Verses from Surah Taha (99-114)

[99] Thus We narrate to you some of the stories of what has been in the past, and thus We have given you a reminder from Us.

[100] Whoever turned away from it, indeed, he will carry a burden on the Day of Judgment.

[101] Abiding therein forever – an evil burden for them on the Day of Judgment.

[102] The Day when the Trumpet is blown; and We shall gather together that Day the criminals (all) blue.98

Commentary

98. The translation reflects the understanding of Alusi. Linguistically though, “zurqan” has been understood as “blue-eyed”, meaning perhaps, that eyes would have turned blue due to fear. Other suggested meanings are “blind” and “thirsty” (Au.).

[103] Whispering to one another, ‘You lived not but ten (days).’

[104] We know best what they will say when the best among them in ways will say, ‘You lived not but a day.’99

Commentary

99. At another place it is said in the Qur’an (79: 46), “The Day they see it they will think they did not tarry but an evening or a morning.”

In yet another place it said, (30: 55), “The Day when the Hour is called, the sinners will swear (that) they did not tarry (in the world) but for an hour.”

Scientists say that our universe is around 15 billion years old while humans have been on the earth for no more than 10 million years, no matter how generous the counting parameters. The ratio then of human stay versus the life of the universe works out to 1: 1,500,000 years. It works out that the so-called “modern age” is no more than a second in comparison to the age of the universe (Au.).

[105] And they ask you about the mountains. Say, ‘Allah will scatter them as dust far and wide.100

Commentary

100. Probably, wrote Razi, when the Makkan pagans heard of the Day of Judgment, they asked the Prophet how it could be brought about seeing that there were no signs of destruction in the world. What they meant is that some kind of process has to start to bring about decay and ultimately end with total destruction. For example, mountains. How can such solid and massive objects be moved out of place? This in fact, Razi adds, was a doubt that Galenos (the Greek physician) had also expressed who said that the heavens and the earth will never meet with their destruction, for no signs of that are presently visible. Therefore Allah (swt) informed them that He will, by His Power, render the mountains to dust and scatter them about.

The above is a good example of how people’s mind has been working throughout the ages: from the time of the Greek civilization, to the Arabs of the Prophet’s time, to the modern man. The question of the origin and hence destruction of the world is one over which not only the best minds have spoken, but schools of thoughts have been developed. Fred Hoyle and a few others have held that the universe has always been as it is and will remain in existence as it is. This school refers to this cosmos as the “Steady-State Universe.” Others have held that since the expansion of the universe is well proved, it means once it was smaller, and before that smaller and so on, until you arrive at a point no more than 10-23 cm across, at terribly high temperature and higher pressure. At that point it burst and the phenomenon is known in common parlance as the Big Bang. Obviously, since the burst and scattering of the material, the universe has been cooling, losing the original pressure and, therefore, slowing down in its rate of expansion. But, what happens when the initial force of expansion is lost and the cosmos stops expanding at some point of time in future? It is envisaged that the universe will then begin to contract and collapse upon itself – what is known as the Big Crunch – to ultimately end up being what it was at the time of the Big Bang. At that point the cycle of Big Bang, expansion, cooling, contraction and Big Crunch will again begin. The cycle will go on for ever!

But the scientist were left completely out of their wits when they discovered through data collected by the Hubble telescope operating in the space that the Universe is accelerating in expansion. That is, the speed of expansion is increasing. This has come as a bomb shell suggesting a mysterious force operating upon matter pushing it afar. The Big Bang-Big Crunch-cycle therefore, will not work. So, what’s the scenario now? Well, it looks like the universe will keep on expanding, and, obviously, matter will disperse far and wide and lose complete contact with each other for ever.

The Qur’an of course does not reject or confirm any of the above except to agree on two points: that once all matter was together (21: 30) and that the universe is expanding (51: 47) and to disagree on two points, viz., at the start the universe was not a tiny dot, but was in the form similar to rolled scriptural material (21: 104), and that the cycle will not go on forever – Au.

 [106] And leave it plain, smooth.

[107] You will not see therein a depression or elevation.’101

Commentary

101. The translation – as “depression” and “elevation” – reflects the understanding of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ibn Zayd and others as in Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Baghawi and others.

[108] On that Day everyone will follow the Summoner, with no deviation in him.102 Voices will be hushed to the Most Merciful, so that you will hear not but the shuffle of footsteps.103

Commentary

102. A possible meaning is, the follower of the Summoner will follow him without any deviation (Qurtubi). 

103. This is how Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Hasan and others have understood the word “hams.” But Mujahid thought it referred to a whispering voice (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

 [109] The Day, when intercession will not profit, except for whom the Most Merciful allows, and whose word He approves.

[110] He knows what is before them and what is behind them while they comprehend it not by knowledge.104

Commentary

104. That is, He knows what they have before them of the Day of Judgment when they will be punished, and what they will leave behind them of this worldly life where they disobey His commands (Ibn Jarir).

Alternatively, they cannot comprehend Him (Allah) by knowledge (Baghawi).

