Monday 26 November 2018

Surah Al Ma'arij (The Ascending Stairways): Summary of 70th Chapter of the Holy Quran

Sūrat al-Maʻārij is the seventieth surah with 44 ayats with two rukus, part of the 29th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The Surah takes its name from the word "dhil Ma'arij"  in 3rd ayah:

مِّنَ اللّٰهِ ذِى الۡمَعَارِجِؕ

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi in his Tafsir work Tafhim al-Qur'an writes: “The subject matter bears evidence that this Surah too was sent down in conditions closely resembling those under which Sūrat al-Ḥāqqah, the 69th surah of the Qur'an, was sent down” According to Abdullah Yusuf Ali “Sūrat al-Maʻārij  is another Islamic eschatology surah closely connected in subject matter with the preceding Sūrat al-Ḥāqqah. "Patience and the mystery of Time will show the ways that climb the Heaven. Sin and Goodness must each eventually come to its own," adds Abdullah Yusuf Ali. [Eschatology is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the "end of the world" or "end times".]

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a Pakistani theologian, Quran scholar and exegete, also classifies Sūrat al-Maʻārij as a pair with Sūrat al-Ḥāqqah due to similarities of subject matter. He suggests that the primary audience of Sūrat al-Maʻārij is leadership of the Quraysh and adds:

The central theme of Sūrat al-Maʻārij is to warn those among the Quraysh of their fate who are making fun of the consequences of denying the Inzar of the Qur’an about the Day of Judgement and are asking to hasten their advent, and to urge the Prophet (peace be upon him) to persevere in the cause of truth and to tell the unbelievers that Paradise is the reward of all good deeds; a person whose evil deeds outnumber his good ones even if he is from the high ups of the society shall never enter this everlasting kingdom.
The contents of the 1st Ruku [ayahs 1-35] state that the day of judgment will be equal to fifty thousand years and disbelievers will wish to save themselves from the punishment at the expense of their children, wives, brothers and relatives, but it will not happen. 2nd Ruku starts from ayah 36 and continues up till the end of the surah and it states that the Paradise is not for the disbelievers and Disbelievers will have downcast eyes and countenances distorted with shame.

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 opener of the surah begins with a question, from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by the idol worshipers and disbelievers of Makkah:
1) A supplicant asked for a punishment bound to happen,  
This was not the first time that this question was asked from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by the pagans and dispersiveness of Makkah. In fact throughout the Qur'an (specially in surahs revealed in Makkah), this questions had been asked at numerous occasions as can be seen from the following references:

  • [Surah Al-Anfal 8:32] - And also recall when they said: 'O Allah! If this indeed be the truth from You, then rain down stones upon us from heaven, or bring upon us a painful chastisement.
  • [Surah 21 Al-Anbya, Ayat 38-41] - 38) They say: "(Tell us) when will the threat of punishment come to pass if you are truthful?" 39) If only the unbelievers knew of the Hour when they shall not be able to keep off the Fire from their faces, nor from their backs; nor shall they be helped. 40) That will suddenly come upon them and stupefy them. They shall not be able to ward it off, nor shall they be granted any respite. 41) Other Messengers before you were also mocked, but those who scoffed at the Messengers were overtaken by the same scourge that they had scoffed at.
  • [Surah An-Naml, 27: 71-72] - 71) They also say: "Tell us when this threat will come to pass, if you are truthful." 72) Say: "The chastisement whose hastening you have been asking for, maybe a part of it has drawn quite near to you."
  • [Surah Saba,34: 29-30] - 29) They ask you: “When will this promise (of Resurrection) be fulfilled, if what you say is true?” 30) Say: “Your day is appointed, you can neither hold back its coming by an hour, nor hasten it by an hour.”
  • [Surah Ya-Sin, 36: 48-52] - 48) They say: “When will this threat (of Resurrection) come to pass? Tell us if indeed you are truthful.”  49) The Truth is that they are waiting for nothing but a mighty Blast to seize them the while they are disputing (in their worldly affairs), 50) and they will not even be able to make a testament, nor to return to their households. 51) Then the Trumpet shall be blown and lo! they will come out of their graves and be on the move towards their Lord, 52) (nervously) exclaiming. “Alas for us! Who roused us out of our sleeping-place?”48 “This is what the Merciful One had promised, and what (His) Messengers had said was true.”
  • [Surah Al-Mulk, 67 24-27] - 25) They say: “If you are truthful, tell us when will this promise (of the Hereafter) be fulfilled?” 26) Say: “Allah alone knows about that; and I am no more than a plain warner.” 27) When they will see it near at hand, the faces of all those who had denied it will be distraught, and then they will be told: “This is the doom which you used to ask for.”
The word ma’arij [الْمَعَارِجِ] used in the third verse is the plural of the word mi’raj and it means “to rise or ascend slowly in stages”.  Dhil ma’arij [ذِي الْمَعَارِجِ] refers to Possessor of Great Heights. This word is used to honor someone of a high rank, and in this context is a praise of Allah. He is the Possessor of Great Heights, the Lofty, the All High and bestows many blessings and graces. The punishment that the unbelievers are so hastening for, it too will descend from Him. When Allah – the Possessor of Great Heights – sends something no can repel or avoid it.
2) To the disbelievers; of it there is no preventer.; 3) [It is] from Allah, owner of the ways of ascent, 4) The angels and the Spirit will ascend to Him during a Day the extent of which is fifty thousand years. 5) So, (O Prophet), persevere with gracious perseverance. 6) Verily they think that the chastisement is far off, 7) while We think that it is near at hand. 
In verse 4 by "Rooh" or “The Spirit” is meant the Angel Jibraeel (Gabriel), who has been mentioned separately from the angels in order to impress his unique glory and greatness. In Surah Ash-Shuara it has been said: The trustworthy Spirit has come down with this Quran upon your heart, (verse 193), and in Surah Al- Baqarah, say to them: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel, should understand that he has, by Allah’s command, revealed upon your heart this Quran. (verse 97). These verses when read together show that Ar-Rooh (the Spirit) implies the Angel Gabriel.

