Tafseer Surah Al Mutaffifeen
This surah begins with a profound declaration against those who give short measure and a certain type of criminal. The word mutaffifeen comes from tafafa and a doer of tafafa is a mutaffif, a person who when in business will try to get a little more than they deserve when purchasing something and give a little less than they should when selling something. This is done in both tangible and intangible things. For example, in services you might owe someone five hours at work, but you want to get away early and give two minutes less as you think no one will notice – two minutes is not a big deal. Or you have to give someone one kilogram of rice but you put a few grams less on the scales. This is the mutaffif who gets away with so little that the person that gets swindled can’t even come back and complain that he never got the exact amount, as it will seem petty and because it is difficult to prove that it is clear cut cheating. So it’s not about taking huge amounts unjustly, but about taking little amounts unjustly and unfairly.
The previous surah describes angels that document the deeds of man and this implies that one will be accounted for the smallest of things that he does and nothing will escape this recording, not even those who cheat by the smallest of amounts. Thus, this should instill fear in one’s heart. If Allah (swt) is saying woe in such strong terms to those who practice these types of fraudulent activities where the percentages are small then what about greater crimes like adultery, fornification and shirk. This is one way this surah can be connected to the previous one. The cheating may be insignificant in the sight of people but it is hugely significant in the sight of Allah (swt).
The two surahs preceding this one begin with the phrase idha as does the surah that follows. Furthermore, Surah Inshiqaaq is very similar to Infitaar yet despite this fact they have been separated with this surah and so there appears to be a break in the flow. Additionally, Surah Inshiqaaq and Infitaar are both Makki by agreement whereas there is a difference of opinion with regards to this surah, which adds to the curiosity of why it comes inbetween. However, Allah (swt) taught the Messenger (saw) the order that the surahs should appear in, regardless of the apparent logic in them being side by side. The ordering of these surahs can be appreciated by considering that in the previous surah there are many discussion points that build up to the resurrection. In this surah we learn that people will be standing before their Lord after the hour is established and in Inshiqaaq we find the accounting and the giving of the books, which occurs after the standing, and thus the flow between the surahs is significant and made apparent. Also, note the previous surah ended by saying that no soul will possess the ability to intercede for another and neither will one’s wealth or offspring help anyone. This surah begins by discussing ownership and if a person honestly believed that on the Day of Judgment he would have no wealth he would never cheat on the scales.
This also connects to the previous surah where we were told that deen is the exact portion we are due on the Day of Judgment. In the tafseer of this surah, deen may also refer to the portion which the mutaffif denies and declines to give in his worldly affairs. We also learn that Allah (swt) created us in a balanced state and this also means that He (swt) has programmed us with a sense of balance. The person who cheats others in business understands balance, as he himself would not want to be cheated or have his relatives suffer from a cheat but when it comes to their customer they give less than they deserve. So deep down the mutaffif has a sense of balance which is why he feels entitled to fair dealings from others. This shows that humans are created with an inclination towards balance and anyone who in his trade does not show balance is therefore, a Mutaffif.
It is argued that the beginning verses of this surah refer to the Muslims in Medina whilst the last eight verses were Makki according to the opinion of Ibn Abbas (ra). Ibn Abbas (ra) mentioned in an authentic narration that when the Messenger (saw) came to Medina they were found to be the worst people when it came to measuring and they would cheat a lot on the scales. Thus, Allah (swt) revealed this surah and as a result the people improved their weighing of produce. Consequently, many scholars were of the view that this was the first surah revealed in Medina. If the surah was indeed revealed in Medina then it means it was revealed to the Muslims, however, further on in this surah those who deny the day of resurrection is mentioned which is obviously not the Muslims. Thus, both believers and disbelievers are being addressed in this surah and the verses that come later make it clear that the disbelievers are being addressed. The majority opinion, however, is that this is a Makkan surah because these verses are talking about the worst kind of fujjaar (criminals) and the people of Medina were not thus. Furthermore the people of Medina dealt in agriculture more than business whereas the people of Makkah were primarily engaged in business and trading.
Wayl is an Arabic word for cursing someone, an ugly word, a supplication or invocation where one wishes harm and destruction upon someone such as an illness. It’s also a word used for someone who has been ruined and is at a loss for words and does not know what else to say except ‘ya waylanaa!’ meaning ‘destruction (has fallen on us)’. Here ultimate and horrible destruction is for those who engage in this crime of giving less than you should and taking more than you should. The early mufassiroon even considered this to be the name of a valley in hell that flows with the puss of the people in hellfire. Some of the ulema comment that by having a ‘tanween’ on the word wayl in Arabic language, rendering it waylun, has a purpose of horrifying people and of magnifying the message that this is not a small destruction.
Cheating, miserliness and greed are all sins that are condemned in the Quran and Sunnah and sins have worldly consequences. In an authentic hadith (Bukhari – Chapter of Punishments) Allah’s Messenger (saw) explains the consequences of greed further. The Messenger (saw) said that five things would happen as a result of five things. Firstly, there is no nation that breaks their covenant will Allah (swt) except that Allah (swt) will spite them with their own enemy. Secondly, when they rule by other than what Allah (swt) has revealed then poverty will spread amongst them. Thirdly, illicit deeds like adultery will not appear in them except that death (or diseases in other narrations) will increase upon them e.g. aids. Fourthly, they do not deny zakat except that rain will be prevented from falling on them and lastly they do not cheat on the scales except that Allah (swt) will seize them by means of a drought and their crops will stop growing, meaning that the nation starts experiencing catastrophic natural events and they will suffer years of famine. These are major calamites that will afflict the ummah.
It is worth considering that if Allah (swt) is invoking this curse on people who cheat others out of small amounts then what of those people who take the wealth of others outright with no consideration of weight. Furthermore, this is only a matter against the people but what if someone transgresses against the rights of Allah (swt)? In the Quran Allah (swt) describes how parents should be treated and instructs people to not even say ‘uff’ to one’s parents. Allah (swt) could have easily said ‘do not hit your parents’ but this would have meant that some people could have justified being disrespectful to their parents through other means such as their speech as it is below hitting. Therefore, Allah (swt) uses the smallest example of disrespect and thereby includes anything that is greater than it. So, comparatively, by Allah (swt) using His wayl for a very small thing in the eyes of people it is inclusive of everything greater than it. Imagine the disbeliever who hears this and comprehends that Allah (swt) is not just accounting him for his disbelief but also for the way he trades.
