AL-INFITAR (THE CLEAVING ASUNDER)
Total Verses: 19
authorities assign this surah to the
early part of the
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:
WHEN THE SKY is cleft asunder,*
* An allusion to the Last Hour, when the world as known to man will come to an end and the ultimate reality of the hereafter will begin.
and when the stars are scattered,
and when the seas burst beyond their bounds,
and when the graves are overturned –
every human being will [at last] comprehend, what he has sent ahead and what he has held back [in this world].*
* I.e., what he has done and what he has omitted to do. An alternative rendering would be "what he has placed forward and what he has placed behind", i.e., what he prized more and what less in his erstwhile, subjective valuation. Thus, at the moment of resurrection man will suddenly understand the true motivations and moral implications of whatever he did - or consciously refrained from doing - during his life in this world: and this applies to all the good deeds he did and the sins he refrained from, as well as to all the sins he committed and the good deeds he failed to do.
O MAN! What is it that lures thee away from thy bountiful Sustainer,*
* A rhetorical question implying that no human being is ever entirely immune against "that temptation to evil (fitnah) which does not befall only those among you who are bent on denying the truth" (see 8 : 25 and the corresponding note 25). The answer is given in verse 9 below.
who has created thee, and formed thee in accordance with what thou art meant' to be,* and shaped thy nature in just proportions,**
* I.e., "endowed thee with all the qualities and abilities relevant to the exigencies of thy individual life and thy environment".
** Lit., "made thee proportionate", i.e., a being subject to physical needs and emotional urges, and at the same time endowed with intellectual and spiritual perceptions: in other words, a being in whom there is no inherent conflict between the demands of "the spirit and the flesh", since both these aspects of the human condition are - as stressed in the next verse - God-willed and, therefore, morally justified.
having put thee together in whatever form He willed [thee to have]?
Nay, [O men,] but you [are lured away from God whenever you are tempted to] give the lie to [God’s] Judgment!*
* In view of the fact that the whole of this passage is addressed to "man" or "men" in general, and not merely to deniers of the truth, I believe that the expression "you give the lie" does not, in this context, necessarily imply a conscious denial of God's ultimate judgment but rather, a tendency inherent in most human beings to close one's mind - occasionally or permanently, as the case may be - to the prospect of having to answer before God for one's doings: hence my rendering, "you are tempted to give the lie".
And yet, verily, there are ever-watchful forces over you,
aware of whatever you do!*
* The classical commentators are of the opinion that we have here a reference to the guardian angels who record, allegorically, all of men's deeds. However, another explanation has been suggested by me in my rendering of 50:16-23 and elaborated in the corresponding notes 11-16. In consonance with that interpretation, the "watchful force" (hafiz) set over every human being is his own conscience, which "records" all his motives and actions in his subconscious mind. Since it is the most precious element in man's psyche, it is described in verse 11 as "noble".
Behold, [in the life to come] the truly virtuous: will indeed be in bliss,
whereas, behold, the wicked will indeed be in a blazing fire –
[a fire] which they shall enter on Judgment Day,
and which they shall not [be able to] evade.
And what could make thee conceive what that Judgment Day will be?
And once again: What could make thee conceive what that Judgment Day will be?*
* For my rendering of thumma at the beginning of this verse as "And once again", see surah 6, note 31. The repetition of this rhetorical question is meant to indicate that man's intellect and imagination cannot possibly answer it, since what is described as the Day of Judgment will usher in a reality which as yet is wholly outside our human experience and, therefore, cannot be grasped conceptually: hence, only allegory - and our own emotional response to it - ccan give us an inkling of what that reality might be.
[It will be] a Day when no human being shall be of the least avail to another human being: for on that Day [it will become manifest that] all sovereignty is God's alone.