Wednesday 24 October 2018

Surat An Naba ( The Big News ): Summary of 78th Chapter of the Holy Quran

Sūrat an-Nabaʼ when translated into English means a surah that brings news, an announcement or a tiding. Now in Arabic, for news, two words are used: Khabar and Naba. Although both mean the same, however, there is big difference between the two when literary explained. As for the word Khabar, the closure of a particular store or mall is a Khabar, news. But "naba" is a news that induces a response or has some benefit (or otherwise) for the person receiving it. Just like when the Musa (Moses) saw a flickering fire atop the mountain, he told his family that he would go and bring some news (as if someone was there) or bring a burning coal so that they could light a fire. Now if he had come with a burning piece of wood telling his family that a tree was on fire there, it would have been taken as a mere Khabar (ordinary news). But when he came down and told his people that he had spoken to Allah, it became a naba' or a big news or an announcement, for it induced a big response from his people.

Surat An Naba  derives its name from the word an-Naba in the second verse. This is not only a name but also a title of its subject matter, for Naba implies the news of Resurrection and Hereafter and the whole Surah is devoted to the same theme.

There are abstract ideas and actual physical events. Naba is a tangible thing. When Allah speaks of the resurrection as naba`, He is referring to its tangible nature. Some religions believe that the afterlife is just spiritual. We know that the akhirah [hereafter] is physical and real; it is not a state of mind. Jannah (Paradise) and Naar (Hellfire) are actual places; they are not figments of the imagination. [1]

Surat An Naba, is the first surah of 30th Part / Juz of the Qur'an, consist of forty verses, which are divided into four-five segments, each dealing with interrelated subjects. 
  • The first five verses are the opener in which Allah tells the disbelievers that the news of the End Day that they mock will soon befell on them and they would then know that the warning brought to them by the Prophet of Allah was true.
  • From verse 6-15, Allah describes His bounties which has been created to support the life and living of the people, like the earth, plants, mountains, water, rain and the peace of night shared by loving couples. 
  • Verses 17-30 paint the End Day scenario which had been doubted by the disbelievers of Makkah. In fact this is the naba' that has been broken to them and telling them how they would rot in Hell should they continue to mock the Divine message brought to them by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
  • The last section (verses 21-40) is the summing up and foretelling the disbelievers that they would on the Day of Resurrection would get what they had sent forward in the form of their denial of message of Allah. and then they would repent and say: Would that I were dust!
Let us now read the English translation of the Sūrat an-Nabaʼ and details provided where needed to understand its plain meaning / translation :
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

The first five verses describe the disbelief of pagans of Makkah when they were told that a day  would come when the world would finally come to an end, a day when all dead would be raised from their graves and then presented in the court of Allah for their final account closing. To this the disbelievers mocked the Prophet of Allah and said to each other how could they be awoken from the graves as they would have become dust by then. Some though believed what the Prophet of Allah was telling them, had a difference of opinion.
(1. What are they asking about) (2. About the great news,) (3. About which they are in disagreement.) 
Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, one of the great Muslim scholar, in his book "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" explains this in detail:
"Some one has been influenced by the Christian belief and believes in the life after death but thinks that the second life would not be a physical but only a spiritual life. Another does not deny the Hereafter absolutely but doubts whether it was possible or not. The Qur'an relates the view of these very people when it says: "We do only guess: we are not certain." (Al-Jathiyah: 32). And another plainly said: "There is no other life than this present life, and we shall never be raised back to life after our death." (Al-An`am: 29). Then, there were some atheists, who said: "Life is only this worldly life of ours. Here we shall die and live and nothing but the change of time destroys us." (Al-Jathiyah: 24). There were some others who were not atheistic but they regarded the second life as impossible. According to them it was beyond the power of God to raise the dead back to life. They said, "Who will give life to these bones when they are rotten." (Ya Sin: 78). Their different views by themselves were a proof that they had no knowledge in this regard; they were only conjecturing and guessing. Had they any knowledge they would have agreed on one view. 
Then in the last two verses, Allah promises the disbelievers that the big news (Naba') broken to them are not false and one day they will come of to know of it, but then it will be too late for them to acknowledge what Allah has given to them to enjoy the wordily life, which they did enjoy to fullest, but failed to realise who was the great Provider. In fact in the last two verses (4-5), the Arabic term "kalla" has been used twice which denotes strong shunning. The repetition of the entire sentence adds force to the threat implied.
(4. Nay, they will come to know!) (5. Nay, again, they will come to know!) 
Before dwelling on the details of the Day of Resurrection that Makkans mocked and refused to believe, a break is taken in verses 6-16, wherein Allah counts His blessings one by one and tells the disbelievers that how their lives have been eased so that they should be grateful to Allah. 

