81: At-Takwir Combined

Tafseer Surah At-Takwir

The two words that describe the events of the last day in the previous two surahs were At-Taama and As-Saakhkhah. At-Taama was the overwhelming, engulfing, surrounding calamity. As-Saakhkhah was a word used for the second blowing of the trumpet that initiates the resurrection. This surah begins almost with a tafseer of those two things and depicts how the day of resurrection is so overwhelming. The previous surah ended with a depiction of what happens to a person after As-Saakhkhah and was a personal image. Now, it is almost as if the camera has shifted focus to the sky and then the stars and the mountains. It is almost as if the previous surah ended by depicting the chaos amongst the people on that day and the imagery has now changed to depict the environment, the chaos amongst the sky and all else on the same day. The word takwir is interpreted as meaning shrouded in darkness and the surah is Makki by agreement.

Abu Bakr (ra) once came to the messenger (saw) and saw grey hair on his head and asked him what had caused his hair to grey. The messenger (saw) answered that it was Surah Hud, Al Mursilaat, Al Waaqiah, An-Naba and At-Takwir that had caused his hair to grey. It is also reported that the messenger (saw) used to recite this surah and encourage others to recite it in qiyaam-u-layl. The messenger (saw) also said that whoever would like to look at the Day of Judgement as if he were looking at it with his naked eye should read At-Takwir.

Idha is a word that gives a connotation of a condition and every conditional phrase requires a response. For example, if I say ‘If Muhammad comes’ and then stay silent my sentence lacks a response. Here Allah (swt) is delaying the response until later in the surah and this serves to stimulate one’s listening. Idha also means ‘when’ and in English when can be used to refer to the past and also to the future. For example, ‘when I went to the office’ and ‘when I go to the office’. In Arabic, when use ‘when’ to refer to the past you do not say idha you say idh. So when Allah refers to an event in the past He (swt) uses idh and when an event is mentioned that refers to the future idha is used. In this verse idha is followed by a word in the past tense yet idha establishes the verse in the future. The function of the past tense here in classical Arabic is to speak of something with certainty. Something so certain it is as certain as the past itself. So when Allah (swt) speaks of something in the future but it is guaranteed and is inevitable it is mentioned in the past.

Normally, in Arabic sentences are constructed with the verb appearing before the subject. In this verse the subject appears before the verb, which indicates an abnormality in the speech. This serves to increases the rhythmic nature of the verses and illustrates that a lot of detail has been put into the arrangement of the verses and the sound of them. Another reason for this is to make the statement more believable as here is someone who does not believe what you are saying and so you almost raise your voice in order to make your statement more believable. This illustrates the frustration of the speaker, the anger of the speaker and even the volume of the speaker. So here, Allah (swt) is speaking to those in denial of these facts and those who disbelieve and by putting as-shams first the translation is not just when the sun is wrapped up but when in fact the sun does get wrapped up.

These considerations in the Quran are important because it tells us who is being addressed. The language, the style, tone and language illustrates who Allah (swt) is talking to. The Quran is guidance to all of humanity and within humanity there are lots of different types of people and sometimes Allah (swt) is talking to the good, and sometimes those who are adamant in their disbelief and sometimes those who have not heard anything before etc. So, in this case the primary audience is the worst of the kaffir, of the sceptic, or the cynical who spoke about the akhira in very casual terms. So a very threatening tone is set from the beginning of this surah.

Furthermore, when Allah (swt) mentions these events He (swt) does not talk about himself and say for example, ‘when Allah wraps up the sun’. The passive is used. This is because when those sceptical of Islam hear the Quran before they even get to the part about the akhira they lose interest as the speaker is Allah (swt) who they disbelieve in. The first thing they disbelieve in is the Quran being a message from Allah (swt). Once a judgment has been passed on a speaker you will not want to hear their message if you view the speaker negatively. To overcome this, Allah (swt) speaks in the passive and says don’t think about the speaker, think about the speech. The passive form thus highlights the speech but not the speaker.

81:1

When the sun is darkened

Kuwwirat comes from the word takwir and literally means to wrap something up and is used specifically for turbans. The idea is that the light of the sun is stretched out and is compared to the long stretched cloth of the turban that gets folded up just like Allah (swt) will fold up the light on the day of judgement. When a turban wraps the head, the head gradually becomes invisible. So, the day will lose its light gradually and it will darken. Others have interpreted this more literally and understood that the sun itself will look like it has been folded up and covered up. Takwir also means to throw something in one instant and thus some scholars were of the view that the sun would be thrown into the oceans. The sun is significantly larger than the earth and but if it is folded up then this would be quite possible.

