Interpretation of Sura Nazi'at - Verses 34-41
34.But when the great calamity comes,
35. That Day man shall remember what he strove for,
36. And Hell-fire shall be manifest for him who sees,
37. Then as for him who transgressed!
38. And had preferred the life of this world,
39. Then surely Hell-fire will be the Abode.
40. And as for him who feared his Lord's presence and restrained the soul from the low desires,
41. Then surely the Garden will be the Abode.
Those who restrain their soul from low desires.
To continue stating the details of the Resurrection, mentioned in the former verses, the following verses refer to the subject, again, and explain the destiny of those who fear Allah and of those who disobey and follow their low desires.
But when the great calamity comes
The term /tammah/ is derived from /tamm/ which originally means 'to fill' and anything which is in a high state is called /tammah/ hence, it is used for the great and difficult events and also for the grievous, disastrous happenings to come. Here, it refers to the Hereafter, which is full of horrible incidents. It is characterized by the word 'great' as an emphasis on the importance of this unique event.
That Day man shall remember what he strove for.
But what is the use of this remembrance? How could it be helpful to him? If he asks to return to this world to recompense the past, his request will be denied and the reply will be:'Nay!'.
If he repents for the pardoning of his evil deeds, it will be useless, since it will be too late for it.
Then, he can do nothing, but regret and as the Qur'an says: The Day that the wrongdoer will bite at his hands.... (Sura Furqan, No. 25. Verse 27.)
It should be noted that the term /yatazakkaru/ is a verb in the future tense, which usually expresses the constancy of an action, i.e. on that Day Man will constantly remember all his deeds because on that Day the hearts and the souls of men will be unveiled and all the hidden facts will be made manifest.
And Hell-fire shall be manifest for him who sees.
Hell exists at the present time. Furthermore, according to Sura Ankabut No. 29. verse 54 But, of a surely Hell will encompass the rejecters of Faith!, however, the curtains of this world hinder it to be seen; hence, on the Day of Judgment, that is, the Day of the manifestation of everything, Hell becomes apparent and the most clearly visible.
The words /liman yara/ 'for him who sees' denote that Hell, on that Day, will be so visible that everyone who has the ability to see, and with no exception, will see it. It will be covert neither to the righteous nor to the evildoers, whose abode is Hell.
It is, also, probable that the words refer to those who have eyes to see with on that Day, because according to Sura Ta-Ha No. 20. verse 124, some will be blind then: ...and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment. But the first meaning which is accepted by many commentators seems more fitting, because Hell, for the evildoers, is a punishment and a doubled penalty. That some of them will be blind, perhaps, occurs at some definite sites in the Hereafter, not everywhere.
Then, attention is paid to the status of sinners and disbelievers in the Hereafter and, in a few short, but meaningful sentences, both the destiny of theirs and its causes are expressed:
Then as for him who transgressed,
And had preferred the life of this world,
Then surely Hell-fire will be the Abode.
In the first sentence, their corrupted belief is referred to since transgression originates from self-complacence and self-conceit which, itself, is caused by the absence of knowledge of Allah.
One who knows Allah the Almighty, finds himself insignificant and never rejects his servitude.
The second sentence points to their corrupted deeds, because transgression causes man to consider the glitter of the lusts of this scintillating world his highest values and prefers it to everything else.
These two, in fact, are the 'cause and effect' of each other. Transgression caused by corrupted belief is the source of corrupted deeds and also preferring this fleeting life to all, brings about the blazing fire of Hell.
Hazrat Ali (p.b.u.h.) has said: He who transgresses, goes astray and Acts not reasonably. (1)
This is because of self-complacence in which Man acknowledges his low desires and conceives them as being valuable.
Then, through two short and extremely meaningful sentences, it characterizes the Blessed, thus:
And as for him who feared his Lord's presence and restrained the soul from the low desires.
Then surely the Garden will be the Abode.
Yes, the first condition of being 'blessed' is 'fear' caused by 'knowledge' knowing the presence of the Lord and being afraid of disobeying His command. The second condition, which is, indeed, the fruit of knowledge and fear of Allah, is restraining the soul from rebellion, since, all the sins, corruptions and disasters, come from low desires which is the worst god worshipped in the world.
