99: Az-Zalzalah

Tafseer Surah Az-Zalzalah

This surah deals primarily with the last day. The people who denied the hereafter had three criticisms with the concept of an afterlife. Firstly, how could the sky or the earth, this incredibly stable element of our life, ever collapse and come to an end. Secondly, how could there possibly be a record of every single thing every person has ever done. Thirdly, even if we assume these two things to be true then we will still be safe, as we have been worshipping entities that are supposed to have a good connection with Allah (swt). Thus, even if we go to Allah (swt) with bad deeds, these entities are going to make a case for us and intervene for us. This is a good insight into the psychology of shirk (associating partners with Allah). People do not commit shirk because they necessarily deny that Allah (swt) is one. Rather, it is because they want someone in between who can deal with Allah (swt) and handle their problems. A person they can hide behind and a person who will protect them from Allah’s anger. This is at the very heart of Christian thought where they believe Jesus will make a case for them. This is the concept Islam came to destroy. Allah (swt) in this surah shatters all three of these myths. Even within the Muslim community, even if this blatant shirk does not exist, the psychology still does. For example, when we ask people to make dua for us because we think they are closer to Allah (swt) or more pious than us.

 

99:1

1) When the earth is shaken violently in its (last) quaking

Most words in Arabic come from a three-letter root but zalzala is a four-lettered root, which is not the norm. However, some linguists argue that four-letter roots are simply the enhanced form of the three-letter root. This would mean that zalzala comes from the word zalla, which means to slip. When syllables repeat themselves as they do in the word zalzala it indicates repetition in the meaning. The repetition of the root letters implies that the earth will shake and then stop, shake and then stop and will continue in this way. This is common to words with quadrilateral roots, which represent actions that begin and stop repeatedly. For example, waswasa is a word which means the whisperings from Shaytan which are repeatedly used to try to harm and cause confusion and doubt amongst people. Allah (swt) does not just say that Shaytan whispers, rather, he keeps whispering. So, Shaytan will whisper, go away and then approach again to whisper evil again, repeatedly. The silence between each syllable of the word signifies a stop, almost like some form of relief from the whispering or shaking, but suddenly it begins again as signified by the repeating of the syllable. When it stops you think you have relief only for it to begin again. So, zalzala is when someone keeps slipping over and over again. This is why zalzala is translated as an earthquake in Arabic as this is a time when one does not have stable footing and keeps slipping. Thus, Allah (swt) alludes to a day, the Day of Judgement, on which the earth will become unstable for anyone on it. Similarly in surah Hajj, Allah (swt) uses the same word to describe the earth as shaking violently on a day on which people will seem intoxicated without being intoxicated due to them being unable to keep upright (Surat Al-Hajj 22:1-2). Earthquakes are described in the Quran in different ways. The word rajj is used in the Quran for a shaking which happens all of a sudden. An initial jerk where something that was originally stationery suddenly gets put into motion. The ulema have commented that this is the first moment of the experience of an earthquake. Rajaf is a kind of movement or shaking which can change the state of something. For example, it is a shaking that cause ripples to appear in a sheet when you shake it or which causes ripples to appear on the surface of water when a pebble is thrown across it. This is also the word Allah (swt) used to describe the munafiqeen because they were a disturbance in the peace of Medina (see Surat Al-‘Aĥzāb 33:60).

Whilst the previous surah ended with the end of the end and the final endings for the righteous and disbelieving persons (i.e. hell and paradise), this surah begins with the beginning of the end. The journey to paradise or hell begins with the Day of Judgement (i.e. the end of the world and Judgement). The word ‘when’ in English is sometimes used to talk about something in the past and sometimes the future e.g. ‘when I helped you last year’, ‘when I call you next week’. In Arabic the word for ‘when’ in the past is idh and idha for the future. Therefore, this ayah is referring to something in the future. Furthermore, the word idha is also used to remind someone of something that is bound to happen but they keep forgetting. By saying idha Allah (swt) made the event of the Day of Judgement a certain reality. Notice also that Allah (swt) did not say when He will shake the earth; rather, He said when it will shake. This is the passive form where the subject is not mentioned and where the action and the object of a sentence, rather than subject, is emphasised. There are a number of rhetorical benefits of this. The passive in Arabic is used for an action that is very easy to do. For example, when someone says ‘it’ll get done’ they are essentially implying that this is such an easy task that it does not even need to be mentioned who is going to perform the task. So by using the passive form Allah (swt) is telling us how easy it is for Him to cause that violent shaking that is bound to come.

