بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.
What is it about which they question each other? (78:1).
عَنِ النَّبَإِ الْعَظِيمِ
(Is it) about the tremendous tiding (78:2).
الَّذِي هُمْ فِيهِ مُخْتَلِفُونَ
The one about which they differ? (78:3).
No indeed! They will soon know! (78:4).
ثُمَّ كَلَّا سَيَعْلَمُونَ
Again, no indeed! They will soon know! (78:5).
Describing the tiding (naba’), which - according to one opinion - refers to the Day of Resurrection, as (the word) ‘tremendous’ (‘azim) demonstrates the important place that faith in the Resurrection has in a person's spiritual development. Faith in the Resurrection causes a person to vigilantly observe their own behaviour (muraqabah), as not everyone can [otherwise] experience the fear of standing before their Lord.1
The Day of Resurrection has been described as tremendous in another verse:
“Do they not know that they will be resurrected” (Al-Mutaffifin, 83:4).
“On a tremendous day...?” (Al-Mutaffifin, 83:5).
And the tiding has been described as tremendous elsewhere, too:
“Say, ‘It is a great tiding’.” (Sad, 38:67).
Despite being unanimous in their disbelief, the non-believers still differ amongst themselves, even in their false doctrines. We understand this from the expression ‘they differ’ (mukhtalifun). Those who deny the Resurrection in its true Qur'anic sense fall into a number of groups:
a. Those who deny bodily resurrection:
"Who shall revive the bones when they have decayed?” (Yasin, 36:78).
“Say, 'He will revive them who created them the first time...” (Yasin, 36:79).
b. Those who consider it to be far-fetched:
“Far-fetched, far fetched is what you are promised!” (Al-Mu’minoon, 23:36).
c. Those who are in doubt concerning it:
“No, they are in doubt about it." (An-Naml 27:66).
And the expression 'question each other' (yatasaa alun) shows that this was an issue they were discussing amongst themselves, even if only to deride the idea of the Resurrection.
When a genuinely innocent question is asked with the desire to understand, it is appropriate to give a proper answer, such as when the Prophet (S) was questioned about the nature of the soul2 (ruh), the distribution of spoils (from war),'3 or wine and gambling4. But this is not the case when the question is asked out of obstinacy and derision, whereby the answer is connected to a kind of threat, as we can see in Allah's words:
“No indeed! They will soon know!” (Surah an-Naba’, 78:4)
Moreover, He disparages the questioning by the disbelievers with the words:
“What is it about which they question each other?” (Surah an-Naba’, 78:1)
because they are asking a question to which they already know the answer!
Doctrinal challenges must be met firmly and frankly without any deference. The verses of the Qur'an repeat the expression 'no indeed!' (kalla) as an explicit rejection of the claims of the group of disbelievers. The verse repudiates their very act of questioning without undertaking to offer an answer. Whoever sees the signs of Allah's power in this creation cannot rightly deny His ability to produce another. Nor can anyone who sees the wisdom of the Creator in this fleeting abode deny His wisdom, which necessitates an accounting and recompense in the everlasting one!
In terms of outcome, the main difference between those who believe in the Resurrection and those who doubt it is that the former would live with genuine knowledge of what will come after the Resurrection, as the Commander of the Faithful (‘a) describes them: 'They are, with regards to Paradise, like one who has seen it already!’5
This is in contrast to the non-believer who 'will soon know' but only after they have lost the opportunity to attain it. When the veils are lifted from them, they will see the truth of the matter. But this revelation will not help them, not even in the slightest form.
The words 'they will soon know', which suggest something to occur soon indicate that while we imagine the Resurrection as a distant event in the future, it is actually near at hand. But we do not sense it. Death is all that stands between our Resurrection and us. As soon as we die, it sets in. From the Prophet (S), it is narrated that he said: 'Whoever dies, his Resurrection has set in.'6
And the Qur'an affirms this fact in another verse:
“Indeed, they see it to be far off.” (al-Ma’aarij, 70:6).
“And We see it to be near.” (al-Ma’aarij, 70:7).
Assuming that 'near' (qarib) in this verse means an impending reality and not merely a probable one.
أَلَمْ نَجْعَلِ الْأَرْضَ مِهَادًا
Did We not make the earth a cradle? (78:6).
And the mountains stakes? (78:7).
And create you in pairs? (78:8).