Kaala means to weigh in order to sell something and iktaala means to receive a product from someone based on its weight i.e. to receive weight from someone. In Arabic when you say iktaala the norm is to say iktaala min and not iktaala ‘alaa i.e. he received weight from this person not against this person as used in this verse. This has a rhetorical function. In normal circumstances when purchasing a weighed product you will pay on the basis of the weight but the construction of this verse indicates that the purchaser is bullying and pressurizing the seller into giving him more than he deserves even though the product was weighed correctly. Thus, min is not used, as this is an abnormal transaction.
This is common even in today’s time where we don’t necessarily buy many things by weight but we still might apply pressure to get something extra out of a seller by threatening to take our custom elsewhere or asking to speak to the manager. Sometimes it is necessary, but at others times you know deep down in your conscience when you are being a mutaffif (by being unfair). The word yutawafawna means they are in fact given in full whatever they wanted but yastawfoon means that they tried to get the fullest amount they could with an attitude of wanting more, more, more! This verse is not about the businessperson but in fact the customer who tries to get more than he deserves.
The word akhsara is to make someone else lose out and to give less than he deserves even if its by just a single percentage. Normally in Arabic we would find ‘wa idha kaloo la-hum’ which means if they weighed for their customer. The missing la indicates that this transaction is not natural and has a rhetorical function in the language of indicating that just like the la is missing, the full product is also missing. Allah (swt) is not just talking about the businessperson or the shrewd person who gets his way but also seeks to determine what is behind this person’s character, the root cause that enables him to act this way without flinching. The following verse lets us know how someone can behave in this way. Ordinarily when people act in this way deep down they can feel uncomfortable. For example, if you feel uncomfortable haggling you bring someone else in to help you haggle as you cannot do it yourself, as you don’t have that kind of personality.
By using the word ulaa’ika Allah (swt) has distanced himself from these people and talks about them as ‘those’ people. The first time these people cheat in business they are slightly nervous, for example an accountant filing dubious papers for the first time. The second time they are slightly less nervous until over time they become experts at cheating and avoiding capture. Not only do they know what to do, they can also teach others how to beat the system. They become confident and proud and this confidence stems from that fact that they believe they can never be caught due to their expert knowledge in how to beat the system. In fact many criminals only get caught once they have reached the point that they feel they are above the law and get a little careless. Not even the assumption (dhan) that these people may get raised up and accounted for these crimes crosses their mind.
Although, believers all believe in the resurrection, this verse can still be directed towards them. The word dhan in Arabic conveys two meanings – that of certainty but also of doubt. If it means certainty, the implication is that they would not be cheating the scales if they genuinely believed in the resurrection and the question is a type of amazement that someone could not believe in the hereafter. This verse teaches us that if you genuinely believe in the hereafter then that belief should have a direct impact on your actions. Reflect on paradise by telling yourself you want to be there. If dhan has the meaning of doubt then should people still not then reflect and take the safer option like people ordinarily do when unsure about something. When Allah (swt) mentions verses in the Quran warning and threatening people about the hereafter, the purpose is not to intimidate people but to awaken their senses and warn them of a reality so that they might choose the right path.
The word ba’atha is a portion of the word we learnt in the previous surah (bu’thirat is made up of ba’atha and athaara together) and so a portion of the word used in the previous surah is used here to illustrate that not even a little of the thought that they might have to account for their deeds occurs to them and they have completely blocked their mind from it.
5) On a great day
The word adheem commonly gets translated as great and comes from the Arabic word adhm whose plural is idhaam. Adhm is a bone and is called thus because a bone is tough, strong and difficult to break. If someone hits you the pain is greater if part of the bone hits you such as the knuckle and not the fleshy part. So adheem which comes from this, is not just great but is also something tough and coming into contact with it will cause you pain. So these people do not realise that this tough intense day is coming against them.
6) The Day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of all the worlds?
In the previous surah, Allah (swt) tells us about this great day when the sky is ripped open, the stars are falling and the oceans are set on fire. Yet despite hearing this, it still does not cross their minds yet alone make them stop their evil ways. As we continue through this surah we will see why nothing registers in their mind and why this powerful message has no effect on them. In the previous surah we learnt that every person will eventually know what he or she put forward and what they left behind in this life and here we have another depiction of that same scene. The day on which mankind will stand before the Lord of Aalameen i.e. the lord of all of the worlds. Aalameen means the creatures of intellect including all of the nations and peoples, including the criminals, the cheaters and their customers. All will be standing together and the term rabb instills in a person both hope and fear. Fear in that no unjust person will be left unjudged and hope in that if you did any good deeds that Allah (swt) has safe guarded them.
The significance of standing is that it is a position of abasement and of lowering oneself, a position where you stand as a sign of respect and awe before someone. These people will not be in a comfortable position on that day and there are many descriptions of how people will stand before Allah (swt) on that day. Barefooted, naked, uncircumcised and afraid to the extent that one will drown in his own sweat. In some narrations people will be standing for up to seventy years (some say longer) and no one will utter a single word such is their fright and awe. It is narrated that when Umar ibn Khattab (ra) used to recite this verse he would cry and not be able to go beyond it. In other narrations it is said that Allah (swt) will make the standing easy for the believer – as short as it takes the believer to perform his prayer. In a side note, standing for people in the dunya is not considered haram but it does depends on the intention of the person. If a person comes into a room and expects due to his status and arrogance that people should stand up for him then it would be haram to do so and people should not be encouraged to stand. However, if it is someone you have not seen in a while and whom you are pleased to see then you can stand up to hug and greet them.
7) No indeed! The record of the transgressors is in Sijjīn
One of the flaws in human beings is that when they sin they block the idea of the consequence of it from their mind but just because they have blocked that thought it does not mean they are not in danger. Allah (swt) negates this assumption and says that this assumption is not enough to save them regardless of how safe they feel and silences their thoughts and false wishes for no Judgment. Allah (swt) asserts that even if you do not believe and are in denial – kallaa, no doubt – you will face this Day. Kalla can be used to refute an aforementioned statement or to add surety to something. If the kalla here is to refute what came before then it is to refute the disbelievers rejection that they will be resurrected or it is an admonishment that they should not be cheating the scales. If kalla has a meaning or surety then it is to emphasise that the book of the evildoers will be in sijjeen.
The documentation of our deeds by noble angels was highlighted in the previous surah. In today’s age when data is entered in emails, contracts or computer systems it needs to be entered by reliable people as if there are mistakes there will be problems. Angels record our deeds and hence there is no possibility of mistake. However, although data may have been entered reliably it still needs to be saved, for example, backup servers, the register that holds all your customer details, a photo album saved on your hard disk. The consequences of losing any of this data can be quite devastating. The previous surah discussed the recording of our deeds and this surah tells us how this information is saved and archived. If the archive is not saved then there is no point in having reliable data entry.