In Arabic we have special verbal nouns that serve to emphasise the meaning of the main verb (Maf’ul Mutlaq). For example, darabtu means ‘I hit’ but darabtu darban, which is the verbal noun literally means ‘I hit with a hit’. In Arabic though repeating the word emphasises the action and so this would actually result in the meaning being ‘I hit him really hard’ or ‘I beat the life out of him’. This is the technique that is used in this verse and suggests that this earthquake will be an incredible earthquake that is violent, continuous and does not end. Earthquakes are amazing events that do not occur often but Allah (swt) goes out of His way to take something which is already incredible and enhance it by adding the word zilzaalaha. However, grammatically zilzaalan would ordinarily be used in maf’ul mutlaq and not zilzalaaha like we have in this verse. Allah (swt) adds the feminine pronoun ha which refers back to the earth in which we find our safety and refuge. The rhetorical benefit of this is that this is an intense earthquake the likes of which will never occur after it and have never occurred before it and one that will shake the whole earth. When an earthquake happens today it is localised. Part of the earth shakes whilst other parts do not. By using the ha pronoun though Allah (swt) is alluding to the entire earth. There is not a patch that will not feel the effects of this violent earthquake. It cannot shake anymore than Allah (swt) will shake it on that day. So, the ha implies that Allah (swt) will shake it in a way that exhausts it and that there will be no inch of it that does not shake on that day. Embedded in the ha could also be a promise. By saying it’s earthquake there is an implication that the earth has made a promise to Allah (swt) that it will shake on that day and fulfil that promise. Another implication is that the earth was always meant to shake and its shaking is the fulfilment of it’s destiny and purpose for which it was created. It was not created for people to enjoy. Rather, its real purpose is not in its journey but in its destination, which is the Day of Judgement. For example, it’s the end of the journey that matters the most to the traveller and not necessarily the journey itself. In the same way the purpose of the earth from the beginning was to shake violently and lead to the Day of Judgement.

 

99:2
 2) When the earth throws out its burdens

The word akhraja is used in Arabic to extract and to take something out. It can also mean to expel or to deport someone from a city. Barraza is another word used in the Quran and means to take something out and then to place it in front of someone (see Surah An-Nazi’at 79:36). Another word is taradda which means to push something that you find unacceptable or degrading away. For example, to push away someone you find beneath you or annoying. The messenger (saw) is commanded not to do this to other believers regardless of their status. It is used in the ayah ‘And do not send away those who call upon their Lord…’(Surah An’am 6:52). Allah (swt) says that the earth will pull out its burdens (athqalaha) and this is the first of two times in this surah that burdens is mentioned. Linguistically, in Arabic thiqal is used for two things. Firstly, it refers to the items you have in your home which make it heavy, for example, your furniture, the items in your cupboards, the curtains etc. If one were to see the belongings in their home strewn outside they would be in a state of shock. Allah (swt) is telling us that on this day those things which you expected to remain on the inside of the earth, like those who have died, will be expelled. It is also used to refer to one’s luggage when they travel. The traveller will not always carry his luggage. At some point it will be released. The earth is also on a journey and it will eventually release its burdens. This is the linguistic meaning.

