Tafseer Surah Al-Infitaar
Allah (swt) concludes Surah Takwir with a challenge asking ‘So where are you headed?'(At-Takweer 81:26). The beginning of this surah rhetorically answers that by saying we are all headed towards Judgment Day, a day in which certain catastrophic events will take place. Allah (swt) begins by swearing by the sky and recall in the previous surah He (swt) began by swearing by the sun. There is a change in imagery here even though it may appear that Allah (swt) is talking about the same subject. In the previous surah the two dominant themes that overshadowed all of the words were of darkness and the loss of light. For example, the sun being wrapped up, the stars losing their light and the girl being buried alive as burial is also an image of darkness. The words used all relate to darkness or flames. In this surah we see the themes of ripping, tearing and rattling.
1) When the sky/heaven is split open
Idha is a means of calling attention to a future event by meaning ‘when’ in the future tense and it can also mean all of a sudden. Fatara literally means to tear something wide open or if something is long to tear it across its length. This alludes to the sky being severely damaged across the horizon with a long tear. In classical Arabic this word is used for sheets of cloth and there is a parallel in imagery between sheets of cloth and the sky which is like a tent over us. It is worth remembering that the Quran is not speaking to us in scientific explanations, but through human experience and what the eye sees. So if we stay true to the language and how the Arabs would communicate to each other then we may be closer to the intended meaning of the Quran. The image depicted here is that of a canopy over us that has a tear in it. Furthermore, imagine a tent with numerous lamps hung up in it. If the tent rips the lights will fall and collapse.
Stars are mentioned in this surah just like it was mentioned in the previous surah. The surahs are different but they complement each other. Intathara is when something falls due to a sudden jerk, for example, if you place marbles on a sheet and then give the sheet a jerk, the marbles will fall off. Najm literally means that which shines and twinkles meaning something that moves between shining brightly and then less brightly. The theme of the previous surah was light and darkness thus najm was more appropriate there. The word kawkab is a large star; a brilliant star firmly fixed that the Arabs use for navigation and the word is also used for planets. So where, najm highlights the brilliance, kawkab highlights the magnitude and the fact that they are firm fixtures of the night sky. The last thing you expect from a firmly fixed fixture is that it should fall, however, on this day even the kawakib will fall. The stars were hugely important and significant in navigation at sea and at night travel in the desert, thus, these means of guidance and navigation for the people will be lost.
The previous surah talks about how the seas will boil over with heat and falls into the theme of that surah of heat and darkness. The theme of this surah is of movement. The word fajara means to rip and from this word comes the word tafjeer which means to rip up the earth to make waterways for irrigation. The fajr prayer is called thus because it rips through the darkness. And the Faajir is someone who violates the commandment of Allah (swt) openly and in the worst and most obscene way. Here the oceans explode which means they do not stay where they are supposed to within their boundaries and rips out of place like a tsunami. It goes further than its boundaries in a violent way, just like the evil oppressive violent sinner transgresses the boundaries set for man.
4) And when the graves are turned upside down (to bring out their contents)
The qabr is again something that we expect to remain in its place. There are a number of words used in the Quran for the grave. One such word is marqad which comes from ruqood and means an uncomfortable type of sleep, when you’re not in deep sleep and you’re annoyed. The ulema comment that when people are raised on the Day of Judgement, the things that they will see will be so vicious that the punishment of the grave will be compared to uncomfortable sleep. The hadeeths which mention punishment of the grave are very graphic and intense but even so this will be regarded as just an uncomfortable sleep compared to that day. Another word for grave is ajdaath and is a kind of grave where the signs of it are gone, for example, people that are cremated or mass graves that are not known to be graves or places where homes and buildings are built on graves that are not known to be there.
Qabr used here is literally that which is dug with the intent of burying someone and again notice the theme of ripping up the ground. The ulema comment that the word bu’thirat comes from both ba’atha and means to dig into something and turn it upside down to pull out what you want from a collection of other things for example, emptying out a suitcase to look for a key. Allah (swt) gives this image for graves and informs that they will be manipulated to bring out its contents which will be man who is yanked out. Recall in the previous surah that all people will be paired, the good with the good and the bad with the bad but not before they are dragged out of the grave so this verse is almost a verse behind this pairing in the previous surah.