Dawn is called Fajr because the morning light tears through the darkness and a Faajir is someone who is extremely rebellious and tears through the sanctities of Allah’s boundaries without fear of consequence. Allah (swt) informs us that this rebellion and violation have been written and documented in Kitaab al Fujjaar which is like a register. This is a threat to the disbelievers that all their deeds will be recorded. The ulema have commented that this is like dungeons or prisons underground where there was an office with a roster. This roster had information of which prisoner was incarcerated, what punishment they were to receive, how long they would have to stay there, what cell they would stay in etc. This roster was kept right outside prison so that only the guards had access to it so that if prisoners called out and said that their time is up the guards could check the roster. This is how some of the Salaf (early Muslim predecessors) commented on this verse. They said that the records of the evildoers are deep in the Earth where the souls of the criminals are kept. Allah (swt) knows best if this is correct.
This record lists what these criminals (fujjaar) have done in full detail. The fujjaar are normally associated with disbelievers although a Muslim can still be considered one. Furthermore, it is not precisely clear at this point who is being addressed as the kuffar have not been specifically mentioned. When the sinful soul leaves this earth it goes to his record and sees all the crimes it has committed. The scholars differ on whether the word sijjeen is a proper noun or rather just derived from a noun. If it is a non-derived noun it refers to the seventh or the lowest earthly level whilst others say it is a place in hellfire. The other opinion is that it is a derived word from sijn, which is a prison, which are normally narrow and restrictive in size. The idea is that the book will be in a narrow place and the lower you go into hellfire the narrower and tighter it becomes whereas Paradise is wide and things that are wide have positive connotations. It also serves to devalue the book as we do not really look after books that we care little for and that’s why the Quran is kept in a high place out of respect for it. Thus, this record which records every single deed committed by the criminal and which does not leave out anything whether big or small – neither the few minutes early you left work nor the few extra grams of produce you took and which records the punishment that should be received is sent to prison and stored.
Would that you knew what Sijjīn is!
In the previous surah, Allah (swt) asked what would make man know what the day of judgement is, the day on which everyone gets his portion. Someone with at least some sense of justice would be shaken by these words. Yet, if standing this trial does not scare the worst criminals then the prison itself would scare them. Allah (swt) asks whether they have any idea what this prison is? This question is used to instill fear into the heart of people. Almost as if to say that the reality of it can never be fully appreciated.
9) A record imprinted
Marqoom means to write something in thick clear writing and to imprint it so that it cannot be erased nor easily missed like something written in small print. This word is also used to describe stitching embroidery onto clothes, as it is not something that you can easily remove or erase afterwards. Thus, marqoom implies that not only will this data be recorded accurately it is protected and cannot be erased. A person may feel content in thinking that no one had seen his sin or crime but that does not take away from the fact that it has been documented and sent forward.
10) Destruction that day to those who deny
Ultimate destruction on that day will be especially for those who lied against. But Allah (swt) does not tell us what was denied and lied against by completing the sentence by putting an object in the verse. Up until now the kuffar have not been directly mentioned and the surah begins without making a clear mention of who is being referred to but now we can see those who deny and this cannot be ascribed to the Muslims. However, if one cheats on the scales then they have the quality of those who disbelieve in the Day of Judgement but that does not make the person a disbeliever, rather it is a severe warning that through even a small infraction like this the believer can resemble the disbeliever. If someone is persistent in these sins it indicates that their belief in the resurrection and in their accounting is very weak.
11) Who deny the Day of Judgement
Verses ten to twelve in this surah all mention the word kadhib in different forms (mukadhibeen, yukadhibeen, yukadhibu). Thus, we can observe that the root cause of cheating in business is lying. Denying the day of judgement ultimately enables them to dismiss the notion that they will be accounted for their misdemeanors and encourages them to continue sinning. It could be understood that when someone transgresses and commits open sins he is on the path to disbelief but it could also mean than through disbelief a person transgresses and becomes a sinner. In order to have righteous tongue you need a righteous heart but also vice versa. When people continually sin it leads to them rejecting the hereafter and the resurrection. We’re constantly reminded, over and over, of things like the day of judgement, the hereafter and taqwa in the Quran as Allah (swt) mentions and repeats those concepts that people deny the most and neglect to imprint in their hearts and minds. So, Allah (swt) says that ultimate destruction will be for those who lie against the day of judgement and the due portion being given.
12) And none denies it except the sinner beyond limits, the continual sinner
A further explanation is given here. There is no one in existence that would deny this except a certain type of person and two adjectives have been given to describe the person unable to register this momentous reality. The word mu’tadin comes from i’tada which means to violate someone’s rights. The mu’tad is therefore the one who crosses limits and wrongs people over and over until it becomes second nature to him and to the extent that he is proud of this. This is how tyrants are created on this earth, whether they rule countries, a business or their household. The word atheem comes from ithm which is commonly translated as sin but the Quran has many words for sin and so it’s important to elaborate on the exact meaning. Ithm is a kind of attitude and behaviour which prevents you from doing good. So, on the one hand the mu’tad is a person doing bad things and then atheem keeps him from doing good things. You get some people who do bad things but then still do some good but not this type of person who is the worst of the worst, who denies the day of judgement and laugh at the words of the Quran.
The people of language say that ithm is primarily an issue of the heart and in this case the heart is not at all inclined to doing good and this person actually feels uncomfortable in doing good deeds. It’s narrated in a hadith that Muhammad (pbuh) said ‘Goodness is what will satisfy/relax your self (nafs), and ithm is what will eat away at your chest (your heart)’. If you persist in the characteristics of Ithm, you will become atheem and get stuck in this state. Every chance this person gets to do evil and violate someone’s right he does and every chance he gets to do good he pushes away. This is the worst case example of ‘ma qadamat wa akhkharat’ – what he has left behind and put forward, as everything he has done and has to put forward is evil.
The Quran is talking about the fujjaar here, the worst sinners, yet, even though these verses were revealed centuries ago they are still relevant in our society and we can identify with them and the cheating being described. The word talwan means to follow someone, right behind them like tail gating. It also means to read and the plural tutlaa would mean to read to them many times. So, the verses literally follow them and are read onto them over and over. The word asaateer means invented storied and comes from the word satr which means lines. In the olden days you would have popular myths and fables which would get written down and passed on through generations creating a legend even though people knew them not to be real and just stories. The sinners would be condescending to the verses of the Quran and dismiss them as stories and try to make the speaker feel ridiculous making him a faajir. This applies to people today just as much as it did then.