81:2

And when the stars fall

Inkidaar means to lose colour or brilliance. Thus, the stars will become dull. The essence of inkidaar means to fall and so two things have happened here. The most brilliant portion of the day has collapsed in verse one and the most stellar feature of the night, the stars that are scattered across the sky, has also lost its light and brilliance and is falling apart. Almost like the earth has an incredible gravitational pull and is beginning to pull the sun and stars towards it.

81:3

When the mountains are made to move away

And when even the mountains are made to move casually. Here again the subject precedes the verb adding emphasis and indicating that a tougher and more adamant Kaffir is being spoken to. In Surah An-Naziat Allah (swt) mentions the mountains that are pegged into the ground and now he is saying they are going to be uprooted and then move casually. The word sayaarat in Arabic originally meant the caravan of old with camels and horses and luggage which travels slowly. Saara means to casually take a walk in a garden. So the mountains here will almost float away.

81:4

And when the pregnant she-camels are left untended

So first you don’t believe your eyes when you see what’s happening to the sun followed by the stars falling and then it seems like the mountains are moving. I’Shaar in Arabic is the plural of o’shara which are the she-camels that are ten months pregnant and this comes from a’shara which is the number ten. This was very important to the Arabs as it was the most coveted, precious and honoured of wealth with them and a source of great pride. Allah (swt) says that these will be o’ttilat. A’tala means to become useless or to be neglected and Arabs would even use this word to refer to a woman that was not decked out in jewellery or beautified and thus she is useless in society, as if a woman is not beautified what use would she be. Mu’attal is a person who loses his job and is put to waste.

So Allah says of this precious asset that normally has security surrounding it, a rope on it, branded with it’s owners name, being taken care of and a precious asset not to be left alone on that day will be rendered useless to him when he sees what is happening around him and it will be let go of. Imagine you are in a burning building. You would leave all your wealth in there to get outside as only your survival is important to you.

81:5

When the wild beasts are gathered together

The word wahsh is a wild animal or beast that does not have affection for other creatures and cannot be domesticated. Animals that cannot intermingle with humans or other animals and do not form societies, spending most of their time on their own like polar bears for example. It is the opposite of the word ins which is a human being which can show affection to others. Another meaning of this word is a person who walked in the earth with wahsh which means that he walked on the earth by himself and indicates that he was difficult to get along with and thus walked without company. Allah (swt) says that these wild animals will be gathered together.

Hashara means to herd animals specifically and when you gather animals you do not do so on their own accord, you force them. This is also one of the names of the Day of Resurrection – the day of herding as humans against their will, will be herded towards that one field to be questioned.

Allah (swt) does not mention domesticated animals being herded but specifically wild animals, animals that would never be next to each other. The closest thing to this in this dunya is for example a flood where two animals that would otherwise be at each others throats are together on a little patch of land with no regard to the fact that the animals killer or food is standing next to him as there is a greater fear. Many mufassiroon say that the animals will be so scared that they will be gathering with humans as well as other animals yet neither will notice the other. So, when all these calamities occur on that day these animals will lose their natural instinct of attack or fear of each other and instead will have a greater thing to worry about and so stand next to each other, herded together. Contrast this with the previous surah where Allah (swt) describes human beings running away from one another when normally they would go towards one another and in this surah animals are running towards one another whereas normally they would not. By nature these animals would not be herded together and humans would be together. Everything we have been use to is reversed.

It is considered that the first six verses are before the hour and the next six are after the hour. If we go for the interpretation that this verse occurs before the hour then it describes everyone being gathered together to die. Animals will be gathered together because there will be so many floods causing them to seek higher ground. Another opinion is that this verse is alluding to animals being raised on the Day of Judgement in addition to men.

 81:6

When the seas are set alight (or overflow)

There is a gradual descent in this surah from the sun and the stars, to the mountains and the animals and now with this verse, the sea. Abhur means a few bodies of water and bihaar means all bodies of water or oceans. So, bihaar is a plural of multitude or a super plural. Sajar has three meanings, firstly, to be filled. Second is to be ignited with fire and thirdly, to dry out. The mufassiroon have explained this verse in light of all these meanings. In light of the first meaning the interpretation is that the seas will all be overflowed and filled to the point that there will only be one sea. Alternately, the seas will dry out or be set alight whilst others say that the seas will go through all these stages. It will firstly overflow and then dry out leaving huge pits or canyons full of fire.

Tasjeer is when you have a large pot into which you throw coal and fuel and then set it alight, so a pot which is full of not just fuel but things used to excite flames. The implication of this is that the water of the ocean will actually turn into fuel for a fire. An amazing transformation as water is used to put out flames and is the opposite of something considered to excite flames. The fire will be so powerful it will seem as if the oceans are just drops in it. Another interpretation is that the hellfire is located under the oceans and due to the flames the oceans bubble and boil over and flooding takes place. So the oceans being set alight could be figuratively or literally.

