Thursday 18 October 2018

Surah Al Muddaththir (The Cloaked One): Summary of 74th Chapter of the Holy Quran

Sürah Al-Muddaththir " ٱلْمُدَّثِّر " is the 74th chapter / surah of the Qur'ān, part of the 29th Juz' with 56 verses (āyāt) and two rukus. " ٱلْمُدَّثِّر " means "the Cloaked One" or "the Man Wearing a Cloak".

This Sürah is related to Sürah Al 'Alaq - the 96th Chapter. The first five verses of Sürah Al 'Alaq were the first ever revelation from Allah to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), which were brought to the Prophet of Allah by angel Jibraeel (Gabriel) in the cave of Hira. This great event was the beginning of the revelation of the entire Holy Qur'an consisting 114 chapters for the next 23 years.

However, soon after the five verses of Surah Al Alaq, the revelations stopped. This was naturally quite disturbing for the newly acquired status of prophet hood for Muhammad (peace be upon him) and made him feel distressed and made him grief stricken. He would often go out and look towards to the sky for any sign of Divine messages, but for quite sometime none came.

Then one day something strange happened. Here is what happened in the very own words of the Prophet of Allah as recorded in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abu Salamah that Jabir bin `Abdullah: [1]
While I was walking I heard a voice from the sky. So I lifted my gaze towards the sky and saw the same angel who had come to me at the cave of Hira'. He was sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. So I fled from him (in fear) until I fell down to the ground. Then, I went to my family and I said, `Wrap me up, wrap me up. So, they wrapped me up! So Allah revealed, (O you wrapped up! Arise and warn!) until (And keep away). Here, Abu Salamah added, `Ar-Rujz means idols. (After this, the revelation started coming strongly and frequently in succession. 
And as per the recording of the Holy Qur'an, these were the opening verses of Sūrat al-Muddaththir from which the revelations continued to pour in and never stopped till completion of the Holy Qur'an. 

According to Sayyid Qutb's exegesis, the first verses of this surah as well as those of Surah Al Muzzammil (The Enshrouded One), the 73rd chapter, represent the Prophet’s earliest revelations and those which prepare him for the ordeal of revelation. [3]

Let us now read explanation of the Surah segmented into portions as per the subject matter.

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

The first seven verses of this Surah the Prophet of Allah was for the first time commanded to arise and warn the people of the consequences of the way of life they were following and to proclaim the greatness of Allah in the world where others were being magnified without any right. Along with that he was given this instruction: The demand of the mission that He was to perform expected of Him to live a life pure in every respect and to carry out the duty of reforming His people sincerely irrespective of any worldly gain. Then, in the last sentence, the Prophet of Allah was exhorted to endure with patience, for the sake of his Lord, all the hardships and troubles that he might have to face while performing his mission. [2]
[1-7] O you who lies wrapped up, arise and warn and proclaim the greatness of your Lord. And keep your garments pure, and avoid filth, and do not favor (others) expecting to get more, and be patient for the sake of your Lord.
The verses 2-3 above "Arise and warn and proclaim the greatness of your Lord" point towards a similar command that had also been given the Prophet Nuh (Noah, peace be upon him) while appointing him to the office of Prophet hood: Warn the people of your nation before they are overtaken by a painful torment. (Surah Nooh, Ayat 1) The verse: O you who lays enwrapped, stand up and arouse the people thus means people who live in heedlessness around you. Warn them of the fate which would certainly overtake them if they remained involved in the same heedlessness. Warn them that they are not living in a lawless kingdom where they are free to conduct themselves as they like and where they can do wherever they please without any fear or being called to account for it. As for "Proclaiming the greatness of your Lord", this is the the primary duty of a prophet which he has to perform. His foremost duty is to refute the greatness of all those whom the ignorant people might be holding as great, and publicly proclaim that the greatness in this universe belongs to none but Allah alone.

