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Interpretation of Sura Takwir - Verses 1-9

In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful

1. When the sun is folded up;

2. And when the stars darken;

3. And when the mountains shall be set in motion;

4. And when the pregnant camels shall be neglected,

5.And when the wild beasts shall be herded together,

6. And when the seas boil over,

7. And when the souls are reunited (like with like) ,

8. And when the girl-child buried alive is asked,

9. For what sin she was slain.


The Day When All the Universe Will be Dissolved.

As it was mentioned earlier, the Sura opens with a series of highly mystical metaphors, with some short, but shocking hints, suggesting the break-up of the world, as we know it, and then, after the end of this world, the Resurrection. On the whole, eight signs out of all the Great Events are mentioned here. First, it says:

When the sun is folded up.

The term /kuwwirat/ is based on the word /takwir/ which, according to dictionaries and commentaries, originally means 'the act of folding up' and 'rolling or wrapping up something (like wrapping on a turban) ', and it is sometimes used with the sense of 'casting' and 'darkening', both of which seem to refer to the original meaning.

In any case, it means, here, the folding up the light of the sun, and the darkening and shrinking of its body.

We now know that the sun is a globe, extremely hot and blazing, surrounded by intense burning gases whose flames shoot out hundreds of kilometers, so that if the Earth were put in one of the flames it would change to ash and gas at once.

But, at the end of this world and at the threshold of the Hereafter this heat will end and the flames will be folded up, its light will be extinguished, and the sun itself will shrink. This is the meaning of the term /takwir/.

It is also a known fact, in modern science today, that the star; the sun, will darken gradually.

And when the stars darken.

The term /inkadarat/ is based on /inkidar/ which means 'to fall, or to scatter', and, it is derived from the root /kudurat/, meaning 'gloom and darkness'. Both of these two meanings can be combined for the commentary of the current verse, because at the threshold of the Hereafter, the stars will both lose their light, scatter and fall, and also the regularity of the Universe will be disturbed, as Sura Infitar, No. 82 verse 2 says: When the planets are scattered. In addition, Sura Mursalat, No. 77, verse 8 says: Then when the stars are extinguished.

And when the mountains shall be set in motion.

And, as it was mentioned earlier, it is understood from various verses of the Qur'an that close to the time of the occurrence of the Resurrection the mountains pass through different stages: at first they move, and, in the end change into scattered dust. (More explanation is given in the commentary of Sura Nabaa, No. 78, verse 20) .

And when the pregnant camels shall be neglected The word /ishar/ is the plural form of /ishra/ and basically means 'she-camel ten months with young', which is just about to be delivered of her young. That is, in the near future it will be delivered of another camel and, therefore, will possess much milk.

At the time of the revelation of these verses such a camel was considered the most valuable property to the Arabs.

The term /uttilat/ is based on /ta'til/ which means 'to leave without care'.

It means that the intensity of the horror and fear, on that Day, is so much so that everyone leaves his most precious things unattended.

The late Tabarsi cites in Majma'-al-Bayan that some have said it means 'cloud!' and the term /uttilat/ means that 'they are want of rain', that is, on that Day the clouds appear in the sky, but do not rain. (The 'clouds' might be the ones which result from different gases or atomic clouds, or a mass of scattered dust produced from cleaving mountains at the threshold of the Hereafter, which contain no rain.

Some have also commented that /ishar/ means 'the houses or farming lands' that at the threshold of the Hereafter will be left in suspension.

However, the first commentary is the most popular.

When the wild beasts shall be mustered.

There are some animals which normally live far from each other and fearing each other, flee, but the terror and the alarm of the events, prior to the Hereafter, is so great that these animals will gather together and forget every fear. It seems as if they feel safer gathered together.

Consequently, a lot of commentators believe that this verse refers to the Resurrection of the wild animals and their presence in the Court of the Hereafter. They will be judged on their limits and according to their knowledge which relates to their own responsibilities, and will be recompensed if they transgressed. They have considered this verse similar to Sura An'am, No.6, verse 38 which says: There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings; but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have We omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.

The first commentary is more fitting, here.

And when the seas boil over.

The term /sujjirat/ is based on /tasjir/ which originally means 'to Light fire and to inflame the fire '.

In the old days this meaning seemed odd to the commentators, but today it does not, because now we know that water is formed by Oxygen and Hydrogen; both of which are flammable. It is not improbable that at the threshold of the Hereafter the water of the seas and oceans will be under such conditions that these two elements separate and turn totally into fire.

