exalted Lord of the Worlds?
The type of death that is followed by burial is the external death of the body which will return to the dust, and were it not for the fact that the earth absorbs these bodies, these corpses would cause disgust and revulsion to their (former) comrades! However, this regression of (the physical) bodies generally stands in marked contrast to the ascension of some souls, for there are some souls whose final destination lies:
“in the abode of truthfulness with an omnipotent King.” (al-Qamar, 54:55).
Divine Wisdom demands that the dead be returned to life to receive the punishment or reward they deserve as recompense for their deeds in this world, but all of this falls within the remit of the Divine Will, which is why this verse says:
“... if He wished, resurrected him,” (‘Abasa, 80:22).
for He is the Master of these servants in their origin and their end; their duties and their recompense.
Many verses say that it is in man's nature to incline towards covetousness and anxiety,7 that he is unfair and senseless,8106 and that he is in a state of loss.'9 These verses call to mind a question, namely that has a human being, who is in the palm of his Master's hand throughout all the ups and downs of his life, and who pays no heed to anything the verse says about creation and burial, truly discharged what his Lord commanded him to do? The answer is:
“No indeed! He has not yet carried out what He had commanded him.” (‘Abasa, 80:23).
فَلْيَنْظُرِ الْإِنْسَانُ إِلَىٰ طَعَامِهِ
So, let man observe his food (80:24).
أَنَّا صَبَبْنَا الْمَاءَ صَبًّا
We poured down water plenteously, (80:25).
ثُمَّ شَقَقْنَا الْأَرْضَ شَقًّا
then We split the earth into fissures (80:26).
فَأَنْبَتْنَا فِيهَا حَبًّا
and made the grain grow in it, (80:27).
and vines and vegetables, (80:28).
olives and date palms, (80:29).
and densely planted gardens, (80:30).
fruits and pastures, (80:31).
مَتَاعًا لَكُمْ وَلِأَنْعَامِكُمْ
as a sustenance for you and your livestock. (80:32).
The command for man to observe his food includes all dimensions, whether the source, the means of obtaining it, the variety of its yields, the many hands involved in preparing it... and we can even move from discussing physical food that sustains the body to spiritual food that sustains the soul. It has been narrated that Imam al-Baqir (‘a) explained the meaning of 'food' (ta’am) in the verse:
‘so, let man observe his food' (‘Abasa, 80:24).
as follows: 'His knowledge which he obtains, from whom he obtains it.'10
After directing a rebuke to one who is ungrateful to his Lord, the verses shift their address to all mankind to encourage them to ponder and reflect within themselves; calling on them to look at the effects of Allah's mercy upon the earth, for Allah has placed at their disposal pouring water:
“We poured down water plenteously,” (‘Abasa, 80:25).
and the earth which brings forth all kinds of vegetation:
“then We split the earth into fissures.” (‘Abasa, 80:26).
in order to feed mankind:
“and made the grain grow in it” (‘Abasa, 80:27).
and for them to enjoy sights such as its towering trees:
“and densely planted gardens!” (‘Abasa, 80:30).
These sensory enjoyments are the most common amongst all people, and perhaps the verse singles out these blessings in order to remind people of the boons that are most visible to them; namely the food and drink they consume.
These verses unequivocally state that it is Allah who causes plants to grow and sends down water from the sky, while some negligent servants of His think that it is obviously the farmers who cultivate the land, unaware that He is the cause behind all causes;
“Is it you who make it grow, or are We the grower?” (al-Waqi'ah, 56:64).
So, when a servant eats foods like those mentioned in the verse:
“vines and vegetables,” (‘Abasa, 80:28).
“olives and date palms,” (‘Abasa, 80:29).
‘fruits and pastures’ (‘Abasa, 80:31).
and herbs, then he lives in a state of receiving blessings and giving thanks towards his Creator more than towards the one who presents him with it... how can the Creator of the very origin of food be compared to someone who gives it to another creature like himself?
When the Qur’an mentions food-related provisions, it joins cattle to human beings:
“a sustenance for you and your livestock” (‘Abasa, 80:32).
and it also, mentions in this surah what is eaten by humans - 'fruits' - and what is eaten by animals - 'pastures' - in the same context. However, when the discussion turns to intelligible provisions, it places him in the context of the angels who have knowledge of Allah:
“Allah bears witness that there is no god except Him - as do the angels and those who possess knowledge - maintainer of justice.” (Ale 'Imran, 3:18).
فَإِذَا جَاءَتِ الصَّاخَّةُ
So, when the deafening Cry comes (80:33).
يَوْمَ يَفِرُّ الْمَرْءُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ
- the day when a man will flee his brother, (80:34).
his mother and his father, (80:35).
his spouse and his sons (80:36).
لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مِنْهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ شَأْنٌ يُغْنِيهِ
that day each of them will have a task to keep him preoccupied. (80:37).
وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ مُسْفِرَةٌ
That day some faces will be bright, (80:38).
laughing and rejoicing. (80:39).
وَوُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَلَيْهَا غَبَرَةٌ
And some faces on that day will be covered with dust, (80:40).
overcast with gloom. (80:41).
أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَفَرَةُ الْفَجَرَةُ
It is they who are the disbelievers, the vicious. (80:42).
