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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Surah Adh Dhariyat - The Winnowing Winds: Exegesis of 51st Chapter of the Holy Quran


Sūrat adh-Dhāriyāt (also called Surah Az Zariat) is the fifty first surah with 60 ayahs with three rukus, part of the 26th-27th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The surah takes its name from the very first verse "Wad dhariat e zarwa" - The winnowing winds !!

This is the early Makkah period (probably the fifth year of proclamation of Islam) surah, and deals with varying ways in which Truth prevails irresistibly even against all human probability. 

According to Neuwirth’s literary analysis, as related through Ernst, sura 51, like many early Meccan suras, consists of a tripartite structure: I, 1– 23; II, 24– 46; III, 47– 60.

The theme of the surah hinges upon the fact that unlike winds that may blow and scatter, lift, and rush, or divide in all directions, the Truth and Promise of Allah are sure an stable, whereof many may signs both around and within oneself [Verses 1-23]. 

It reminds the disbelievers that past events and what they see before them point to to the unfailing consequence of all they do: Allah of His Grace, send them a reminder; the loss of their own if they reject and deny it [Verses 24-60].

At the end, it presents the invitation to Tawhid. In giving the invitation to Tawhid briefly, it has been said : "Your Creator has not created you for the service of others but for His own service. He is not like your false gods, which receive sustenance from you and godhead of which cannot function without your help, but He is a God Who is the Sustainer of all, Who does not stand in need of sustenance from anyone and Whose Godhead is functioning by His own power and might."

Finally, the Prophet is instructed to ignore the rebels and keep on performing his mission of invitation and admonition, for it is useful and beneficial for the believers, although it may not be so for the other people. As for the wicked people who still persist in their rebellion, they should know that their predecessors who followed the same way of life, have already received their shares of the punishment.

Let us now read the translation and exegesis in English of the Surah segmented into portions as per the subject matter (For Arabic Text, please refer to the references given below):