The meaning in tafseer is that it includes the dead but also the treasures that people spent their whole life chasing, whether it is water, or precious metals or oil. People spend their whole life searching for riches but on that day they will not have to search for it as it will be thrown out. The difference is that no one will run towards it or care because they will realise they were running after the wrong thing all along. It will also bring forth a report of what people have been doing on top of the earth as Allah (swt) made the ground beneath us a witness. If you are not fearful enough to realise that Allah (swt) is watching because He is from the unseen then know that the earth from the seen is also watching. Just like the person who vomits due to excessive eating, the earth is getting loaded on the sins of man until the point that it becomes saturated and a day comes when it gets to throw up. The word takhalla is used in Arabic to describe a mother who is finally able to gasp from relief at giving birth. Allah (swt) used this word in to Surah Inshiqaq to describe how the earth will finally be relieved of the sins of man, the pain which weighed it down, ‘And has cast out all that was in it and become empty’ (Inshiqaq 84.4). Sometimes the earth releases some of its burden through minor earthquakes or other disasters, ‘Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by (reason of) what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of (the consequence of) what they have done that perhaps they will return (to righteousness)’ (Surah Ar-Rum 30:41). Allah (swt) through such disasters gives mankind a taste of some of the things they have done. Another opinion is that the real burden on earth are the humans and jinn. In surah Ar-Rahman Allah (swt) says, ‘We will attend to you/We shall turn to reckon with you, O you two heavy ones! (mankind and jinn)’. Ultimately the earth will discard mankind and jinn.

 

99:3

3) When man cries, ‘What is happening to it?’

On that day humans will ask what is happening to the earth, as they are not used to seeing it like this. People will ask what is wrong with it almost as if they did not know this day was coming. Yet, mankind knew it was coming as we have been reminded of this over and over through the generations but on that day, through utter shock at the sight of it, we will forget. The word insaan is different to nafs, which also means a person. The word insaan comes forms nasiya which means to forget and so this is the most appropriate word to use here on a day when man’s resurrection, which he had forgotten about, will stun him. The word naas is used later in the surah and it is a plural that refers to many people whereas insaan is an individual word. In other words we are learning that on that day we will be alone. That day will witness the largest gathering of humans there has ever been, as every generation of the earth will be brought up at the same time. Every single generation from Adam (as) to the last human being will all be standing at the same time. It is narrated from the prophet (saw) that one will not even have the space to move. The only space available will be to plant your two feet. Yet, the irony is that despite this congestion, everyone will be alone on that day. We won’t be in groups, or in tribes or nations. We will be alone. Ordinarily, when one is in a large crowd they feel protected and safe, however, on that day we will never have felt more alone. In Surah Yasin Allah (swt) says, ‘They will say, “O woe to us! Who has raised us up from our sleeping place?” (The reply will be), “This is what the Most Merciful had promised, and the messengers told the truth”’ (Surah Yasin 36:52). It is commented that because of this ayah in Surah Yasin, the ayah we are studying in Surah Az-Zalzalah does not refer to all human beings, rather it only refers to the disbelievers. So, in fact according to this opinion it will only be the disbeliever who asks what is happening on that day because the believer knows what is happening all along. When the disbeliever will be asking what is happening the believer in response will say that this is what Allah (swt) promised and that the messenger (saw) was speaking the truth all along.

 

99:4
4) On that Day, it will tell all

In the first ayah the word idha was used to allude to a time and in this ayah the word yawma-idhin is used which also does this but is even more hyperbolised. In other words we are now getting to a part of the surah in which Allah (swt) is angrier than He was at the beginning of the surah. Yawma-idhin in of itself is a warning and is used for when you warn someone e.g. the day I find you! The word hadath in Arabic is the existence of something that was not there before and the word hadatha means to make someone aware of something they did not previously know. Another meaning of the word is when you tell someone something they completely forgot so that when they hear it they feel like they are hearing it for the first time. A third meaning is when the speaker speaks about a topic and uses language that assumes people in the audience have never heard this topic before. For example, a teacher who recaps a lesson in full detail as he assumes you missed the previous class. This is the way this word is used for the earth on that day. The earth will speak and give every last detail of the deeds people committed and may have forgotten about. Another implication is that when the earth reminds us of our deeds it will feel as if we are hearing it for the first time. The shock of it will be like the shock of some new event. There are many words used in the Quran that mean to inform but the specific word Allah (swt) uses here to depict the psychological reality on the day of judgement is hadatha. People will come into contact with the things they did and the shock they get will be because they will feel like they are hearing this for the first time. This shock is described in Surah Al-Kahf, ‘And the record (of deeds) will be placed (open), and you will see the criminals fearful of that within it, and they will say, “Oh, woe to us! What is this book that leaves nothing small or great except that it has enumerated it?” And they will find what they did present (before them). And your Lord does injustice to no one’ (al Kahf 18:49).