It should be borne in mind that the task was not that easy for Makkah was the centre of polytheism and was the most sacred place of pilgrimage for the polytheistic Arabs, and the Quraish were its attendants. Arising of a person in such a place all by himself and proclaiming the Oneness of God in the face of polytheism was full of risks. Therefore, the Prophet of Allah was cautioned: "Do not at all mind the terrifying and dreadful forces that seem to be obstructing and impeding your work and proclaim publicly that your Lord is the greatest of all those who can hinder and resist you from giving your message." This is indeed the greatest encouragement for a person who embarks on a divine mission. The one who has Allah’s greatness and majesty deeply embedded in his heart will feel no hesitation at all in facing and fighting the entire world by himself for the sake of Allah. [4]

In the verses 8-10, the deniers of Truth have been warned, saying: "You will see the evil result of what you are doing today on the Resurrection Day."
[8-10] When the Trumpet is blown, it shall be a very hard Day, not easy for the disbelievers.
 In verses 11-26, without naming Walid bin al-Mughirah, it has been told how Allah had blessed him and how inimical he proved to be to true Faith. In this connection, his mental conflict has been portrayed, telling that, on the one hand, he was fully convinced of the truth of Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) and the Qur'an, but, on the other, he did not want to risk his leadership and position among his people. Therefore, not only he did not believe himself but after a long-drawn-out conflict with his conscience he also came out with the proposal that in order to restrain the people from believing the Qur'an should be branded as magic. After exposing his evil nature, it has been said: "Notwithstanding such evil inclinations and misdeeds, this person desires that he should be further blessed, whereas he has now become worthy of Hell, and never of further blessings." [2]
[11-26] Leave Me and the person whom I created alone. I gave him ample wealth and sons* to be present by his side, and smoothed for him the way to his leadership (and prosperity). Yet he desires that I should give him more. No, never! He is hostile to Our Revelations. I shall soon make him ascend a hard ascent. He pondered and tried to devise a plan. May God destroy him: what he tried to devise! Yes, may God destroy him, what he tried to devise! Then he looked around, then he frowned and scowled, then he turned his back and showed arrogance. At last, he said, "This is nothing but magic, handed down from the past; nothing but the word of a mere mortal. Very soon I shall cast him into Hell.
Walid bin al-Mughirah had ten or twelve sons of whom Khalid bin Walid was the most famous before and after embracing Islam. For these sons the word "shuhud" has been used, which can have several meanings: 1) hat they do not have to run about and go abroad in search of their livelihood: they have enough provisions at home; therefore, they can always remain at the beck and call of their father, 2) That all his sons are prominent and influential people: they sit in assemblies and conferences with him. 3) That they are the people of high rank and position and their testimony is accepted in all matters of life. [4]

Verse 18: "He pondered and tried to devise a plan." In his book "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an", the great Islamic scholar Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi has narrated a detailed narration of events that followed no sooner the Prophet of Allah started spreading the words of Allah. I wanted to make a summary of it , but this would have left out many details that one must know as a background to understand the next segment of verses:

When the Holy Messenger of Allah began to preach Islam and recite the Qur'anic Surahs, the people of Makkah felt alarmed, and it provoked hostile opposition to Him. This was the time when the Hajj season was about to begin and people of Makkah feared that if Muhammad (peace be upon him) started visiting the caravans of the pilgrims coming from all over Arabia and reciting the spell binding revelations of the Qur'an to them, His message would reach every part of Arabia and influence countless people. Therefore, the Quraish chiefs decided to start a propaganda campaign against the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) among the pilgrims as soon as they arrived. For this, Walid bin al-Mughirah assembled the pilgrims and said: [2]
"If you said contradictory things about Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings), we all would lose our trust among the people. Therefore, let us agree upon one opinion, which we should all say without dispute. Some people said that they would call Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) a soothsayer.
Walid said: “No, by God, be is not a soothsayer. We have seen the soothsayers: what they murmur and what they utter has no remote resemblance with the Qur'an.” So some suggested: “Then we say he is possessed.” Walid said: He is not a possessed one: we have seen mad and insane people; the way one talks disjointedly and behaves foolishly in that state is known to all: who would believe that what Muhammad (upon whom be peace) presented was the incoherent speech of a madman?”

The people said: “Then we say he is a poet.” Walid said: “No, he is not a poet, for we know poetry in all its forms, and what he presents conforms to no form of it.” The people said: “Then he is a sorcerer.” Walid said: “He is no sorcerer either: we have seen sorcerers and we also know what methods they adopt for their sorcery. This also does not apply to Muhammad.” Then he said: "Whichever of these things you said about Muhammad, it would be known to be a false accusation. By God, his speech is sweet, his root is deep and his branches are fruitful.”

It may be seen that despite leveling charges against the Prophet of Allah, Walid inadvertently recognized the very high traits of Muhammad (peace be upon him), as highlighted in the above text, and could not find words readily available to scheme against the Prophet of Allah.

