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Surah al-Infitar (No. 82: 'The Sundering')

Verses 1-5

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.

إِذَا السَّمَاءُ انْفَطَرَتْ

When the sky is rent asunder, (82:1).

وَإِذَا الْكَوَاكِبُ انْتَثَرَتْ

when the stars are scattered, (82:2).

وَإِذَا الْبِحَارُ فُجِّرَتْ

when the seas explode, (82:3).

وَإِذَا الْقُبُورُ بُعْثِرَتْ

when the graves are overturned, (82:4).

عَلِمَتْ نَفْسٌ مَا قَدَّمَتْ وَأَخَّرَتْ

then a soul shall know what it has sent ahead and left behind. (82:5).

1. Day Of Resurrection, Signs

This verse, like others dealing with the Day of Resurrection, reminds its audience of the horror of the Resurrection, which will alter the face of the heavens and the earth. These include two signs in the heavens; the sundering (infitar) and the scattering (intithar), and two signs on earth; the cleaving (tafjir) and the overturning (bi'thara). All the horror of the heavens and the earth are captured in Allah's words:

“the day the earth is transformed into another earth and the heavens (as well).” (Ibrahim, 14:48).

In all of these places, it is as though Allah wants to impress upon us the ephemerality of the earth's ornaments, and those of the heavens, such as the stars, too. This is so, that our hearts do not become attached to any of these transient affairs.

2. Day Of Resurrection, Beads Of A Necklace

On the Day of Resurrection, the stars will scatter like the beads of a necklace:

“when the stars are scattered” (al-Infitar, 82:2).

and it is as if these beads were only held together by virtue of the thread that ran through them; the thread of gravity and other forces. In every new moment, this universe requires something to hold it together, or else it would break apart and fall into oblivion.

In each of these moments, the universe is indebted to Allah. Hence, we should give thanks to Him at every moment, but who can possibly do that?

3. Exploding Seas

This surah mentions that the sea will be cleaved apart:

“when the seas explode” (al-Infitar, 82:3).

- just as the previous surah said it would be set aflame:

“when the seas are set afire” (at-Takwir, 81:6).

And it is possible that one of these two phenomena will lead to the other, but the common meaning of both of these is that a cool liquid (normally) used to extinguish flames will become like fuel for fire!

Here, we say that just as the properties of materials will be altered in the Hereafter, people's souls will transform into something else. For example, arrogance, which is the mark of the affluent, will transform into abasement and humiliation.

4. Treasure

A farmer turns over the soil of his farmland to bring out the desired benefits of the land. His land is valuable to him because of what it contains. The same applies to the human body, for they - even if only those of the faithful - are the most valuable contents of the earth, so, the ground must be overturned to bring out these treasures:

“when the graves arc overturned” (al-Infitar, 82:4).

not its material treasures - as some have said1- because these have no value on the Day of Judgment!

5. Events That Presage The Coming Of The Resurrection

These verses mention awesome events which presage the coming of the Resurrection, but in contrast with all of this, there is an important event that the Master wishes to call attention to - like the consequent multiple conditional statements - and that event of events is revealed when He says:

“then a soul shall know what it has sent ahead and left behind.” (al-Infitar, 82:5).

And what He wants is for His servant to reach a level where he lives this reality, by picturing these events in his mind with certainty before they come to pass in the real world. This in turn depends on the person reaching the level where an unseen concept can affect him as deeply as something he sees and feels directly. And this is a level that can only be attained by those with intellects in this life.

6. Sent Ahead And Left Behind

Were we to say that 'left behind' in this verse refers to the reward that comes to the servant in his afterlife, as opposed to 'what he sent ahead' which means the righteous deeds that he did during his life, then we will understand the importance of everything that falls into the category of 'ongoing good deeds' (sadaqah jariyah), such as useful knowledge or a righteous child, as the ranks given to the servant after death [as a result of such good deeds] may not be less than what he earned while he was still alive, which is why everyone should aim to achieve something in this domain.

It is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a): 'No reward shall reach a man after his death save for three qualities; a charity he set in motion during his life which continues after his death; a rightly-guided practice which he laid down and which is acted upon after his death; and a righteous child that asks for his forgiveness."2

“…what he has left behind” (al-Infitar, 82:5).

can also, be interpreted as meaning a servant's shortcomings in performing his duties; so, it is as if he left righteous conduct (undone) behind [in this world, where it does not benefit him], as opposed to 'what he sent ahead' where he was made successful in sending righteous deeds ahead for his day of recompense. Another interpretation for these two phrases is what he did at the beginning of his life and what he did at the end.

