AN-NAZI'AT (THOSE THAT RISE)
Total Verses: 45
THIS late Meccan surah, revealed shortly after the preceding one, takes its name from the word an-nazi’at in the first verse.
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:
(1) CONSIDER those [stars] that rise only to set, 1
(3) and float [through space] with floating serene,
(5) and thus they fulfil the [Creator's] behest!
(7) to be followed by further [convulsions]!
(8) On that Day will [men's] hearts be throbbing,
(9) [and] their eyes downcast. . .
(10) [And yet,] some say, "What! Are we indeed to be restored to our former state –
(11) even though we may have become [a heap of] crumbling bones?"
(13) [But,] then, that [Last Hour] will be [upon them of a sudden, as if it were] but a single accusing cry -
(14) and then, lo, they will be fully awakened [to the truth]!
(17) "Go unto Pharaoh - for, verily, he has transgressed all bounds of what is right -
(18) and say[unto him], 'Art thou desirous of attaining to purity?
(21) But [Pharaoh] gave him the lie and rebelliously rejected [all guidance],
(22) and brusquely turned his back [on Moses];
(23) and then he gathered [his great ones], and called [unto his people],
(26) In this, behold, there is a lesson indeed for all who stand in awe [of God].
(29) and He has made dark its night and brought forth its light of day.
(30) And after that, the earth: wide has He spread its expanse,
(32) and has made the mountains firm:
(34) AND SO, when the great overwhelming event [of, resurrection] comes to pass –
(35) on that Day man will [clearly] remember all that he has ever wrought;
(37) For, unto him who shall have transgressed the bounds of what is right,
(38) and preferred the life of this world [to the good of his soul],
(39) that blazing fire will truly be the goal!
(40) But unto him who shall have stood in fear of his Sustainer's Presence, and held back his inner self from base desires,
(41) paradise will truly be the goal!
(42) THEY WILL ASK thee [O Prophet] about the Last Hour: "When will it come to pass?"
(45) Thou art but [sent] to warn those who stand in awe of it.
1 For my rendering of the adjurative particle wa as "Consider", see first half of note 23 on 74:32. - The early commentators differ widely in their explanations of verses 1-5 of this surah. The most popular interpretation is based on the view that the descriptive participles an-nazi’at, an-nashitat, as-sabihat, as-sabiqat and al-mudabbirat refer to angels and their activities with regard to the souls of the dying: an interpretation categorically rejected by Abu Muslim al-Isfahani, who - as mentioned by Razi - points out that the angels are never referred to in the Qur'an in the female gender, as is the case in the above five participles, and that the present passage cannot be an exception. Almost equally unconvincing - because somewhat laboured - are the explanations which link those five participles to the souls of the dying, or to warriors engaged in holy war, or to war-mounts, and so forth. The clearest and simplest interpretation is that advanced by Qatadah (as quoted by Tabari and Baghawi) and Al-Hasan al-Basri (quoted by Baghawi and Razi), who maintain that what is meant in this passage are the stars - including the sun and the moon - and their movements in space: and this interpretation is fully in tune with many other passages in the Qur'an in which the harmony of those celestial bodies in their multiform orbits and graded speeds is cited as an evidence of God's planning and creativeness. In accordance with this interpretation, the participle an-nazi’at occurring in the first verse denotes the daily "ascending" or "rising" of the stars, while their subsequent "setting" is indicated by the expression gharqan, which comprises the two concepts of "drowning" (i.e., disappearing) and, tropically, of the "completeness" of this daily phenomenon (Zamakhshari).
2 I.e., passing from constellation to constellation (Zamakhshari).
3 This is apparently an allusion to the different speeds of the orbiting stars (Al-Hasan and Abu Ubaydah, as quoted by Razi), as well as to the extent of their orbits in relation to one another.
4 I.e., upon realizing the above-mentioned evidence of God's almightiness and, therefore, of man's subjection to His ultimate judgment.
5 Implying derisively (Zamakhshari) that in such a case they would be proved wrong in what they now consider a "reasonable" assumption.
6 Connecting with the preceding passage, the story of Moses (which appears in much greater detail in 20:9-98) is cited here as an illustration of the fact that everyone will have to answer on Judgment Day for whatever he did in life, and that it is the main function of every prophet to make man aware of this responsibility.
7 See note 9 on . - For the meaning of the particle idh at the beginning of this sentence, rendered by me as "Lo!", see surah 2, note 21.
8 Implying that so long as man is not fully aware of the existence of God, he cannot really discern between what is morally right or wrong; and since God is just, He does not punish anyone who has not yet attained to such a discernment (or, as expressed in the preceding sentence, "to [moral] purity"): cf. 6: 31- "thy Sustainer would never destroy a community for its wrongdoing so long as its people are still unaware [of the meaning of right and wrong]".
9 Lit., "showed him the great wonder", i.e., of the guidance which God, in His measureless grace, offers even to the most recalcitrant sinner.
10 Cf. 28:38 and the corresponding note 36. Pharaoh's claim to divine status is the cardinal sin whereby "he has transgressed all bounds of what is right" (verse 17 above).
11 Lit., "in the first [life]". See last sentence of 7:137 - "We utterly destroyed all that Pharaoh and his people had wrought, and all that they had built" - and the corresponding note 100.
12 Lit., "or the heaven. . . ", etc. The "heaven" is here, as in many other places in the Qur'an, a metonym for "cosmic system" (cf. note 20 on ). The above verse is an echo of an earlier, more explicit passage - namely, 40:56-57, which should be read together with the corresponding notes 40 and 41. Both these passages refute the "man-centred" view of the universe by pointing out man's insignificance as compared with the vastness and complexity of the whole God-created universe.
13 See 87:2, which is the earliest instance, in the chronology of Qur'anic revelation, of the use of the verb sawwa in the above sense.
14 The term "pasture" (mar’a) connotes here, metonymically, all herbal produce suitable for consumption by man or animal (Razi).
15 Implying (as in 80:24-32) that man ought to be grateful to God, and should always be conscious of His being the Provider: hence the subsequent return of the discourse to the theme of resurrection and ultimate judgment.
16 Cf. 26:91- "will be laid open before those who had been lost in grievous error": thus reminding man that suffering in the hereafter ("hell") is the inevitable consequence of spiritual self-destruction through deliberate wrongdoing.
17 Lit., "wherein [or "whereon"] art thou with regard to stating it (min dhikraha)?"
18 Lit., "its utmost limit", i.e., the beginning and the end of all that can be known about it. Cf. 7:187 and the corresponding note 153.
19 As in many other places in the Qur'an (e.g., in 2:259, 17:52, 18:19, 20:103-104, 23:112-113, 30:55 etc.), this is a subtle indication of the illusory, earthbound nature of man's concept of "time" - a concept which, we are told, will lose all its meaning in the context of the ultimate reality comprised in the term "hereafter" (al-akhirah).