In this ayah the word akhbaar is used for news and not naba’, which also means news. Both are translated into English as news but in the Quran Allah (swt) sometimes uses naba’ and sometimes akhbaar. Naba’ is something that you could never have known unless someone gave you that news. This is why a prophet is called a nabi (from naba’) as he teaches you things you could never have known. In contrast khabar is something that you can figure out. The second difference is that naba’ could be something pertaining to the past, present or future whereas khabar is not used for the future, only for the present or the past. The third difference is that naba’ is something that you could not expect whereas khabar is something you can expect. Allah (swt) talks about the day of judgement in different places in the Quran. In Surah Naba’ He (swt) tells us that the trumpet will be blown, mountains will sail, the sky will be cracked open. These are not things one would expect. However, this surah talks about an earthquake, which is something we can expect as we are familiar with them which is why khabar is used. Thus, the usage of words in the Quran is very precise.

There seems to be a contradiction between tuhadithu and akhbaaraha as tuhadithu is used for something that appears to be new to you whereas akhbaar is something already known to you. However, the two combine to imply that the human will come into contact with his actions on that day when the earth speaks and even though his deeds are familiar to him, it will still be a shocking event and hit him like it is something new. There is difference of opinion between the mufassiroon on the tafseer of this ayah. Ibn Mas’ud (ra) was of the opinion that the earth will actually have a tongue and speak on that day. Allah (swt) will make it speak and it will testify on every single person in regards to the actions they had done on its back. One interpretation is that the earth will speak to the people themselves and another is that it will speak to Allah (swt) complaining of what people had done atop it. Both opinions exist in Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah. Some commentators who were rationalists argued that this made no logical sense and so they opined that the earth releasing its contents is its actual abstract form of speech. However, the majority of the ulema disagree as the literal speaking of the earth is proven in hadith literature. On that day the nature of everything will change and things we never expected to speak will speak such as our limbs.

 

99:5
 5) Because your Lord will inspire it (to do so)

The word wahy, which comes from the verb awha, is translated as revelation. However, this is one of its religious implications. Linguistically, the word awha means to hint something to someone secretly about something secret. This is the kind of language sometimes spoken in the military where a commander will say something to his soldier and the soldier will know exactly what to do. It is used several times in the Quran. For example, in Surah An Nahl where Allah (swt) instructs the bee on where to go, ‘And your Lord inspired to the bee, “Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and (in) that which they construct’ (an Nahl 16:68). Another example is in Surah Maryam where the word is used to describe a subtle hint dropped when the Prophet Zakariah instructs the people to make dhikr, ‘So he came out to his people from the prayer chamber and signaled to them to exalt (Allah) in the morning and afternoon’ (Maryam 19:11). Also, in Surah Al Qasas when the mother of Musa (as) was inspired, ‘And We inspired to the mother of Moses, “Suckle him; but when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed, We will return him to you and will make him (one) of the messengers”’ (Al Qasas 28:7). The implication here is that the thought came into her mind and then she knew exactly what to act out. The word is even used to describe the shayateen dropping hints to their human friends so that they can then use it to debate with the believers, ‘And indeed do the devils inspire their allies (among men) to dispute with you’ (extract Al ‘An`ām 6:121).

When this hint is given both the one giving it and the one receiving it share an understanding with the latter knowing exactly what to do thereafter. This word is used in this ayah to let us know that all Allah (swt) has to do is make an indication for the earth to know that it needs to empty itself out. The words wahy and ilhaam are similar in that they both share the meaning of inspiration or revelation. However, there does exist a difference from a language point of view. The word ilhaam is usually calling to some kind of action, ‘And inspired it (with discernment of) its wickedness and its righteousness’ (Ash-Shams 91:8). These inspirations are of action, such as in guidance in showing the opposing good and bad ways. In contrast awha is more a reminder or wisdom. These two words can apply to both humans and jinn. The words hamazaat and waswasa though are only used for the shayateen, ‘And say, “My Lord, I seek refuge in You from the incitements of the devils’ (Al Mu’minūn 23:97). See also Surah An-Naas, ‘From the evil of the retreating whisperer’ (An-Naas 114:4).