7. Records Of Deeds

From these verses, we understand that a servant's knowledge of his ultimate fate is revealed to him gradually throughout the stages of the Resurrection; he knows in a general sense that he is destined for Paradise or Hellfire, then his record of deeds is opened so, that he can read the book hung around his neck, that he might be a witness and a judge against himself.

8. Bring Mankind Back To Their Senses

This surah - as is the case in the other Meccan surahs - wants to shake its audience through different forms of reproach, foretell future calamities and ultimately bring man back to his senses. From this, we might gather that anyone who wants to awaken those who have stayed far from the path of right guidance must first awaken their consciences to hold themselves to account, then detach them from the worldly pleasures to which they are most fond of and which they believe will never fade.

Verses 6-12

يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنْسَانُ مَا غَرَّكَ بِرَبِّكَ الْكَرِيمِ

0 man! What has deceived you about your generous Lord, (82:6).

الَّذِي خَلَقَكَ فَسَوَّاكَ فَعَدَلَكَ

who created you and proportioned you, and gave you an upright nature (82:7).

فِي أَيِّ صُورَةٍ مَا شَاءَ رَكَّبَكَ

and composed you in any form that He wished? (82:8).

كَلَّا بَلْ تُكَذِّبُونَ بِالدِّينِ

No indeed! Rather you deny the Retribution. (82:9).

وَإِنَّ عَلَيْكُمْ لَحَافِظِينَ

Indeed, there are over you guardians, (82:10).

كِرَامًا كَاتِبِينَ

noble writers (82:11).

يَعْلَمُونَ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ

who know whatever you do. (82:12).

9. Deceiving Ourselves

This verse is one of those containing a rebuke that combines both warning and kindness towards Allah's servants:

“O man! What has deceived you about your generous Lord” (al-Infitar, 82:6).

By mentioning divine attributes such as generosity and kindness, it is as though Allah means to say in this verse: 'When there is someone whose signs on the Day of Resurrection are like this, whose attributes are Lordship and generosity, and who created man in the best possible form,3 no one should be ungrateful towards Him or His blessings, or be deceived by His generosity and forbearance! The verse does not say whence is the source of this illusion, but leaves it up to the servant himself to figure out. Some have said:

a. The generosity of the Lord of the Worlds makes some feel safe from His punishment.

b. It is the enticement of Satan and the self that prompts to evil.

c. It is man's own ignorance of the station of his Lord; it has been narrated from the Prophet (S) that when he recited this verse, he said: 'He was deceived by his ignorance.4

And the change in tone in this verse, from speaking about someone in the third person to addressing them directly;

“O man! What has deceived you about your generous Lord,” (al-Infitar, 82:6).

is clearly meant to emphasize that this rebuke is directed towards the human being, while previously the discussion had been about the soul in the third person.

It is very striking that Allah directs his words towards man six times in just three verses5 and this shows the Master's intent to convey this rebuke to man's conscience.

10. The Creation Of Man’s Body

One of the wonders of the universe that is closest to man is his own outward creation, as represented by the wonders of his body. The Lord reminds him of the origin of his creation and how He brought him forth from the darkness of non-existence ('who created you,') then forming him by placing every limb and organ in its proper place ('proportioned you,') and then made his different limbs and organs act in harmony with one another ('and gave you an upright nature,') before the final composition, by which the ultimate form of his creation was made complete ('and composed you.'). And all of these meanings are encompassed by Allah's words:

“We certainly created man in the best of forms.” (at-Tin, 95:4).

And it is known that the mention of all this immediately after having reprimanded man for being deceived about his generous Lord, is an even greater cause for man to feel the shame and embarrassment before Him!

11. Rebuke

One interpretation of the verse:

“O man! What has deceived you about your generous Lord” (al-Infitar, 82:6).

is that when it describes the Lord as generous in the midst of a powerful rebuke, it is insinuating the excuse for this, so, that the servant will say after hearing it: 'My Lord! Your generosity deceived me!'

But this interpretation is not valid, for Allah is also, the ‘Vengeful’ (muntaqim) and the Mighty (jabbar). This is in addition to the fact that the verses under discussion are followed by a forceful rebuke:

“No indeed! Rather you deny the Retribution.” (al-Infitar, 82:9).

So, it is as though Allah means to say: 'Rather you and those like you deny the Day of Retribution and Recompense!' Allah's unassailable Lordship and manifest generosity are by himself or herself sufficient to prevent someone from being deceived thereby.