Notice that Allah (swt) does not speak to the disbelievers directly here, almost as if they are not even worthy of being addressed. When disbelievers criticise the Quran you will find that most of them have not even read the Quran yet alone reflected on it. The disbelievers will only take snippets at most out of the Quran. Even Muslims can sometimes be guilty of taking snippets out of the Bible when engaged in dawah and take verses out of context, thereby taking on the traits of the disbelievers by being hypocrites. The disbelievers often make blanket statements about the Quran without pondering over it and this is a lesson for Muslims as well. We should look at things critically and with balance.
14) No doubt about it! Their deeds have placed a layer of rust over their hearts
The word kalla negates the belief of the disbelievers by rejecting the idea that the Quran is mere fable. Bal is also used to negate but is used here to emphasis the meaning of kalla. It is also to clarify and uncover what it was that made them say this about the Quran. Allah (swt) informs us that their heart is covered with raan, a rust imprint that covers their hearts. The heart if it becomes corrupted or layered with rust will end up saying corrupt things. This rust is a thick barrier that prevents the heart from seeing the truth and from submitting to it, from distinguishing right from wrong, and the heart becomes black through committing sin after sin. The disbeliever will not be able to claim on the Day of Judgement that as it was in fact Allah (swt) who placed this rust on his heart, he should not be punished. Rather, it is his own sins that placed that rust on his heart.
An authentic hadith narrates that the messenger (pbuh) when asked about this verse said that this person does a sin and their heart as a result gets a spot or blemish on it. If he repents it is literally polished off according to the wording of the hadith. But if he continues on this path, spots are added sin after sin until the heart becomes black with filth and rust. Allah (swt) explains that whatever they used to earn is what made the rust appear on their hearts and they earned nothing but minute indiscernible profit, be it an extra gram or leaving work a minute early. That is all it takes for a blemish to appear on the heart. In the previous surah Allah (swt) asked what it was that deluded man into being careless towards his master. This question is answered in this surah where we learn that it is man’s stiff heart that led him away from his gracious master.
The word kasaba is used to refer to the actions one does to earn a living but it also refers to what your hands have done with regards to deeds. All of the acts of ibadah we have been given like fasting zakat and salaah are so that we may purify our hearts. Yaksiboon is a verb in the present tense and not the past although most translations of the Quran translate it as being in the past tense. The significance of the verb being in the present tense is to indicate that their heart is encrusted continuously through their actions and this shows that these people do not stop in their transgression.
The greatest consequence of having your heart sealed is that you lack knowledge of your Creator and knowledge of the truth and the right path. Furthermore, one of the greatest punishments in this life is that you do not know your lord. Scholars say there are two levels of knowing Allah (swt). One, where it just acknowledges his existence and secondly where the heart yearns for and loves Allah (swt). A lot of Muslims acknowledge He exists but they know nothing about His names and attributes and this leads to spiritual stagnation. The heart was created for this purpose. Every limb was created for a purpose, the legs to walk on, the eyes to see with, and the womb to carry a child with. If theses functions were not fulfilled the limbs would just waste away, just like the legs would waste away if the muscles were not exercised. The purpose of the heart is to know its lord and if it does not it becomes sick and so when Allah (swt) puts rust on the heart it is denied its most basic function and this is the greatest punishment in this life.
Kalla here has been used to further reinforce the kalla in the previous verse but also has an increase in the reprimand to the disbelievers. It is also considered to refer to that which comes next, that they will indeed be denied from seeing their lord. The word hijab literally means a barrier that comes between you and something you want to see thus removing it from your sight. So, Allah (swt) says that they will be permanently barricaded from seeing their master that day. Just like their rust covered hearts were veiled from and unable to see the guidance in this world Allah (swt) will punish them by blinding them from seeing their Lord. This implies that there will be something else that they will be looking at and will not be able to stop looking at. In the previous surah in verse sixteen we learn that they will not even be able to steal a glimpse or blink away from the hellfire. Here, we see a contrast to the previous surah in that they will be staring at the hellfire but will not be able to get even a glimpse of their master.
It is commented that this verse is a proof that the believers will in fact see their master. When the sinners are blocked off from seeing Allah (swt), He will show his full glory to the believers. Seeing Allah (swt) is considered the greatest blessing on that day. This is because all our lives we exercised our heart in the worship of Allah (swt) but were not able to see Him. This leads to a yearning desire to want to meet Allah (swt). The key feature of all the righteous predecessors was their desire to meet their Creator and if you do not have this desire then there is something wrong with your heart. Allah (swt) is mentioning this verse has a way of belittling these people. They are not just missing out on a reward but in fact the greatest reward which will result in the greatest regret. This ayah is both a punishment to the disbelievers, and a blessing to the believers.
16) Then indeed, they shall enter the hellfire
Allah (swt) has mentioned many crimes but the worst punishment, which was the sealing of the heart, came after the disbelievers had poked fun at His (swt) verses. This arrogance resulted in their hearts becoming rusty, in them being unable to see their Master and will eventually lead to them throwing themselves into the hellfire. After speaking about the punishment of the heart He (swt) speaks of the punishment of the body. In the previous surah in verse fifteen a verb was used to describe the disbelievers casting themselves into the hellfire. In this verse we have the noun form in saaloo which carries a stronger and heavier emphasis than the verbal instance. This word is a very powerful way of describing the fire which will envelop them and set them ablaze immediately upon entering it.
17) Then it will be said (to them), ‘This is what you used to deny’
By using the passive form in this verse the speaker is not mentioned and it will be said to them. In the previous verse Allah (swt) barricaded himself from the disbelievers and in this verse He has barricaded his voice from them and does not talk to them directly. In the previous surah there was a scene of the dunya in which we find the disbeliever lying against the deen and being urged to change his ways and that there was still hope. This surah is more serious and in it is a depiction of the hereafter where there will be no hope for man and where they will be told that this is the very thing they labeled as fairytales and mythology and laughed at. The use of the word hadha (this) indicates that they are facing the punishment so why tell them that this is the punishment they denied? This is to add to their humiliation. When a person is afflicted by something they dislike, it can be very difficult on that person to be reminded of it whilst they are suffering that pain. Thus, after the punishment of the heart and the body Allah (swt) destroys their ego. Sometimes people can be tortured but still feel pride because they did not break their resolve but Allah (swt) will destroy this person completely.
18) No doubt about it! The record of the righteous is (preserved) in ‘Illiyyeen
The ‘kallaa’ is a strong response to the disbelievers who poke fun at the Muslims when they discuss the awesome events that will take place. With this verse Allah (swt) switches from discussing the disbelievers to the believers. Note that the word abraar which is a smaller plural is used, as the righteous will be fewer in number on that day compared to the wicked. The previous surah described that the righteous will be in constant bliss implying that wherever they look they will see something that makes them happy and amazed. In this surah we are given more detail about the righteous whose record is going to be in Illiyeen and this has been interpreted in a number of ways.