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"
Verses 1-23 proclaim that Surely the day of judgement shall come to pass, only the perverse persons turn away from this truth:
1. By the (Winds) that scatter broadcast;2. And those that lift and bear away heavy weights;
In verse 1, adh-dhariyat implies the winds that disperse ("Zarwa") and mist up the dust, and al-hamilat-i wiqran (verse 2) implies the winds that lift up millions of tons of water vapors from the oceans in the form of clouds. 
3. And those that flow with ease and gentleness;4. And those that distribute and apportion by Command 
Taking of the winds in the verses 3 and 4, it implies the same very winds then transport the clouds, and spreading over different parts of the earth, distribute the water as and where required according to Allah’s command.
اِنَّمَا تُوۡعَدُوۡنَ لَصَادِقٌ 
5. Verily that which ye are promised is true;
In the verse 5, the word used in the original is "too adoona." If it is derived from "waad", the meaning would be: That which you are promised; and if it is from waid, it would mean: That which you are threatened with. As regards the context, the second meaning is preferable, for the addressees are the people who were lost in disbelief, polytheism and sin, and were not prepared to believe that they would be held accountable some time in the future and would be rewarded or punished accordingly. That is why too adoona has been taken in the meaning of waid (threaten) and not of waad (promise).
6. And verily Judgment and Justice must indeed come to pass.
Verse 6 is the commandment, for which the oath of winds has been taken by Allah.  The oath implies this: The unique order and regularity with which the wonderful system of the rain is functioning and the wisdom and good reasons which clearly underlie it, testify to the reality that this world is not meaningless. In fact, it is a wise system of the highest order in which everything that happens has a purpose and reason behind it. And it is not possible that man should have been given intellect, senses and the powers to exploit things to advantage, distinguish the good and evil, right and wrong and then might have been left alone foolishly and meaninglessly in the world to behave as he pleased. And that he should never be questioned as to how he had used and employed the powers of the heart and mind and body, and the power and authority granted to him to employ the countless creatures of God to his advantage. How can the creation of a unique being like man only be purposeless? Whatever good or evil act he has committed by his own will and choice, he must get the reward or suffer the punishment for it justly and equitably. For, this is the basic requirement of the factor under which, contrary to other creatures, he has been endowed with the freedom of choice and will. If he is not held accountable, if he is not rewarded or punished according to his moral acts, his creation would inevitably be altogether futile, and a Wise Being cannot be expected to indulge in a futile exercise.
7. By the Sky with (its) numerous Paths,
In the verse seven "وَالسَّمَآءِ ذَاتِ الۡحُـبُكِ", word hubuk in the original is also used for the paths and for the waves which are produced on the sand of the desert and the surface of stagnant water by the wind; it is also spoken for the curls in wavy hair. Here, the sky has been characterized by hubuk either because the sky is often overcast with clouds of different shapes, which go on changing because of the wind, and no shape lasts nor resembles any other, or because at night one sees the stars scattered in the sky in many different combinations and no combination resembles any other combination.
8. surely you are at variance (about the Hereafter);
The oath has been sworn by the sky of various appearances on this difference of views because of the similarity. That is, just as the clouds and the clusters of stars in the sky have different appearances and there is uniformity among them, so are also your views about the Hereafter, each different from the other. Like the hereafter, the resurrection and rewards and awards and punishment. Some believe in the Hereafter and Hell and Heaven, but says that God by giving death to His only son on the cross had atoned for the original sin of man, and man will escape the evil consequences of his evil acts by believing in the son. Some other people generally believe in the Hereafter and the meting out of the rewards and punishments but at the same time regard certain holy men as the intercessors, who are such favorites of Allah, or wield such influence with Him, that anyone who attaches himself to them as a disciple can escape the punishment whatever he may do in the world. About these holy men there is also no agreement among their devotees; every group of them has its own separate intercessor. This difference of the views itself is a proof that whenever man has formed an opinion about his own and the world’s end, independent of revelation and Prophethood, he has formed it without knowledge; otherwise if man in this regard really had some direct means of knowledge there would not have arisen so many different and contradictory beliefs.
 9. Through which are deluded (away from the Truth) such as would be deluded. 10. Woe to the falsehood-mongers,-11. Those who (flounder) heedless in a flood of confusion:12. They ask, "When will be the Day of Judgment and Justice?"  13. (It will be) a Day when they will be tried (and tested) over the Fire!  14. "Taste ye your trial! This is what ye used to ask to be hastened!" 15. As to the Righteous, they will be in the midst of Gardens and Springs,16. Taking joy in the things which their Lord gives them, because, before then, they lived a good life.17. They were in the habit of sleeping but little by night,18. And in the hour of early dawn, they (were found) praying for Forgiveness;19. And in their wealth and possessions (was remembered) the right of the (needy,) him who asked, and him who (for some reason) was prevented (from asking).20. On the earth are signs for those of assured Faith,21. As also in your own selves: Will ye not then see?22. And in heaven is your Sustenance, as (also) that which ye are promised.23. Then, by the Lord of heaven and earth, this is the very Truth, as much as the fact that ye can speak intelligently to each other.