5) A soul will (then) know what it has sent forward and (what he has) left behind (of good or bad deeds)
In the previous surah we heard that every person knows full well what they have to present in terms of their deeds. This verse can be considered a tafseer of that verse. The word qadama refers to the good or the bad deeds that you do which are sent forward. Imagine the email you sent or the words you utter, once you hit send or utter your words, they’re gone and you can’t bring them back. Thus, every time we do or say anything, good or bad it is sent and delivered for processing. The word akharat refers to the opportunities you left behind, for example, the charity you could have given and the prayer in the mosque you could have offered etc. When these opportunities to do good came along and were not taken they were left behind. Likewise there were opportunities to sin which were also not taken and left behind. Thus, every person will know very well what they have to show for themselves and what they left behind. Some of the things we will be upset to have left behind and others we will be happy to have left behind.
Another way this verse has been interpreted is in connection with the previous surah where it is a reminder of the sins committed such as the killing of the infant. Allah (swt) informs that these actions have been sent forward. Another interpretation is that this refers to an entire biographical account of your life from the first things you did to the last. Maybe the individual was good to begin with but his commitment to deen faltered towards the end or maybe he turned to righteousness only in old age after a life of excess. Another interpretation is that although you and your actions will be gone after death, the consequences of what you did will continue in terms of the legacy you left behind i.e. ongoing charity or passing on a haram business to family. This will all be acknowledged on that day when all the events mentioned start happening, for example, the stars falling and the oceans exploding.
Towards the conclusion of the previous surah we are reminded of the akhira:
It is only a reminder for the ‘Alamin (mankind and jinns).” (At-Takwir 81:27)
This is an oxymoron. When you remind someone it’s usually of something in the past. Here we are reminded of something we have not seen yet. We are being reminded of the future as though it is a memory for which we should prepare, hoping that this preparation will save us from the harms of that Day (its almost like getting the clues to an exam paper, you now just need to prepare for it).
Verses 1-4 are all connected to verse 5 as it is the jawab ash-shart (a reply to the thing mentioned earlier), thus, every time such an event occurs man will remember what he did in this life. For example:
When the sky/heaven is split open (Infitaar 82:1)
A soul will (then) know what it has sent forward and (what he has) left behind (of good or bad deeds). (82:5)
And when the stars have fallen and scattered (82:2)
A soul will (then) know what it has sent forward and (what he has) left behind (of good or bad deeds) (82:5)
Each of these signs on that Day will make man question what he sent forward and what he left behind.
6) O man! What has made you careless concerning your Lord, the Most Generous?
In the previous surah there was a question – ‘So where are you headed?’ (At-Takwir 81:26). This surah also has a question which is more graphic, stunning and embarrassing and makes the human, if he has any decency, question himself. The phrase ‘ya ayuhal insanu’ is very difficult to translate into English. It contains much emotion, pain and warning in it, for example, when you feel sorry for someone who ignores your advice and heads down the wrong path. Allah (swt) turns to each and every human with sorrow and sympathy and tries to guide them. The word insan comes from multiple roots one of which is nasiya which means to forget and man is the creature that forgets. The sun, the ant, the rock and the animal all do not forget to be obedient to Allah (swt). Yet man is continuously forgetful of his role of being an obedient slave of Allah (swt). So we have forgotten the purpose for which we were put on this earth and Allah (swt) calls us by this name to remind us of our forgetfulness. Insan also comes from the word ins which is to have affection and so we develop affection for things other than Allah (swt) which makes us forget our real purpose in life.
There are a number of words used for deception in the Quran. The specific one used here is gharra which means to take someone who is careless, like the unsuspecting tourist, and then con them in order to get something out of them and take advantage of them. When the human being is careless, shaytaan is the one who takes advantage of them. In the previous surah the deception that the people succumbed to was being fooled that the Messenger (pbuh) was possessed or that the Quran was the devil’s speech. Here Allah (swt) asks what conned and deceived the people from their gracious lord. Allah (swt) does not ask what deluded you from Allah (swt); rather he asks what deluded you from your lord. The word rabb establishes a relationship. For example, when you hear the word teacher you think of the student on the other side. When you think of master on one hand you think of servant and slave on the other. Allah (swt) asks what deluded you from your lord and the answer is that it is the desires of this world that keeps man away from his Generous Lord. This should bring guilt to the slave and make him question his loyalty.