Thus, the earth will articulate every piece of news it holds on that day because Allah (swt) inspires it to do so. Allah (swt) does not say rabbaha (it’s Master); rather He (swt) says rabbaka (your Master) and so He (swt) is talking to the messenger (saw). Thus far this surah has been presented in the third person but here Allah (swt) all of a sudden switches to the second person when the messenger (saw) is mentioned to show His closeness to him. This shows the special status of the messenger (saw) on the day of judgement who we know from many narrations will be given the right of intercession. This closeness also serves to show that His Messenger is safe on that Day from all these calamities. He (saw) will be made a party to all these events but distant to the calamities of them. When a verb is used it comes with a preposition. For example, in English you would not say ‘I spoke him’. You would say, ‘I spoke to him’. In this example ‘spoke’ is the verb and ‘to’ is the preposition. The verb must be accompanied by the correct preposition. For example, you would not say, ‘I spoke in him’. In this ayah Allah (swt) says awha-laha and not awha-ilayha. The expected preposition associated with awha is not la; it is ila. The preposition ila is used all over the Quran with awha but in this ayah la is used. When two verbs are used in a sentence two prepositions are also expected. In Arabic it is possible to shorten such a sentence by using the second preposition with the first verb. The ancient Arab is smart enough to know that this combination means that the speaker wants me to think of the verb and the preposition that was not mentioned. It is a remarkable feature of the Quran that Allah (swt) embeds words like this. Ibn Kathir states that the preposition la goes with the absent verb idhan. The meaning embedded in this ayah is that in addition to giving the earth a hint it is also given permission by Allah (swt). Allah (swt) will give the earth the instruction to speak and also the permission. What is the difference? If you give someone an instruction it is because they may not necessarily want to perform the task and they are only doing it because you told them to. However, if you give them permission then the implication is that they wanted to perform the task. Therefore, we learn from this that the earth always wants to quake and speak. It is waiting restlessly for the day on which it can release its burden. Allah (swt) has given it a huge task and it has to wait patiently until that day when Allah (swt) finally gives it permission.

 

99:6

6) On that Day, people will come forward in separate groups to be shown their deeds

The word yawma-idhin appears again demonstrating how the day is getting even tougher. The word sadr in Arabic means to go somewhere and to then later return and the saadir is the person who, for example, left home to collect water and then came back. We have heard and known about the day of judgement since we were young and are constantly reminded of it. Allah (swt) talks about it in the Quran extensively but somehow makes it seem like it is a new subject every time. In this ayah Allah (swt) says people on that day are going and coming back but where are they going and what are they coming back to? Allah (swt) is saying that this world is where we began our lives and then we go to our temporary graves and spend time there before coming back to this earth. When we are in this world it is the time to perform deeds and when we return to this world after spending time in our graves, it is to suffer the consequences of our deeds. When we go into the ground the earth will be something we recognise but when we return to it, it will be unrecognisable. The first time we are in this world is to act and perform deeds and the second is the time to witness those acts. We will be in a helpless state, unable to move or speak. In fact our tongue will speak against us and our limbs will be moved for us. When we were here the first time we were seemingly in control but on that day Allah (swt) will have authority. There is a tafseer of this ayah that NAK does not find convincing. In it some have interpreted that the starting point is the grave after which one is judged before going to paradise or hell. The problem with this is that when you come back you are not coming back to where you started, which is the meaning of sadr linguistically. Secondly, in order to make that meaning work you cannot just say that they were taken to show their deeds. Their tafseer consequently assumes that you have to also show them the reward and punishment of their deeds as they are going to paradise or hell. However, why would the next ayah then mention it again that they will see the good and bad in their deeds. It seems from the text and the spirit of the surah that the concept of seeing what you have done is being highlighted.