The word illiyeen comes from ‘uluw which means height. The implication is that this book will be in the company of the highest, the angels, and we know that the higher the angels are, the greater in nobility they are and the more responsibility they have. The high group of angels referred to here are responsible for guarding the book of the righteous. Additionally, it is commented that this place is an honoured place found in the highest part of Jannah as well as referring to the high positioned angels.
The soul of the believer according to a number of mufassiroon is taken up through multiple heavens until it reaches underneath the throne (‘arsh) of Allah (swt) and there underneath the ‘arsh is the Illiyeen where the record is kept. This record will state that for the likes of the martyrs there will be a guarantee of paradise and no punishment and then they are brought back (i.e. in the grave etc.). Thus, they will get a sneak preview of their record before the day of judgement and get a guarantee that they will be saved. This is for the likes of the Shuhadaa’ (those killed in Allah’s way) and this explanation is in regard to the Muqaraboon (those really close to Allah in goodness).
Would that you knew what `Illiyūn is!
Adra/yudri means to look around to find a clue to figure something out and Allah (swt) asks here what can you find around you that can possibly help you imagine and visualise what ‘illiyun is. There is nothing around us that will give us any idea what this lofty place is and how secure that record is. The book of the righteous will be in a very high place. This high place may be under the throne of Allah (swt) or in the seventh heaven which indicates the great honour the righteous are given.
Allah (swt) informs us that those closest to him, i.e. the angels, are a witness to this book. These books are under their surveillance and they are a witness that these are the deeds of the righteous. They are guarding it as it contains within them the guarantee and security of safe passage for these people into paradise and that they will not be people of hellfire. The soul of the righteous ascend the heavens to where the angels have the book of the righteous under surveillance and sees his portion of it which guarantees him paradise and then he returns. On the day of Judgement this person is at peace as he has witnessed his record secure in the knowledge that many angels close to Allah (swt) have born witness to this persons closeness and righteousness.
It is Allah (swt) who brings this book close to the angels, as He wants the angels to see the books of His devoted servants. When a teacher is pleased with his students work he will want to show it to other students and teachers. So Allah (swt) loves the deeds of the believers so much so that He wants to show it off to the angels. Allah (swt) loves the hearts of these servants and does this then not mean that we should devote time to our hearts and our deeds? This is why the messenger (saw) loved acts of obedience as he knew that Allah (swt) loves it. If you truly love someone you love everything they love and Allah (swt) loves to be praised so we should love to praise Him.
This is an exact repetition of a verse that came in Surah Infitaar but it was a counter argument to ‘wa inna al fujjaara la fee jaheem’ – the sinners will be in the hellfire. In the beginning of this surah in verse seven we found that the record of the criminal is in sijjeen but Allah (swt) did not elaborate on this although we get a lot more detail on the righteous in paradise. There are two rhetorical reasons for this. The first reason is that we did not learn much of the bliss of the people in paradise in the previous surah and so more detail is due and given here. Secondly, if Allah (swt) mentions that the records of the sinners will be in a horrible prison, no additional detail is required as it is obvious where they will end up. Thus, Allah (swt) ignores them and gives the righteous more attention by moving onto describing the bliss of the righteous in paradise. Something to note in this surah is that it gives us only a few examples of the comfort of paradise which should remind us of the bigger picture. Similarly, the criminals do a lot wrong but only their fraud was highlighted here but it gives us an idea of the larger picture of the mindset of these people. So, Allah (swt) now moves on to give a few glimpses of Paradise.
When Allah (swt) speaks of the mutaffifeen in this surah he refers to them using pronouns e.g. innahum. When Allah (swt) begins to speak about the believers in this surah he does not speak in pronouns, rather he says the Abraar. In human speech when you talk about someone you will utter their name and thereafter refer to the person using a pronoun. For example, ‘Abu Bakr is studying Chemistry. He is in his third year’. This is what Allah (swt) has done when He talks of the disbelievers but when He talks about the believers he does not use pronouns but rather He explicitly uses the word abraar and says inna alabraar fii na’eem. This is as if Allah (swt) is praising these people. They hold such a high status that Allah (swt) keeps mentioning their name again and again. The scholars say that this is Allah (swt) paying a type of tribute to the believers.
23) (Reclining) on thrones/couches they will command a sight (of all things)
(Reclining) on thrones/couches, they will look around them (at all things)
The word aareeka is singular of araa’ik which is a chair, throne or couch that is full of cushions so that you can recline on it and relax. The word yandhuroon means that they will be looking around. Some ulema have commented that when you sit down and relax you can’t look around very much as your vision is restricted, for example, if you are reclining on a plane and want to look out of the window you will typically have to re-adjust yourself and move out of your comfort zone to do so. Similarly, it can take us a while to adjust a car seat and mirrors to maximise our comfort and visibility. Thus, Allah (swt) is saying that the righteous will be comfortably reclined but still have the best possible view and wherever they look they will see bliss. Also, when we look at something our vision is usually restricted to one thing yet in paradise the believers will be able to see all around.
In our culture couches are associated with lounging around and relaxing and we even have the term couch potatoes and so in many ways the couch has become a symbolic gesture of laziness. But couches in other cultures are different. The way people sit in Arab cultures is very different to people in the West. Arabs traditionally sit on the floor out of comfort and couches are a place where you sit on a higher level out of respect and honour. Thus, couches are designed very opulently and are not particularly comfortable. In paradise couches will be almost like thrones and a seat of honour for the believers. This image of believers reclining on couches is also to inform us that jannah is a place of rest and a place for the believer to relax in. There are many words in Arabic for sitting but aareeka is used many times in the Quran and an aareeka has three qualities. It is firstly a group of places to recline on – so it is not just one chair but rather a group of them. So, you can lie down on them and sit on them if you want. Secondly, they are full of cushions and pillows. Thirdly, they all have canopies that drape over them which are for privacy and to add elegance and they must be situated in a beautiful place with beautiful surroundings. Without these qualities it is not an aareeka.
This verse is the opposite to verse fifteen where we learn that the disbelievers will be veiled from seeing their Lord. In this verse the believers have a view of all things but it does not necessarily mention what they are looking at. Allah (swt) does not describe what people are looking at according to one opinion simply because people will be looking at different things. Some will be looking at their palaces, some will be looking at their wives in paradise whilst others will be looking at their Lord. So the fact that Allah (swt) left the verse without qualifying it means it can include all these things. Most commentators say they will be looking at the blessings that Allah (swt) has given them, or looking at their Lord. Another view is that they will be looking at the disbelievers being punished and this is found in the classical books of tafseer. These differences in interpretation all complement one another. The act of looking at things in jannah will be a form of delight. There are reports that say a person will be so amazed at the sight of a flower in jannah that he will stare at it for forty years.
