Sunday 16 April 2023

Who is a self-reproaching soul by whom Allah swears in Qur’an (Surah 75. Al Qiyama (The Resurrection) )

At many a place in Qur'an, Allah swears to instill upon the non-believers the truth of end game which they for now shrug away in a lighter mood and mock the prophets of something they are unlikely to see.

Right in the beginning of Surah 75. Al Qiyama (The Resurrection), Allah swears of by the Day of Resurrection and then swears by the self-reproaching soul. We pick up this verse to know why a self-reproaching soul has been sworn by and who could be a soul that qualifies this status.

Let us read the verse and know - but first let us reconnect the selected verse with the first of the Surah in which Allah swears by the Day of Resurrection:

لَاۤ اُقۡسِمُ بِيَوۡمِ الۡقِيٰمَةِۙ‏ 
(75:1) Nay, I swear by the Day of Resurrection;
To begin the discourse with "Nay" by itself indicates that the Surah was sent down to refute some argument which was already in progress. The theme that follows shows that the argument was about Resurrection and life after death, which the people of Makkah were denying and also mocking at it at the same time. This can be understood by an example. If a person only wants to affirm the truth of the Messenger, he will say: "By God, the Messenger has come with the truth." But if some people might be denying the truth of the Messenger, he in response would rejoin, thus: “Nay, by God, the Messenger has come with the truth." It would mean: "That which you say is not true. I swear that the truth is this and this."

And then Allah swears by the self-reproaching soul:

وَلَاۤ اُقۡسِمُ بِالنَّفۡسِ اللَّوَّامَةِؕ‏ 
(75:2) and nay, I swear by the self-reproaching soul!

Renowned exegete of Qur'an Yusuf Ali explains: Three states or stages of the development of the human soul: 
  • (1) Ammara (xii. 53), which is prone to evil, and, if not checked and controlled, will lead to perdition:
وَمَاۤ اُبَرِّئُ نَفۡسِىۡ​ۚ اِنَّ النَّفۡسَ لَاَمَّارَةٌۢ بِالسُّوۡٓءِ اِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّىۡ ؕاِنَّ رَبِّىۡ غَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِيۡمٌ‏ 
 I do not seek to acquit myself; for surely one's self prompts one to evil except him to whom my Lord may show mercy. Verily my Lord is Ever Forgiving, Most Merciful." (12:53)
  • (2) Lawwama, as here, which feels conscious of evil, and resists it, asks for Allah's grace and pardon after repentance and tries to amend; it hopes to reach salvation; 
  • (3) Mutmainna (lxxxix 27), the highest stage of all, when it achieves full rest and satisfaction. 
يٰۤاَيَّتُهَا النَّفۡسُ الۡمُطۡمَـئِنَّةُ
 (On the other hand, it will be said): “O serene soul! (89:27)

Our second stage may be compared to Conscience, except that in English usage Conscience is a faculty and not a stage in spiritual development. And this is the soul by whom Allah is swearing for such a soul is a subject to one's conscious and each action of his undergoes a self-analysis before one takes the final decision. And these decisions are always positive for such souls are God fearing and always desist the Satanic machinations to overshadow their decision-making thought process. And even if he does an evil deed, he is immediately rebuked from within, forces him to repent and ask forgiveness of Allah, and steers him back to the righteous path.

Tafsir Ibn-Kathir
In reference to An-Nafs Al-Lawwamah, Qurrah bin Khalid reported from Al-Hasan Al-Basri that he said about this Ayah, "Verily, by Allah, we think that every believer blames himself. He says (questioning himself), `What did I intend by my statement What did I intend by my eating What did I intend in what I said to myself' However, the sinner proceeds ahead and he does not blame himself.''

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The implication is that a person’s conscience that rebukes him for his sins bears witness by its very existence that the Day of Judgement is certain to come. The reason is that within him his reproaching soul is always present to rebuke him on any evil he does; this internal court of justice delivers its verdict at every instance; this only means that he will not be left unaccountable for his deeds. Thus, he shall definitely be called to account. It is for this accountability that the Almighty has appointed the Day of Judgement. His messengers have always informed man of this day. 