Some commentaters have rendered the term in the sense of 'to fill', as a furnace full of fire is called /masajjar/. The earthquakes and the cleaving of the mountains asunder, nearly at the time of Resurrection, may cause the seas to fill and overflow, or meteorites to fall into them and their water flows over land, and then, everything would sink.

And when the souls are reunited (like with like) .

The good-doers with the good-doers the evildoers with the evildoers. the companions of the Right Hand with the companions of the Right Hand, and the companions of the Left Hand with the companions of the Left Hand, all will be like with like, in contrast to the world, today. where all of them are mixed. It sometimes happens that in the neighborhood of a believer there is an unbeliever, or the spouse of a good-doer is a wrong doer. But on the Day of judgment, which is also a 'Sorting Day' and 'a day of separation', these groups are quite apart from each other.

In commenting on this verse, some other probabilities are also suggested including the following:

1) the souls return to their bodies; 2) the souls in Heaven will unite with Heavenly maidens and the souls in Hell will unite with devils; 3) everyone will, again, be with his intimate companions after death has made them separate; or 4) everyone will unite with one's deeds.

However, the first commentary seems to be the most appropriate among all of them. This is what Sura Waqi'ah, No. 56, verses 7-10 verify:

And you shall be sorted out into three classes:

Then (there will be) the Companions of the Right Hand; What will be the Companions of the Right Hand?

And the Companions of the Left Hand, What will be the Companions of the Left Hand?

And those Foremost (in Faith) will be foremost (in the Hereafter) .

These will be those Nearest to Allah.

In fact, this verse, after mentioning six great incidents, which are the preliminary events to the Resurrection, refers to the opening sign of that Great Day, viz: the Day when everyone will be with his companions.

Then attention is paid to another event of the Resurrection, and says: And when the girl-child buried alive is asked,

For what sin she was slain.

The term /mau'udat/ us derived from /wa'd/ which means 'a girl who is buried alive'. Some commentators have said that this word means 'heaviness' since when girls were buried alive the soil that was poured over them was heavy.

Some narrations denote to a broader meaning for the verse. so Vast that it has been commented on as 'cutting the ties kinship', or 'cutting the friendship of the Prophet's household (p.b.u.th.) , (Ahl-ul-Bait) '.

In a tradition it is stated that once Imam Baqir was asked about the commentary of this verse, and he said that it meant this: The persons whom are killed for their friendship to us.

Another tradition says that the witness to this statement is the verse: ...Say: No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of these near of kin... , (Sura Shura, No. 42, verse 23) .

Of course, the apparent meaning of the verse refers to the first commentary, but the verse can, itself, carry a vast meaning.


The Practice of Female Infanticide

One of the most dreadful and most savage actions of the pagan Arabs was female infanticide, which is made reference to, repeatedly, in the Qur'an.

Some commentators believe that this custom was committed only by one tribe of Arabs named 'Kindih', (or some other tribe) , but, surely it was not a rare phenomenon, otherwise, the Qur'an would not emphatically refer to it on frequent occasions. In any case, it is so terrible and cruel that even its rare occurrence is notable.

Commentators have said that the pagan Arabs, when their wives were going to give birth, used to dig a hole and sit above it waiting for the child to be born and then bury her if it was female, and keep him if it was male. The cause of this crime might be due to various reasons, such as the following:

1. The lack of value for women, in Mankind, by the pagan Arabs.

2. The problem of poverty among those people, especially, because females could not be as economically productive and beneficial as males, or were not able to take part in robberies like males were.

3. Also, that in the numerous quarrels between the tribes, of that time, women would be captured by the enemies which brought disgrace on their men. All of these excuses were seen as justified for committing this crime.

These factors contributed to the terrible custom of female infanticide and were committed under the guise of social plausibility in secret collusion. But, unfortunately this cruelty is also seen in modern societies in the form of 'the freedom of abortion' by which fetuses are legally cast-off in many 'civilized' countries. The pagan Arabs used to commit infanticide after delivery, but these civilized people, of our time, kill them in their mother's wombs and under the guise of miscarriage.

It is noteworthy that the Qur'an condemns this action and counts it so disgraceful and hateful that it considers the crime of prime accountability prior to the Records in the Hereafter or pleading for justice about other matters. In addition to the value of woman, it shows the Islamic view on the importance of the matter, especially regarding the innocent persons.

Another point, which is also noteworthy, here, is that the Qur'an does not say that the murderers will be asked of what crime they committed, but it says that the innocent female-children will be asked about what sin it was for which they were slain so cruelly and indefensibly. It seems that the murderers are not worth questioning. Besides that only the testimony of the murdered ones is enough.

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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