Ibn Kathir mentions in his tafseer a narration which says that the lowest rank of the people of jannah will take up to two thousand years to see all their kingdom. Furthermore, he will look at the furthest past of his jannah just as he sees the closest part. For example, if you had a home in London and a home in Edinburgh you would only be able to enjoy one home as the other is too far away but in jannah they will both be close maybe because of transport or just because of its dimension. Those with the highest rank of jannah will be able to look at their Creator up to two times a day.
Suroor is a description of the happiness that exists in the heart whereas naddrah is a description of happiness in the face and is used to describe the lighting up of one’s face to the extent that you can see the freshness and joy on it. It is also used in Arabic for vegetables that are ripe and fresh but in the Quran it is used for faces and usually associated with looking at Allah (swt) in the Quran. This verse is therefore an indication of proof that the previous verse was speaking about looking at Allah (swt). So the faces of these people that are sitting on couches in paradise are lit with joy and happiness at being there and it’s the blissful things they see, including looking at Allah (swt), wherever they look that lights their faces up. Naddrah is connected by idafa to na’im because there is a relationship between the two words. The radiance in the face of the believers is caused by their bliss. Note that there is a transition in this verse from the third to the second person and this is because Allah (swt) really wants you to reflect over this point. Allah (swt) is almost speaking to you directly and some say this is directed to the messenger (saw).
25) They will be given to drink pure sealed wine
Any gathering where people sit would not be complete if there were not food and drink served. Here after describing the gathering Allah (swt) describes the drink that will be served. In Arabic yusqawna specifically refers to serving drink whereas in English serve can be used for both food and water. The word yusqawna means that the believers will be given to drink day and night and will not have to go to the trouble of getting up themselves to have a drink. Allah (swt) has set the scene with the successful ones reclining and relaxing on their seats and being given drinks. It is commented that raheeq is the purest possible wine or drink, which is not contaminated by age or impurities, is crystal clear with great texture and colour, a beautiful smell and it never makes you drunk (no matter how much you drink). When drinking a beverage like tea the worst part can sometimes be the end where there are tea leaves left but Allah (swt) makes clear here that all of the drink will be good even the last part.
This drink makhtoom is derived from the word khatama and khatam means when you end something. In many books of tafseer khatam has the meaning of something being mixed but this is not that strong linguistically. Rather makhtoom means sealed and tight and thus this drink has been filled to the brim and then sealed waiting for the righteous to open and drink from them. Also, appreciate that Allah’s Messenger is called the Khatim an-Nabiyyeen – Seal of the Prophets because all the Prophets before him have fulfilled their duties and Muhammad (pbuh) with his message has finally sealed and closed the seal to Prophethood.
It is important to appreciate the context in which these verses were revealed. The Muslims were weak, the object of ridicule and in a minority in Mecca yet regardless they were warning the big businesses and moguls of the day of the evil they were engaged in and that it will lead them to hell. The companions of Allah’s Messenger would memorize these aayaat and convey them to these cheating criminals. These criminals in turn would insult the believers and laugh at them questioning and ridiculing their status and asking how they dare to lecture them on right and wrong, questioning how someone like Bilal or a foreigner like Suhayb ar-Rumi could dare to challenge them. The believers were considered akin to the homeless people we see in today’s society, who annoy us when they try to talk to us and we hurry away from them and this is the attitude the disbelievers had to the believers. Thus, the believer, his guidance and his messenger are constantly being insulted. It is in this context that Allah (swt) reveals these verses and gives them some encouragement enabling them to visualise the pleasure they will be in. He (swt) tells them that their record is in the Illiyyoon -an amazing record of good deeds, that they will be relaxing on couches looking at all the wonders surrounding them. On top of this they will have special drinks in sealed bottles waiting for just them. Compare this to the disbelievers at that time that would drink from wells and did not get served. Only kings would get served and even then they had limited drinks which were not pure and were intoxicating.
Even the seal on the believers drink has a beautiful scent and it’s not even been opened yet to reveal the delights of the drink! The word tanaafisoo comes from nafs and the word nafs is commonly translated as soul and has many derivatives in its root form. Anfaas in Arabic means breaths. Tanaffas also means to take a breath. Tanaafus 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 and then back to a righteous character through repentance, thus, it is always in motion. The nafs will always desire things but we should try to realign it so that it desires the hereafter and not the dunya. Also note that the laam after the fa is an imperative and informs man that he must compete for Jannah.
Dhalika is a demonstrative pronoun and is used for things far away whereas hadha is used for things close. The fact that Allah (swt) used dhalika is perhaps to make a comparison. Almost as if to say let the believers not compete for this dunya which is close to us but rather compete for dhalika, that which is far away – Jannah. Competing ordinarily implies that you want to leave someone behind, a victor and a loser; however, the believer always wants the best for his brother. Muslims don’t want other Muslims to fail and be barred from entering paradise and so encourage your brother to memorise the Quran with you, encourage your brother to study knowledge with you but don’t withhold it from him. To compete with a Muslim means that you also want him to enter Jannah and you do that by competing so that you do not become lazy. Also, competing for Jannah does not necessarily mean that someone lacks ikhlaas. People sometimes worship Allah (swt) because they want Jannah and not because He deserves to be worshipped. This is not such a bad thing and is a noble objective and is what Allah (swt) wants from us.
It is commented that tanaafus signifies that the believers are running towards something high class and elegant. Thus, even though the believers are being tortured and humiliated by the disbelievers, they are racing each other to reach this comfort in Paradise. Allah (swt) is saying if you want to compete with anyone in anything then compete with them in this, in racing to these pleasures of paradise. Allah (swt) has taken away the problems of this world from the minds of the believers and given them a different mindset to the extent that the disbelievers cannot work out how the Muslim can be so happy despite the humiliation and suffering they are enduring. Despite their dignity being taken away from them the believers regardless compete with each other for paradise and end up getting in even more trouble! This is what happens when a heart full of emaan and certainty is filled with Qur’an and it’s pure understanding. May Allah (swt) fill our hearts with emaan and pure understanding of His words.
