Verses from Surah al-Mu’minun ( 99 – 111)

[99] Till, when death comes to one of them he says, ‘My Lord! Send me back,110


110. (The textual “irji`uni” is in plural addressing a group. But the word is preceded by “Rabbi” meaning, “My Lord” – in singular: Au.). It seems the unbelievers are addressing both Allah as well as the angels through one short sentence: “My Lord! Send me back.” (Ibn Jarir). Or, to put it differently, “O Lord [and O angels] send me back” (Mawdudi). But it could be a plural of respect (Majid), addressing one who is worthy of it (Mawdudi), a usage that can be demonstrated with a couplet (Zamakhshari and Razi); although, “such a plural is not ordinarily used in addressing Allah” (Yusuf Ali). A third possibility is to express recurrence. That is, the unbeliever will recurrently say, ‘Send me back, send me back’ (Qurtubi, Asad).

[100] Haply I could work righteousness in that I left (behind).’ By no means! It is but a word that he utters;111 and ahead of them is Barzakh112 until the Day they shall be raised. 


111. It would be futile to send them back, for, in that case, there can be two situations, (1) the memory of life on earth, that of the grave, and that of the Resurrection and accounting is retained. In this situation, they will not undergo any trial and will lose the right to choose by their free will. Alternatively (2), the entire memory is erased for them to step into the world, once again, as they did before: infants, not knowing anything. But, given the long experience of receiving the Truth but rejecting it out of pride, despite having recognized it as the truth, the attitudes would be repeated and the exercise futile (Au., with a point from Mawdudi) – although, in actual fact, the whole human life-cycle will have to be repeated to test them (Au.).

112. Literally, Barzakh is for a barrier. Here it stands for, according to Ibn Jarir, the barrier that makes it impossible for the unbelievers from returning to past life on earth. In general, adds Ibn Jarir, the word also stands for the world in between the two worlds: this present world and the Hereafter. Abu Umamah was in a funeral. When the dead body was placed in the grave he remarked, “This is the Barzakh until the day they will be resurrected.” Mujahid, Ibn Zayd, Dahhak, and others held the same opinion.

Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir have similar comments to make.

Majid quotes Dr. Iqbal, “(Barzakh) … a state of consciousness characterized by a change in the ego’s attitude towards time and space … a state in which the ego catches a glimpse of fresh aspects of Reality, and prepares himself for adjustment to these aspects (Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam).

To escape from the allegorical, one might modify the above by saying, “… a state of consciousness (in the grave) characterized by ..” (Au.).

[101] Then, when the Trumpet is blown, that Day there will be no ties of relationship between them anymore,113 nor will they ask after one another.114


113.Thanwi cautions us that the breaking up of the ties will not be absolute. It will be experienced by the unbelievers and wrongdoers. The Qur’an said (43: 67), “(Close) friends that day will be enemy unto each other – but for the pious.

As for the true believers (although they will forget each other when the Trumpet is given the first blow), their ties will remain on Judgment Day. The Qur’an said (52: 21),

As for those who believed and their offspring followed them in faith, We shall join them with their offspring.

Further, there are reports that the Prophet is an exception. Blood ties with him will not be broken. He said in a hadith, “Fatimah is a part of me. That angers me which angers her, and that pleases me, which pleases her. And all blood ties will be severed on the Day of Judgment except for my blood ties, my connection and my wedlock ties.” (Haythami declared it Sahih: S. Ibrahim). The first part of the hadith, (i.e., about Fatimah) is in the Sahihayn in slightly different words.

He also said, as recorded by Ahmad, “What’s the matter with men who say that the blood ties of the Apostle of Allah will not be of any profit to anyone. Why not? My blood ties are connected in this world and in the Hereafter. And I will, O people, precede you (at the Pond). A man will (come and) say, ‘Messenger of Allah. I am so and so, son of so and so.’ I will tell them, ‘As for the lineage, I recognize it. But you did things after me and turned back on your heels.’”

We also have on record ‘Umar’s words, who said when he married ‘Ali’s daughter Umm Kulthum, “By Allah, I have no other objective (behind this marriage) except that I heard the Prophet say, ‘Every instrument and blood tie will be severed except for my instrument and my blood tie.’” It is said that he offered her 40,000 as her Mahr, in her honor. There are other reports confirming that the lineage with the Prophet will not be severed on the Day of Judgment.

Most of the above reports have been reproduced by Shawkani. His editor S. Ibrahim adds that ‘Umar’s words that he heard the Prophet say, “Every instrument ..” up to “blood tie” are trustworthy in Albani’s opinion.

114. “And when the Trumpet is blown … nor will they ask after one another”: which blow of the Trumpet is it? Ibn `Abbas has explained that this will be at the first blow when all ties of relationship will be forgotten and no soul will inquire after another. It is only after the second blow of the Trumpet that some of them might seek to know about others. The Qur’anic verse of Surah Al-Saaffat numbered 27 is referring to that. It says, “Then some of them will come forward asking after the others.”

[102] Then, he whose scales are heavy,115 those then, they are the prosperers.


115. The translation of “mawaazeen” as “scales” is far from accurate and has been adopted for convenience, for, as Zamakhshari has pointed out, “mawaazeen” is the plural of “mawzoon” which is for a thing which has been weighed. Here, it means those deeds that are weighty, as Ibn `Abbas explained.