In the previous surah they were turning away from the messenger (pbuh) and in the surah before that they were turning away from the Quran and the revelation itself. Here they are turning away from their Rabb and Master. Why are they turning away from the revelation and messenger (pbuh)? Its because they have no concern for the fact that they have a Master and they are distracted by other things. Allah (swt) does not just say your lord, he says your gracious noble lord. When a student has a nice, friendly and noble teacher, the student can often disobey and take advantage and delude himself into thinking he can get away with all kinds of indiscretions. But at the end of the year, when the student fails, the teacher says; ‘Listen, I was nice to you all along. Why did you do this? Why did you make yourself fail?’ The student will feel far worse over this than if it was a teacher who was mean to him. Allah (swt) who out of his grace has given man so much is failing these people and asking them in a loving way of what it was that distanced man from his Gracious Lord? Was it the love of money, family or pathetic desires?
7) Who created you, fashioned you perfectly, and gave you due proportion (in balance)
The word taswiyah has multiple meanings in Arabic one of which is to tweak and to care of the finest details. Allah (swt) talks about tweaking the human being, He (swt) did not just create man but in fact fine tuned him. The phrase fa ‘adalak comes from the word ‘adl which means that man was balanced; observe that man is balanced as he walks on two feet, the fluid in his ears balances him but also in the figurative sense. Man is balanced in his motives between running towards paradise and running away from the hellfire, balanced between his personal obligations and his responsibilities to family i.e. personal obligations and collective responsibility. Thus, man is balanced physically and spiritually.
There is also balance in justice. Take for example, the murder of a hundred people, the death penalty would not be sufficient in this case as the murderer will only be killed once thus justice is not given. If you think that this world has been created by someone who is fair and just you have to expect from him that he will give justice to the other ninety-nine victims. Similarly, if a person saved a hundred people, he can’t get the full reward in this life. Imagine the man who kills only one person. The victim here was someone’s father, a son, a provider, maybe a community was hurt. So how can justice be given to all these victims? Is it possible for the one who created the world in such balance to leave this imbalance? Judgment is required for balance and this is why Allah (swt) has made Judgment Day, in order to keep that balance, and to give reward and punishment.
The central theme of the previous surah was the preservation of how the message comes to the messenger (pbuh). The central theme here is that the humans own sense of balance will make him convinced if he has any decency that he has a lord and there is judgement coming. The Quran presents evidence and relies on human decency for people to be guided to the truth. No matter how much evidence is provided, in the absence of any human decency the message will not be accepted. Fir’aun had enough evidences but still did not accept the message as he had no decency within him. Thus, human decency naturally makes a person incline towards belief in a Creator.
The word soorah is used for all objects that can be distinguished from one another by the visual eye. Raqaba comes from the word tarqeeb which literally means to put something on top of something else. The word raaqib is the rider that gets on top of a camel or horse. Tarqeeb is also used in grammar to connect one word into another. Allah (swt) is saying he did tarqeeb in us in whatever way he wanted with one cell, one vein, one limb, one vessel and connected it to one another like Lego.
Many people, including some Muslims, question the existence of a Creator in light of the fact that there is so much killing and suffering and natural disasters and disease and starvation. Even on a personal level we find people questioning how they could lose their job, develop a disease or lose their parent when they’ve done nothing wrong and lived a good life. Understand that in the opening surah of the Quran, Allah (swt) declares himself Rabb which means owner and master. If you truly accept that Allah (swt) is not just the creator but also your rabb and your lord, you will understand that you have no rights before Him as a slave does not have any rights over his master. For example, your computer cannot tell you what to do, you instruct it. If your computer stops working, you have the right to break it and throw it away and it cannot bring any complaint against you as you own it and it’s your property.