27) It will be mixed with Tasneem
This passage began with the abraar (the few righteous that get to this point), but then Allah (swt) takes our imagination to an even higher level and spurs us on by giving further description. When the Arabs would mix something in their drink to give a different taste (for example, adding cocoa or sugar to milk) it was called meezaaj. The word tasneem comes from sanaam which is the hump of a camel and tasneem means a very high place or to elevate something e.g. tasneem al quboor – to raise and elevate graves higher above ground. So Allah (swt) is saying that flavour added to this drink has been added from a very high fountain, river or waterfall called Tasneem. So, the drink itself is not tasneem but it has a little flavour from it. When you taste the tasneem in your drink and enjoy and marvel at it you wonder what it is and where it came from, as you’d like it in its pure form. Although tasneem is an Arabic word the Arabs did not know what it was. When Ibn Abbas (ra) was asked what this was he said that it was something the Arabs do not know and that it was beyond human comprehension. Due to the ambiguity of this drink therefore it requires some clarification given in the next verse.
28) A spring at which those who are closest to Allah will drink
The abraar who are righteous will be drinking a beverage mixed with tasneem and enjoying it but the higher ones that are closer to Allah (swt) will drink from it directly in its pure form and this shows the different degrees of paradise. Usually when you drink from something the word min is used (drink from); however, bi is used here to indicate that their drinking will be purely from that spring. The ulema comment that the origin of this drink is very high in paradise and it is a waterfall from which those closest to Allah (swt) will drink. The language of the verse establishes that although the righteous who are reclining on couches and being served drinks are in bliss, those that are closest to Allah (swt) will be in an even better position. So on one hand, Allah (swt) speaks about the worst of the worst, the criminals (al fujjaar) and on the other He (swt) speaks about the best of the best (al Muqqaraboon).
Allah (swt) compensates those who race and are the foremost in goodness because they believe and do good when others do not (i.e. the first ones to believe as it was hardest for them) and this requires the most sacrifice. It is easier for us to be believers as there are so many of them but it would be a lot harder if you were the only one in a minority with everyone calling you crazy. Allah (swt) compensates the companions for their sacrifices. This is also because their worship was full of so much sincerity that they will be given the purest drink. Those who get the mixed drink (the people of the right) performed actions that were sometimes mixed with mubah or makrooh actions and a person is rewarded according to the nature of his actions and his sincerity and whether it was purely for the sake of Allah (swt).
The Quran is full of Iltifaat which are transitions from the first person to the second and from the past tense to the future and this verse is an example of this. The verses on paradise were in the future tense as they were discussing the future for the righteous and the verses on the fraudsters were in the present tense. Thus, the verses of the Quran continuously transition and travel from the future to the present and from the present to the past and so on and so forth. With this verse Allah (swt) discusses current events that occurred in the past. The word kaanoo is used in the past tense to illustrate that the disbelievers used to ridicule the believers. The placing of this verse, after the verses of paradise, is to depict this as almost a distant memory that crosses the mind of the righteous in paradise, a memory of the difficulties they went through in the dunya whilst now in the ease of Jannah. It is almost as if this verse is asking how can the disbeliever possibly laugh at the believer when he will get all this and so the intended meaning is a form of consolation for the believers and to alleviate his burdens and strengthen his heart.
The word ijraam means not just to commit a crime but to also see the consequences of your crime. So, the reference is to the sinners who mocked the believers for their faith in these verses on paradise and consider how this is also prevalent in our time where Muslims are made fun of for their belief in the rewards of paradise. These verses give solace to believers who live in the west and in the heart of disbelief as we are the ones that face the brunt of mockery. Muslims should have confidence in the promise of Allah (swt) which is real although others may brand it as make belief and fantasy.
Some scholars say these verses were revealed with regards to the likes of Abu Jahl and Walid ibn Mughirah, the leaders of the Quraysh, who would laugh at the weak believers like Bilal and Ammar ibn Yasir. They were considered simple, poor people with no great lineage or wealth which further encouraged their amusement. The laughter is described with a present tense verb and there is a difference in saying ‘they laughed at the believers’ and ‘they used to laugh’. It implies that these disbelievers were constantly making fun of the believers and this was an intrinsic part of their characters. The verb dahika means to laugh and with the preposition min means they used to laugh as a result of something and so the reason for their laughter was that they believed.
The word ghamz in Arabic is to make gestures with your eyes such as winking or rolling them which in our time too is considered an insult. Thus, Allah (swt) captures even the way the disbeliever looks at the believers. Every action from the killing of believers mentioned in other surah’s, to the verbal insults in this surah and to even the movement of the eyes is recorded. They are not necessarily winking at the believers but maybe even amongst themselves and when the believer sees this he feels intimidated. Due to this verse scholars say that it is haram for a believer to wink at and make fun of another believer. Ghamaza literally means to poke and Aisha (ra) used to say that when the Messenger (saw) would get up to pray he would pray close to Aisha as the space was small in the house and so when he would come to make sujood it would be near her feet and so he would poke her so that she could move her legs. So it has the meaning of poking and some scholars have even interpreted it like that. That the disbelievers would not just wink at the believers but also annoy and harass them by poking them. Others say it also means to insult someone but most commentators agree that it is to wink at someone in an insulting way.
31) And when they returned to their people, they would return jesting
And now when they have finished ridiculing the believers they return to their family full of joy and relish in relaying information on the insults they have made. Faakiha means delicious fruit and comes from the verb fakiha which means to be overjoyed, as a person feels good when he eats fruit. Faakiheen is also used for people in Jannah who will be overjoyed everytime they take a bite of something. Thus, the disbelievers so enjoy ridiculing Muslims it is as if they can taste fruit in their mouth and almost taste joy when they insult them. Fruit also depicts an image of luxury especially when you consider that Allah (swt) describes Jannah as having many different types of fruit for the believers. Thus, these disbelievers would return to their family in a state of comfort and living in luxury and enjoying the comforts of this worldly life can lead to pride and arrogance which in turn can lead one to rejecting the truth. However, just as comfort and luxury can prevent people from believing it can also prevent believers from acts of obedience.
Inqalaba literally means to turn and comes from the word qalb which means heart because it constantly moves. It has a literal meaning of going back to the place that you originally came from with regards to distance you have travelled. So there is this notion that this disbelievers when mocking the believers would not just do it amongst their friends but also amongst their family when they returned home. The conversation one has with his friends is very different to the conversation one has with his family. A conversation amongst friends may be more boisterous and harsher and the fact that these people would even take this conversation home indicates that the level of their mockery was very high. This also indicates that the call of the believers was concerning the disbelievers so much that it was always on their mind and troubling them. They could see the truth but their pride and arrogance pushed them away from accepting it. When you know something to be blatantly wrong you will never spend anytime thinking or worrying about it. Yet the disbelievers still did despite the fact that many of the early Muslims were considered to be from the lower classes of the society. The word inqalaba has been mentioned twice and the repetition indicates emphasis that when they go back home they are jesting. This indicates the level of their mockery and also how much Islam was affecting them. They share these stories of how they mock the Muslims with their family but in contrast this person will flee from his family on the Day of Judgement, the family that he so enjoyed meeting in the dunya.