In our time in this world we live amongst our family and friends and also amongst other Muslims and non-Muslims within the greater society. In contrast when we leave for our graves we leave alone. When we come back to this world, however, we come back ashtaatan, which comes from the word shatta. Shatta is when something that was once one breaks into many pieces. In other words humanity was one, one neighbourhood, one community, town or village but when we come back we are all broken up into different categories. Allah (swt) used this word in the Quran to describe the disbelievers, ‘You would think they are united, but their hearts are divided’ (Al Hashr 59:14). It is commented that this breaking up will be according to everyone’s degree of good and evil deeds and that people will be joined by others who scored in the same percentile. Some argue that there will only be two large groups, of believers and disbelievers, whilst others say that the plural ashtaat indicates that even within the believers and within the disbelievers there will be multiple groups of people categorised by their deeds. Others argue that ashtaat means that everyone will be by themselves because of the ayah, ‘(It will be said to them), “And you have certainly come to Us alone as We created you the first time’ (Surah Al-‘An`ām 6:94). Therefore, this breaking up implies that everyone is broken up from all their human connections and they are standing all alone. Another interpretation is that people will emerge from their graves and spread out eventually stopping at the space that they are supposed to stand at. They will be unable to move until their judgement is over and the people become aware of who is successful and who is not. ‘Some faces on that day shall be beaming, Laughing, rejoicing at good news, Some other faces on that day shall be covered with dust, Darkness will cover them, Such will be the Kafarah (disbelievers in Allah), the Fajarah (wicked evildoers)’ (Surah Abasa 80:38-42).

People will be broken up into groups so that they may be shown their deeds. Two words frequently used in the Quran for deeds are ‘aml and fi’l. The word ‘aml used in this ayah is used to describe an act that is done consciously whereas fi’l is an act done subconsciously. For example, breathing is not an ‘aml; it is a fi’l. In contrast hearing is a fi’l as one just does it. Listening carefully and intently though is an ‘aml. Similarly, when you open your eyes the fact that you see is a f’il. What you choose to look at though is an ‘aml. Therefore, in this ayah we learn that people will be shown their ‘amaal. Some mufassiroon comment that people will actually be shown the reward of their deeds. Others disagree and opine that this is not the place where the rewards are spoken about; rather, this is the place where the deeds are spoken about and shown. These deeds will be shown almost as a record of all the good and bad deeds one has performed with a balance at the bottom displaying which deeds were accepted and which were not. A list of one’s entire life choices.

 

99:7
7) Whoever has done an atom’s-weight of good will see it

In Arabic fa can be used as a conclusion to a discourse and so it is as though the actual lesson of this surah is beginning now. Ordinarily, the word ya’malu would be used in a sentence such as this but by saying ya’mal instead the sentence becomes a conditional statement. The response to the condition is yarahu. Thus, we learn that if one were to perform a good deed then he shall see it. In this surah we had the word athqaal, which means burden. From the same root we find another word used in this ayah. The word mithqaal is a tool by which one thing is weighed against another (physical or conceptual). For example, if you have a set of scales with fruit on one side and weights on the other then the mithqaal is the weight. This weight in of itself has no value except to tell you what something else is worth. In Arabic when a word begins with a meem and then has an alif in the middle, like miftaaah (key), then it is a tool. Similarly, mithqaal is a tool by which the worth of an item on the other end of a scale is known. The word dharra in Arabic refers to the smallest thing imaginable and in the experience of the Arab the smallest thing they could see was the egg of an ant, which is why they called it dharra. Dharra is also defined as the small fibres or dust that one sees floating in a ray of sunlight. In our times we would think of an atom or a spec of dust as a dharra and naturally the smaller something is the less weight it has. Thus, in this ayah we have the word mithqaal, which is used to measure weight, mentioned alongside something that one does not really associate weight with. A comparison is being drawn here to the good deeds one does. The word khayr here could be one of two things. It could mean that whoever does a good deed will see it even if that deed is equal to a tiny spec. Or it is a distinguisher on a scale with a spec or atom on one side and one’s deed on the other. Either way, the meaning is very close. In Arabic khayr is something that is easily distinguishable as being good. It is something that does not require defending, as it is inherently good. For example, one does not need to convince someone that telling the truth is a good thing or that saving someone’s life is a good thing, as these things are naturally known.