In the verse 6, The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been asked to exhibit a gracious patience: "A kind of patience that behooves a magnanimous person like you." And do not hurry to answer the question of "when" for Allah will one day will show them what the great torment is, and certainly that day is not very far.

And just for the satisfaction of the disbelievers, Allah has painted a picture of the End Day. By ere reading how would be that day, sends shudders throughout one's body of those who believe in Allah. But for those who have their hearts made of stone and are so engrossed in the pleasures of their wordily life, such narrations meant nothing> But they would one day taste the wrath of Allah as so promised:
8) It shall befall on a Day whereon the sky will become like molten brass, 9) and the mountains will become like dyed tufts of wool,  10) and no bosom friend will inquire about any of his bosom friends 11) although they shall be within sight of one another.11 The guilty one would fain ransom himself from the torment of that Day by offering his children, 12) and his spouse and his brother, 13) and his kinsfolk who had stood by him, 14) and all persons of the earth, if only he could thus save himself. 15) By no means! It will be the fierce flame 16) that will strip off the scalp. 17) It shall insistently summon him who turned his back and retreated, 18) and amassed wealth and covetously hoarded it. 19) Verily man is impatient by nature: 20) bewailing when evil befalls him, 21) and tight-fisted when good fortune visits him,
Like always, while cautioning the disbelievers of the wrath of Allah that one day will befall on them, rewards have been promised for those who believed in the message of Allah and sided with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and bore the treacheries of the idol worshipers of Makkah, and believed in the Day of Resurrection and guarded their chastity [They keep their private parts away from that which is forbidden that is adultery as well as from nudity. They only fulfill their desires with their spouses.] and prayed to Allah to be forgiven on that fateful day:
22) Except those that pray, 23) and are constant in their Prayer; 24) and those in whose wealth there is a known right 25) for those that ask and those that are dispossessed, 26) those who firmly believe in the Day of Recompense, 27) and fear the chastisement of their Lord 29) and those who guard their private parts, 30) except in regard to their spouses and those whom their right hands possess, for in regard to them they are not reproachable,
31) but any who seeks to go beyond that, it is indeed they who are the transgressors, 32) and those who fulfill their trusts and their covenants,

33) and those who are upright in their testimonies; 34) and who take due care of their Prayer: 35) all these shall live honourably in the Gardens. 

The verse 36 below refers to those disbelievers who would rush in towards the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) from every side to mock and ridicule him when they heard him preach Islam and recite the Qur'an.
36) [O' Prophet] But what is the matter with the unbelievers who are hurrying towards you  37) in crowds, both on the right and on the left? 38) Does everyone of them wish to enter the Garden of Bliss? 
It is clearly stated above that Paradise is only for those righteous people whose characteristics have just been described in verses 22-30 above, Now, can these people who are not at all inclined to listen to the truth and who are rushing in towards the Prophet in order to suppress every invitation to the truth, be candidates for Paradise? Has Allah  prepared His Paradise only for such people as they? Here, one should also keep in view verses 34-41 of Surah AI-Qalam in which an answer has been given to this saying of the disbelievers of Makkah: "Even if there is any life after death, we shall have good time there too, as we are having in the world, and the torment would befall Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) and his followers and not us."
39) By no means! They know that which We have created them from. 
As for the substance these people have been created from, all men are equal. For if the substance itself be the cause of man’s entry into Paradise, then the good and the bad, the wicked and the just, the guilty and the innocent, all should go to Paradise. But a little common sense is enough to decide that man’s qualifications for Paradise are created not on the basis of the substance of his creation but only on the basis of his merit and excellence.

In verse 40 below,  Allah has sworn an oath by Himself. The words Easts and Wests have been used because the sun rises and sets at a new angle every day during the year, and goes on rising and setting successively at different times around the globe. Thus considered the Easts and the Wests are not one but many. From another point of view as against the north and the south there is a direction of east and a direction of west.
40) I swear by the Lord of the easts and the wests that We have the power
41) to replace them by others who would be better than they; and We shall certainly not be overpowered.
The 41 verse thus means: As We are Owners of the Easts and Wests, the whole earth is under Our control and power, and you have no power to escape Our punishment: We can destroy you as and when We like and can create another people that may be better than you.
42) So leave them to engage in vain talk and to amuse themselves until they come face to face with the Day which they are promised, 43) the Day on which they will hastily come forth from their graves, as though they were hurrying on to the altars of their deities. 44) Their eyes will be downcast and disgrace will overwhelm them. Such is the Day that they were promised.
And then, the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) has been consoled, so as to say: "Do not take to heart their mockery and jesting; leave them to indulge in their idle talk and foolish conduct if they are bent upon experiencing the disgrace and humiliation of the Resurrection; they will themselves see their evil end."

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sūrat al-Maʻārij 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 | 5 |
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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