Thanwi, `Uthmani and Mawdudi connect this verse with the previous one, but which seems to be possible only in a limited sense. In Mawdudi’s words: “This (verse) explains the reasons for placing restrictions on intercession. Regardless of whether someone is an angel, or a Messenger, or a saint, nobody knows – indeed nobody – the full record of another person’s deeds, of those activities which kept them preoccupied during their lives. No one fully knows what is truly creditable about a person or what makes him blameworthy. God, however, has full knowledge of the past records as well as the present state of all beings. He knows precisely the extent of goodness of those who are good. Likewise, He knows the wickedness of those who are wicked. Only He knows whether someone deserves to be pardoned, and if so, whether fully or in part. Neither angels nor Prophets nor any saints can be given a free hand to intercede on behalf of those they might like to.”

 [111] Faces will be humbled 105 before the Living, the One by Whom all sustain. And surely, undone will be he who carried the burden of a transgression.

Commentary

105. The textual word “`anat” also reflects the meaning of “surrender” (Razi, Qurtubi).

[112] (In contrast) He who did righteous deeds and is a believer, he shall not fear an injustice nor deprivation.106

Commentary

106. Literally, “hadm” is reduction or diminution in the wages that someone deserves to receive (Ibn Jarir from Mujahid). It is also used for wrongdoing and oppression (Qurtubi).

 [113] Thus We have sent it down – an Arabic recital107 – and have diversified therein all manner of warnings that haply they may fear, or that it give rise to a new awareness in them.108

Commentary

107. “Arabic recital” is a literal translation, otherwise, as Majid notes, the meaning is, a clearly worded recital, “The main idea underlying the word `arabiyyan is clearness of the precepts of the Qur’an and their intelligibility. A`raba, like afsaha, means, ‘he spoke clearly, plainly, distinctly or intelligibly (LL)” – Majid.

108. Literally, “dhikr” is remembrance, but Asad’s rendering as “awareness” seems to be more appropriate here (Au.).

 [114] So, exalted is Allah, the (true) Sovereign, the (Ultimate) Truth. And do not hasten with the Qur’an before its revelation is completed to you.109 And say, ‘My Lord, increase me in knowledge.’110

Commentary

109. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and Ibn Jurayj understood the verse as meaning, “Do not recite the revelation to your followers, O Muhammad, until We have made clear its meaning to you” (Ibn Jarir).

Razi, Ibn Kathir and others have pointed out that initially the Prophet (saws) used to repeat the words of revelation, even as the revelation was in process, in fear of forgetting it. Verse 16-17 of Surah al-Qiyamah  promised him that he will not forget what was revealed to him. This present verse instructed him not to be in a hurry to recite them to others either.

Another interpretation is that the Prophet was told not to pass on the revelations to others until they had been explained to him. Hasan has said that once a woman came to him seeking retaliation for a slap from her husband. The Prophet told her that she had the right of retaliation. But Allah (swt) revealed (4: 34), “Men are the protectors and managers (of the affairs) of women..” and the Prophet took back his decision (Kashshaf, Qurtubi). The above report is in Al-Faryabi, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Marduwayh (Shawkani).

Asad relates the verse to other than the Prophet. He writes: “Although .. this exhortation was in the first instance addressed to the Prophet Muhammad, there is no doubt that it applies to every person, at all times, who reads the Qur’an. The idea underlying the above verse may be summed up thus: Since the Qur’an is the Word of God, all its component parts – phrases, sentences, verses and surahs – form one integral, co-ordinated whole.. Hence, if one is really intent on understanding the Qur’anic message, one must beware of a ‘hasty approach’ – that is to say, of drawing hasty conclusions from isolated verses or sentences taken out of their context – but should, rather, allow the whole of the Qur’an to be revealed to one’s mind before attempting to interpret a single aspect of its message.”

Thus, in the light of interpretation of the Salaf, the verses here are not a repeat reminder of what had already been revealed in Surah al-Qiyamah which said (75: 16), “Do not move your tongue to hasten therewith.”

In contrast, a contemporary commentator wrote: “The previous subject ended with the statement: ‘Exalted is Allah, the True King’. Thereafter, the angel, before departing, apprises the Prophet (peace be on him) of something he had noted in the course of communicating the revealed message to the Prophet (peace on him). Presumably the angel did not wish to disturb him while he was in the process of receiving this revelation. Once the task had been completed, the angel drew the Prophet’s attention to what he had noticed.”

The above implies that this verse is from the angel: a notion as bizarre as wrong. Indeed, we do not have any report in the hadith literature which says that the angel ever apprised the Prophet of what he had noticed of him, except during Isra’ wa Me`raj journey. At the time they bring a revelation, the angels speak not to Messengers except what they are commanded by Allah, and then when they speak, they speak out only words chosen from on High. Surely, if they were allowed to speak out their own words, confusion would arise over their words, and those of Allah (Au.).

110. It is noteworthy, writes Zamakhshari, that the Prophet was never asked to seek increase in anything except in knowledge.

 

(To be Continued)