There are many different words for seeing in Arabic. The word ra’a, which yarahu comes from, is used for when you see something literally and figuratively. For example when someone comprehends something and he or she says ‘I see’. What this person is really saying is that they understand. Therefore, when Allah (swt) says that he will get to see every spec of deed, this means that the person will see it, see it’s worth and understand why it is worth that. There will be no confusion on that day. When one deals with lawyers the language of the court system can often appear complicated such that the person does not know what is happening. It is very important for one on trial to understand what is going on and sometimes people can end up confused about what they did or end up incriminating themselves. By Allah (swt) using the word yarahu He (swt) clarifies that no one will be in confusion on that day or feel the need to ask themselves why they are going to hell or say to themselves that they did not think they were that bad. They will clearly know and understand what they did and also understand the implication of what that deed will bring them.

 

99:8

8) And whoever has done an atom’s-weight of evil will see it

The word sharr in Arabic comes from sharaara, which means a spark of fire. Sharr is something that is universally understood to be evil such as stealing or killing. Allah (swt) is not talking about what will be rewarded and what will be punished. Allah (swt) is talking about what will be seen. You will see your deeds in every last detail – even the things Allah (swt) forgave. We will see it in such detail that the Quran says about the people, ‘And the record (of deeds) will be placed (open), and you will see the criminals fearful of that within it, and they will say, “Oh, woe to us! What is this book that leaves nothing small or great except that it has enumerated it?” And they will find what they did present (before them). And your Lord does injustice to no one’ (Al Kahf 18:49). This will make us appreciate the mercy and forgiveness of Allah (swt) even more. If someone forgives you for something you once did, but you cannot remember what you did or when you did it, you would not care about their forgiveness. By Allah (swt) reminding you of what you did before He (swt) forgives you, you will be even more grateful and appreciative of His (swt) forgiveness. On top of this Allah (swt) will remind you of a tiny deed you once did that seemed as insignificant as a spec of dust in your eyes and then multiply it making you even more appreciative of His (swt) mercy. On our bad deeds we need Allah’s forgiveness and on our good deeds we need His (swt) mercy. Our good deeds are in fact so pathetic it is only by Allah’s mercy that they actually count for anything because even in our salah our mind is all over the place. We have shortcomings in all our actions including our acts of worship and it’s through Allah’s mercy that He (swt) compensates them by multiplying them and putting barakah in them. And Allah is the Forgiving (Ghafoor), Merciful (Raheem). He (swt) covers our sins and compensates our good deeds. When Allah (swt) increases our reward in the month of Ramadan it is because of His (swt) mercy and not because or our accomplishments. We could have never performed eighty-three years of or a thousand months of consecutive worship.

Seeing the record in of itself on that day will be a terrifying thing and it can be an amazing or terrifying experience based on the results we get. The companions were extremely worried about the small deeds because these are deeds that are steadily accumulated without one realising. There is an experiment involving a frog that is placed into boiling water. Upon impact the frog jumps out of the water immediately. When you place a frog into water at a normal temperature though it stays in and is happy. If this water is then slowly heated until the water reaches boiling point the frog dies, as it does not jump out. Our sins can be thought of in the same way. People can recognise major sins straight away and never go close to them. Small sins however appear insignificant and people will sometimes treat them flippantly and without the same level of caution. When you gradually end up in a bad situation you don’t even realise it. Our minor sins can sometimes seem microscopic but they can add up to the point they become large. Finally, it is one of the styles of the Quran that Allah (swt) sometimes begins a surah with something small and ends with something big or vice versa. In this surah Allah (swt) begins with something huge – the entire earth being shaken violently. The end of the surah in contrast ends with the smallest of specs and this is part of the beautiful contrast of this surah.


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