[103] While he whose scales are light, they are the ones who lost their souls, dwelling in Jahannum forever.

[104] The Fire will smite their faces, and they will be (grinning) therein with curled lips.116


116. The translation is figurative, otherwise “kalaha” is to curl lips exposing the teeth. When Ibn Mas`ud was asked for explanation, he said, “Haven’t you seen a burnt (animal) head with curled back lips and exposed teeth?” A hadith is reported in Tirmidhi, who accredited it, (as well as in Hakim who rated it Sahih: Au.), that the Prophet said in explanation of this verse:  “The Fire of Hell will burn their lips so that the upper lip will shrink back to cover half of his head while the lower lip will fall down to his navel” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).

[105] Were not My revelations recited upon you but you cried them lies?

[106] They will say, ‘Our Lord! Our wretchedness prevailed over us;117 and we were a people astray.118


117. “(This dialogue … is meant to bring out the futile excuse characteristic of so many sinners who attribute their failings to an abstract ‘bad luck’ … and thus, indirectly, it stresses the element of free will – and, therefore, of responsibility – in man’s action and behavior” (Asad).

118. “And we were a people astray” – perhaps the unbelievers will add this phrase that day in hope that sometimes admission of errors helps in winning forgiveness (Thanwi).

[107] Our Lord! Remove us from out of it. Then, if we returned (to evil), we shall indeed be wrongdoers.’

[108] He will say, ‘Remain despised therein, and speak not unto Me.119


119. Ibn Jarir pieces together (at verse 105) several reports coming from Muhammad ibn Ka`b and others to give us an account of various conversations that will take place between the people of the Fire and others. (A shortened version was reported by Qurtubi earlier. See Ibrahim, verse 44, who repeats it here. Ibn Kathir and Razi also present in a shorter form):

They (the reporters) were told that the people of the Fire will plead the guardians of Hell for help saying (40: 49), “Pray to your Lord that He may reduce from us a day of the torture.”

They will reply in words Allah used (i.e., [40: 50], “Pray yourself. And the prayers of the unbelievers will be not but lost in vain).”

Having lost hope with them they will next address the Keeper of Hell (43: 77), “Let your Lord deal us death.”

He will not reply to them for 80,000 years of the Hereafter and then turn to them to say (43: 77),  “You will stay (therein).”

When they get the answer they will say to each other, “Let us bear in patience, as the inhabitants of Paradise remained steadfast in Allah’s obedience.” So they will remain bearing the torments patiently until their patience will be up. They will cry out in exasperation (14: 21), “It is all the same for us whether we refuse to endure or observe patience. There is no place of escape for us.”

At that point, Iblis will intervene as in the verse (14: 22), “And Satan will say when the matter is concluded, ‘Allah promised you a true promise, and I too promised. But I failed in my promise.”

At that they will begin to hate themselves.

They will be told (40: 10), “Surely, Allah’s hatred of you was greater than your hatred of yourselves, when you were invited to faith but you refused.

They will say (40: 11), “Our Lord! You gave us death twice and brought us to life twice. Now, we admit our sins. So, is there a way out?”

They will be told (40: 12), “That, because when you were invited to Allah alone, you disbelieved. But if He was associated with, you believed. So the judgement is for the Most High, the Great.

They will feel downcast, but will call again saying (32: 12), “O our Lord! We have seen and heard. So send us back so that we can do righteous deeds, we are now believers.”

He will answer (32: 14), “Taste then because you forgot this day’s meeting. We have also forgotten you. Taste the everlasting punishment for what you were doing.”

Then they will ask (14: 44), “O our Lord! Defer us to a near term. We shall respond to Your call and follow the Messengers.”

They will be told (14: 44), “Were you not the ones who swore aforetime that you will not have to move (to the next world)?”

At that they will be further disappointed but will again ask (35: 37), “O our Lord! Remove us (from here) so that we can do righteous deeds.

Allah (swt) will answer them (35: 37), “Did we not lengthen your life, that he might remember who wished to remember; and a warner came to you? So, taste (the punishment), there is no helper for the wrongdoers.”

Thereafter He will leave them un-addressed for a while, and then say (23: 105), “Were not My revelations recited upon you, but you would cry them lies?”

When they hear that, they will see a ray of hope and will say, “May be He will show us mercy.” So, they will say (23: 106), “O our Lord! Our wretchedness got the better of us. We were a misguided people.”

Allah will reply (23: 108), Remain despised therein, and don’t speak to Me (any further).”

Thereafter, they will never address Him again, but only howl and bark at each other and the lid will be laid over them and sealed.

Zamakhshari has a shorter report but attributes it to Ibn `Abbas. Alusi too has a shorter version whose original sources include Bayhaqi and Hakim, who accredited the report, although Alusi is not so convinced of the accreditation. In any case, this is not a hadith (Au.).

[109] There surely was a group from among My slaves who used to say, “Our Lord! We have believed; therefore forgive us, and have mercy on us, surely, You are the best of the merciful.”

[110] But you took them in jest, to the point that they made you forget My remembrance; and you remained making fun of them.

[111] I have indeed rewarded them this Day for their patient endurance, that they – they are the triumphant.’120


120. With reference to the words, “I have indeed rewarded them this Day for their patient endurance, that they – they are the triumphant” – it should not be thought that the reason stated here is all the reason for the reward, but rather, one of the many reasons (Thanwi).

(To be continued)

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