81:7
When people’s souls are paired [like with like],

All of the themes revealed earlier were not about humans but either animals or huge things like oceans or mountains or the sun. The things that Allah (swt) has mentioned have gradually been getting worse and continue with the worst of all so far. This verse commences the second stage. There are two plurals of nafs, anfus and nufoos. Anfus is the weaker plural and nufoos is the multitude plural. So, every single individual will be paired together. Tazweej in Arabic means to pair something, for example, when a father marries his daughter off. Here it is being used in a larger sense. Umar ibn Khattab in tafseer of this verse says that this means that the people who did good in this world will be paired with the people who did good in this world in Jannah and the people who did evil in this world will be paired with those who did evil in this world in hellfire. Some also say it is when the believers will be paired up with the hoor al-ayn and the disbelievers will be paired up with the shayateen. Two other opinions are that firstly every person will be paired with their own i.e. the souls that had departed the body will be reunited and secondly that people will be reunited with their deeds. The strongest opinion is that of Umar and this is supported elsewhere in the Quran.

The word nafs is commonly translated as soul and has many derivatives in it’s root form. Anfaas in Arabic means breaths. Tanaffas also means to take a breath. Tannaafus means to compete in the spirit of healthy and friendly competition. All these things have back and forth in common. What this has in common with nafs is that an-nafs is something that is always going back and forth between the states that Allah (swt) describes either moving towards desire and humiliation and then towards another desire, thus, it is always in motion.

81:8

When the infant girl, buried alive, is asked

It is commented that the one who buried the child and the one who bore her meaning the father who commanded to bury her will both be in the hellfire. Mow’uda is the woman or female who is buried alive and she will be asked. This is an attack on the Quraysh. When a girl was born it was a very ugly event. The mother would go to a ditch when she was about to give birth and bury her child if it was a girl. One of the reasons for this is because it was a question of an Arab’s manhood if he was unable to produce a male. Secondly, when a daughter grows up she could marry into a different tribe, which would be a source of humiliation for the father and his tribe. Arabs would also worry about not being able to financially provide for them and fearing they would be a burden. The Arabs were often at war with other tribes and sometimes their daughters and women would be captured. The father would not want to risk the shame of his daughter growing up and preferring her captors to her family. Muhammad (saw) guaranteed Jannah for the one who could raise three daughters properly but not three sons so why do even today Muslims who should know better hanker after boys. Islam came to replace the hardness in the hearts of man with mercy.

Why is the killer here not being questioned? This is because when the father decided to kill his daughter no one was there to question his decision. The daughter could not complain to anyone, she had no means to defend herself and no one was there to hear her voice. So now, Allah (swt) gives a voice to the person who did not have a voice and could not speak for themselves – the oppressed. On the Day of Judgement, the oppressed, those whose cries were not heard in this life, will be the first to be judged, the first to be empowered, as these were the ones that desperately waited for justice. The fact that the killer is not even questioned illustrates the extent to which Allah (swt) is angry with the killer that he does not even deserve to be spoken to. Allah (swt) will talk to the victim and not even turn to him. This is a style used in the Quran against who Allah (swt) is extremely angry with. For example, on the Day of Judgement Allah (swt) does not scold the Christians for associating partners with him (swt). Instead you find a dialogue between Allah (swt) and Esa (saw) but that’s not because he is angry with Esa (saw) it’s because the Christians who altered Esa’s (saw) teachings do not deserve to be addressed as they did such a big crime. This is an illustration at how angry Allah (swt) is with these people.

Furthermore, criminals cannot tolerate the voice of the oppressed being heard as they can expose all the crimes that were committed against them. The oppressor will not be able to deny the evidence and this is the worst source of humiliation for them. They do not even deserve to be spoken to and the key has literally been thrown away.

In the previous surah Allah (swt) talks about how man will run away from his wife and baniihi. In classical usage baniihi refers specifically to sons and not daughters. The audience here is the kaffir and he loves his sons and this love of his sons is illustrated in his embarrassment over the daughters that appear in this surah. Also, notice there are two pregnancies mentioned in this surah, the ten month old pregnant she-camel and the baby girl that is born and buried alive. Out of these two things it is the child that would have been valued more by a decent human being. Allah (swt) first talks about the things that will scare the kaffir and then He (swt) talks about the things they love the most that they will then lose and the first of these things he mentions are his camels, not even his own flesh and blood. His child he is willing to bury but the camel is a source of pride. Also, note the daughters were sometimes buried up to the age of six.