وَجَعَلْنَا نَوْمَكُمْ سُبَاتًا
And make your sleep for rest? (78:9).
وَجَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ لِبَاسًا
And make the night a covering? (78:10).
وَجَعَلْنَا النَّهَارَ مَعَاشًا
And make the day for livelihood? (78:11).
وَبَنَيْنَا فَوْقَكُمْ سَبْعًا شِدَادًا
And build above you the seven mighty heavens? (78:12).
وَجَعَلْنَا سِرَاجًا وَهَّاجًا
And make (the sun for) a radiant lamp? (78:13).
وَأَنْزَلْنَا مِنَ الْمُعْصِرَاتِ مَاءً ثَجَّاجًا
And We send down water pouring from the wringing rain-clouds (78:14).
لِنُخْرِجَ بِهِ حَبًّا وَنَبَاتًا
That with it We may bring forth grains and plants (78:15).
And luxuriant gardens? (78:16).
A believing person looks at everything as being ultimately connected to the Cause of causes, and hence turns his attention to the Maker whenever he looks at what He has made, recalling the words of his Lord: 'Did We not make...?' when he looks to the earth, he sees 'a resting place'; and when he looks to the mountains, he sees 'stakes.' An insightful person's gaze does not look merely at the act or at the proximate causes for that act, but towards the original cause, which is considered the source of its emanation and not merely its visible traces. Imam al-Husayn (‘a) says in his supplication for the Day of 'Arafah: 'Hesitancy in following the trail makes one's arrival unlikely.'7
Mentioning Allah's signs in creation after mentioning the Resurrection could allude to the fact that one of the proofs of the Resurrection is the power of the Creator we see manifested in this first creation; whoever has the power to initiate something must also, have the power to conclude it! This is why these verses use the plural pronoun of the first person; 'We built...', 'We made...', 'We sent down...', 'That we may bring forth...' to continuously remind the audience of the active force behind the changing phenomena of this existence, and the speaker attributes this to Himself in these verses, which incorporate both affirmative ('We did ...') and negative ('Did we not. ..?') statements.
After denying those false ideas in the first set of verses, we must establish the correct beliefs through well-reasoned arguments and evidence, to have the ability of both denying and affirming at the same time. Just as the rule of 'purification followed by illumination’ (takhliya thumma tajliya) applies in the realm of spiritual purification, this also, applies in the realm of intellectual purification. Without first freeing the mind of the audience from falsehoods, it is not easy to convince them of truths. And this meaning is realized in the first testimony of faith ('there is no god except Allah' - La ilaha illa Allah) as well.
When obstinacy and stubbornness are removed from a person, and he considers the material phenomena which surround him, whether these appear to be fixed - like the earth and mountains - or ephemeral and changing - like the restfulness of sleep or the livelihood he seeks by day - all of these will connect him to the Origin and the Destination. This is because the wisdom that manifests in the particular phenomena of this existence did not spontaneously kindle from their inert matter. So, there must be a wise controlling power that is beyond them, which acts throughout this amazing universe.
Calling the earth a cradle,
“Did we not make the earth a cradle?” (an-Naba’, 78:6).
reminds us of the cradle of a newborn infant. This cradle is a temporary resting place for him because he will soon depart from it in this life to something that is more spacious and comfortable, like an enormous palace!
Hence, we say that the earth and everything upon it, when compared to the hereafter, is like a small cradle in comparison to that enormous palace. In fact, the difference between the two is even greater, because anyone who is familiar with this earth is like a newborn child who is barely familiar with his tiny cradle, let alone a great palace!
Allah who created the mountains and made them stakes is He who will one day reduce these mountains to dunes of shifting sand,8 carded wool,9 scattered dust10 and a level plane,11 as described in the Qur'an. This, in turn, shows that all the beautiful and majestic phenomena of this world will one day be returned to nothingness and annihilation, and all that will remain is the countenance of your Lord, the Master of Majesty and Nobility.
The health of the body is, in some way, connected to its continuous alternation between movement and rest. So, it is Allah who made the day a time for livelihood after the slumber of sleep. Therefore, someone who does not set aside time for rest - represented by the cover of night - after his daily striving for livelihood lives against the law of nature and shall suffer afflictions as a result.
The act of sleeping then waking up is very similar to the process of death and resurrection; so, a servant who vigilantly observes himself will be reminded of the coming Resurrection every time he awakens, which in turn reminds him to prepare himself for that critical day.
