On this Day when its final meaning unfolds, those who previously were oblivious of it will say:

In document Fi Dhilal al Quran - Syed Qutb - Volume 6 (Surah 7) (Page 77-88)

“Our Lord’s messengers have surely told us the Truth. Have we, then, any intercessors who could plead on our behalf? Or could we live our lives again, so that we may act differently from the way we used to act.” They have lost their souls and all that which they invented has failed them. (53)

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This new address to mankind tackles the central issue to which the question of dress was related in the previous passage. It deals with the question of whom to follow in connection with religious rites and practices, as well as in legal issues, and indeed in all matters of life. Mankind must follow the messengers who bring them revelations from their Lord. It is on the basis of their response to those messengers that accountability and reward on the Day of Judgement will be determined.

“Children of Adam! Whenever there come to you messengers from among yourselves to relate to you My revelations, then those who are conscious of Me and live righteously shall have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve. But those who deny and scorn Our revelations are the ones destined for the fire, where they shall abide.” (Verses 35-36)

It is the covenant God has made with Adam and his children, and the condition that He stipulated for man to be given the task of vicegerency on earth. After all, it is God who has created the earth and made it suitable to support life before assigning the task of building it to mankind and giving them the necessary talents, aptitudes and means to fulfil their obligations in accordance with God’s covenant. Unless human beings follow the messengers God sends them, then whatever they do in this life will be rejected. No one who submits himself to God will accept such actions which will become on the Day of Judgement a burden that will inescapably lead to hell: “Children of Adam! Whenever there come to you messengers from among yourselves to relate to you My revelations, then those who are conscious of Me and live righteously shall have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Verse 35)

Fearing God helps human beings to steer away from sin and indecency. Indeed, the most wicked aspect of gross indecency is to associate partners with God and to claim for oneself God’s authority and Godhead qualities. Fearing God also helps human beings maintain the path of obedience and to do only what is right. Thus, it brings a sense of security which is totally free from worry about one’s eventual destiny. “But those who deny and scorn Our revelations are the ones destined for the fire, where they shall abide.” (Verse 36) This is only because denying God’s revelations and scorning the duty of abiding by God’s covenant puts any person in one camp with Satan who most unashamedly scorned his duty of submission to God. Thus, God’s warning to Satan and his followers shall come to pass: “As for those of them that follow you, I shall fill Hell with you all.” (Verse 18)

The sūrah moves on to portray the scene of approaching death, or the term to which the last verse in the previous passage refers: “For every community a term has been set. When [the end of] their term approaches, they can neither delay nor hasten it by a single moment.” (Verse 34) This is followed by the scene of resurrection and reckoning, judgement and reward. These come by way of setting in detail what was at first briefly stated. It describes what happens to those who fear God and those who deny His revelations after their term has been completed. The description uses the

unique Qur’ānic method of depicting vivid scenes that are held before our eyes as if we see them now and hear what takes place.

The Qur’ān has taken good care in describing the scenes on the Day of Judgement, including resurrection, accountability, eternal bliss and horrifying suffering. What God has promised and warned against is no longer a far-away scene which is described to us in words. Indeed, it is painted before our eyes in a way that brings it to life so that we actually see and feel it. Muslims feel as if they actually experience that world beyond: their hearts warm at one point; they shiver at another. They experience fear at one scene and feel secure at another. They actually feel the heat of the fire and experience the fresh breeze of Heaven. Hence, they are fully aware of what the life to come shall bring, even before their promised day arrives. When you consider what believers say about their feelings concerning the life to come, you will realize that they actually live in that world beyond more than they live their present life. All their feelings move towards the next world in the same way as man moves from one home to another or from one country to another. The life to come is no longer a distant future; it is experienced here and now.

Perhaps the scenes the sūrah portrays are the longest scenes of the Day of Judgement in the Qur’ān. They are perhaps the most vivid, portraying a succession of images coupled with extensive dialogue. Our amazement is endless at how simple words can replace vision and paint with sounds and words a complete scene that we actually visualize.

These scenes of the Day of Judgement are given in the sūrah by way of commentary on the story of Adam and Eve and their fall from Heaven as a result of yielding to Satan’s temptation. Human beings are warned by God against temptation from Satan who drove their first parents out of Heaven. They are warned against following their old enemy in whatever he whispers to them. This is coupled with a threat that Satan will be their patron and guardian if they choose to obey him in preference to obeying God’s messengers and their proper guidance. The sūrah then portrays the scene of approaching death followed by scenes of the Day of Judgement as if these come immediately after that of the approaching death without any time interval. What actually takes place confirms what those messengers have told. Those who obeyed Satan are denied admittance into heaven, because they have been tempted away from it in the same way as their first parents were driven out of it. On the other hand, those who disobeyed Satan choosing instead obedience to God are returned to heaven after they have been addressed from on High: “This is the paradise you have inherited by virtue of what you used to do.” (Verse 43) Their entry into heaven is thus a return of a person who had spent a long time away from home.