Allah (swt) not only created us but He owns us in our entirety. Did man pay for his eyes and sight, hands and feet, the kind of face he has or decide what gender he will be, what age he will live to, what ethnicity he will be or who his mother and father would be? None of this is in man’s control. Is man entitled to any of it? No, Allah (swt) gave this all to us out of his infinite generosity and we did not pay him for it. Thus, the idea that Allah (swt) owes man something is false. During times of ease and calamity Allah (swt) is still our Lord and Master. It’s just like questioning why we were given 5 fingers and not six; we have no control over it. When you accept this, you accept your status as a slave and servant. The slave will not open his mouth without thinking about whether his master can hear him. Employees do this too; they won’t check their personal mail or browse the web and take personal calls without checking if their manager is around first. If we are that afraid of other forms of mastery imagine how afraid we would be if we truly accepted Allah (swt) as Rabb.
When Allah (swt) created us he gave us these faculties and balanced us and then He necessarily demands from us a purpose. After this profound, fine tuned and balanced creation of the human being, created so that he could be the best of people through his worship of Allah (swt) by choice, man lies deliberately against the deen. Allah (swt) here says man committed takdheeb against the deen. When you call someone a liar falsely you are doing takdheeb meaning you are lying yourself and your attempt is to discredit someone. So, they make lies against the deen and say to the people that this deen is a lie. The second thing is to lie against someone’s claims so that when the deen of Allah (swt) says it is the truth to then lie against it and say it is satanic and falsehood and the word of a magician.
Deen comes from the word dayn and means a loan and daana is a verb which means to give someone what you owe them completely and is also to take from someone a specified specific portion that is due back. This is the essence of Islam where everything that we bring forward and everything that we left behind is being precisely calculated. If it is good we are owed precise amounts of good in return and if it is evil we are owed precise amounts of evil in return. If you contemplate on this you will begin to think carefully about everyone of your actions and statements. Deen is commonly translated as a way of life but what is really means is your life in specific portions because a portion of your life is given here and there, some to family, some in worship, some to your spouse etc. and the exact amount you give in this life with your shortcomings will be precisely given back to you on the Day of Judgement. Those who don’t accept the Deen and lie against it and come up with other weak arguments against it do so because they can’t handle the reality of bearing the burden of their own deeds.
10) And indeed, (appointed) over you are guardians
The word hafidheen comes from the word hafidha and is used when you try to guard something so that it does not go to waste, for example, when you guard a fence so that whatever is inside is protected. This is why memorizing the Quran is called hifdh al Quran, since a person guards the Quran within their mind.
In every surah thus far in Juzz Amma there has been mention of angels:
Naba’ – the day on which the angels will be standing in rows (Naba 78:38)
Nazi’at – the ones who pull out (i.e. the souls) (Nazi’at 79:1-5)
Abasa – the angels that record the revelation (Abasa 80:15-16)
Takwir – Ar-Rooh [Jibreel] who reveals the revelation (Takwir 81:19)
Angels are again mentioned in this surah but a different kind of angel, angels that record your deeds. They do not let any of your deeds go to waste without it being recorded.
11) Noble recorders
These angels are noble and their nobility is part of the job especially when you protect something as corruption can be a big issue just like in the delivery of the message in the previous surah that comes with an entourage to keep it safe. Our deeds are being recorded and we will not be able to complain on the Day of Judgement by saying that the one recording does not like me or has a grudge against me. This is because the one recording has noble character and this is a requirement for the job. The guard that we are familiar with often takes a lunch break or has a moment when he is off guard. These guards however are on a different level. They are consistently writing and there is not a moment that they stop.
12) They know all that you do
They know what you’re doing. A person can get past a guardian if he is corrupt; another way to get past a guard is to slip past him without his knowledge. However, you cannot get past this security guard as they know everything. The word f’il means carrying out any act even without thinking about it such as breathing, seeing, hearing, blinking etc whereas ‘aml is used for a more specific act, an act committed with intention and conscience such as eating, reading and listening with intent. These angels know every f’il that we do. Note however that Allah (swt) did not mention that they know our intentions. So, although the angels know of all our actions they know not of our intentions behind them. So, Allah (swt) may take our good deeds on the Day of Judgement as the intention behind them was not good. So Allah (swt) is an even better recorder of our deeds as He (swt) knows more about the deed than the angel has access to.