From verses 24-46, brief allusions have been made about Allah’s Prophets and some of the nations of the past, which are meant to impress two things:
  • First, that in human history God’s law of retribution has been working constantly, in which precedents are found of the rewards for the righteous and of punishments for the wicked people continuously. This is a clear evidence of the fact that even in the life of this world the Creator’s relationship with man is not merely based on the physical law but the moral law also is working side by aide with it. And when the temper of the kingdom of the universe is such that the creation which has been given an opportunity to act morally while living in a physical body, should not only be dealt with on the basis of physical laws, like animals and plants, but the moral law also should be applied to its moral acts. This by itself points to the truth that a time must come in this kingdom when on the completion of man’s role in the physical world, full results of his moral acts should also appear strictly in accordance with the moral law because in the physical world they do not appear fully.
  • The second thing that has been impressed by these historical allusions is that the nations which did not believe in the Prophets of Allah and based the conduct and attitude in life on the denial of the Oneness of Allah, the Prophethood and the Hereafter, were ultimately doomed to destruction. This continuous experience of history testifies that God’s law of morality that was conveyed through the Prophets, and on the basis of which man will be subjected to accountability in the Hereafter, is entirely based on the truth. For whichever nation determined its conduct and attitude in the world independent of this law, considering itself irresponsible and unaccountable, has gone straight to its doom.
In verses 24-30 the story of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham, peace be upon him) is related when he was given a good news of having a son. This story has also been narrated at three places in the Quran, in (Surah Hood, Ayats 69-73); (Surah Al-Hijr, Ayats 51-56) and (Surah Al-Ankabut, Ayat 31).:
24. Has the story reached thee, of the honoured guests of Abraham? 25. Behold, they entered his presence, and said: "Peace!" He said, "Peace!" (and thought, "These seem) unusual people."26. Then he turned quickly to his household, brought out a fatted calf, 27. And placed it before them.. he said, "Will ye not eat?" 28. (When they did not eat), He conceived a fear of them. They said, "Fear not," and they gave him glad tidings of a son endowed with knowledge.29. But his wife came forward (laughing) aloud: she smote her forehead and said: "A barren old woman!"30. They said, "Even so has thy Lord spoken: and He is full of Wisdom and Knowledge."
31-37 The same angels who gave good news to Ibrahim annihilated the nation of homosexuals, the people of the Prophet Lot (peace be upon him). The epithet of a criminal people was enough to tell which people were meant in view of the gravity of their crimes. They have already been mentioned in the Quran in (Surah Al-Araf, Ayats 80-84); (Surah Hood, Ayats 74-83); (Surah Al-Hijr, Ayats 58-79); (Surah Al-Anbiya, Ayats 74-75); (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayats 160-175); (Surah An-Naml, Ayats 54-58); (Surah As-Saaffat, Ayats 133-137). Also read "Prophet Lut and Allah's wrath on his people":
31. (Abraham) said: "And what, O ye Messengers, is your errand (now)?" 32. They said, "We have been sent to a people (deep) in sin;- 33. "To bring on, on them, (a shower of) stones of clay (brimstone), 34. "Marked as from thy Lord for those who trespass beyond bounds." 35. Then We evacuated those of the Believers who were there, 36. But We found not there any just (Muslim) persons except in one house: 37. And We left there a Sign for such as fear the Grievous Penalty.
38-46 show that there is a lesson in the stories of Fir'on, A'd, Thamud and people of Nuh
38. And in Moses (was another Sign): Behold, We sent him to Pharaoh, with authority manifest.39. But (Pharaoh) turned back with his Chiefs, and said, "A sorcerer, or one possessed!" 
40. So We took him and his forces, and threw them into the sea; and his was the blame.
In verse 40 above, a whole history has been compressed into this brief sentence. To understand it well one should know that Pharaoh was the absolute ruler of the greatest center of civilization and culture of the world in those days and the people of the adjoining lands were overawed by his power and might. Obviously, when he might have sunk suddenly one day in the sea along with his armies, the event must have become well known not only in Egypt but among all the neighboring nations as well. At this, except for those whose kith and kin had sunk, there was no one else among their own people, or in the other nations of the world who would mourn them or write an elegy on them, or would at least express sorrow and say that good and noble people had become a victim of the disaster. Instead of this, as the world had become fed up with their wickedness and injustices, every person heaved a sigh of relief at their exemplary fate, everyone cursed them, and anyone who heard this news exclaimed that the wicked people had deserved the fate justly. In Surah Ad-Dukhan [44th chapter], the same thing has been expressed, thus: Then neither did the heavens weep on them nor the earth.
41. And in the 'Ad (people) (was another Sign): Behold, We sent against them the devastating Wind: 42. It left nothing whatever that it came up against, but reduced it to ruin and rottenness. 
In verse 42, the word used for this wind is "aqim", which is used for a barren woman, though literally it means dry. If the literal meaning is taken it would mean that it was such an intensely hot and dry wind that whatever it blew on, it caused it to become absolutely dry; and if it is taken in the idiomatic sense it would mean that like a barren woman it was a wind without any benefit: neither it was pleasant, nor it brought rain, nor fertilized the trees, nor contained any other benefit for which the wind blows. At other places it has been stated that this wind was not only useless and dry but it blew so violently that it swept the people off the ground and it continued to rage for eight days and seven nights continuously, till it laid the entire land of the Aad to a waste.