At this Abu Jahl urging on Walid said: “Your people will never be pleased with you unless you say something about Muhammad.” So Walid came up with a new idea and he opined: “The nearest thing to the truth is that you tell the Arabs that he is a sorcerer, who has brought a message by which he separates a man from his father; and from his brother, and from his wife and children, and from his family.” They all agreed on what Walid had proposed. Thereafter men of Quraish spread among the pilgrims warned everyone of the sorcery of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and of his stirring up divisions in the families by it." But the result was that by their this plan the Quraish chiefs themselves made the name of the Holy Messenger known throughout Arabia.

After warning Walid "Very soon I shall cast him into Hell", (Verse 26), the dreadfulness of Hell has been depicted in verses 27-48, and it has been explained as to people of what character and morals really deserve it. 
[27-31] And what do you know what Hell is? It leaves nothing and it spares none. It scorches the skin. Nineteen keepers are appointed over it. [31] And We have not made the keepers of the Fire except angels. And We have not made their number except as a trial for those who disbelieve - that those who were given the Scripture will be convinced and those who have believed will increase in faith and those who were given the Scripture and the believers will not doubt and that those in whose hearts is hypocrisy and the disbelievers will say, "What does Allah intend by this as an example?" Thus does Allah leave astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And none knows the soldiers of your Lord except Him. And mention of the Fire is not but a reminder to humanity.
Verse 31 (highlighted above) is unique in its prose-like syntax and length; it is easily the longest verse of this surah and is a glaring break with the rhyme structure that precedes and follows it. This type of verse is most common in the later Medinan revelations. [3]

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi in his "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" explains the verse 31 in detail: [2]

The whole passage is a parenthetical sentence, which has been inserted here to answer an objection of the disbelievers, who had started mocking it when they heard the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) say that 19 keepers had been appointed over Hell. Their objection was: "How strange that, on the one hand, we are told that all human beings, from the time of the Prophet Adam till Resurrection, who disbelieved and committed evil, will be cast into Hell. and, on the other, that there will be only 19 keepers, who will administer punishment to the countless numbers of men in such a huge Hell. "

This caused a huge laughter among the chiefs of Quraish. Abu Jahl said: "Brothers, are you so powerless that even as many as ten of you at a time will not be able to overpower a single watchman of Hell?" At this a wrestler of the Bani Jumha said: ` Well I will deal with and overpower at least 17 of them by myself; as for the remaining two, you all together can tackle them. " In response these sentences have been inserted as a parenthetical clause. 

And here is the Divine answer: "It is foolish on your part to compare the angelic powers to human powers. They will be angels, not men, and you cannot imagine what tremendous powers Allah has granted to the angels He has created." 

Although apparently there was no need to mention the number of the keepers of Hell, yet We have mentioned it so that it becomes a trial for every such person who may be concealing any kind of unbelief in his heart. Such a man may be making a great display of his faith but if he conceals even a tinge of the doubt about the Godhead and supreme powers of God, or about Revelation and Prophet hood, anywhere in his heart, his disbelief would immediately be exposed as soon as he would hear that only 19 watchmen would control countless numbers of the culprits from among the jinn and men in such a huge jail and would also administer punishment to each of them individually. " 

Some commentators have explained it thus: "As in the scriptures of the Jews and Christians themselves also the same number of the angels has been mentioned as keepers of Hell, they would be convinced of this thing's being truly from Allah as soon as they heard it." But in our opinion this commentary is not correct for two reasons. First, we have not been able to see anywhere in the existing scriptures of the Jews and Christians in spite of search that the number of the angels appointed over Hell is 19. Second, there are many things in the Qur'an, which also have been mentioned in the scriptures of the Jews and Christians, yet they explain them away, saying that the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) has plagiarized these from their books. For these reasons the correct meaning of this statement in our opinion is: The Holy Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) knew fully well that he would be ridiculed as soon as the disbelievers heard that 19 angels had been appointed over Hell, but in spite of this, he presented without the least hesitation and fear publicly before the people what had been revealed to him from Allah, and did not at all mind the jesting and mocking by the people. The pagans of Arabia were unaware of the unique distinction of the Prophets, but the followers of the earlier scriptures were fully aware that the Prophets in every age used to convey to their people intact whatever they received from God, whether it pleased them or displeased them. On this very basis it was to be expected of the Jews and the Christians that they would be convinced of the Prophet Muhammad's truth for only a Prophet could present an apparently strange thing without any hesitation before the people in an environment charged with antagonism and hostility. This also is evident that such a thing was shown by the Holy Prophet on many other occasions. Its most prominent example is the event of the mi'raj (ascension) which he related openly before a general assembly of the disbelievers and did not at all care how his opponents would behave and react after they had heard the story of the wonderful event. 