13) Surely the righteous will be in bliss
The word inna is used in Arabic for emphasis to eliminate doubt. Thus, there is no doubt about it that those who are righteous and have good things written about them will be in bliss. The word used for righteous here is abraar and note that the word used for the righteous angel was barara. The difference between them is that barara is the super multitude plural and this is because all of the angels are righteous but not all humans are righteous.
The word ni’mah refers to the favour of Allah (swt) such as softness, ease and blessings and the word na’eem means continuous blessings and in this verse this is implicated in the present tense which indicates that the righteous are already in bliss through Allah’s (swt) guidance. Furthermore, this bliss will only be multiplied in the future in the akhira. So right now this blessing is in the form of guidance and in the hereafter it will be in the form of being under Allah’s (swt) shade and through having all that they desire and through the gifts and drinks that will be offered. This is important as the kaffir who insults and abuses the Muslims is informed that the Muslims are already in bliss. This is amazing because the righteous may be going through hardship by the disbelievers but they are in fact in ease because Allah has expanded their hearts. Every moment of pain the companions went through elevated their status and even these pains are called bliss.
Abraar comes from the word barr which means righteousness or goodness. Barr literally means land and the word which comes close to it is bahr which means ocean and of these two, land is stable and the ocean unstable. The one who has not obtained righteousness is unstable like he is out on the sea and in danger of drowning whilst the one who has obtained righteousness is like is he is on stable ground, knowing where he is going, travelling in ease and not in danger.
The fujaar are those who explode with sin and do not care of the consequences in their rebellion of Allah (swt) and notice that this is the same word which appears towards the beginning of this surah where the seas erupt. The fujaar here are mentioned as a noun as opposed to a verb and there is a reason for this. For example, in the Quran there is the word mu’minoon and the phrase aladheena aamanoo. Al Mu’minoon means believers and aladheena aamanoo means those who believe but note this is verbal whilst mu’minoon is in a noun form. When Allah (swt) uses the noun form he is talking about someone matured and someone that has become permanently stable in a certain state whereas the verb is used for someone who engages in something but is not firm on it. Thus, the mu’minoon have a higher status than aladheena aamanoo and you’ll find in the Quran that Allah (swt) is sometimes harsh to aladheena aamanoo but not to mu’minoon. When Allah (swt) talks of mu’minoon it’s always in the positive whilst aladheena aamanoo could be in the negative as they include the weaker rank of Muslims who commit sins and not the top brass.
Similarly, there is a difference between kaffir and aladheena kafaroo. Aladheena kafaroo means those who engage in kufr but they have not made up their mind and there is still hope for them and al kafiroon are those that are firm upon their disbelief even after they have seen the clear proof and evidences. Thus, al fujaar are those who are bent upon rebellion and have decided and made a commitment that this is their life. Thus, Allah (swt) has made a commitment to place them in Jaheem which is the blazing fire and recall Jaheem is the stare of the hungry lion about to attack its prey.
Another example of the verb versus noun speech in the Quran occurs in Surah Zukhruf 43:79: …fa innaa mubrimoon. In the olden days construction was not through cement and bricks but through wooden beams connected perpendicularly but there were no hammer and nails either so the beams were tied with rope. The rope would be doubled so it is stronger and then wrapped round multiple times. This is a kind of knot tied with the intention that it is permanent. Ibram is tying a knot with the intention that you will undo this knot like a shoelace. This is the image in the Quran of those bent upon kuffar; it is like they have tied their knot and made their decision but the knot is a knot that nonetheless they will ultimately want to undo. However, Allah (swt) too has tied his knot and in doing so sealed their fate. When those that disbelieve tie their knot Allah (swt) used a verb to describe it and when Allah (swt) spoke of himself he used a noun and this indicates that even though they have tied their knot and are intent on kufr there will still be a day when they wish they were Muslims and want to undo this knot because they will not last upon that commitment when they come before Allah (swt). However, no matter how much they regret it, their fate is sealed.