81:9

For what sin was she killed

The word dhanb is used for the smallest infraction, for example a parking ticket could be seen as a small infraction. Allah (swt) is saying there is no chance of finding a big sin she might have committed so can you even find a small crime that she committed for which she deserved to die.

 81:10

When the records are laid open

The scrolls are flat and laid open in the life of this world for the angels to record your deeds and when you die the scrolls are rolled up and then on the Day of Judgement they will be laid open again. Anshara means to spread out and also means to bring to life. Thus, it will be as if the scrolls (which are the scrolls of deeds that have been recorded) are spread out and brought to life and the contents within brought to life. The word suhoof appears in the previous surah also where it refers to revelation. In this surah it refers to the scrolls enclosing all of man’s deeds. Thus, if you did not care about the former suhoof you will be in trouble with the latter suhoof. Those scriptures came so that we could fix these scriptures so the two are now complementing each other subhanallah. Allah (swt) could question man about his deeds and no one could complain but this recording is to provide supplementary evidence. It will further add to the humiliation of those who did bad and give security to those who did good and when the criminal sees his wrong deeds on paper, written down, it will only add to his guilt and shame. Likewise those who did well and see it written on their scrolls will feel tranquillity and peace.

81:11

When the sky is stripped off

Allah (swt) now mentions the sky which you would have thought would have been included in the passage where Allah was talking about the sun, stars and the mountains. However, after a break Allah (swt) now mentions the sky as it serves a literary function connected with the next verse. Samaa literally means that which is above but commonly means sky. The word kushitat comes from the verb kashata. To skin the camel once it is slaughtered is kasht, kashaat is a butcher and kishaat is the peeled skin itself. This verse could be taken literally by understanding that the sky has a skin that is peeled. However, it is more appropriate to understand the imagery here. Allah (swt) in another place in the Quran mentions the sky on the day of judgement will be red. When you peel the skin of an animal the red flesh is exposed so this illustrates how red the sky will look, so red it is as if the skin of the sky has been peeled. The sky will look red as it will reflect the vicious occurrences on earth that day.

81:12

When the hellfire is set ablaze

The word sa’ara is to cause a fire that towers high. So the jaheem, this vicious glaring hellfire, is given towering flame. This fire towers so high that its redness even affects the texture of the sky making the sky look as if has been peeled. In the last surah we found some faces, faces that have black dust on them and overwhelmed with black smoke. They will be overwhelmed with the smoke from this towering blazing fire that will overcome them with smoke to the extent they are blackened. So, the fire in these verses is connected to the faces in the previous surah.

81:13

When paradise is brought near

In the previous surah we also learn of the faces that are lit bright and look like they can’t stop smiling and this is due to the sight of Jannah which has been brought close. Zulf in Arabic means a portion or a great portion of something. Zulfa means status. When Allah (swt) talks about Sulayman (saw) he uses the word zulfa and says he has high status. The word muzdallifa is the field or the region that you stop at close to Mina which is why it’s called the ‘close by’ place. It is also an honoured place when someone is brought close in order to honour him. In other words this verse talks about paradise being brought close in order to honour the believer. So paradise has been depicted as an honorary gift to the believers. It is brought close to the believers but hellfire is not brought close to the disbelievers and this reinforces the idea mentioned in the previous verse that hellfire may be beneath us under the sea. This verse proves that jannah is already created and that it is far from us. Another implication of jannah being brought close is that no hardship will need to be undertaken to enjoy it to the extent that trees will lower their branches to give you its fruit.

Notice in this verse also the noun precedes the verb as Allah (swt) talks to the disbeliever who thinks that the only thing close to the believer is destruction and poverty, however, Allah (swt) makes clear emphatically and in strong terms that the thing being brought close to the believers and the honour coming their way is Jannah itself.  When Allah (swt) talks about Jannah we often think he is talking to the believer but here He (swt) is reprimanding the disbeliever and making clear that in fact the honour is coming to the believer.

81:14

Every person shall know what it has put forward (of good and evil)

At the end of all this there is a sentence that begins with a verb whereas all those before began with a noun. Also, the verses that came before begin with a ‘when’, and when this happens there needs to be a concluding remark. Allah (swt) does not being this verse with a noun as this verse does not need to be emphasised. This is because everyone knows full well what actions they need to present. This is not a difficult to imagine concept as everyone already knows this deep inside. So, there is a transition in the language. The sun being wrapped up and the stars collapsing seems unnatural to us and so a stronger form of language is used to drive the point home whereas deep in our psyche we already know what our conclusion is. These qualities were all mentioned and the response delayed so that stirring our imagination could drive this point home.