The Qur’an repeatedly mentions different types of cries (sayha) on the Day of Resurrection:
a. A cry on its own:
“… A single cry ...” (Yasin, 36:53).
b. The Quaker (rajifah), which is a terrible cry that causes shaking and confusion11
c. The Deafening Cry (sakha), which is a cry so, loud that it deafens those who hear it.
d. The Trumpet (naqur), which will emit a sound that rends the heavens asunder.12
The meaning that unites all of these sounds together is that on the Day of Resurrection, there will be a terrifying sound announcing that the time for judgment has come. In contrast to this, Allah frequently used an affectionate style of speech in this world, to encourage His servants to hold themselves to account before the accounting of the Resurrection: 'Do accounting of yourselves before it is done on you ."13 And to die of their own choice before being made to die: 'die before you die.14 And to weigh their own deeds in this world before they are weighed in the Hereafter: ‘weigh them before you are weighed."15 And this is all because there is no opportunity for them to change their ways after they die.
When the verse speaks of men fleeing:
“the day when a man will flee his brother,” (‘Abasa, 80:34).
it shows us the grave situation that the resurrected people find themselves in. A man will flee because:
a. He is preoccupied with his own situation so, that he is distracted from the terror of the Day of Resurrection.
b. He is afraid that those mentioned will come to demand the rights he deprived them of in this world.
c. He wants to avoid becoming ensnared by them, as they might be asking that he give them some of his good deeds, which he has the greatest need for!
Anyone who remembers this verse while in this world will experience a sense of wariness towards those people around him, even his nearest and dearests! The ideal way for him to alleviate himself of this burden is to make them into helpers for the Hereafter, rather than merely helpers for this worldly existence. The latter is the habit of worldly people, who only desire sons for strength, honour and the amassing of wealth, whereas the believers want their children to be a good deed of theirs that will continue after their death (sadaqah jariyah).
Whereas, it is only natural that they would be pleased to see them in the stages of the Resurrection; in fact, they will seek them out to be reunited and to dwell together on a single level of Paradise, as the fulfillment of Allah's word:
“The faithful and their descendants who followed them in faith - We will make their descendants join them.” (at-Tur, 52:21).
One of the most striking aspects of this surah is the appearance of the verse
“that day each of them will have a task to keep him preoccupied” (‘Abasa, 80:37).
after those saying that man will flee from those nearest and dearest to him. This suggests that it is his preoccupation with his own affairs that causes him to neglect others, and he is only preoccupied with his own self because the veil has been lifted from him and he now stands before Allah for questioning.
Therefore, we say that if a servant lives his life as if he is in the presence of his Lord in this world, he will attain two important results together. First, he will not be attached to anything that will distract him from Allah, and secondly, he will be occupied with his own self. This is a state encouraged by numerous narrations; namely that a person should attend to his own self before looking at others, and the verse:
“ ...Save yourselves and your families……” (at-Tahrim, 66:6).
also, bears witness to this.
The order of relatives mentioned in the verse - brother, mother, father, spouse and child - might be according to their increasing level of emotional attachment:
“the day when a man will evade his brother,” (‘Abasa, 80:33).
“his mother and his father,” (‘Abasa, 80:34).
“his spouse and his sons.” (‘Abasa, 80:35).
The first is brothers and the last is sons, because the child is a piece of the parents, but they are not a piece of him.
And perhaps it is from this very dimension that the Qur'an mentions children together with wealth in the context of being tested thereby:
“know that your possessions and children are only a test”' (al-Anfal, 8:28).
A person's facial expressions are a manifestation of the spiritual states they experience in this world and the Hereafter:
a. In the Hereafter, this is clear, as the verse mentions that it is to the degree that it is visibly perceptible; on the side of good the face is illuminated - 'bright' - while on the side of evil there is gloom and darkness - 'overcast with gloom' - such that resurrected others will see and know this, because the cover will be removed from all of them.
b. In this world, there is a touch of brightness that surrounds a believer’s face and he is aware of it; in fact, anyone who has been given the power of divine discernment (firasah imaniyyah), to see by Allah's light, also, sees it.
And, clearly, the light of someone's face on the Day of Resurrection is something earned in this world, especially by offering night prayers and reciting the Qur'an.
The sort of deviation that causes darkness to appear in someone's face:
“and some faces on that day will be covered with dust” (‘Abasa, 80:40).
is caused by two things:
a. Deviations in belief, most visibly represented in disbelieving in Allah:
“It is they who disbelieve, the vicious.” (‘Abasa, 80:42).
b. Deviation in practice, as alluded to by the word 'The vicious’
So, it is not enough for someone whose beliefs are correct - or even sees the love of Allah's awliya' in his heart - to rely only on his faith when he is not righteous in his deeds; profligacy is the same as disbelief as the above verse mentions them together in a single context.
- 1. See Surah al-Qalam:
'and Indeed, you possess a great character.' (68:4).
- 2. See Surah al-Baqarah:
'As We sent to you an Messenger from among yourselves, who recites to you Our signs, and purifies you, and teaches you the Book and wisdom, and teaches you what you did not know.' (2:151).
- 3. See Surah al-Hujurat:
'Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most Godwary among you. Indeed, Allah is all-knowing, all-aware.' (49:13).
- 4. Al-Kafi 2/164.
- 5. See Surah az-Zumar:
'Say: “O My servants who have committed excesses against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah.”’ (39:53).
- 6. See Nahjal-Balagha, aphorism no. 451.
- 7. See Surah al-Ma'arij:
“Indeed, man has been created covetous, anxious” (70:19-20).
- 8. See Surah al-Ahzab:
“Indeed, he is most unfair and senseless.” (33:72).
- 9. See Surah al-'Asr:
“Indeed, man is in loss!” (103:2).
- 10. Al-Kafi, 1/50.
- 11. See Surah al-Nazi'at:
“The day on which the quaking one shall quake” (79:6).
- 12. See Surah al-Muddaththir:
“For when the trumpet is sounded, That, at that time, shall be a difficult day” (74:8-9).
- 13. Bihar al-Anwar, 67/73.
- 14. Bihar al-Anwar, 69/59.
- 15. Bihar al-Anwar, 73/67.