The means of Satan to influence in Man's entity, is still 'low desire'. It is this inner evil that opens the gate for the outer Evil to come in, or else this case would never be possible, as Sura Al-Hijr, No. 15 verse 42 says: For over My servants no authority shalt thou have, except such as pat themselves in the wrong and follow thee.
What is the meaning of the Presence of the Lord?
It is worthy to note that in Verse 40, of the current Sura, it says: ...as for him who feared his Lord's presence... but it does not say: 'as for (1) Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, vol.5, p.506, Tradition No.43.
him who feared his Lord'. Then, what is 'the 'Lord's presence'?
The following are some different commentaries to be considered:
1. It means 'the halting-places in the Hereafter' wherein Man stands in front of the Lord for Judgment.Therefore, 'the Lord's presence' is in the sense of 'his presence with his Lord', i.e. the standing of Man before his Lord.
2. It points to 'Allah's knowledge and His protection' for all human beings; as Sura Rad No. 11, verse 33 says: Is then He Who standeth over every soul (and knoweth) all that it doth, (like any others) ?
The next evidence to this commentary is the tradition that has been narrated from Imam Sadiq who said: He who knows that Allah sees him, hears what he says, knows what he does regarding good or evil, and this consciousness keeps him away from doing wrong, it is he who '...feared his Lord's presence and restrained the soul from the low desires'.
3. It means 'His Justice' since, His Holy Essence is not frightening. The fear is for His Justice. In fact, this fear is obtained from the comparison between our actions and His Justice. Criminals tremble when they see the just judge, and fear when they hear the words 'court and Judgment', while an innocent person feels no fear of any of them.
These three commentaries do not contrast with each other and all of them may be gathered in the meaning of the verse.
The Relation between the Rebels and Worldliness
In fact, the above verses clearly and in a beautiful style illustrate the principles of both Man's happiness and adversity. The adversity of Man is considered in his worldliness, and his happiness is found in his fear of Allah and the absence of low desires; the whole of which is the extract and essence in the teachings of all Prophets and Saints.
A tradition from Hazrat Ali (p.b.u.h.) says: O' people what I fear most about you are two thin!: acting according to desires and extending of hope. As regards acting according to desires, this prevents from truth; and as regards extending of hopes, it makes one forget the next world. 6
Low desires put a curtain over Man's mind, decorates his evil deeds to seem good in his sight, robs him of the sense of recognition; which is the greatest gift of Allah is the privilege of Man over animal, and makes him preoccupied with himself. This is the very thing that Jacob, the conscientious prophet, told his guilty children: ...Nay, but your minds have made up a tale (that may pass) with you ...., (Sura Yusuf, No. 12, verse 18) .
There are many things to say in this regard, but we will conclude this subject with two traditions from Ahlul-Bayt (P.B.U.H. th.) containing many facts.
Imam Baqir has said: Paradise is covered in pain and patience. Then he who shows patience in suffering and toils in this life, will enjoy Heaven. Hell is covered in (unlawful) pleasures and lusts. Then, he who leaves his soul in them, will enter into the fire." 7
Imam Sadiq has said: Don't let the soul free in its low desires. Surely low desires cause the death of the soul, and if you leave the soul flee in its low desires, it causes pain for it, and keeping it apart from its low desires is a remedy for it. 8 Not only is the fire of the Next World the fruit of lusts and low desires, but, it is also the blazing fires of this world, such as: insecurities, chaoses, wars, murders, conflicts, hatreds and vengeances which totally originate from them.
There are only Two Groups.
In the above verses people are categorized in only two groups: the worldly rebels and the pious who fear Allah The permanent abode of the first group is Hell, and the eternal site of the second group is Heaven.
Of course, there is, here, a third group who are not mentioned in these verses. They are those guilty believers, of minor sins, through human fraility, who had repented and been forgiven and if they deserve it will join the blessed, and if not, will enter Hell, but, they will not be there for ever.
(6) Nahj-ul-Balaqa, Sermon No.42 (Arabic Version) , No.47 (English Version) .
(7) Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, vol.5, p.507, Tradition No.46.
Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Holy Qur'an; Interpretation of Sura Nazi'at and Abasa and Takwir" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"
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