This verse is a response to every verse that came before it. After witnessing every calamity man is concerned and preoccupied with what he has to present of his deeds as he realises ‘I know what’s coming’ and all he can think of is himself. This follows on from the previous surah where Allah (swt) gives man the opportunity to fix himself but he does not and so in this surah Allah (swt) is essentially saying ‘You know what’s coming now’. The word hadara means to present itself or to be present. Ahdara means to take something and bring it for presentation and it includes the implication of forcing i.e. a reluctant presentation. It is normally used to refer to something tangible for example bringing forward a book. This could therefore be referring to the scrolls of our deeds that will be turned into physical entities and put on the scales. Even the believer will be nervous on the day until the scales have been counted. We do not know the consequences of our actions, the small and great of them. The messenger (saw) said that one of us could say a word that could plunge us into hellfire by seventy years and that person would not even know. However, one may speak a word that will please Allah (swt) and as a result Allah (swt) will enter him into jannah. This should put us in a state of worry and concern regarding our actions.

81:15

I swear by the stars that appear and disappear

This verse marks a shift which is illustrated by the letter faa which connects the statements that are coming to whatever statement that came before. The previous verse concludes the entire first passage. Allah (swt) ties the discussion on the hellfire to the truthfulness of the messenger (swt) and the angel Gabriel. Allah (swt) has softened and humbled the heart of the believer or disbeliever and then takes this opportunity to affirm the prophethood of Muhammad (saw). There is a transition from the world of actions (ahdara) to the world of belief and actions are rooted in beliefs. The kuffar thought certain things were bad omens and superstitions for example having a daughter. One of these superstitions was to do with the stars. The twinkling nature of stars led the pre-Islamic Arab to think the stars were trying to tell him something, for example meteors or shooting stars were considered a sign of something. For many people then as today astrology was big business. They would say that they would get information about the future from shayateen that would go up to the heavens and stars and find out things. One of the accusations levelled at the messenger (saw) was that he also was a mind reader and gets information from the stars.

Allah (swt) here goes to their apparent source of knowledge, the stars, and swears by them. The word khunnas is the plural of khaanis and is someone who is going on a path when all of a sudden he takes a turn or hides behind a bush and disappears, thus they go from seen to unseen. It can also refer to stars or planets that appear in the night but disappear in the day. The mushrik would say that when a star has appeared it is a sign for him but by calling it khunnas Allah (swt) is saying that it appears but also disappears and Allah controls their appearance and disappearance.

81:16

Which move swiftly and hide themselves

This verse is a continuation from the previous verse as there is no waa or faa. The word jawaar means to veer off its path and in this context can be considered a shooting star or a star that goes off course. The word kunnas comes from the word kinnas which is the hiding place of a deer when it suddenly disappears into a bush for example and is used to refer to the coming and going of animals at the blink of an eye. This illustrates that the star that is shooting disappears after brief movement. Allah (swt) begins by swearing by them illustrating his control over them. The Arab believes that the Jinn get information from the stars but we learn that when the Jinn or shayateen try to steal information from the angels they are shot down with stars. So what the Arab or astrologer today thinks is the Jinn getting information is actually the Jinn getting a beating.

81:17

And by the night as it starts to darken (and dwindle your vision)

The word ‘as’asa is used for the night when the evening is starting and also when it is ending because these are times when the vision is blurry. At these hours you cannot see the sky.

81:18

And by the dawn as it starts to breathe

So the night is choking on the day and the day then gets to breath at dawn. When the day breathes the stars are no longer visible. Thus, Allah (swt) controls what you can see and what you cannot. When it is day you have no idea whether the stars are shooting or not so from where do you get your information.

81:19

This is truly the word of a noble messenger

The word kareem comes from the word kiramah which refers to nobility and honour and refers to the angel Gabriel. Note here that the word kalaam which means speech is not used. The word qawl is used which is another word for speech. This is because the word kalaam is used with Allah (swt) and means literally that which is said from the source and qawl is that which is uttered by the tongue. When you have a qawl it could be from someone else’s kalaam and source i.e. you are just saying it but when you have a kalaam it is your own. So when we say the messenger said in hadiths we are saying that it is the messenger’s (saw) kalaam but it is the narrator’s qawl. In other words these are not the words of Gabriel they are the word of Allah (swt) which is why the word kalaam is not used. This Quran with its description of the Day of Judgement is the word of a noble and mighty messenger, i.e. Gabriel, the angel who carried and delivered it to Muhammad (saw).

Note also that we are told that this is the speech of a noble messenger and it is part of his nobility that he will deliver the message in all honesty not like the devil that the astrologer relies on with no associated nobility. In the previous surah Allah (swt) talks about the integrity of revelation but that is only one part of the message. The three parts are the message, the delivery and the messenger. The revelation has been defended in the previous surah and now in this surah He (swt) is defending the means by which the revelation comes (via Gabriel – a noble and mighty messenger) and later in this surah He (swt) will also defend the messenger (saw). The word rusool means someone who delivers something and is a professional at this and delivers well.