And it is on this basis that the supplication prescribed to be recited when waking from sleep draws a connection between waking and resurrection: 'Praise be to Allah who made me live after causing me to die, to Him is the Resurrection, and praise be to Allah who returned to me my spirit that I might praise and serve Him.'12
Allah, the All-Powerful and All-Wise, has made every single thing in this existence disposed to a specific purpose, as the verses of this surah mention:
a. Sleep is necessary for rest and relaxation:
“and make your sleep for rest.” (an-Naba’, 78:9).
b. Wakefulness during the day is necessary to seek one's livelihood:
“and make the day for livelihood.” (an-Naba’, 78:11).
c. Being in pairs is necessary for mankind to produce offspring and multiply:
“and create you in pairs! ” (an-Naba’, 78:8).
d. The gravitational attraction of planets and stars in the firmament is necessary for the earth to be a proper home for the human race:
“and build above you the seven mighty heavens.” (an-Naba’, 78:12).
e. And rain is necessary for the earth to produce crops and beautiful vegetation:
“that with it We may bring forth grains and plants.” (an-Naba’, 78:15).
Of course, we know that Allah intends another goal beyond this universe, or else this worldly existence would end with death. That is, He desires to bring His servants to the perfection for which they were created. And this is also, one of the pieces of evidence for the Resurrection, because the events that take place therein represent the ultimate purpose of bringing the universe into being.
After mentioning the resurrection, this surah mentions many of Allah's signs in creation, such as reviving the earth and bringing forth vegetation. But all of these point to a single power in both creations (the first and the next); one that is able to revive the dead in all forms. This is why it calls revival (ihya’) 'bringing forth' (ikhraj), an expression which refers to both bringing forth vegetation and the dead from the earth.
By calling rain-clouds mu'sirat, the Qur'an ascribes the act of wringing-out to the clouds themselves which wring themselves out to bring forth pouring water. But from another aspect, Allah ascribes this to Himself. So, He is the one who sends down this water as a cause behind all causes.
“And We send down water pouring from the wringing rain-clouds (an-Naba’, 78:14).
This is true in all cases where Allah acts through intermediaries in this existence, including causing death:
a. Allah ascribes death to Himself sometimes:
“Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep…” (az-Zumar, 39:42).
“And Allah has created you, then He causes you to die, and of you is he who is brought back to the worst part of life, so, that after having knowledge he does not know anything; surely Allah is Knowing, Powerful”. (an-Nahl, 16:70).
b. But at other times He ascribes it to the Angel of Death:
“Say: The angel of death who is given charge of you shall cause you to die, then to your Lord you shall be brought back”. (as-Sajdah, 32:11).
We must adorn ourselves with Allah's manners, in that every one of His actions is motivated by a penetrating wisdom. The sending down of water is followed by the bringing forth of plants and vegetation, but He uses the lam of causation (translated as: 'that ...way may...') to convey this meaning, as in his words:
“that with it We may bring forth grains and plants.” (an-Naba’, 78:15).
In the same way, a wise servant must never act haphazardly, as he directs all of his efforts in this world toward his everlasting happiness, as alluded to by the verse:
“Say, 'Indeed, my prayer and my worship, my life and my death are for the sake of Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.” (al-An’am 6:162).
إِنَّ يَوْمَ الْفَصْلِ كَانَ مِيقَاتًا
Indeed, the Day of Separation was the tryst (78:17).
يَوْمَ يُنْفَخُ فِي الصُّورِ فَتَأْتُونَ أَفْوَاجًا
the day the Trumpet will be blown, and you will come in groups (78:18).
وَفُتِحَتِ السَّمَاءُ فَكَانَتْ أَبْوَابًا
and the sky will be opened and become gates (78:19).
وَسُيِّرَتِ الْجِبَالُ فَكَانَتْ سَرَابًا
and the mountains will be set moving and become a mirage. (78:20).
إِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ كَانَتْ مِرْصَادًا
Indeed, hell is an ambush, (78:21).
a resort for the rebels (78:22).
لَابِثِينَ فِيهَا أَحْقَابًا
to reside therein for ages, (78:23).
لَا يَذُوقُونَ فِيهَا بَرْدًا وَلَا شَرَابًا
tasting in it neither any coolness nor drink (78:24).
إِلَّا حَمِيمًا وَغَسَّاقًا
except boiling water and pus (78:25).
a fitting requital. (78:26).
إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا لَا يَرْجُونَ حِسَابًا
Indeed, they did not expect any reckoning (78:27).
وَكَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا كِذَّابًا
and they denied Our signs mendaciously (78:28).
وَكُلَّ شَيْءٍ أَحْصَيْنَاهُ كِتَابًا
and We have figured everything in a Book. (78:29).
فَذُوقُوا فَلَنْ نَزِيدَكُمْ إِلَّا عَذَابًا
So, taste! We shall increase you in nothing but punishment! (78:30).
Calling the Day of Judgment, 'the Day of Separation' (yawm al-fasl) alludes to the severing of social bonds, even that between a father and his son. And this strengthens the bonds that join a servant to his Lord. Between Him and His servant there is no separation in either of the creations, unlike the bond between one servant and another:
“Your relatives and your children will not avail you on the Day of Resurrection: He will separate you from one another.” (al-Mumtahanah, 60:3).
This motivates us to turn ourselves voluntarily towards our Master, before we are forced to turn towards Him with the rest of mankind.
Of course, what we have said here does not contradict having relations with other people that attain the pleasure of our Creator. For example, maintaining our ties with relatives and the faithful is important because these ties are one of the affairs of our Lord, who has placed observing the rights of relatives (arham) next to wariness of Himself:
“Be wary of Allah, in whose Name you adjure one another, and the relatives.” (an-Nisa', 4:1).
A person who has suffered injustice but is certain that the Resurrection will come to pass will not be thirsty for revenge, because he knows that there will be a reckoning. By the same token, the sense that the victims of injustice are powerless will not embolden their oppressors, because they too know that there will be a day when their deeds are weighed on the scales of justice13 and when all disputes will be settled. These are all blessings that result from paying attention to the fact that the Day of Resurrection is a tryst and that people will be completely cut off from one another on that day;
“Indeed, the Day of Separation was the tryst.” (an-Naba’, 78:17).
When we talk about a time being a tryst (miqat), this expression suggests that the fruit of all our struggles will appear at that time in which we will be called to account. Any rational person who is sure that this tryst will take place will prepare himself for this meeting, which shall be not without punishment or rebuke.
Even those transient pleasures that are without benefit will seem worthless to someone who believes in the truth of this tryst, let alone those things, which are forbidden to him. This is because he knows he will meet the Master of the Heavens and the Earth... obviously the rebuke for unnecessary concerns and speech contains an element of punishment for those who understand the gravity of standing before their Lord in those awesome stations.
The tryst of the Resurrection was promised from pre-eternity, on the day that Allah created the heavens and the earth, and this is why Allah uses the past tense '...was the tryst.' Because one who is wise pays attention to the outcomes of his actions even when he is only beginning them, as without this outcome the very wisdom behind creation and origination is lost, and the righteous and the sinner will be equal in their requital!
There is no contradiction between these statements:
“... and you will come in groups” (an-Naba’, 78:18).
“and each of them will come to Him alone on the Day of Resurrection” (Maryam, 19:95).
as we can say:
a. These two statements refer to two different stages of the Final Judgment; everyone will be brought forth together but each person will be held to account individually.
b. Even if the outward manifestation of mankind being brought forth will be as a group - as we understand from the first verse - but the inner reality will be as individuals, because each person will be completely focused on his own fate and is indifferent to that of others; a mother will even neglect her suckling child!
And it should be remembered that the people mentioned in both of the above states – that is coming forth in groups and as individuals - will be resurrected under a single banner according to their state in this world, as we understand from Allah's words:
“The day We shall summon every group of people with their imam…” (al-Isra’, 17:71).
The nature of the heavens is such that they are firmly sealed on all sides without opening, while the nature of the mountains is that they are fixed as pegs in the earth. But on the Day of Resurrection the very essence of things will change; sealed doors will be thrown open:
“and the sky will be opened ……” (an-Naba’, 78:19).
and things, which appear fixed will be set in motion:
“the mountains will be set moving……” (an-Naba’, 78:20).
The same applies to the measuring of deeds, they will transform; that which appeared true will be shown false, and vice versa, hence why it is called: 'lowering, exalting.' (Surah al-Waqi'ah, 56:3).
All forms of enjoyment in this worldly life are like a fleeting mirage; their outward appearance entices but they are hollow and devoid of reality. And yet, this statement, which is a figure of speech in this world, will become manifestly real on the Day of Judgment; mountains, which are the firmest manifestation and the most towering creation on the face of the earth will become, as the Qur'an says, 'a mirage' which refers to the fading of their very reality, not merely their visible appearance.