The harmony between the previous story and the comments on it, on the one hand, and the scenes of the Day of Judgement from start to finish on the other, adds

much beauty to this style and to this sūrah as a whole. The story begins up there with the Supreme Society, in the presence of angels who witness God’s creation of Adam and his wife and their dwelling place in heaven. It was Satan who brought them down from their position of complete obedience and submission to God so as to drive them out of heaven. The story also ends with the Supreme Society in the presence of angels. Thus, the beginning and the end are directly linked. They are separated by this period of human life on earth and the scene of death at its end.

Thus the middle part is linked directly with the beginning and the end.

To Testify Against Oneself

We have now a series of scenes portraying the end of this life and the beginning of the next one. We see first a scene of death as it overwhelms those who fabricate false claims against God, alleging that their inherited concepts and philosophies and the traditions and laws they enact for themselves have been sanctioned by God. Such people deny God’s revelations when they are conveyed to them by His messengers although these contain a perfect divine code. Thus, they prefer their suspect, unconfirmed knowledge to the confirmed truth of God’s revelations. They have already received what was decreed to be their lot of the comforts of this world. They have completed the period of test God had willed them to go through, and received their part of the revelations God has given to His messengers who, in turn, conveyed it to them: “Who is more wicked than one who invents lies about God or denies His revelations? These shall have whatever has been decreed to be their lot [in life]. When Our messengers come to carry off their souls, they will say: `Where, now, are those whom you used to invoke besides God?’ They will reply: ‘They have forsaken us!’ Thus, they will bear witness against themselves that they had been unbelievers.” (Verse 37)

Here we see portrayed before our eyes the scene of those who invented lies against God and denied His revelations. The angels come to gather their souls and cause them to die, at which point certain remarks are exchanged between the two groups. The angels ask them: “Where, now, are those whom you used to invoke besides God?” (Verse 37) What happened to the fabricated claims you used to emphasize?

Where are the gods you invoked and worshipped, which caused you to turn away from the truth conveyed to you by God’s messengers? Where are they now at this very critical point in time when your lives have come to an end, and you find no one to give you an extra hour beyond the deadline appointed to you by God?

They have only one answer to make. It is a clear, unambiguous and factual answer: “They have forsaken us!” They have simply gone away, far away. We do not know where they are, nor do they have a clear way of returning to us. Lost indeed are those whose gods cannot find them or who cannot help them in their hour of

need. Worthless are the gods who know no way to reach their servants when they need them most.

“Thus, they will bear witness against themselves that they had been unbelievers.” (Verse 37) This is the same attitude described earlier in the sūrah showing their reaction at the time when God’s might overwhelms them in this life. Their reply then was a clear acknowledgement of being in the wrong: “When Our punishment fell upon them, all they could say was: ‘We have indeed been wrongdoers.” (Verse 5)

When this scene of approaching death is over, we are immediately presented with another scene showing those who were about to die having been thrown in to hell.

The sūrah drops completely the period between their actual death and their resurrection and gathering on the Day of Judgement. Thus, it gives the impression that those who are about to die will actually be taken from their homes directly to hell.

[God] will say: “Enter into the fire to join the hosts of the jinn and humans who have gone before you.” Every time a host enters [the fire], it will curse its fellow host. When all are gathered there, the last of them will say of the first: “Our Lord, these are the ones who have led us astray, so give them double suffering in the fire.” He will answer: “Every one of you shall have double suffering, although you may not know it.” And the first of them will say to the last: “In no wise were you superior to us.

Taste, then, this suffering on account of what you have been doing.” (Verses 38-39)

“Enter into the fire to join the hosts of the jinn and humans who have gone before you.”

(Verse 38). Join, then, your colleagues and patrons from among the jinn and human beings, here in hell. After all, is it not Iblīs who disobeyed his Lord? Is he not the one who drove Adam and his wife out of heaven? Is he not also the one who has led astray so many of Adam’s children? It is also he whom God has promised to gather in hell with all those who do his bidding and go astray. Enter, then, all of you, into the fire, whether you belong to the earlier or later generations. All of you are equal and patrons to one another.

In this life of ours all these communities and nations are in the same camp, with the latter ones following in the footsteps of those who preceded them. Those who were in a position of power were able to dictate to those who were weaker.