15) They will enter to burn therein on the Day of Recompense
This verse is another response to the verse in the previous surah which queries where man is headed. The word yaslaw means they will stumble and trip upon the Day of Judgement. It comes from the word salyun which is used when you trip into something or you go somewhere where you don’t want to go but you go anyway reluctantly. So, literally this can be taken to mean that man will cast himself into the fire. Of all the different words used in Arabic for the word entrance, salyun is the only one specifically used for fire. Also note that the word deen has appeared before in this surah where man has denied and lied against the deen, however, the day of deen is coming and on that day they will not be able to lie against it and will pay for it. Thus, man should take care of his deen (portion of Islam) now otherwise the portion of that Day will take him.
16) Nor shall they ever be absent from it
The word maa at the beginning of this verse is a stronger form of negation that laysa. The word ba in this verse also emphasises negation and together with maa this verse therefore represents one of the strongest forms of negation. The word gha’ib means to be unseen from a stare. Imagine a pupil who selects a seat out of the clear vision of his teacher. Hence the fujaar will not be away from the stare of jaheem for a single moment ever. When something frightening stares at you, your first instinct is to avoid eye contact, yet, on that day there will be nowhere man can turn to avoid it petrifying glare. Allah (swt) says that man will never be able to escape the stare of jaheem and the implication here is that even in the grave that stare cannot be avoided as their is a window to hellfire in the grave. So, this will be terrifying for the fujaar and disbelievers who have died but not yet entered the hellfire. They are petrified of it yet staring straight at the eyes of the hellfire unable to look away from it or close their eyes.
17) Would that you knew what the Day of Judgement is!
What will make you know what the Day of Recompense is?
18) Again, would that you knew what the Day of Judgement is!
Again, what will make you know what the Day of Recompense is?
The repetition of the question intensifies the horror of the one asking. In human experience, when someone tells you to do something, if they have to ask twice or thrice, the second or third time is normally tougher and more threatening in tone e.g. When are you going to do it, When are you going to do it! Imagine if your mother asks you to do something and has to ask you more than once, would it not be considered wrong for you to ignore her? The child would also feel fear of her rising anger and the fact that he has not obeyed her. This is Allah (swt) who is asking the question and this is a manifestation of the anger and horror to be injected into the one who denies. The way Allah (swt) asks this is terrifying, asking twice, ‘Do you have any clue about the Day of Recompense?’
The word adraaka means to figure something out by looking at evidence and investigating. Allah (swt) is asking what man will look around for to give him even a clue of how horrifying that day will be when what you did in this life and what you left behind will be shown to you and when you will get your portion of justice. The word thumma (again) exacerbates Allah’s anger. It is commented that the function of repetition in Arabic is to instil horror, to magnify the warning and to elevate the persons sense of loss and deprivation (i.e. you should have gone, really you should have gone, you missed out. In this case, you should have prepared, really you should have prepared) and to give weight to something.
19) It is the day when no soul can be of any help to any other soul; for on that day all sovereignty is God’s alone
It is the Day when no person shall have power to do anything for another and the Decision that day will be entirely with Allah
Allah (swt) here gives us some clue of what will happen on that day. Allah (swt) concludes the previous surah with the powerlessness of the human being in making intentions as opposed to Allah (swt). What concrete plans can man make compared to the plans of Allah (swt), thus, the powerlessness of man is shown in even having intent. The will be the day when man will not have any authority or dominion over any other person. Not even his own family. Even if you wanted to have authority, you wouldn’t be able to. Even if you felt you had enough good deeds and wanted to look out for someone else on that day, you would have no authority to. On that Day the decision and command will belong to Allah (swt) alone and no one will be able to rely on anyone else.
The idea of shirk is very simple. Man would rather not face Allah (swt) himself and would rather put someone else before himself and Allah (swt). The reason people commit shirk is due to their fear of punishment and so they would rather someone else face the heat and save them. People do this all the time when they ask someone to speak to their manager for example on their behalf. This is not rooted in aqeedah but rather in the refusal to become a better human being, it’s a copout. Allah (swt) begins this surah with a description of what is going to happen on the Day of Judgement. And He (swt) concludes that when all the chaos has subsided the human being will be left powerless.