Furthermore, the two previous oaths are answered with this verse. The difference in clarity between the night when it is blurry and when the morning is clear is a parallel to the difference in the clarity and obscurity between what the messenger Gabriel says and what the fortune tellers and mind readers say and thus it is so clear that it should be abundantly clear to you that it is the word of a noble messenger and not a devil. These verses seek to confirm the credibility of the isnad of the Quran. Originally the Arabs would use the word kurma which is very similar to kareem and is a tree that grows grapes. The significance of grapes it that it grows on low hanging branches and thus is easy to pick and grows in multitudes. Thus, kareem refers to something noble but also to someone very generous, someone who when he gives a lot he gives the best. Gabriel is therefore kareem as he gives a lot of guidance to mankind and the very best form of guidance – the Quran. This quality necessitates that he preserves the qualities of the Quran without any distortion and when someone is noble they do not lie or hold back vital information.

The majority say that the ‘hu’ refers to the Quran even though the Quran has not been mentioned at all in this surah but it is implied from the context. In order to reinforce everything that has been mentioned about the Day of Judgement Allah (swt) declares that this is indeed the message of a noble messenger and therefore you should believe everything that it states within it. Typically in today’s age any debate with a non-Muslim invariably always ends up being a discussion on matters of Shariah. The disbeliever will believe in all that this surah has outlined with regards to the resurrection if they believe that the Quran is the word of Allah (swt). Most of the discussions with the Quraysh were on aqeedah and not shariah and this is what Muslims should concentrate on when talking to non-Muslims. You may be able to convince someone about some matters of shariah such as the merits of the hijab but you would not be able to convince them about everything.

81:20

Owner of power (and high rank) with (Allah), the Lord of the Throne

The weakness of the shayateen was illustrated when the stars are shot against them and they have no defence and have to run and find hiding places to try and hear something. However, this messenger himself (Gabriel) is extremely mighty and no one is going to try and steal anything from him. Quwwa means strength and refers to the ability to do great tasks that not many can do. This strength refers to the Gabriel’s great task of passing on the message and also of his ability to repel shayateen and so surely the message he passes onto Muhammad (saw) cannot be tampered with. Furthermore, if he is this strong and supports Muhammad (saw) then how dare anyone challenge Muhammad (saw). Furthermore, his strength indicates his ability to implement the commands of Allah (swt) reiterating his ability to pass on this message to mankind.

Allah (swt) also mentions that he is getting this stuff right from the source. Inda can mean that in the metaphorical sense Gabriel is in close proximity with Allah (swt) and we know that Gabriel can go further than any other angel and that he heard the Quran directly from Allah (swt). The word ‘arsh means to build a wooden roof which is a very expensive commodity in the desert society. It is the highest physical creation of Allah (swt) and nothing is above it except Allah (swt). Makeen comes from the word makana which means to live somewhere and makaan is a house. A makeen is someone who lives somewhere permanently but also means to give someone high status. From ancient times to now ownership of a home is a symbol of status and the higher the profile of your neighbourhood the higher your status. We also know that Yusuf (as) was given the title of Makeen because he had a very high status with the king after he interpreted his dream. Allah (swt) says of Gabriel that he is situated right by the possessor of the throne, thus Gabriel has high status due to where he is situated.

81:21
Obeyed and trustworthy

The word taa’a means to celebrate and also to volunteer for something. Allah (swt) mentions this attribute mutaa’a for Gabriel illustrating that he is followed but followed lovingly, a tight knit following of angels that follow his every command with pleasure. The person who follows with pleasure is called mutaa’a. We are told this to inform us that when he delivers his message there is also a security team with him. Imagine when a highly classified document or technology is being delivered. High ranking officials who have access to this will deliver it and they will have a team of security who have had background checks carried out on them around it and escorting it. This is what we are being told here. This revelation is coming from the highest source and the one delivering it is the highest ranked official who has an army of security.

