Verses from Surah Maryam (66-74)

[66] Man says, ‘What, when I am dead, shall I be brought forth alive?’ [67] Does not man consider that We created him earlier when he was nothing? [68] By your Lord, We shall surely gather them and the Shayatin, then, We shall collect them together around Hell-fire on their knees. [69] Then We shall pull out from every faction whoever that was the most obstinate against the Most Merciful in rebellion. [70] And We know best those who are most deserving to be roasted therein. [71] And there is none of you but he shall pass over it;83 that is on your Lord a decree determined.

Commentary

83. Some of the ancient commentators such as Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas and others have understood the word “warid” as meaning “entry.” That is, there is none of the humankind but will initially enter the Fire. Later, the believers will be rescued by Allah. Nafi` (b. al-Azraq, who was a Kharijite: Qurtubi) in fact had an argument with Ibn `Abbas over the issue. To prove his point, Ibn `Abbas quoted two other Qur’anic verses that have used the word in this sense. One is (21: 98):  “You indeed (O unbelievers), and those you worship apart from Allah are firewood of Hell. You are indeed going to enter into it.”

And (11:98):  “He (Fir`awn) will lead his people on the Judgment Day and lead them to the Fire: an evil coming to an evil destination.”

After quoting the above verses, Ibn `Abbas concluded, “For sure I and you will enter it. So let us see if we can get out or not. However, I don’t see how you can get out, seeing that you are denying the Qur’an.” Nafi` only laughed.

Ibn Rawaha had a similar opinion. In fact, he was in tears at his death-bed. When his wife asked him why, he replied, “I know that we are to enter the Fire, but I do not know whether I’ll get out or not.” Hasan reported that a man said to a brother, “Have you received the information that you will enter the Fire?” He replied, “Yes.” He asked, “Have you received any information about getting out of it?” He replied, “No.” He asked him, “So, why do you laugh?” It is said that thereafter he was not seen laughing.

The above said, continues Ibn Jarir, others have taken the meaning of “warid” as “to pass over.” This is not only the literal meaning, but also supported by a hadith. The Prophet (saws) said: “I hope that those who participated in the Badr and Hudaybiyyah encounters will not enter the Fire.” Hafsa (bint ‘Umar) asked, “Hasn’t Allah said, ‘And there is none of you but he shall pass over it’?” He replied, “Read after that, ‘Then We shall deliver those that were godfearing.’”

A similar report is in Muslim (Au.).

There is another, long hadith that supports this meaning. It is narrated by Abu Sa`id al-Khudri. The Prophet speaks in it about how the people will cross the Bridge laid over the Fire. Many will fall down into Hellfire. Subsequently, (after a long period) intercessors will intercede until no one will be left in whose heart there is the littlest of faith. The tradition, coming from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri is as follows: “Then the people will start crossing over. Some Muslims would get through unhurt but some will be injured by it. Some escaping, while some held back. Yet others will pile up therein. Until, when Allah will be finished with the accounting of His slaves, the believers will discover that they are missing believers who were with them in the world, doing their kind of Prayers, paying their kind of zakah, fasting their kind of fasts, making pilgrimage in their manner and making Jihad like theirs. So they’d say, ‘Our Lord. Some slaves of Yours! They were with us in the world. They used to Pray like us, pay zakah like us, fast like us, perform pilgrimage like with us and make Jihad like us: we do not see them now?!’ He will say, ‘Go to the Fire and whoever of them you find therein, remove them.’ They’ll find that the Fire would have eaten off them in proportion to their deeds. There would be some among them whom the Fire would have taken off up to their feet; others up to his shank; some up to their knees; some up to their breasts; some up to their necks but would not have touched their faces. So they’ll remove them from the Fire and dip them in the water of Life.” It was asked, “And what is the water of Life, Messenger of Allah?” He answered, “Waste water of the people of Paradise.”

“So, they will start growing like the plants start growing in the flood passage. Then the Prophets will intercede in favor of everyone who sincerely bore witness that there is no god save Allah. They will remove them from it. Then Allah will show His mercy to whom He will so that none will be left therein who had a grain of faith in his heart but would have been removed” (Ibn Jarir).

Those who have held the above opinion have argued with another verse of the Qur’an which says (21: 101):  “As regards those about whom blessing has preceded from Us, they, such of them will be far removed from it (i.e., the Fire).”

This being the case, Khalid b. Ma`dan said, “When the people of Paradise would have entered Paradise, they will say, ‘Did our Lord not promise that we shall surely enter it?’ It will be said, ‘You have already been into it. But you found it ashes’” (Qurtubi).

This report is in `Abd b. Humayd, Ibn Abi Shaybah and others (Alusi).

Ibn Kathir has more or less the same line of argument except to add another hadith of Bukhari. It says:  “Three of a man’s infants do not die but the Fire becomes forbidden unto him, except for the fulfillment of the oath.”