12. Angels Recording The Deeds

Our deeds are preserved, first and foremost, with the Lord of the worlds who encompasses everything from beyond His creation; then, with the preserving angels, and they are some of the 'noble writers,' and then with the servant who sees his deeds with his own eyes. So, a sinner should be ashamed first before his Lord, secondly before the Angels Brought Near - because they are spiritual beings who are repelled by evil deeds - and thirdly before his own self when he sees it descending from the realm of divine vicegerency to that of (merely) worshipping desires.

Imam al-Kazim (‘a) was asked whether the two angels know about a sin or good deed when the servant intends to do it, but before he actually does it. He replied: 'Are a putrid odour and a pleasant scent the same?' The questioner replied: 'No.' He (‘a) continued: 'If the servant intends to do a good deed, his soul emerges with a pleasant scent and the angel on the right says to the one on the left: 'Get up! He wants to do a good deed!' And if he does it then [the angel's] tongue becomes his pen, and his sweat ink, and he records it for him ... but if he intends to commit a sin, his soul emerges with a foul stench and the angel on the left says to the one on the right: 'Stop! He intends to commit a sin!' And if he does it then [the angel's] tongue becomes his pen and his sweat ink and he records it against him.'6

13. Guardian Angels

The apparent meaning of 'guardians' is that they safeguard deeds by way of being 'writers.' But it could also, be an allusion to the Divine Grace (lutf) that surrounds all creation, such that Allah has appointed the angels as guardians over mankind who protect them from disasters, as is mentioned in Allah's words:

“He has guardian angels, to his front and his rear, who guard him by Allah’s command.” (ar-Ra'd, 13:11).

This interpretation is supported by a narration from Imam al-Baqir (‘a), in which he explains the verse thus: 'They are two angels who protect him by night, and two angels by day.’7 And it has been narrated from the Commander of the Faithful (‘a): 'They are angels who protect him from disasters, until they arrive with him at his determined fates (maqadir), then they leave him to his fates.'8

14. Bearing Witness

It befits us, as human beings, to follow the example of the angels who record our deeds, for they only write what they have come to know of our actions, lest they be a witness for something without certainty;

“who know whatever you do.” (al-Infitar, 82:12).

A servant who truly obeys his Master does not say or bear witness to anything that he has no knowledge of, for presumption does not avail anything against the truth.

15. Vigilantly Observing Our Innermost Thoughts

It can be said that the apparent meaning of ‘whatever you do' is that the angels only write the actions of the limbs, because the actions of the heart are hidden and known only to Allah. But it could also, be said that the angels record even these, because Allah informs the two recording angels of them.

Whatever the case may be, Allah is aware of the contents of our hearts - whether the angels are informed of them or not - and this should suffice for us to vigilantly observe our innermost thoughts and feelings, as Allah says:

“He knows the treachery of the eyes, and what the breasts hide.” (al-Ghafir, 40:19).

Verses 13-19

إِنَّ الْأَبْرَارَ لَفِي نَعِيمٍ

Indeed, the pious are amid bliss, (82:13).

وَإِنَّ الْفُجَّارَ لَفِي جَحِيمٍ

and Indeed, the vicious shall are in hell (82:14).

يَصْلَوْنَهَا يَوْمَ الدِّينِ

entering it on the Day of Retribution, (82:15).

وَمَا هُمْ عَنْهَا بِغَائِبِينَ

and they are not absent from it. (82:16).

وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ

And what will show you what is the Day of Retribution? (82:17).

ثُمَّ مَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا يَوْمُ الدِّينِ

Again, what will show you what is the Day of Retribution? (82:18).

يَوْمَ لَا تَمْلِكُ نَفْسٌ لِنَفْسٍ شَيْئًا وَالْأَمْرُ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلَّهِ

It is a day when no soul will be of any avail to another soul and all command that day will belong to Allah. (82:19).

16. The Pious

By using the word 'pious' (abrar), the verse 'Indeed, the pious...' highlights the quality of 'kindness' (birr) as a basic description of the inhabitants of bliss. It does not, for example, highlight worship ('ibadah). From this expression, it can be understood that the quality of beneficence (ihsan) is foremost in importance for gaining entry to Paradise, even if Allah's acceptance of this beneficence is conditional upon piety (taqwa).

And because the pious are said to be in bliss without any qualifications being attached to this statement, this state of bliss could encompass both this world and the next. In other words, they are in a constant state of tranquility. This meaning is especially suited to the verse when we see that bliss is described as a locale (zarf) to them, and al-Razi narrates in his Qur’an commentary from Imam al-Sadiq (‘a): 'Bliss is cognition (ma'rifah) and vision (mushahidah).''9 And this shows that this kind of bliss is fulfilled for the pious in this world before the Hereafter, even if it appears more brilliantly in the latter.