Thamma is a noun used to describe a place ‘over there’ so even right by the throne Gabriel has a huge following. It is because he has strength and a high position with Allah (swt) that no one can order him except for Allah (swt) and this he is given the description of being obeyed meaning that the other angels obey him. Furthermore, by saying he is obeyed ‘over there’ it is implying that there is another messenger (Muhammad) that should be obeyed by those who believe in Allah (swt). Allah (swt) commanded the inhabitants of heaven – the angels to obey Gabriel just as he has commanded the people of the earth obey Muhammad (saw). Thamma is also mentioned right before an adjective to empower the adjective or to highlight it above all other adjectives. So thamma has two purposes, the first is to represent the station of Gabriel and second is to highlight that of all the adjectives used to describe Gabriel the one highlighted the most is ameen which means especially especially trustworthy. The mere fact that Gabriel is to be obeyed indicates that he is someone to be trusted. The context of all of this is to reinforce the credibility of Gabriel and that he is indeed conveying what Allah (swt) spoke. This is important as the deliverer of the revelation must be trustworthy and so the message is delivered using only the most trustworthy means.

81:22

And your companion is not insane

There is a shift now and Allah (swt) is talking to the kuffar who on the day of judgement He (swt) will not be talking to. Everything in the surah thus far has been in the third person with no direct speech being made to anyone but now Allah (swt) addresses the Quraysh directly and the speech is becoming more intense. So after Allah (swt) gives credibility to his ambassador in another realm he now gives credibility to the messenger Muhammad in our realm. Allah (swt) does not say Muhammad is insane. He (swt) says your companion. Saahib in Arabic means the one who accompanies you in space and time and illustrates that he has lived among your midst, you know him, where he lives and have been physically close to him and he has been among you for a long time. And this is how you get to know someone, when you live close to someone or you spend a lot of time with them. In the masjid we may meet someone regularly but do we really know that person as we do not live with them as they may be a completely different person when they get home. But if you are their neighbour and you spend a lot of time with them then you really know them. Allah (swt) is saying that as the messenger has been amongst your midst a very long time you know very well he is not insane, or a mind reader and of the very best attributes you prescribe to him.

Muhammad (saw) was no stranger to the Quraysh. He lived amongst them for forty years and was of noble lineage. It is narrated that before Muhammad (saw) made Hijra he instructed Ali (ra) to return the belongings the Quraysh had entrusted him with. In other words the very same people that had labelled him as insane, possessed or a magician still trusted him enough to let him keep hold of their belongings. Furthermore, through studying the seerah alone you can tell that there are no signs of insanity. The fact that he had so many wives and companions shows that he was not insane as the signs of insanity are most apparent to those people closest to you. Additionally, how can someone insane provide a book which is still amazing people to this very day?

The word Jannah in Arabic literally means to cover something up and to climb over it. Thus paradise in Arabic is Jannah as it covers up dirt with lush greenery and it is a lush garden where one thing covers another i.e. overflowing garden. Trees that are so dense that when someone enters they will be hidden from view such is its lush density. Jinn because our eyes are covered from seeing them. Mujnoon has two implications, the first is the one whose intellect has been overshadowed or covered and he cannot make sense of anything and thus he is called insane. The second implication is someone who is possessed by a jinn. So, Allah (swt) is saying he is not possessed by a Jinn and also implies he is not getting his information from a Jinn or is inspired by them. Rather he gets them from the angel Gabriel who delivers them from Allah (swt).

81:23

And indeed he saw him in the clear horizon

The word o’fuq literally means a corner, so the far horizon where the earth and the sky meet. The horizon is where the sun comes out and is extremely vast and it was from there, the clearest part – where the eyesight cannot possibly be false in declaring something, that he saw Gabriel. Note, that the sight and hearing of someone who is mujnoon cannot be trusted, as they will see things that do not exist. So Allah (swt) establishes that he is not insane and that he did indeed see Gabriel. Bear in mind this is being told to people who take information from fortune tellers and mind readers who say that they can see things that other people cannot for a fee. Allah (swt) makes another contrast between these mind readers and mujnoon people and the messenger (saw) who actually can see the unseen. So, the credibility of the messenger (saw) has been established from a physical perspective in his sight and hearing and the next verse establishes the credibility in his character.

81:24

And he does not withhold knowledge of the Unseen

The word daneen is someone who is cheap in information like a chef who does not want to share his recipe or someone who hides information until they get what they want. Allah (swt) says that in terms of the unseen even though it is seen for the messenger (saw) he is not being cheap by restricting this information. He is giving this stuff all away so how can you compare him to people who restrict apparent information form the unseen for a price. Muhammad (saw) was not asking for wages or wealth so surely this indicates his credibility. Whatever he received in revelation he would pass it on and when someone has received the sweetness of faith they will always want to pass it on and not withhold it.

81:25

And it is not the word of an accursed devil

After establishing and defending the credibility of Gabriel and Muhammad and their ability to pass on this message, Allah (swt) negates and refutes the idea that it came from shaytaan. How can the Quraysh possibly claim that it comes from shaytaan when the Quran itself condemns the devil? Allah (swt) is saying that this is the furthest thing from being the word of an accursed devil. Therefore the Quran surely is the word of Allah (swt) and the only possible source.