Calling Hell an ambush, as Allah does in His saying:
“Indeed, hell is an ambush” (an-Naba’, 78:21).
suggests that there is someone waiting to ambush a wayfarer, even if he does not perceive them, as is the common practice of bandits. Therefore, someone who lives in this world and knows that Hell exists and that it is lying in wait for him, or that it is the place where an ambush will be sprung - according to the two meanings of the Arabic word for 'ambush' (mirsad) should live with a fear that restrains him from forbidden things.
Hell is like a path that one must traverse, like a road upon which there are people who ambush travellers:
“There is none of you but will come to it.” (Maryam, 19:71).
But the question is who will traverse it safely (the believers) and those who will fall into the ambush (the wrongdoers).
One of the attributes of the inhabitants of Hellfire is rebellion (tughyan), which means to overstep the bounds of moderation (i'tidal). Therefore, every act of rebellion that takes the servant beyond the bounds of moderation in everything - no matter how little it may be - is step towards amassing sins to the extent that one of them becomes a rebel (taghut), in which case he becomes a manifestation of his own corruption and the corruption of others.
Hell is described as:
“a resort for the rebels.” (an-Naba’, 78:22).
as though it is their natural place of return. They were familiar with it - even if they did not realize this - in the abode of this world, so, they returned to it in the Hereafter. Their rebellious nature is only compatible with them remaining in this place of return.
From this perspective, we can also, understand why they must remain forever in Hellfire; their immutable nature (tabi'a thabita) requires this constant punishment, as the recompense on the Day of Resurrection is appropriate to the deeds of the servant:
“a fitting requital.” (an-Naba’, 78:26).
So, there is no reason to imagine that this punishment is excessive once we understand the essential kinship between the hellfire and its inhabitants; the one who metes out this requital is absolutely just and the wisest of the wise!
Some inhabitants of Hellfire are not condemned to remain therein forever; sinners who are not without faith will actually
“to reside therein for ages.” (an-Naba’, 78:23).
But residing in Hellfire, even for merely finite period of time, should still give us cause to tremble! We must imagine remaining in the hellfire for a prolonged and uncertain amount of time, as we can grasp from the word 'ages' (ahqab), and this is a recompense that the servant would not have expected in the abode of this world.
Hell is a view of utter punishment, for there is nothing to drink nor even anything drinkable, or any shade in which to seek the slightest respite. Whoever has any hope of coolness, their recompense can be gleaned from Allah's words:
“tasting in it neither any coolness nor drink.” (an-Naba’, 78:24).
In fact, there is nothing to provide relief to the inhabitants of Hell, not even a transient moment of pleasure or a fleeting hope. We know this because the words 'coolness' (bard) and 'drink' (sharab) appear as indefinite nouns in the context of a negation.
Graver still is that instead of a drink to quench their thirst, they will be drinking boiling water (hamim) which shall be poured over them as well:
“and drink boiling water on top of it.” (al-Waqi'ah, 56:54).
Denying the Resurrection is one of the causes of rebellion because it entails a denial of any recompense for one's actions, which in turn would act as a check on man's defiance. About this, the verse says:
“Indeed, they did not expect any reckoning.” (an-Naba’, 78:27).
So, in practice, someone who does not expect any recompense is like one who denies it outright, even if he accepts it on a theoretical level.
One of the ways in which a servant can become righteous in his life is through continuous vigilance (muraqaba muttasila), and this vigilance has two corollaries:
a. First: Reminding oneself of the Day of Recompense:
“…when a person will observe what his hands have sent ahead...” (an-Naba’, 78:40).
b. Second: Certainty that Allah will figure every deed, whether great or small, in a book in which all of that is recorded;
“We have figured everything in a Book.” (an-Naba’, 78:29).
In short, the source from which vigilance springs is reminding oneself of one's origin and return in a way that penetrates the very depths of one's soul.
When the person who has been wronged (sahib al-haqq) rebukes the wrongdoer directly, this causes greater psychological pain for the latter when he faces judgement. Even more so, when the person who has been wronged has power (qudrah) as well. So, the phrase – 'So, taste...!' - represents a transition from referring to them in the third-person ('they') to addressing them directly. This is a more eloquent form of censure and reproach, as it emanates directly from the Creator of Hell and the One who sustains its flames.
