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Surah at-Tin (No. 95 'The fig')

Verses 1-5

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

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

وَالتِّينِ وَالزَّيْتُونِ

By the fig and the olive, (95:1).

وَطُورِ سِينِينَ

by Mount Sinai, (95:2).

وَهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ الْأَمِينِ

by this secure town: (95:3).

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ

We certainly created man in the best of forms; (95:4).

ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ

then We relegated him to the lowest of the low, (95:5).

1. Oaths

It is truly amazing how the Qur'an varies its oaths; moving from swearing oaths by fruits –

“By the fig and the olive” (at-Tin, 95:1).

to two sacred places –

“by Mount Sinai,” (at-Tin, 95:2).

“by this secure town:” (at-Tin, 95:3).

but there is nothing strange about this, because everything that belongs to Allah in some way, whether it is a fruit or a piece of blessed ground, is sacred and can be sworn upon, for the nobleness of a superior extends to those beneath him if we consider them as part of his affairs. Why should this be strange when both of these things emanate from the realm of His command and creation?

2. The Sanctity Of A Place

Mount Sinai was not a home for Moses (‘a), but a place where he conversed privately with his Lord, unlike the other holy places mentioned in this surah. This shows that a person's ennoblement by invoking his Lord - even if only for a short duration, like forty nights - imbues the place in which he invokes Him with sanctity; sanctity sufficient enough to warrant it being invoked in an oath.

3. Makkah

Using the adjective 'secure' categorically for Mecca in the verse

“by this secure town:” (at-Tin, 95:3).

alludes to the sanctity of this place, whether we interpret 'secure' here:

a. In the active sense, meaning it protects everyone who enters its protective circle, as if to say this place puts all of its inhabitants and visitors under its guard. This is an integral part of the religion, even if people violate it; it is a safe place, where it is not permitted to hunt game or harm its pilgrims, even if the person in question is a criminal

b. In the passive sense, as Allah says:

“Have they not seen that We have appointed a safe sanctuary...?” (al-'Ankabut, 29:67).

This means that Allah has decreed it, so, that anyone who violates its security has challenged Allah's authority directly. And this is why we see a painful punishment directed to ‘the Army of the Elephant’, who tried to assail this sanctity.

4. Blessings

We should be attentive to the abundant variety of divine blessings in our lives, which in turn require us to offer an abundant variety of thanks; whether in the form of word or deed, for each and each of those blessings. Some people appreciate only material blessings and thus forget spiritual ones, such as the blessing of being a Muslim and having faith; while others experience spiritual blessings but forget to give thanks for the food and drink they consume. While a true believer appreciates everything that comes from his Lord, whether it is material or spiritual.

This is why this surah combines the mention of material blessings - such as foods like the two fruits - with blessings in intangible form such as faith, just as it combines those that preserve the body's health, in the form of beneficial fruits like figs and olives - which we are told have many amazing properties - with those factors that preserve the health of nations, like security ('by this secure town.').

5. The Honour Of A Location

It has been explained that the first verses of this surah refer to the lands of different Prophets, namely:

a. Syria, which is famous for its figs and this was where Abraham (‘a) emigrated to.

b. Palestine, which is famous for its olives, which is where Jesus (‘a) was born and raised.

c. Mount Sinai, which is the place where Moses (‘a) conversed privately with his Lord.

d. The secure town, which is the land of our Prophet, the Final Messenger (S).

Taken together, these verses show that spots on earth acquire nobleness from the persons associated with them. So, no one can be proud of the place he resides in merely because of the ground it rests upon, for the honour of a location derives from the one who resides in it, not the other way around!

6. The Supplication By Abraham

The legal security decreed for the secure town is only in response to the supplication of Abraham (‘a) who asked Allah for safety, saying:

“My Lord! Make this city a sanctuary...” (Ibrahim, 14:35).

and His response was:

“Have they not seen that We have appointed a safe sanctuary ...?” (al-'Ankabut, 29:67).

What a great thing it is for Allah to guarantee the security of a land until the Day of Resurrection in response to the supplication of one of His ennobled servants!

7. Material And Spiritual Excellence

Allah created ma with the best capacity to attain material and spiritual excellence (kamal):

Surely We created man of the best stature.” (at-Tin, 95:4).

a. So, the human body, with all its abilities and innate faculties, can do some truly astounding things, as we are currently learning by our advancing scientific knowledge in all areas.

b. But the human spirit, insofar as Allah has shown it the paths of good and evil –

“and shown him the two paths” (al-Balad, 90:10).

also, has the ability to attain the highest levels of excellence.

So, what a waste it is when a person does not attain this excellence despite being endowed with everything he needs to reach it. Truly it can be said of such a person:

“....They are just like cattle; rather they are further astray from the path.” (Al-Furqan, 25:44).

8. “The Best Stature”

Allah attributes creation in 'the best stature' to Himself, but He also, attributes reducing man to the lowest of the low to Himself;

“then We relegated him to the lowest of the low,” (at-Tin, 95:5).

with the key distinction that:

a. The first is a unilateral divine act, for Allah was with a person the moment he was created, when he was not

“...anything worthy of mention” (al-Insan, 76:1).

b. While the second is a divine act that follows from the actions of the person, and this belongs to the category of being forsaken and punished, like any law in the realm of cause and effect; Allah is the One who burns, but this is only when a person has ignited the fire himself!