17. In Bliss

We should not overlook the subtle meaning in the expression 'in bliss,' in that it applies to every kind of bliss, which the servant enjoys. In opposition to this meaning stand the 'vicious' (fujjar), whose name derives from the same origin as the sea that is set aflame. And it is said of them, that 'they are rent with sins.'10

So, it is as though the sinner tears himself apart and loses his properly proportioned form, losing in turn his beauty, as would be the case were his body rent apart. And this is why daybreak is called fajr, as it splits the horizon with light.11

18. Punishment In This World

We could even say that the vicious are punished in this world as well as the Hereafter, as the phrase 'are in Hell' implies. This expression, which suggests that punishment surrounds its victims, cannot be used to refer to a future punishment. It can only be used in the present to refer to something that has already been affected. This interpretation is also, supported by Allah's words:

“entering it on the Day of Retribution,” (al-Infitar, 82:15).

For the fires of Hell - even the least degree of them in this world - will flare up on the Day of Resurrection. Or, you might say that the sinner is burnt by their heat on that day, otherwise we can say the hell of separation from Allah and a wretched existence in this world is a foreshadowing of Hell in the afterlife. The idea that the punishment is realized in this world is also, given credence by Allah's words:

“and they are not absent from it.” (al-Infitar, 82:16).

We can also, understand from His saying:

“Indeed, hell besieges the disbelievers” (at-Tawba, 9:49).

that Hell surrounds the disbelievers from all dimensions, including the dimension of this world and the Hereafter.

19. Prophet Muhammad (S) And The Terrifying Forms Of Punishment

The apparent form of address used in the verse:

“And what will show you what is the Day of Retribution?” (al-Infitar, 82:17).

suggests that this rhetorical question is directed to the Prophet (S). But this serves to demonstrate how truly terrifying the forms of punishment contained in that day are, to the extent that they are hidden from even the greatest of Allah's creatures, what more everyone else? In fact, he had the greatest connection of any person with the realm of the unseen; he saw the greatest signs of his Lord. The sheer gravity of the punishment of the Hereafter is further emphasized when the same question is repeated a second time.

20. The Word “Retribution”

It should be noted that the word 'retribution' is used here to allude to the recompense, which is the most important feature of these most terrifying days. So, the verse conveys the sense that this day is momentous, both because of the terrors it contains and because of the precise accounting that will take place on it.

The Qur'an frequently uses the rhetorical form 'And what will show you ...?' to convey the gravity of the Resurrection; for example, Allah says:

“What will show you what is the Besieger?” (al-Haqqah, 69:3).

“And what will show you what is Saqar?” (al-Muddaththir, 74:27).

“And what will show you what is the Day of Judgment!” (al-Mursalat, 77:14).

and

'And what will show you what is the nightly visitor?” (at -Tariq, 86:2).

21. Visibly Seeing Allah’s Authority

Authority belongs only to Allah in all creations:

“… and all command that day will belong to Allah” (al-Infitar, 82:19).

but the greatest manifestation of this shall be during the stages of Resurrection, when everyone in existence will affirm and actually visibly see this authority. This does not run contrary to intercession, as it falls within the purview this absolute authority. Of course, the believer experiences this ideal in this world before the Hereafter and this gives him the power of faith, even if he has a humble outward appearance.

It has been narrated from Imam al-Baqir (‘a): 'Command on that day and on this one belongs to Allah in its entirety, O Jabir! But when the Day of Resurrection comes, the rulers will vanish and no ruler will remain except Allah."12

  • 1. Mafatih al-Ghaib 31/73.
  • 2. Bihar al-Anwar, 71/257.
  • 3. See Surah Ghafir:
    'and He formed you and perfected your forms.' (40:64).
  • 4. Majma' al-Bayan 10/449.
  • 5. Surah al-Infitar:
    “O man! What has beguiled you from your Lord, the Gracious one” (82:6).
    “Who created you, then made you complete, then made you symmetrical?” (82:7).
    “Into whatever form He pleased He constituted you” (82:8).
  • 6. Al-Kafi 2/429, tradition no. 3.
  • 7. Bihar al-Anwar, 56/ 79.
  • 8. Bihar al-Anwar, 56/151.
  • 9. Mafatih al-Ghayb 31/80.
  • 10. Al-Mizan Fi Tafsir Al-Qur'an, 20/227.
  • 11. Mu'jam Miqayis Al-Lugha, 4/475.
  • 12. Majma' al-Bayan 10/450.