32) And when they saw them they would say: ‘These people are truly lost’
The attitude of the disbelievers towards the Muslims is one of pity, looking down on them with pity thinking that they are wasting their lives away for an imaginary paradise. The disbelievers would say that the Muslims were misguided because they had abandoned the religion of their ancestors or that they had corrupt and strange ways of thinking. We can conclude from these verses that there were four types of criminal things the disbelievers would do to the believer – laugh, wink, mock and declare them as being misguided. This type of mockery was not exclusive to Muhammad (saw) but in fact all the previous prophets received this type of mockery. If you call people to Allah (swt) then people will mock you. This is a sunnah and the danger of not understanding this is that people will try to remove this mockery by appeasing those who mock them but understand that they will never stop in their mockery until you have abandoned your faith.
33) But they have not been assigned as guardians over them
This verse has been interpreted in two different ways and both are very powerful. The literal interpretation of the verse is that the disbelievers were not sent as guardians of the believers so why should they be so concerned with whether Muslims are lost or not, with how they live or what they aspire to. Another interpretation is that this is the disbeliever asserting that the Muslims have not been sent to them to be a guardian over their affairs. Why should the Muslim care or concern himself with how they live their lives ask the disbelievers? What makes them think they have this authority? However, the Muslims are indeed not guardians over their affairs. Allah (swt) has already put guardians over them that document their deeds, the angels that write of whom we were informed of in the previous surah.
A common statement people make is that only god can judge me and this results from a belief people have that faith is within the heart and therefore no one can judge a person’s heart. However, the correct belief is that faith consists of belief as well as actions. If someone openly commits zina or robbery, for example, he can be labeled an evildoer but ultimately only Allah (saw) knows what his fate is in the akhira and Allah (swt) can forgive him if He wants. In the dunya though he will be treated as an evildoer. People may argue that if the disbelievers have not been given the authority to judge over the actions of the Muslims, how can the Muslims. However, Allah (swt) has given the Muslims the right to declare others as evildoers if need be at certain times for the welfare of the community.
This verse transitions back to the day of judgement where we learn that it is now the believer who is laughing at the disbelievers. This is a role reversal from the disbelievers who used to laugh at the believers. A principle in our religion is that a person is rewarded according to the nature of his deeds. So if someone laughs at the believers in the dunya he will be laughed at in the akhira. When one hears of disbelievers being punished in the Quran it normally conjures two reactions. The first reaction is that one will fear that punishment on himself and the second reaction is that they get what they deserve.
The context here is of people guaranteed paradise and who will then look at the disbelievers and laugh at them. When we see someone die in sin or in disbelief we do not laugh as we fear dying in that state ourselves but when in Jannah this concern has been removed. One understanding of this verse is that Allah (swt) will tell the people of hell to leave and people will start running towards the gates to exit and then Allah (swt) will shut the gates before they can leave causing the people of paradise to laugh. Another is that there will be a portal in Jannah showing the people in hell being punished. Laughing at the disbelievers is not binding on people and not everybody will laugh and it will not be directed at all disbelievers, as there are different levels of kufr. It may be difficult for one to watch his friendly neighbour being punished in hellfire but that is not the case when criminals and tyrants are punished. One of the purposes behind this verse is to alleviate the suffering of the believers. They are being laughed at but there will be a day when they will get a chance to laugh at those who laughed at them and this gives peace to the heart but this does not mean that one has to spend their whole time in Jannah laughing at the disbelievers.
It is not wrong for Muslims to hate and curse people. If it were then you would fall into difficulty with this verse. The messenger (saw) used to curse people and he was the best of creation. If it is not permissible to harbour bad thoughts on disbelievers then how can that be reconciled with this verse? In Islam we have a concept of loving something for the sake of Allah (saw) and hating something for the sake of Allah (saw). The messenger (saw) said the tightest handhold of faith is to love for the sake of Allah and to hate for the sake of Allah. The scholars say that there is a good form of anger and the messenger had this when he would see the rights of Allah (swt) being violated. The companions could tell if the messenger (saw) was angry as his face would turn red. When evil is perpetrated the believer must have hate for it in his heart.
35) (Reclining) on thrones/couches they will command a sight (of all things)
(Reclining) on thrones/couches, they will look around them (at all things)
They will be on high couches reclining and looking around with a full view of everything. This description is mentioned here a second time and again the object of what is being looked at has not been specifically mentioned. However, the first verse came after the disbelievers had been denied the right of looking at Allah (swt) and thus one of the interpretations of the verse then was that the believers would get to look at Allah (swt). The context of this verse is that it comes after the verse which says they will be laughing and so the Muslims in this verse are looking at the people who are making them laugh – the disbelievers and they do not even need to look down to see them – they can see them whilst reclining. This highlights an important principal when it comes to understanding verses in the Quran. They cannot be understood in an isolated fashion. Although verse twenty-three and thirty-five are identical they have been mentioned in two different contexts and in order to understand a verse you must consider what comes before it and after it. Some scholars were of the view that this was inclusive of everything that they would see and therefore is a repetition. One interpretation is that this is a response to the disbelievers saying that this people are misguided but Allah (swt) says no they will be on their couches looking at all the delights of paradise.
This is a rhetorical question that indicates that the disbeliever will be rewarded according to what he used to do. The hukm of Allah (swt) with regards to the disbelievers will always be based upon justice and He (swt) gives exactly in response to what they did. However, the way Allah (swt) deals with the believers is with more than what they used to do and He (swt) showers them with His grace and mercy. Whoever does a good deed and acts upon it Allah (swt) will write it as ten good deeds and multiplies it up until seven hundred fold but one sin is written down as one sin. The word thawwaab means to get a good salary, to do good work and to get good back. Allah (swt) displays sarcasm here and asks if those who disbelieved have been paid a good salary in return for everything they used to do. This could even be sarcasm from the believers in paradise who look down at the disbelievers burning. The believer acts as if he cannot hear the cry of the disbeliever and adds insult to injury by asking in sarcasm whether the disbeliever has been paid what he deserved as a result of his deeds. The word ya’maloon means to do an act consciously with intent whilst yaf’aloon is to do an action without intent and without thinking about it. Thus, these fujjaar do evil without even thinking about the consequences. So they don’t do ‘aml, they do fi’l in their disbelief which are thoughtless actions.
The beginning of the surah begins with declaring ultimate destruction for those who cheat in business for small profits and gains. At the end Allah (swt) asks whether they got a good compensation for what they used to do – the cheating, the belittling of Islam, Allah’s book, his messenger and the believers. The answer is undoubtedly yes.