In the abode of this world, the rebels only increase in aversion the more they are preached to;
“but it increases them only in aversion.” (al-Isra', 17:41).
So, their recompense in Hell reflects this condition of theirs; their pleas for relief are only followed by an increase in punishment;
“So, taste! We shall increase you in nothing but punishment.” (an-Naba’, 78:30).
Just as the preaching by the prophets had no effect on them save to increase them in aversion, so, do their entreaties in Hellfire have no effect save to increase their punishment!
It has been narrated that this verse is one of the harshest descriptions of the condition that the inhabitants of Hellfire will find themselves in; the Prophet (S) is narrated to have said: 'This verse is the harshest part of the Qur’an for the inhabitants of Hellfire.'14
إِنَّ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ مَفَازًا
Indeed, a triumph awaits the Godwary (78:31).
gardens and vineyards, (71:32).
and buxom maidens of a like age (78:33).
and brimming cups. (78:34).
لَا يَسْمَعُونَ فِيهَا لَغْوًا وَلَا كِذَّابًا
They shall hear neither vain talk therein, nor lies (78:35).
جَزَاءً مِنْ رَبِّكَ عَطَاءً حِسَابًا
a reward from your Lord, a bounty sufficing, (78:36).
رَبِّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا الرَّحْمَٰنِ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْهُ خِطَابًا
the Lord of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, the All-beneficent, whom they will not be able to address (78:37).
يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الرُّوحُ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ صَفًّا لَا يَتَكَلَّمُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وَقَالَ صَوَابًا
on the day when the Spirit and the angels stand in an array. None shall speak except whom the All-beneficent permits and who says what is right. (78:38)
The method of the Qur’an alternates between instilling fear (tarhib) and hope (targhib); after mentioning the different kinds of painful punishment in Hell, the verses shift to the mention of the different kinds of eternal comforts in Paradise. This is a practical lesson for preachers - both then and now - that both methods must be used to kindle people's innermost feelings; too much fear might cause them to despair, just as too much hope might lead them to feel complacent and assume they are secure from Allah's stratagems.
Just as gardens (hada'iq) represent the Paradise's material comforts, its elevation above vain speech and lies represent its spiritual comforts. This means that a worldly life that is free from vain talks and lies is already imbued with a kind of blessing enjoyed by the inhabitants of Paradise, and this can only be found in the lives of righteous men and women, and a family of the believers.
It is the nature of the worldly comforts to remove the inhibitions of those who enjoy them and turn their conversations towards vain talks, whereas the inhabitants of Paradise - who enjoy the ultimate degrees of comfort - remain vigilant of their Master in such a way that prevents them from allowing vanity into their talks;
“They shall hear neither vain talk therein, nor lies” (an-Naba’, 78:30).
in the form of them calling one another liars, for there is no quarrelling between them, as Allah says:
“We will remove whatever rancour there is in their breasts.” (al-A'raf, 7:43).
And we know that every form of vanity and deceit is removed from Paradise, because both of these words appear as indefinite nouns in the context of a negation, which indicates a general negation.
The choice not to call others as liars - as one of the blessings of Paradise - might be a kind of compensation (ta'wid) for the faithful who suffered in the abode of this world because the disbelievers called them liars. And we know that they only suffered this for the sake of Allah (fi sabil illah). So, it is as though the verse alludes to the fact that they will be relieved of this terrible persecution in the everlasting abode of Paradise having endured it in this world. This compensation is like a type of reward that matches their good deeds, as required by the wisdom of the One bestowing rewards upon them.
Recompense on the Day of Resurrection is a combination of being through accounting (hisab) first, and through giving ('ata') second, which is why the verse puts these two together -'a reward sufficing' ('ata’an hisaban) - saying:
“a reward from your Lord, a bounty sufficing” (an-Naba’ 78:36).
So, the matter is never beyond the compass of precise accounting, which is the mark of existence (simat al-wujud), nor beyond the compass of liberal giving, which is the mark of generosity (simat al-jud). Otherwise, how could a few years of obedience be possibly compared to the eternal recompense?
The careful accounting of recompense that is attributed to the Lord Almighty requires the servant to be unswerving in obedience to Him, because of the inseparability of abundant obedience from abundant reward that is without limit;
“There they will have whatever they wish, and with Us there is yet more.” (Qaf, 50:35).