It has been explained at several places in the Qur'an that on the occasion of every trial when a believer remains steadfast to his faith, and forsaking the way of doubt and denial, disobedience or disloyalty to the faith, adopts the way of faith, obedience and loyalty to it, it increases and strengthens him all the more in faith and resignation. 

In the following section the mention of the moon has been made for the reason: "Just as the moon and the night and the day are the great signs of the powers of Allah, so also is Hell a great sign of His powers. If the existence of the moon and the alternation of the night and day so regularly were not impossible, why should the existence of Hell be impossible as you think it is? You see these phenomena day and night; therefore, they do not surprise you: otherwise these things in themselves also are great marvels of the powers of Allah. If you had not observed them and somebody were to tell you that there is also such a thing as the moon in the world, or, there is a sun which leaves the world dark when it hides and makes the world shine forth with light when it appears, then the people like you would have made jests of it too as you make jests of Hell."[2]
[32-48] No, never! By the moon and by the night when it withdraws, and by the morning when it dawns, this Hell too, is one of the mighty things, a warning to mankind, a warning to every one of you, who desires to go forward, or to lag behind. Every person is a pledge for his own deeds, except the people of the right hand, who shall be in Gardens. There they will ask the culprits, "what has brought you into Hell?" They will reply, "We were not of those who offered the salat, and we did not feed the poor, and we used to join with those who indulged in idle talk against the Truth, and we used to belie the Day of Recompense, till the inevitable overtook us." At that time, no intercession of the intercessors shall avail them anything.
The dwellers of the Paradise would ask the culprits: At several places in the Qur'an, it has been stated that the dwellers of Paradise and the dwellers of Hell will be able to see and commune with each other directly whenever they will so desire, although they will be living hundreds of thousands of miles away from each other. [Surah Al-A`:44-50 and Surah As-Saaffat: 50-57] 

And then in the last section of the surah (verses 49-56), the root cause of the disbelievers' aversion has been pointed out, saying: "Since they are fearless of the Hereafter, and look upon this worldly life as an end in itself, they flee from the Qur'an as though they were wild asses fleeing away from the lion: therefore, they propose unreasonable conditions for believing, whereas even if each and every condition of theirs was fulfilled, they could not advance even an inch on the way of Faith with their denial of the Hereafter." [2]
[49-56] What then is the matter with these people that they are turning away from this Admonition as though they were wild asses fleeing away from a lion? Nay, each one of them desires that he should be sent open letters. No, never! The fact is that they do not fear the Hereafter. No, never! This indeed is an Admonition. So, let him who wills, take heed. But they will never take heed unless Allah so wills. He alone is worthy that he should be feared, and He alone is worthy to forgive (those who fear Him).
For general information and interest, let me share information on "Humur (Arabic: حُـمُـر‎, 'asses' or 'donkeys')" and "Qaswarah (Arabic: قَـسْـوَرَة‎, 'lion', 'beast of prey' or 'hunter')" as referred to in the verses 50 and 51 and explained in Wikipedia: [3]
The wild ass that inhabited the Arabian Peninsula was of the Syrian subspecies and the lion that inhabited this region, at least the sandy deserts north of the southern region, would have been the Arabian population of the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo). A reference to the lion in the region of Pilgrimage is in a hadith.
Nowadays, neither the Humur nor Qaswarah inhabit the wilderness of the peninsula. The donkey was last seen in Vienna Zoo, Austria-Hungary, 1915. And the Asiatic lion was seen in Zürich Zoo, Switzerland in 2012.
You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sūrat al-Muddaththir with English subtitles:
You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Part backwards for chapters in 30th Part are shorter and easier to understand)

Photo | References: | 1 | | 2 | 3 | 4
Also read: Surah Al Muzzammil | Surah Al Alaq |
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An effort has been made to gather explanation of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic souses and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. However, those wanting detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to sites the references of which are given above.

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