A questioner asked about a Penalty to befall 5675
The Unbelievers the which there is none to ward off
(A Penalty) from Allah Lord of the Ways of Ascent. 5676
The angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him in a Day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years: 5677 5678
Therefore do thou hold Patience a Patience of beautiful (contentment). 5679
They see the (Day) indeed as a far-off (event):
But We see it (quite) near. 5680
The Day that the sky will be like molten brass 5681
And the mountains will be like wool 5682
And no friend will ask after a friend 5683
Though they will be put in sight of each other the sinner's desire will be: would that he could redeem himself from the Penalty of that Day by (sacrificing) his children 5684
His wife and his brother
His kindred who sheltered him.
And all all that is on earth so it could deliver him: 5685
By no means! For it would be the Fire of Hell!
Plucking out (his being) right to the skull! 5686
Inviting (all) such as turn their backs and turn away their faces (from the Right) 5687
And collect (wealth) and hide it (from use)!
Truly man was created very impatient 5688
Fretful when evil touches him;
And niggardly when good reaches him 5689
Not so those devoted to Prayer 5690
Those who remain steadfast to their prayer;
And those in whose wealth is a recognized right
For the (needy) who asks and him who is prevented (for some reason from asking); 5691
And those who hold to the truth of the Day of Judgment;
And those who fear the displeasure of their Lord 5692
For their Lord's displeasure is the opposite of Peace and Tranquillity 5693
And those who guard their chastity
Except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess for (then) they are not to be blamed 5694
But those who trespass beyond this are transgressors
And those who respect their trusts and covenants; 5695
And those who stand firm in their testimonies; 5696
And those who guard (the sacredness) of their worship 5697
Such will be the honored ones in the Gardens of (Bliss).
Now what is the matter with the Unbelievers that they rush madly before thee 5698
From the right and from the left in crowds?
Does every man of them long to enter the Garden of Bliss?
By no means! For We have created them out of the (base matter) they know! 5699
Now I do call to witness the Lord of all points in the East and the West that We can certainly 5700 5701 5702
Substitute for them better (men) than they; and We are not to be defeated (in Our Plan).
So leave them to plunge in vain talk and play about until they encounter that Day of theirs which they have been promised! 5703
The Day whereon they will issue from their sepulchers in sudden haste as if they were rushing to a goal-post (fixed for them) 5704
Their eyes lowered in dejection ignominy covering them (all over)! Such is the Day the which they are promised!
Any one might ask. When will Judgment come? That question usually implies doubt. The answer is: the knowledge of Time is beyond man's comprehension. But there is something which touches him closely and concerns his conduct and his future welfare; and that is explained in four propositions. (1) Judgment is sure to come, and none can ward it off; (2) it will exact a dreadful Penalty from Unbelievers, but the righteous have nothing to fear; (3) it will be a Penalty from Allah, the Lord of both Justice and Mercy; it will not be merely a blind calamity of fate; and (4) further we are reminded of another title of Allah, "Lord of the Ways of Ascent"; which means that though He sits high on Ms Throne of Glory, He is not inaccessible, but in His infinite Mercy has provided ways of ascent to Him; see next note.
Ma'arij: stair-ways, ways of ascent. In xliii. 33, the word is used in its literal sense: "silver stair-ways on which to go up". Here there is a profound spiritual meaning. Can we reach up to Allah Most High? In His infinite grace He gives that privilege to angels. But the way is not easy, nor can it be travelled in a day. See the next two notes.
Ruh: "The Spirit". Cf. lxxviii. 38, "the Spirit and the angels"; and xcvii. 4, "the angels and the Spirit". In xvi. 2, we have translated Ruh by "inspiration". Some Commentators understand the angel Gabriel by "the Spirit". But I think a more general meaning is possible, and fits the context better.
Cf. xxxii. 4-5, and notes 3632 and 3634
The prophet of Allah, persecuted and in trouble with the world, should yet hold Patience-not the sort of patience which goes with complaints expressed or suppressed, but the sort of patience that is content with the ordering of Allah's world, for he believes and knows it to be good, as did the holy Prophet Muhammad. Such a patience is akin to Good pleasure, for it arises from the purest faith and trust in Allah.
The men of evil may see the just retribution for their sins so far off that they doubt whether it would ever come. But in Allah's sight, and on the scale of the Universal Plan, it is quite near; for time as we know it hardly exists in the next world. It may come in this life; but it is bound to come eventually.
Cf. xviii. 29 (where the wrong-doer will have a drink like melted brass in Hell); and xliv. 45, (where his food will be like molten brass). Here the appearance of the sky is compared to molten brass, or, as some understand it, like the dregs of oil. What is conveyed by the metaphor is that the beautiful blue sky will melt away.
Cf. ci. 5. where the metaphor of carded wool is used. The mountains which seem so solid will be like flakes of wool driven by the carder's hand.
The world as we know it win have so completely passed away that the landmarks in the heavens and on earth will also have vanished. Not only that, but the human relationships of mind and heart will have been transformed by sin into something ugly and dreadful. The sinners will be so overcome with terror at the realisation of their personal responsibility that they will desert their most intimate friends, and indeed their very sight of each other will add to their agony.