Imām Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī writes:
… If a person will not be held accountable for his deeds, then where has this chiding conscience come into him from? If his Creator is unconcerned about the good and evil which emanate from him, then why and from where has He given him the feeling of being elated at a good deed and being pricked by his conscience at a bad one? Then from here another question arises: If God has set up a miniature court of justice in every person, why will He not set up a greater court of justice which will hold the whole world accountable for good and evil which emanate from it and not reward and punish people accordingly? Any person who deliberates on these questions while disregarding his desires will reach the conclusion that the very being of a person bears witness that he has innate knowledge of good and evil; he will not be left unaccountable; there definitely shall come one day when he will be punished for any misdeeds he may have done and be rewarded for his good deeds. To remind a person of this day, the Almighty has placed a miniature court of justice within a person’s soul so that he does not remain indifferent to it, and if ever he becomes iindifferent,he can catch a glimpse of it by merely reflecting on his inner-self. It is this reality which sages have taught us by saying that a human being is a miniature world and within this miniature world there is a reflection of the greater world. If a person has a true comprehension of his own self, he is able to comprehend both God and the Hereafter. (Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, vol. 9, 80)

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi continues to explain the verse: Here an oath by the Day of Resurrection is only an argument for the truth that this system will one day be upset. As for the truth that after that man shall be resurrected and called upon to account for his deeds and made to see the good or evil results thereof, another oath has been sworn by the self-reproaching soul. No man exists in the world who may not have a faculty called conscience in him. This conscience is necessarily conscious of the good and evil, and no matter how perverted and degraded a man might be, his conscience always checks him on doing evil and for not doing good irrespective of the fact whether the criterion of good and evil that he had set for himself might in itself be right or wrong. This is an express pointer that man is not merely an animal but a moral being. He naturally can distinguish good from evil; he regards himself as responsible for the good or the evil he does; and even if he might feel pleased suppressing the reproaches of his conscience over the evil, he has done to another, he, on the contrary, feels and demands from within that the other one who has done the same evil to him, must deserve punishment. Now, if the existence of a self-reproaching soul of this kind in man himself is an undeniable truth, then this truth too is undeniable that the same self-reproaching soul is evidence of the life hereafter, which exists in man’s own nature itself. For this demand of nature that man must be rewarded or punished for his good or evil deeds for which he himself is responsible, cannot be met in any other way than in the life hereafter. No sensible man can deny that if man becomes nonexistent after death, he will certainly be deprived of the rewards of his good deeds and escape the just and lawful punishment of many of his evil deeds. Therefore, unless one comes to believe in the absurd idea that a rational being like man has stumbled into an irrational system of the universe and a moral being like man has happened to be born in a world which basically has nothing to do with morality, he cannot deny the life hereafter. Likewise, the philosophy of the transmigration of souls also is no reply to this demand of nature, for if man goes on being born and reborn in this very world for the sake of being rewarded and punished for his moral acts, in every cycle of life he will perform some additional moral acts, which again will need to be rewarded and punished, thus making his account more and more lengthy and complicated in an endless way instead of being settled finally and for good. Therefore, this demand of nature is fulfilled only in case man in this world should have only one life and then, after the whole human race has been brought to an end, there should be another life in which all acts of man should be judged and assessed rightly and justly and he should be fully rewarded or punished in consequence thereof. 

Let us, then, be men of self-reproaching soul, and let our inner system of self-appraisal and justice always prevails upon us to defeat the evil and misleading thoughts. This is the first stage to finally achieve the Nafs al Mutmainna النَّفۡسُ الۡمُطۡمَـئِنَّةُ - the highest stage of all, when it achieves full rest and satisfaction.

May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others' lives miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 

وَمَا عَلَيۡنَاۤ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِيۡنُ‏ 
(36:17) and our duty is no more than to clearly convey the Message.”
That is Our duty is only to convey to you the message that Allah has entrusted us with. Then it is for you to accept it or reject it. We have not been made responsible for making you accept it forcibly, and if you do not accept it, we shall not be seized in consequence of your disbelief, you will yourselves be answerable for your actions on Day of Resurrection.

Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully. It will also help the Muslims to have grasp over social issues and their answers discussed in the Qur'an and other matter related to inter faith so that they are able to discuss issues with non-Muslims with authority based on refences from Qur'an.

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Note: When we mention God in our posts, we mean One True God, we call Allah in Islam, with no associates. Allah is the Sole Creator of all things, and that Allah is all-powerful and all-knowing. Allah has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages  and Understanding Al Qur'an for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
Photo | Tafsir References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that the exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi.  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, additional input has been interjected from the following sources: 
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Translation Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Qur'an Wiki
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
In addition, references of other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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