Let us find out what sort of attitude they take towards one another there, after knowing their fate: “Every time a host enters [the fire], it will curse its fellow host.” (Verse 38) What a dreadful end is that which makes a son condemn his father and a beneficiary deny his patron!

“When all are gathered there,” and the last of them joins the first, and the distant becomes near to the one who is close, arguments and disputes among them become

rife. Thus, “the last of them will say of the first: ‘Our Lord, these are the ones who have led us astray, so give them double suffering in the fire.’” Thus, their comic tragedy begins. We see those who were allies and friends taking a hostile attitude towards one another, exchanging accusations and curses. Each prays to ‘Our Lord’ to give the other double punishment. Note how they make this appeal to ‘Our Lord’ about whom they used to fabricate lies and whose revelations and messages they denied. Today they turn to Him alone. The answer is to grant their request, but in a special manner.

“He will answer: ‘Every one of you shall have double suffering, although you may not know it.’” (Verse 38). The double suffering you have requested will apply both to you and to them.

This shows that those who are condemned maliciously show some rejoicing at the misfortune of those who condemned them as they hear God’s answer to them. They speak to them, pleased that they all have the same fate: “The first of them will say to the last: In no wise were you superior to us. Taste, then, this suffering on account of what you have been doing.” (Verse 39) Thus the painful scene is concluded. It is followed by an emphatic assertion that this will be the end of all those who turn their backs on God’s message and deny His revelations.

For those who deny Our revelations and scorn them the gates of heaven shall not be opened; nor shall they enter paradise any more than a thick, twisted rope can pass through a needle’s eye. Thus do We reward the evil-doers. Hell shall be their resting place, and sheets of fire shall cover them. Thus do We reward the wrongdoers. (Verses 40-41)

Reflect as you wish on this remarkable scene, with a very thick twisted rope held opposite to a needle’s eye. When that tiny hole allows the twisted rope to go through it, then and only then, will the gates of heaven be opened to those arrogant people and their supplications or repentance be accepted. The fact is that the time allowed to them has lapsed. Hence, until such a rope goes through a needle’s eye they will remain in the fire of hell where they are all gathered, cursing one another and trying to get their punishment doubled. Such is the retribution God has in store for the evil-doers. [It should perhaps be noted that the Arabic word used here for ‘thick, twisted rope’ also means ‘camel’. Thus, the scene acquires a sarcastic touch as we visualize a camel trying to go through a needle’s eye — Editor.]

Their situation in the fire is then described: “Hell shall be their resting place, and sheets of fire shall cover them.” (Verse 41). The fire actually engulfs them from above and from beneath. Thus they have beneath them a raging fire which is sarcastically described as a resting place or a couch, when it bears nothing of such characteristics.

Moreover, from above they have sheets of fire drawn over them. “Thus do We reward the wrongdoers.” (Verse 41) This last description means the criminals and also refers to

unbelievers who deny God’s revelations and invent falsehood against God. All these descriptions are synonymous in Qur’ānic usage.

A Scene in Contrast

Let us now look at the opposite scene: “As for those who believe and do righteous deeds, We never burden a soul with more than it can bear. They are destined for paradise, where they will abide. We shall remove any rancour that may be lingering in their hearts.

Running waters will flow at their feet; and they will say: All praise is due to God who has guided us to this. Had He not given us guidance, we would certainly have not found the right path. Our Lord’s messengers have certainly brought us the truth.’ (A voice) will call out to them: ‘This is the paradise you have inherited by virtue of what you used to do.’” (Verses 42-43)

Here we have a description of the destiny of those who believe and do righteous deeds as best they can. These return to paradise, because they are, by God’s grace, its rightful owners. He has granted it to them as a reward for their good deeds which are motivated by faith. It is they who followed God’s messengers, obeyed the commandments of their Lord, the Almighty, the Merciful and disobeyed Satan, their age- old enemy. Had it not been for God’s grace, their actions would not have been sufficient, considering their limited ability. The Prophet says in an authentic ĥadīth related by Muslim: “No one of you will be admitted into heaven by virtue of his action.” His companions asked: “Not even you, Messenger of God?” He replied:

“Not even me, unless God bestows His mercy and grace on me.”

There is no contradiction or discrepancy between what God says in this regard and what is stated in this ĥadīth by His Messenger, who does not say anything related to religion on his own initiative. All scholastic debate that has taken place among Islamic schools of thought concerning this question did not rely on an

There is no contradiction or discrepancy between what God says in this regard and what is stated in this ĥadīth by His Messenger, who does not say anything related to religion on his own initiative. All scholastic debate that has taken place among Islamic schools of thought concerning this question did not rely on an

In document Fi Dhilal al Quran - Syed Qutb - Volume 6 (Surah 7) (Page 77-88)