Verses from Surah Al-Noor [39 – 43]

[39] As for the unbelievers, their works90 are like a mirage in a vast (sandy) field that the thirsty deems to be water. Until, when he comes to it, he finds it to be nothing,91 but (instead), finds Allah near it. So He paid him his account in full. And Allah is swift at reckoning.

Commentary

91. Yusuf Ali writes: “The mirage, of which I have seen several instances in the Arabian deserts and in Egypt, is a strange phenomenon of illusion. It is a trick of our vision. In the language of our Parable, it rejects the Light which shows us the Truth, and deceives us with Falsehood. A lonely traveller in a desert, nearly dying of thirst, sees a broad sheet of water. He goes in that direction, lured on and on, but finds nothing at all. He dies in protracted agony.‏”

[40] Or like darknesses in a deep sea which is covered by a wave above which is a wave, above which are clouds, (layers of) darknesses, some upon others. When he holds out his hand, he can hardly see it.92 And he whom Allah did not assign a Light, for him there is no Light at all.

Commentary

92. Ubayy b. Ka`b has said that the example is that of an unbeliever who lives in five-fold darkness: of speech, deeds, entry, exit, and the destination into the Fire (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, IbnKathir).

Yusuf Ali adds: “The rebel against Allah finds himself like the man deluded by a mirage. The Truth which he rejected is always with him. The mirage which he accepted leads to his destruction.‏”

Ibn Kathir writes: These two verses give us the example of two classes of unbelievers: those who think, understand and imagine that they are on something, while they are not. They keep working, hoping to find good results. But when they arrive at the terminal end, they find nothing there. This is how Ubay b. Ka`b, Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others understood it. Hence a report of the Sahihayn, which says that the Jews will be asked on the Day of Judgment, “What were you worshipping?” They would say, “We used to worship `Uzayr, Allah’s son.” They will be told, “You lied. Allah never took a son. (In any case) what do you want now?” They will reply, “Our Lord! We are thirsty, give us a drink.” It will be said, “Can’t you see?” At that point Fire will be made to look like a mirage, waves upon waves (of water). They will rush into it, one upon another. The other verse is speaking of the ignorant masses who blindly follow their leaders: they know nothing, understand nothing.

[41] Do you not see93 that whosoever is in the heavens and (in) the earth celebrates Allah’s glory,94 and (so do) the birds with wings outspread?95 Each one has known its prayer and (words of) glorification.96 And Allah is the Knower of what they do.

[42] And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and to Allah is the journey’s end.

Commentary

93. Mawdudi shows the connection: “It has been pointed out earlier… that although God is the Light of the whole universe, only those who truly believe and act righteously will benefit from this light. As for all others, even though light abounds around them, they will continue to stumble in darkness. There are many signs that point to this light. Anyone who looks at these signs with his heart’s eye will perceive God at work all around him. But those whose hearts are blind, no matter how much they strain their eyes, their perception will not go beyond biology, zoology, and such other ologies, and they will utterly fail to see God’s hand operating in the universe.”

94. That is to say that they have been given complete Nur (Alusi).

95. It might be of some interest to note that the largest birds can have a span of over a meter when they have outspread their wings, while the smallest are a few millimeters across. A few achieve the speed of 300 km an hour while some can fly 12,000 km non-stop. We shall have more to write on this topic, later in this work, Allah willing (Au.).

96. That is, each one “knows his, her, or its mode of prayer and hallowing” (Majid).

Mujahid has said that the mention of “prayer” (Salah) in the words “Each one has known its prayer and (words of) glorification,” the word ‘prayer’ is for humans while the “(words of) glorification” (Tasbeeh) is for others of Allah’s creation (Ibn Jarir).

Another possibility exists, however, that the active participle of the verb “`alima” be understood as Allah. The translation of the verse then would be, “He (Allah) has known each one’s prayer and (words of) glorification.” Hence, He followed up by saying, “And Allah is, of what they do, Knowing.” There have been variant readings too (Qurtubi).

[43] Have you not considered that Allah drives the clouds?97 Then He joins them together,98 then He piles them into a mass99, so that you see the rain100 issuing forth from its midst?!101

Commentary

97. Allah (swt) chose a specific word here “yuzji” with its root in “zaja” which is used in the Qur’an in reference to clouds alone. Lisan and Sihah say it is for pushing forward a thing gently. The connotation fits well the cloud formation described below (Au.).