The details of this torment given at other places in the Quran show that this wind continued to rage for seven nights and eight days consecutively. It swept the people off the ground and they fell down dead and lay scattered here and there like hollow trunks of the palm-tree. (Surah Al- Haaqqah, Ayat 7). When the people of Aad saw it advancing, they rejoiced with the hope that the dense clouds would bring much rain, which would water their withering crops. But when it came, it laid waste the entire land. (Surah Al-Ahqaf, Ayats 24-25).
43. And in the Thamud (was another Sign): Behold, they were told, "Enjoy (your brief day) for a little while!"
Verse 43: The commentators have disputed as to which respite it implies. Qatadah says that it alludes to that verse of Surah Houd in which it has been stated that when the Thamud killed the she camel of the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him), they were warned by Allah that they had three more days to enjoy life after which they would be overtaken by the torment. Contrary to this, Hasan Basri has expressed the opinion that this thing had been said by the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him) to his people in the beginning of his mission and by this he meant that if they would not adopt the way of repentance and faith, they would be granted a respite to enjoy life in the world only till an appointed time, and then they would be overtaken by the torment. The second of these two commentaries seems to be more correct, for the following verse (But they defied the command of their Lord) indicates that the respite being mentioned here had been given before the defiance and they committed it after the warning. On the contrary, the three days respite mentioned in Surah Houd had been given after the wicked people had committed the final defiance which became decisive in their case and sealed their doom forever afterwards.
44. But they insolently defied the Command of their Lord: So the stunning noise (of an earthquake) seized them, even while they were looking on.45. Then they could not even stand (on their feet), nor could they help themselves. 46. So were the People of Noah before them for they wickedly transgressed.
And last portion of the surah comprising of verses 47-60 tell that Allah, Who built the heavens and spread out the earth, has assigned Prophet Muhammad to be a Warner for mankind:
47. With power and skill did We construct the Firmament: for it is We Who create the vastness of pace.  
 The verse 47 "وَ السَّمَآءَ بَنَيۡنٰهَا بِاَيۡٮدٍ وَّاِنَّا لَمُوۡسِعُوۡنَ" uses the word musi (pl. musiun) may mean the one who possesses power and means, and also the one who can extend and expand something. According to the first meaning, the verse would mean: We have built this heaven by Our own might and not with somebody else’s help, and its erection was in no way beyond Us. Then how can you ever conceive that We shall not be able to recreate it? According to the second meaning, it would mean: This huge universe that We have created, is not a finished work, but We are expanding it continuously, and new and ever new manifestations of Our creation are appearing in it every moment. How do you then think that such a marvelous Creator would not be able to repeat His creation.
48. And We have spread out the (spacious) earth: How excellently We do spread out!  49. And of every thing We have created pairs: That ye may receive instruction.
Verse 49: That is, the creation of the whole universe on the principle of the pairs and the existence of all things in the world in couples is a reality that testifies expressly to the necessity of the Hereafter. If you consider it deeply you will yourself come to the conclusion that when everything in the world has a partner and nothing becomes productive without combining with its partner, how can the life of the world be without a match and partner? Its match and partner necessarily is the Hereafter. Without that partner it would be absolutely fruitless.