The sinner will offer his children, his family, his kinsmen, who had sheltered and protected him,-in fact everything on earth that he could-as a ransom for himself. Such would be his selfishness and his agony.
What would not the sinner give for his own deliverance! But nothing could save him. The Fire of Hell would be roaring for him!
It would be a Fire not only burning his body, but reaching right up to his brains and his understanding and-as is said in civ. 7-his heart and affections also. In other words the Fire will burn into his inmost being.
The analysis of sin is given in four master-strokes, of which the first two refer to the will or psychology of the sinner, and the last two to the use he makes of the good things of this life. (1) Sin begins with turning your back to the Right, refusing to face it squarely, running away from it whether from cowardice or indifference. (2) But Conscience and the sense of Right will try to prevent the flight; the Grace of Allah will meet the sinner at all corners and try to reclaim him; the hardened sinner will deliberately turn away his face from it, insult it, and reject it. (3) The result of this psychology will be that he will abandon himself to greed, to the correction of riches, and the acquisition of material advantages to which he is not entitied; this may involve hypocrisy, fraud, and crime. (4) Having acquired the material advantages, the next step will be to keep others out of them, to prevent hoarded wealth from fructifying by circulation, to conceal it from envy or spite. This is the spiritual Rake's Progress.
Man, according to the Plan of Allah, was to be in the best of moulds (xcv. 4). But in order to fulfil his high destiny he was given free-will to a limited extent. The wrong use of this free-will makes his nature weak (iv. 28), or hasty (xvii. 11), or unpatient, as here. That becomes his nature by his own act, but he is spoken of as so created because of the capacities given to him in his creation.
In adversity he complains and gets into despair. In prosperity he becomes arrogant and forgets other people's rights and his own shortcomings. Cf. xli. 49-50.
The description of those devoted to Prayer is given in a number of clauses that follow, introduced by the words "Those who..." "Devoted to Prayer" is here but another aspect of what is described elsewhere as the Faithful and the Righteous. Devotion to prayer does not mean merely a certain number of formal rites or prostrations. It means a complete surrender of one's being to Allah. This means an earnest approach to and realisation of Allah's Presence ("steadfastness in Prayer"); acts of practical and real charity; and attempt to read this life in terms of the Hereafter; the seeking of the Peace of Allah and avoidance of His displeasure; chastity; probity true and firm witness; and guarding the prayer. (verse 34).
See n. 5001 to li. 19. True charity consists in finding out those in real need, whether they ask or not. Most frequently those who ask are idle men who insolently wish to live upon others. But all cases of those who ask should be duly investigated, in case a little timely help may set the erring on the way. But the man with wealth or talent or opportunity has the further responsibility of searching out those in need of his assistance, in order to show that he holds all gifts in trust for the service of his fellow- creatures.
A true fear of Allah is the fear of offending against His holy Will and Law, and is therefore akin to the love of Allah. It proceeds from the realisation that all true peace and tranquillity comes from attuning our will to the universal Will and that sin causes discord, disharmony, and displeasure,-another name for the Wrath of Allah.
I.e., that the punishment of sin may come suddenly at any time, when you least expect it.
Cf. iv. 24.
For obligations of trusts and covenants, express or implied, see n. 682 to v. 1. They are just as sacred in ordinary everyday life as they are in special spiritual relationships. In addition, our life itself, and such reason and talents as we possess, as well as our wealth and possessions are trusts, of which we must fulfil the duties punctiliously.
If we know any truth of any kind, to that we must bear witness, as affecting the lives or interests of our fellow-beings,-firmly, not half-heartedly, without fear or favour, even if it causes loss or trouble to us, or if it loses us friends or associates.
We began with "steadfastness in prayer" in verse 23 above, and after a review of various aspects of the good man's fife, close with the guarding of worship.
Before thee. The Unbelievers did not believe in a Hereafter. When the Bliss of the Hereafter was described, as in the last verse, they ridiculed it and pretended to be running in for it as in a race. They are here rebuked in the same tone of sarcasm.
The animal part of man is nothing to be proud of, and they know it. It is by spiritual effort, and long preparation through a good life that a man can rise above the mere animal part of him to his high dignity as a spiritual being, and his noble destiny in the Hereafter.
For the form of adjuration, cf. lxix. 38, n. 5665; also lvi. 75. Here the witness placed before us by Allah is His own power and glory manifested in the splendour of sunrise and sunset at different points through the solar year.
See n. 4034 to xxxvii. 5. If Allah has such power in the wonderful phenomena of the rising of the sun at varying points, repeated year after year, can you not see that He can easily substitute better men than you Unbelievers and blasphemers?
The transition from the singular "I" to the plural "We" may be noted. See n. 56 to ii. 38.
Their talk, their scepticism, is vain, because all spiritual evidence is against it; it is like the foolish play of people who do not think seriously. But the tremendous Day of Judgment and Reality will come, as described in the next two verses.
Now there will be a definite Goal-post or Banner or Standard of Truth fixed, which all must acknowledge. But they will acknowledge it in shame and dejection. For the time for their repentance and amendment will then have passed.