A third opinion comes directly from the hadith, viz., entry into Hellfire will be made comfortable and pleasant. The Prophet is reported by Ibn Sumayyah as saying: “Coming there is entry. No one, neither a corrupt person nor a pious believer will be left but will enter the Fire. But it will be as cool for the believers as it was for Ibrahim” (Shawkani). The report is in Hakim who declared it Sahih with Dhahabi agreeing with him. It is also in Ahmad, and Haythami thought that the narrators were trustworthy (S. Ibrahim).

Majid traces out a similar statement in Christian liturgy. He writes: “Compare a teaching of Jesus, unrecorded in the canonized gospels, ‘Every one, be he who he may, must go into Hell. It is true, however, that the holy ones and prophets of God shall go there to behold, not suffering any punishment’ (GB. p. 317).”

 [72] Then We shall deliver those who were godfearing84 and leave the transgressors therein on their knees. 

Commentary

84. That is, people will pass over the Bridge laid over the Fire of Hell. Those who pass through, will do at a pace proportional to their deeds. Many will fall. Later, intercessors will intercede for them: from among the believers, angels, Prophets. They will intercede in favor of those who committed Major sins. They will bring out a whole lot of people who will be burned to the core except for the prostration spot on the forehead. They will first remove those who had faith the size of a Dinar (coin). Then lesser, and then lesser, until they would have removed anyone with the minutest amount of faith possible. Thereafter, Allah will remove a people who would have merely pronounced the testimony, without doing anything good ever. After that only those will be left who deserve to abide in Hell (Ibn Kathir).

[73] When Our revelations are recited to them as clear evidences, the wrongdoers say to the believers, ‘Which of the two groups is better placed and which one better in assembly?’85

Commentary

85. Sayyid Qutb comments: “So these are the prestigious clubs and important organizations from where the unbelievers issue their statements. Such statements as loaded with values and standards of judgment that are dear to the unbelievers of every corrupt epoch. On the other hand are the humble societies and modest associations that have nothing to show as their possessions except their faith: neither pomp nor glory, nor glittering ostentations, nothing. The two exist on the same planet, confronting each other.

“The former stands with all its gorgeous temptations, grandeur, wealth, power and glory, while the latter is clothed in poverty, armed with humbleness. The latter is belittled for lack of wealth and possessions, mocked at for want of power and prestige. It invites the people to join its ranks, not in the name of luxuries it has acquired, advantages it has gained, or closeness to men of power and authority that it has earned. But rather, in the name of a faith that it offers without dressing it with shiny apparels, bereft of every glitter, seeking strength by Allah’s Power and of none else. Indeed it presents a faith that is accompanied by hardships, difficulties and humiliation. It possesses nothing with which it can compensate the losses of those who respond to its call, except for nearness to Allah and a wholesome reward in the Hereafter.

“Here are the Quraysh chieftains – of the time of the Prophet – to whom Allah’s revelations were recited. They would turn to the weak Muslims and quip: ‘Which of the two groups is better placed and better in association?’ Which of the two: the powerful ones who wouldn’t believe in Muhammad, or the weak ones who surrounded him? Which of the two is better placed and better in association? Nadr b. al-Harith, `Amr b. Hisham, Walid b. al-Mughira and the other chieftains or Bilal, `Ammar, Khabbab and others of their brotherhood: those who held no rank in the society of the Quraysh and were of no importance at all? They met, when they had to, in the house of a poor, unemployed person like Khabbab to confront those of the prestigious clubs and important organizations, whose members held top positions in the society…”

Asad delves deeper to look at the underlying meaning of an apparently simple Qur’anic statement. He writes: “This parabolic ‘saying’ of the unbelievers implies, in the garb of a rhetorical question, a superficially plausible but intrinsically fallacious argument in favor of the society which refused to submit to any absolute moral imperatives and is determined to obey the dictates of expediency alone. In such a social order, material success and power are usually seen as consequences of a more or less conscious rejection of all metaphysical considerations – and, in particular, of all that is comprised in the concept of God-willed standards of morality – on the assumption that they are but an obstacle in the path of man’s free, unlimited ‘development.’ It goes without saying that this attitude (which has reached its epitome in the modern statement that ‘religion is the opium for the people’) is diametrically opposed to the demand, voiced by every religion, that man’s social life, if it is to be a truly ‘good’ life, must be subordinated to definite higher ethical principles and restraints. By their very nature, these restraints inhibit them to achieve – without regard to the damage done to others, and, spiritually, to themselves – outward comforts and positions of strength in the shortest possible time: but precisely because they do act as a brake on man’s selfishness and power-hunger, it is these moral considerations and restraints – and they alone – that can free a community from the interminable, self-destructive inner tension and frustration to which materialistic societies are subject, and thus bring about a more enduring, because more organic, state of social well-being. This, in short, is the elliptically implied answer of the Qur’an to a rhetorical question placed in the mouths of ‘those who are bent on denying the truth.’”

 [74] How many nations have We (not) destroyed before them who were better furnished and better in appearance?86

Commentary

86. If the root of the word “ri’ya” is sought in “ray”, then it would mean blessings and good things (Zamakhshari).

(To be continued)