98. It is commonly stated in science books and unquestionably accepted by the readers that the winds drive the clouds. In a sense this is true. But it is forgotten that the winds normally have the scattering effect and do not collect together to close gaps in gas particles. We have to understand the Qur’anic statement then, as alluding to the role the winds play in condensation of water particles (Au.).

99. The textual word “rukaam” gives the sense of something piled one upon another: an accurate description of the formation of rain clouds in the atmosphere (Au.).

100. The word “wadq” has two meanings: rain as well as lightning (Qurtubi). The word was chosen perhaps to express both the meanings, and which fits the context (Au.).

101. The word in the original for “midst” is “khilaal” which is the plural of “khalal.” It should be strictly translated as “interstices” – as done by Majid – which in turn is explained by the dictionaries as “a small or narrow space or interval between things or parts, esp. one of a series of alternating uniform spaces and parts: e.g., the interstices between the slats of a fence. The word seems to fit wonderfully with the process of rain drops leaving the saws in the final stages of rain formation. We might in a few lines try to understand cloud formation and rains – otherwise an extremely complicated process, a miracle by itself –in the following, taken from several scientific works:

Cloud formation

Most people do not know that cloud formation is a miraculous event. Thousands of things have to happen for the clouds to form: and they must happen at the right time and right place, at right temperature. In fact, the process is so complicated, that no prediction can be made of when and where clouds will form. Nevertheless, since rain patterns are surprisingly regular, as against the expected haphazard pattern, it can be concluded that an external Agency is in control of the process. Herewith a short, brief, and therefore an incomplete account to impress on the reader that if not for Allah’s power, vapors rising from the earth could not coalesce into clouds to ultimately fall back as rain, consistently falling in the same place – year after year, following a certain pattern.

Clouds are formed by the lifting of damp air which cools by expansion under continuously falling pressure.  The relative humidity increases until the air approaches saturation. Then condensation occurs on some of the wide variety of aerosol particles present. For continued condensation leading to the formation of cloud droplets, the air must be slightly supersaturated. Among the highly efficient condensation nuclei are the salt particles produced by the evaporation of sea spray, but it appears that particles produced by human-made fires and by natural combustion (for example, forest fires) also make a major contribution. Condensation onto the nuclei continues as rapidly as the water vapor is made available by cooling of the air and gives rise to droplets of the order of 0.01 mm in diameter. These droplets, usually present in concentrations of several thousand per cubic inch, constitute a non-precipitating water cloud.

Growing clouds are sustained by upward air currents. Considerable growth of the cloud droplets is necessary if they are to fall through the cloud, survive evaporation in the unsaturated air beneath, and reach the ground as drizzle or rain.  Drizzle drops have radii exceeding 0.1 mm, while the largest raindrops are about 0.24 in. (6 mm) across and fall at nearly 10 m/s.

Cloud droplets are seldom of uniform size for several reasons. Droplets arise on nuclei of various sizes and grow under slightly different conditions of temperature and supersaturation in different parts of the cloud.  Some small drops may remain inside the cloud for longer than others before being carried into the drier air outside.

A droplet appreciably larger than average will (within the cloud) fall faster than the smaller ones, and so will collide and fuse together) with some of those which it overtakes.

The second method of releasing precipitation can operate only if the cloud top reaches elevations where temperatures are below 32°F (0°C) and the droplets in the upper cloud regions become super-cooled.

In a cloud composed wholly of liquid water, raindrops may grow by coalescence with small droplets. For example, a droplet being carried up from the cloud base would grow as it ascends by sweeping up smaller droplets. When it becomes too heavy to be supported by the vertical upcurrents, the droplet will then fall, continuing to grow by the same process on its downward journey. Finally, if the cloud is sufficiently deep, the droplet will emerge from its base as a raindrop.

In a dense, vigorous cloud several kilometers deep, the drop may attain its limiting stable diameter (about 0.2 in. or 5 mm) before reaching the cloud base and thus will break up into several large fragments. Each of these may continue to grow and attain breakup size. The number of raindrops may increase so rapidly in this manner that after a few minutes the accumulated mass of water can no longer be supported by the upper currents and falls out as a heavy shower.  The conditions which favor this rapid multiplication of raindrops occur more readily in tropical regions.

(To be Continued)

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