Therefore, we must never feel complacent or content with a certain level of obedience, taking the magnanimity of our Master for granted, because even His magnanimity is proportional to the servant's good deeds.
Were we to ponder on the recompense of the faithful and the disbelievers, we would see a reciprocity like that found between the opposites that reflect the fate of each group on that day:
a. The believers drink ‘a pure drink’15 while the disbelievers consume 'boiling water and pus.'
b. The outcome of the faithful is 'a triumph' while the fate of the disbelievers is 'an ambush.'
c. The recompense of the faithful is a 'reward' (‘ata’), which signifies generosity and open-handedness, while that of the disbelievers is a 'requital' (wifaq) befitting their crimes in this world.
Allah appends the Prophet (S) to Himself in the station of recompense, saying:
“a reward from your (sing.) Lord...” (an-Naba’, 78:36).
before appending to that the heavens and the earth, saying:
“the Lord of the heavens and the earth....” ((an-Naba’, 78:37).
as though the universe in its entirety is in one hand, and His beloved Mustafa (S)16 is in the other. And this is the natural corollary of the entire universe having been created for his (S) sake and those noble members of his Household who are attached to him.
Standing in ranks is usually the mark of those disciplined in affairs. The angels - who do not precede Him in speech - are organized in their affairs, as on the Day of Resurrection they will stand in ranks and not speak save with His permission;
“…… in an array. None shall speak except whom the All-beneficent permits...” (an-Naba’, 78:38).
Silence is the natural state for all creations on the Day of Gathering, while speaking requires someone to permit it.
The presence of the Lord is a presence in which manners are observed and attention is given, so, anyone who will not say what is right will not be permitted to speak, as he will fall in the estimation of his Master! And even though this meaning is in the context that will be realized in the Hereafter (as the verse itself states), the believers observe this rule in his worldly life too. He knows that if he does not say what is right, he will fall in the estimation of his Master, and this is a thing most difficult to bear, for a servant who is vigilant of his Lord.
This verse demonstrates that intercession on the Day of Resurrection will only happen by Allah's leave, for it is a kind of right speech, which is permitted to emanate from the intercessor. This matter goes back to divine wisdom, which judges that only that which is true and right shall come to pass on the side of sanctity. It has been narrated that when Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) was asked about this verse, he said: 'We - by Allah! - are those permitted [to speak] on the Day of Judgment, and those who will say what is right.'17
The utmost pride a servant shall feel is when he is permitted to speak with his Master in this world or in the Hereafter, and this is granted to everyone who becomes worthy thereof. The way to attain this worthiness is as follows:
a. First, the person must be upon what is right -
“…...and who says what is right” (an-Naba’, 78:38).
and we know that anyone who wishes to be right must first know what right is! This is why we seek guidance from Him by saying:
“Guide us to the Straight Path.” (al-Fatihah, 1:6).
b. Second, that he prepares himself to enter the compass of Divine Attraction (jadhb ilahl), so, that he will be permitted to speak
“ ....whom the All-Beneficent permits ……” (an-Naba’, 78:38).
It should be noted that the choice of the word 'the All-Beneficient' (ar-Rahman) has a subtle meaning here; it alludes to the fact that one of the causes for this divine providence ('inaya) is the servant's acquisition of this attribute as well.
ذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمُ الْحَقُّ فَمَنْ شَاءَ اتَّخَذَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِ مَآبًا
That is the day of truth. So, let anyone who wishes take resort with his Lord (78:39).
إِنَّا أَنْذَرْنَاكُمْ عَذَابًا قَرِيبًا يَوْمَ يَنْظُرُ الْمَرْءُ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ وَيَقُولُ الْكَافِرُ يَا لَيْتَنِي كُنْتُ تُرَابًا
Indeed, We have warned you of a punishment near at hand - the day when a person will observe what his hands have sent ahead and the disbeliever will say, 'I wish I were dust!' (78:40).
Wayfaring on the path to Allah is not by compulsion and force, or else there would be no point in the struggle required when seeking divine proximity; in fact, He has made the fact of being guided to the way conditional upon struggling for Him:
“As for those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them in Our ways” (al-'Ankabut, (29:69).
So, whoever wants his destination and his fate to be with Allah, must first of all sincerely desire and wish for that and second, he must resolve to traverse the path laid down to Him:
“ …… so, let anyone who wishes take resort with his Lord” (an-Naba’, 78:39).