9. The Arcs Of Ascent And Descent

What a difference there is between the ascension that are referred to in Allah's words;

“Surely We created man of the best stature:” (at-Tin, 95:4).

and in the verse;

“……to Him ascends the good word, and He elevates righteous conduct....” (Fatir, 35:10).

and the narration from Him: 'Were it not for you, I would not have created the firmament.'1 Compared to the descent referred to in His words;

“Then we reduced him to the lowest of the low,” (at-Tin, 95:5).

and in the verse;

“Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest reach of the Fire...” (an-Nisa', 4:145).

And it is interesting to note that a person moves between the two arcs of ascent and descent in this world, which, despite its limitations, determines all of that.

Verses 6-8

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

except those who have faith and do righteous deeds. There will be an unrestrained reward for them. (95:6).

فَمَا يُكَذِّبُكَ بَعْدُ بِالدِّينِ

So, what makes you deny the Retribution? (95:7).

أَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِأَحْكَمِ الْحَاكِمِينَ

Is not Allah the fairest of all judges? (95:8).

10. Faith And Righteous Deeds

The Qur’an connects faith (Iman) to righteous deeds ('amal salih) in approximately fifty places, which shows us that salvation can only be achieved through both of them. So, those who seek a religion other than Islam, or even a path other than that of the Prophet and His Household (‘a) have lost the first pillar, while those who swerve from the upright way and do not perform righteous deeds, or contaminate their righteous deeds with evil ones, have lost the second one.

Notice that the tone of the verses that demonstrate this reality vary between:

a. Mentioning righteous deeds in the past tense -

“those who have believed and done righteous deeds....” (Ta Ha, 20:75).

- indicating steadfastness (thubat).

b. Mentioning righteous deeds in the present tense, indicating continuity, and faith is used as an attribute of a person, not of an act, as in Allah's words:

“Whoever does righteous deeds, should he be a believer.. .” (al-Anbiya', 21:94).

c. Mentioning righteous deeds as a prelude to glad tidings, whether these are directed to an individual believer, such as His words:

“But whoever comes to Him with faith and he has done righteous deeds,” (Ta Ha, 20:75).

or to a group of them, as in:

“and gives the good news to the faithful who do righteous deeds that there is a great reward for them.” (al-lsra', 17:9).

11. The Most Excellent Gift

The most excellent gift is that which:

a. Is uninterrupted, for the sadness the recipient experiences for the period that it is absent cannot be compensated for by the past moments when it was present. It is obvious that fleeting happiness cannot make up for real and present sadness, and this is why Allah describes His reward in this surah as being 'unrestrained' (ghayra mamnun), meaning that it never ends.

b. Is not accompanied by affronts (mann), as this distresses the recipient of the gift, and we can also, understand this from the words ghayra mamnun.

c. That in which it is understood that the recipient is worthy of this recompense, and the verse says that this reward is fixed for them:

“.... they shall have an everlasting reward” (at-Tin, 95:5).

as if to say this reward is due to them. In fact, the truth is that Allah is being gracious not only in giving them a reward, because what they did was nothing more than what their station as His servants demanded, but also, in the quantity of the reward that they receive, because an eternal and everlasting reward cannot be compared to some fleeting obedience in this world!

12. Rhetorical Questions

The Qur'an teaches us how to interact with people and convince them theoretically; after mentioning the wonders of His creation in the material world, and His sending of great prophets, He poses a rhetorical question about what motivates people to deny the Day of Recompense:

“So, what makes you deny the Retribution?” (at-Tin, 95:7).

It is as if to suggest that such a denial is something strange indeed, and this is one of the ways in which Allah reanimates the ossified intellects.

We can also, understand this address as being directed to the Prophet (S) to put his noble mind at ease, in which case the meaning is: 'So, what is it that could make you deny the recompense, 0 Messenger, after these unshakable proofs have been put forth?'

13. Summary In One Verse

Sometimes, Allah summarizes all the goals of a surah in a single sentence. We can identify a possible instance of this in the verse:

“Is not Allah the fairest of all judges?” (at-Tin, 95:8).

As if to say that the only conclusion to be drawn from everything that has been said in this surah, namely the magnificence of the material realm, choosing some persons as prophets, while reducing others to the lowest states, the promise of never-ending rewards and the threat of retribution for the denier, all of that springs from Allah's absolute authority over everything in existence.

14. Loss

The context of this surah resembles that of Surah al-'Asr in that it affirms the fact that everyone who exists is on a journey, as represented by its exposition of the principle of loss (khasran) which is the default state for the life of every individual, and which no one can escape, except by combining faith with righteous deeds.

This means that if a person excuses himself from ascending to the realm of 'the best of forms' then the unavoidable outcome of this will be his descent to 'the lowest of the low' just as all bodies with mass ultimately fall to the ground because of gravity if they do not expend energy to rise.

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