The word rajam means pelting and rajeem means someone that is so cursed and generates such anger from people that they throw things at him when they see him. The word shaytaan has two origins in classical Arabic. Shatana means to be far away from the truth and shaata which means to be engulfed in flames of rage literally and so the one who is extremely angry and frustrated. This could mean either that shaytaan is calling to something that is farthest from the truth or alternatively that his humiliation before Adam (saw) has wound him up so much that all the things he does until now is a result of him feeling affronted.

81:26
Then where are you headed?

This verse can be considered the heart of this surah. After awakening them from their misguidance Allah (swt) establishes the reality of this Quran. When you chase someone and corner them and block off all their means of escapes you ask them where they can go now. Allah (swt) has destroyed all their arguments and cornered them. What other arguments can they come up with now? In the previous two surahs it was the kuffar asking questions and posing causal questions about the hereafter. Now Allah (swt) has a question. Sometimes questions are a rebuke or rhetorical but this question is posed because they cannot come up with any other answer. You have this world of corrupt knowledge on one hand and on the other this source of priceless pure authentic knowledge. After knowing all this where are you headed and going? Another interpretation of this verse is that if this Quran is false like the Quraysh say it is, then what guidance do they have, what scripture do they have that they can take guidance from – they have nothing.

81:27

This is nothing but a reminder for the worlds

This illustrates that the Quraysh can go away. The message does not need them; there are other people out there. This is a message for the whole world. The word a’alameen refers to the creatures of intellect i.e. mankind and Jinn. Thus, in the Quran whenever this word is used it is referring to nations.

81:28

To those of you whose intent is to be upright

The word istiqaama (from siraat-ul mustaqeem) originates the word qaama which means to stand vertically and yustaqeem is the one that wants to stand up straight. Allah (swt) says that this is a reminder for the one who wants to stand up straight and recall that we recite this when we are standing up straight in salah. Thus, the imagery in faatiha is of the one praying being elevated from the dunya to akhira. The word shaa’a comes from shay’un which means a thing or object. Thus, shaa’a means to have a concrete intention, when your plans are so solid that it is as concrete as a shay’un itself, an object in physical form thus it is a strong intent. Araada in Arabic means to intend in your head but it’s never manifest and you don’t even plan to execute it (i.e. I plan to start studying tomorrow but he never does – a half-hearted intention). So Allah (swt) talks here of a person who has made a concrete intention.

This verse is a refutation for those who reject the concept of free will. Man has his own free will although it is governed by the will of Allah (swt). When disbelievers remain upon their misguidance it is not due to the Quran being inadequate in its proofs but because of their own state and contentment with their way of life and the fact that through their arrogance they do not feel like they need to be guided. It is their own fault they are not guided. If someone deserves to be guided Allah (swt) will not lead them astray. Abu Jahl when he heard this verse said that therefore the matter lies in our own hands, that if we want, we will be steadfast but if we want we will not be guided. This is him being sarcastic and arrogant almost as if to say ‘don’t stress Muhammad – if we want to be guided we will be and why would I want to be misguided?’ However, Allah (swt) refutes this in the last verse.

81:29

Yet, you cannot will except by the will of Allah, Lord of all the worlds.

Ultimately man’s concrete intention is dependent, no matter how strong it is on what Allah (swt) wills and what he has planned for you. In the Quran, Allah (swt) illustrates a balance between divine will and human effort. In this surah man is encouraged to make the first step, put your trust in Allah (swt) and then Allah (swt) will make the next steps easy. If you do not appreciate this balance you’ll find the person who thinks he can do everything on his own and on the other hand the person who does not do anything because he thinks Allah (swt) will do it for him and make him good whenever Allah (swt) wants. Whereas in fact you did not want it so Allah (swt) did not want it for you either.

This surah establishes the credibility and truthfulness of this book. Many people reject Islam not because they think it is false but because they reject the teachings and shariah of Islam. Thus we have to convince them of the truthfulness of Muhammad (saw) and that the Quran is the word of Allah (swt). This surah begins with some of the most enormous manifestations of divine will such as the sun being wrapped up and the stars collapsing, thus, what is our will and the will of the kaffir compared to the will of Allah (swt). This should instil in us caution and fear. In this world we do not know the reality and consequences of our actions. The true outcome of our actions will only be manifest on the Day of Judgement. We do not know how much Allah (swt) will love us for our good deeds on that day or how much our words and bad deeds will harm us and thus we should always reflect over our actions. After telling us what will happen on this world the surah ends with a simple question – where are you headed after hearing all this and what is your conclusion? Islam demands change in us and expects us to implement things and move from thought to action.

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