The original warner (mundhir) is the Lord of the Worlds –
“We have warned you of a punishment near at hand ....” (an-Naba’, 78:40).
followed by the messenger –
“Messengers, as bearers of good news and warners” (an-Nisa', 4:165).
followed by the scholars –
“And it does not beseem the believers that they should go forth all together; why should not then a company from every party from among them go forth that they may apply themselves to obtain understanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they come back to them that they may be cautious?” (at-Tawbah, 9:122).
From this, we can grasp the importance of scholars and their position. They have become an extension of the Divine Will and they emulate the actions of the prophets.
Warnings (indhar) are more suited to awaken those who are unaware than good tidings (bashara), which is why this verse only mentions warning –
“We have warned you of a punishment near at hand ....” (an-Naba’, 78:40).
- without mentioning good tidings when discussing 'the day of truth,' because the surah concludes by mentioning the disbelievers.
Some people see the Hereafter as if it is far off in the future, while the truth is that the only thing separating us from the Hereafter is death, which could overtake us at any moment. This is why the verse announces that the punishment it warns of is very near indeed:
“We have warned you of a punishment near at hand ....” (an-Naba’, 78:40).
This verse explains the nearness according to reality, while the other verse above explains it from the viewpoint of the All-Wise - 'We see it to be near' -and this previous warning is only another proof against the disbelievers on the Day of Resurrection.
On the Day of Judgment, a person's deeds will take on a physical reality; verses of the Qur’an talk about physically seeing deeds (ru’ya) in numerous contexts, such as the verse in this surah:
'...the day when a person will observe what his hands have sent ahead....' (an-Naba’, 78:40).
when actually, it is more fitting that a servant should observe his deeds in this world, both because he is nearer to them and because there is still an opportunity for him to change his ways. The problem is that many people lack the insight to see things that will only be revealed to them when it is too late for them to do anything about it.
The fact that someone who was once a candidate for divine vicegerency (al-khilafa al-ilahiyyah) should wish that he were (mere) dust reveals the extreme regret experienced by a disbeliever on the Day of Judgment –
“…...and the disbeliever will say, 'I wish I were dust!” (an-Naba’, 78:40).
In fact, it can be said that that the dust is better than the disbeliever, because the dust allows the seed deposited within it to become a grown tree. As for the disbeliever, his Master has placed the seeds of goodness in his heart, but he has done nothing to cultivate them in the depths of his soul; he has covered it with his deformed heart, and with this act of concealment - which Allah alludes to, saying:
“and one who betrays it fails” (ash-Shams, 91:10).
- they have failed. This is one of the ways in which the Arabic word 'kufr’ meaning 'disbelief corresponds to its original sense, which is 'to cover-up.''18
- 1. Reference to the verse in Surah ar-Rahman:
'For him who stands in fear of his Lord will be two gardens.' (55:46).
And that in to Surah an-Nazi'at:
'But as for him who fears standing before his Lord and forbids the soul from desire...'(79:40).
- 2. See Surah al-Isra’:
‘They question you concerning the Spirit…’ (17:85)
- 3. See Surah al-Anfal:
'They ask you concerning the spoils...' (8:1).
- 4. See Surah al-Baqarah:
'They ask you concerning wine and gambling...' (2:219).
- 5. Nahj al-Balaghah, sermon no. 193.
- 6. Bihar al-Anwar, 58/7.
- 7. Bihar al-Anwar, 95/ 225.
- 8. See Surah al-Muzzammil:
“...and the mountains will be like dunes of shifting sand.” (73:14).
- 9. See Surah al-Qari'ah:
“...and the mountains will be like carded wool.” (101:5).
- 10. See Surah al-Furqan:
“...and then turn them into scattered dust” (25:23).
- 11. See Surah Ta Ha:
“...then He will leave them a level plain.” (20:106).
- 12. Bihar al-Anwar, 73/204.
- 13. A reference to Surah al-Anbiya':
“We shall set up the scales of justice on the Day of Resurrection' (21:47).
- 14. Tafsir al-Kashshaf 4/690.
- 15. Surah al-Insan (76:21).
- 16. In Arabic, the word Mustafa literally means ‘the chosen one’. Here it refers to Prophet Muhammad (S) [Note of Al-Islam].
- 17. Al-Kafi 1/435.
- 18. Mu'jam Maqayis Al-Lugha 5/191.