To understand the following verses, one should also understand that the discussion heretofore centers around the Hereafter, but this very discussion and argument afford a proof of the Oneness of God. Just as the argument of the rain, the structure of the earth, the creation of the heavens, man’s own existence, the wonderful working of the law of pairs in the universe, testify to the possibility and necessity of the Hereafter, so they are also testifying that neither is this Godless nor it has many gods, but One All-Wise and All- Powerful God alone is its Creator and Master and Controller. That is why in the following verses the invitation to the Oneness of God is being presented on the basis of these very arguments. Furthermore, the inevitable result of believing in the Hereafter is that man should give up his attitude of rebellion against God and should adopt the way of obedience and servitude. He remains turned away from God as long as he remains involved in the false belief that he is not accountable before anyone and that he will not have to render an account of his deeds of the worldly life to anyone. Whenever this misunderstanding is removed, man immediately comes to the realization that he was committing a grave error by regarding himself as irresponsible, and this realization compels him to return to God. That is why immediately after concluding the arguments for the Hereafter, it has been said: So flee unto Allah.
50. Hasten ye then (at once) to Allah. I am from Him a Warner to you, clear and open!  51. and do not set up any deity with Allah. Surely I am a clear warner to you from Him. 
Though these sentences (verses 50,51) are the Word of Allah, the speaker here is not Allah but the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). In fact, Allah has made his Messenger say: Flee unto Allah, I am to you from Him a clear warner. An instance of this style is found in the very first Surah of the Quran, Surah Al-Fatihah, where the Word is of Allah, but the speakers are the servants, who say: Iyyaka na budu wa lyyaka nastain; ihdi-nas siratal-mustaqim. Thee alone we worship and to Thee alone we ask for help, show us the straight path. Just as there it has not been said: O believers, pray to your Lord thus, but the context itself shows that it is a supplication which Allah is teaching His servants, so here also it has not been said: O Prophet, say to these people, but the context itself indicates that it is an invitation to the Oneness of God, which the Prophet (peace be upon him) is presenting according to Allah’s command. Besides Surah Al-Fatihah, there are also several other instances of this style in the Quran, where though the word is of Allah, the speakers somewhere are the angels and somewhere the Prophet, and the context shows as through whom Allah is speaking at that particular place. For instance, see (Surah Maryam, Ayats 64-65); (Surah As-Saaffat, Ayats 159-167); (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayat 10).
52. Similarly, no apostle came to the Peoples before them, but they said (of him) in like manner, "A sorcerer, or one possessed"! 53. Is this the legacy they have transmitted, one to another? Nay, they are themselves a people transgressing beyond bounds!  
That is, the fact that the people of different countries and nations adopted the same attitude as against the invitation of the Prophets and opposed them in the same manner in different ages for thousands of years could not be due to the reason that all the former and the latter generations had settled in a conference that whenever a prophet came with his message, he should be given such and such an answer. Then, what could be the reason for the uniformity of their attitude and behavior? There could be no other reason for this than that rebellion and transgression was their common characteristic. As all the ignorant people of every age have been desirous of living a life free of Allah’s service and fearless of His accountability, whoever called them to the service of Allah and to lead a God-conscious life, they gave him one and the same fixed answer.
54. So turn away from them: not thine is the blame. 
In verse 54 a method of the preaching of religion has been taught which should be well understood. When a preacher of the truth has presented his message clearly before a person with rational arguments, and has also removed his doubts and objections and answered his arguments, he becomes relieved of his duty of making the truth plain. Even after this if the other person persists in his belief and creed, the responsibility for it does not lie on the preacher of the truth. It is no more necessary that he should pursue the same person, should go on spending his time in discussing things with him, and should make it a point that he has somehow to convince the same one man of the truth. The preacher, in fact, has done his duty; if the other man is not convinced, leave him alone. If the preacher does not any more attend to him, he cannot be blamed for letting a person remain involved in error, because the other person himself is responsible for his deviation and error.
 55. Do, however, keep exhorting them; for exhortation benefits those endowed with faith.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) has not been addressed here to be taught this method because, God forbid, in his preaching he unnecessarily pursued the people and Allah wanted to stop him from this fact, the real reason for stating this method is that when a preacher of the truth has done his best to make the people understand his message in a rational way and then seeing the signs of stubbornness in them withdraws from them, the people inveigh against him and start accusing him of indifference and inattention whereas, they, as they say, want to discuss things in order to understand his message. The fact, however, is that they do not intend to understand anything but only to involve the preacher in disputation and waste his time. Therefore, Allah Himself said in clear words: Turn away from them, you are not at all to blame for showing any indifference towards them. After this nobody could blame the Prophet (peace be upon him) that, according to the Book that he had brought, he had been appointed to make them understand his religion, then why he did not answer their objections.
56. I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me.
In the verse 56, only the jinn and men have been asked to serve Allah for they have been granted the freedom that they may serve Allah within their sphere of choice if they so like; otherwise they can turn away from Allah’s service as well as serve others beside Him. The rest of the creatures in the world do not have this freedom. Therefore, only about the jinn and men it has been said here that by turning away from the obedience and servitude of their Creator within the bounds of their option and choice and by serving others than the Creator, they are fighting their own nature.
57. No Sustenance do I require of them, nor do I require that they should feed Me. 
Allah does not require sustenance from His creations. Thus here Allah says: I indeed do not stand in need of their service, but it is the demand of their own nature that they should serve Me. They have been created for this very object, and fighting nature would be to their own detriment.
58. For Allah is He Who gives (all) Sustenance,- Lord of Power,- Steadfast (for ever). 59. For the Wrong-doers, their portion is like unto the portion of their fellows (of earlier generations): then let them not ask Me to hasten (that portion)! 60. Woe, then, to the Unbelievers, on account of that Day of theirs which they have been promised!
Thus those who have done wrong, and choose to serve others than the Lord of the universe, who disbelieve in the Hereafter, who regard themselves as irresponsible in the world, and have denied those Prophets who have tried to make them understand the reality, will stand for accountability on the Day of Judgement.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sūrat adh-Dhāriyāt with English subtitles:



For those readers who can understand Urdu, please listen to enlightening exegesis (tafsir) of thei surah by Dr Israr in two videos | Verses 1-23 | Verses 24-60 |

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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