Here, Allah has made us to traverse the vast universe, observing a great multitude of scenes and phenomena, which are sketched out with great economy of words. The form of questioning implying a statement is also used here deliberately. It draws attention to all the creatures which provide strong evidence of the deliberate planning and designing which go into their creation. [3]
(6. Have We not made the earth as a bed,) (7. And the mountains as pegs) (8. And We have created you in pairs.) (9. And We have made your sleep as a thing for rest.) (10. And We have made the night as a covering,) (11. And We have made the day for livelihood.) (12. And built above you seven strong [firmaments]) (13. And We have made (therein) a shining lamp.) (14. And sent down abundant water from the clouds.) (15. That We may produce therewith grains and vegetations,) (16. And gardens dense with foliage.)
Building of seven strong [firmaments], verse 12, describe the seven heavens in their vastness, loftiness, perfection, precision, and adornment with both stable and moving stars. Sun is like a shining lamp [وَهَّاجًا] giving light and heat to the entire world. It also plays an important part in forming the clouds by evaporating sea water. The use of the word ‘lamp’ to refer to the sun is very apt, for a lamp gives heat and light. It also shines as if it is ablaze. The heat and the light provided by the sun combine with the water flowing in abundance, time after time, from the clouds to help the seeds send out their shoots. This is how grains, vegetables, bushes and wide-branching trees grow. This harmony in the design of the universe could not have been achieved without Allah’s careful planning. Any man can appreciate this if his attention is drawn to it. [3]

And then verses 17-30, the details of Day of Resurrection are unfolded for the disbelievers to still believe that the End day will not be a mirage or a dream but a stark reality: 
(17. Verily, the Day of Decision is a fixed time,) (18. The Day when the Trumpet will be blown, and you shall come forth in crowds.) (19. And the heaven shall be opened, and it will become as gates.) (20. And the mountains shall be moved away from their places and they will be as if they were a mirage.)
As for the moving away of the mountains and vanishing, the event is mentioned at many places in the Qur'an: “And you will see the mountains and think them solid, but they shall pass away as the passing away of the clouds,” [27: 88], And the mountains will be like carded wool,[101:5].  Thus the firmly dug-in pegs, will be made to move away. They will be hammered, scattered, turned into dust, blown by the wind. Hence, they become non-existent, like a mirage which has no reality.
(21. Truly, Hell is a place of ambush) (22. A dwelling place for the rebellious,) (23. They will abide therein for ages.)
The Hell will be the worst ever place the disbelievers would have ever seen in their wordily lives.  While the blazing fire will make them ever thirst, they will be given drinks that will boiling water and wash of the wounds. At another place the same drink is described as: "They will be given drink from a boiling spring. For them there will be no food except from a poisonous, thorny plant Which neither nourishes nor avails against hunger." [88:5-7]
(24. Nothing cool shall they taste therein, nor any drink.) (25. Except boiling water and wash of the wounds) (26. An exact recompense (according to their evil crimes).) (27. For verily, they used not to look for a reckoning.) (28. But they roundly denied Our Signs as false.) (29. And all things We have recorded in a Book.) (30. So taste you. No increase shall We give you, except in torment.)
In verses 31-36, the mention of the blessed one is made - the one who upheld the name of their Creator and were steadfast in following their faith and feared Allah and believed in the day of Resurrection. For them a befitting rewards awaits in the gardens of paradise:
(31. Surely the state of triumph awaits the God-fearing;) (32. Gardens and vineyards,) (33. And youthful maidens of like age,) (34. And an overflowing cup.) (35. Therein they shall hear no idle talk, nor any falsehood;) (36. Rewarded from your Lord with a sufficient gift.)
On the Day of Judgement, when everyone will be presented before Allah, the court of Allah Almighty will be so awe inspiring that no one, whether belonging to the earth or to the heavens, will dare open his mouth of his own will before Allah, nor interfere in the court's work and proceedings.
(37. The Lord of the heavens and the earth, and whatsoever is in between them, the Most Gracious, with Whom they cannot dare to speak.) (38. The Day when the Spirit and the angels are ranged row on row. None shall speak save he whom the Merciful Lord will permit; and he too will speak what is right.) (39. That is the True Day. So, whosoever wills, let him seek a place with His Lord!) 
In verse 38, mention of the Spirit is made. According to most commentators, the Spirit implies the Angel Gabriel, who has been mentioned separately from the angels because of his high rank and position with Allah.   To speak: to intercede, and intercession has been made conditional upon two things: (1) That the person who is granted permission by Allah to intercede for a sinner will alone be allowed to intercede and for the particular sinner only. (2) That the intercessor will say only what is right and proper, and nothing derogatory, and the one for whom he is interceding should have at least acknowledged the truth in the world. That is, he should only be a sinner, not an unbeliever.
(40. Verily, We have warned you of a near torment -- the Day when man will see that which his hands have sent forth, and the disbeliever will say: "Woe to me! Would that I were dust!'')
As for the explanation of the last verse (40), apparently, one might think that the people who were the audience of this verse died fourteen centuries ago, and even now it cannot be said how many hundreds or thousands or millions of years Resurrection will take to come. Then, in what sense has it been said: The torment of which you have been warned, has approached near at hand? And what is the meaning of saying in the beginning of the Surah: Soon they shall know? The answer is that man can have the feeling of time only until he is passing a physical life in the world within the bounds of space and time. After death when only the soul will survive, he will lose every feeling and consciousness of time, and on the Day of Resurrection when man will rise back to life, he will feel as though some one had aroused him from sleep suddenly. He will not at all be conscious that he has been resurrected after thousands of years. [2]

The second half of the last verse explains the state of the disbelievers on the Day of Resurrection which he had been denying when the 'naba' of it were broken when he lived and mocked the Prophet of Allah. On that day, this will be the cry of one who will be in great distress, who will feel ashamed for what he has been and what he has done. He will surely feel that it is better not to be, or to be something as worthless as dust, than to witness such a fearful occasion. [3]

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sūrat an-Nabaʼ 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 |
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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