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Commentary on Surat 'Abasa

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A COMMENTARY ON THE LAST SECTION QUR`AN 
Chapter 80: Surat 'Abasa
He Frowned

By: Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

  1. Then when He pleases, He raises him to life again.

Truth will be exposed and known meaning here and now. Anshara (to resurrect from the dead), derives from nashara, meaning 'to unfold, spread out, publicize whatever he did that pleased him', preferring to hide those deeds which did not. We all participate in this dissimulation. Most crimes are committed in the dim light of night, as if the criminal is already trying to hide his misdeeds. Those who like darkness do so because it hides things which deep down they find shameful.

  1. No! But he has not done what He commanded him.

This means that man has tried to go against the order of creation. Everything will unfold, however, as it has been ordained.

  1. Then let man look to his food!

Ta'ām does not only mean 'food'; its broader meaning includes everything from which we derive nourishment. It refers to what we can assimilate from our taste of life.

  1. That We pour down the water, pouring [it] down in abundance.

  2. Then We cleave the earth, cleaving [it] asunder.

  3. Then We cause the grain to grow in it,

Habb means any type of 'seed, cereal, berry or kernel'. It is related to the word hubb, which means 'love'. Hubb is the unique link between a mother and her child. It is a conduit. A human can only say he loves if that conduit is completely open. Love is based on commitment and constancy. All creation is founded on it, for everyone is either a lover or a beloved. We love life while we are beloved of death.

  1. And grapes and green fodder,

Qadb means 'green fodder', that is, any herbage that is edible, and 'inab refers to grapes which are attractively bunched, inviting man to pick them.

  1. And the olive tree and the palm tree,

Why does Allah mention these two trees in particular? Palm and olive trees have always been links between different ages. They are both symbolic and practical. They are planted with future generations in mind. Many generations feed on the same trees. Every part of both the olive and palm tree is usable and storable; the trunks for houses and roofs, the fronds for rope and matting, and the fruit for food, oil and even medicine. The Arabs, as well as the early Christians, had little other than these trees which served them so well.

  1. And dense gardens,

  2. And fruits and grasses,

  3. A provision for you and your cattle.

With these verses we go into another realm. These verses speak of plentiful and rich gardens; matā' means 'enjoyment, provision'. Provision is that which helps you to move from one point to another, from one stage to the next, from the womb to the tomb.

  1. But when the deafening cry comes,

Sākhkhah (deafening cry) is a reference to the second cycle of movement or the process of creation in reverse. Whenever cries and shouts are mentioned in the Qur`an, they herald the reversal of the earth's movement and development as we know it, and the beginning of the resurrection of those energy forces, the arwah, the plural of h, which means 'soul' or 'spirit'.

  1. The Day when a man flees from his brother,

When that Day comes, it will not only be the end of this cycle, but also the beginning of a new one. At that instant, man will run away from even his brother. Yawm in the Qur`an does not mean 'day' alone, but also 'moment' or 'instant'. The word 'brother' symbolizes all those persons with whom one has a close affinity.

  1. And his mother and his father,

He will also flee from his own mother and father. The implication here is that a person will abandon those whom he loves dearly, his mother and father; otherwise, running away from them would have no meaning in this context.

  1. And his female companion and his children,

His wife and children are also those people whom he loves, with whom he shared and enjoyed life.

  1. On that Day every man of them will have an affair that shall occupy him.

For every one of them on that Day, there will be a concern which will occupy and consume them, and there will be no room for anything else. When the whole of existence is shattered and shaken up, when the absolute becomes manifest, then only the individual will remain. This will transpire beyond the boundaries of time, and man will not be given a chance to be philanthropic or on his best behavior.

  1. Faces on that Day will be bright as dawn,

Musfirah comes from safara, which means 'to remove the veil, to travel'. When one is moving one is exposed. Sufūr means 'unveiling of the face', that is, having nothing left to hide. 'Bright, shining faces' indicate that they are not in kufr (covering up, ingratitude), but, rather, they are open and at ease, in complete self-abandonment. If one is free now, one is free forever; if one is fulfilled now, one is fulfilled forever. It says in the Qur`an, 'A garden which encompasses the heavens and the earth' (3:133). This garden is in the heart, and the key to its gate is abandonment.

  1. Laughing, rejoicing at the good news.

All the messengers were charged with giving the good news (bushrā), which is that man emanates from an eternal source whose path goes from Allah to Allah and whose duty is to leave the state of sleep for that of wakefulness. Mustabshirah derives from istabshara, 'to rejoice, be delighted (at good news)'. It means that men will have been given the good news again.  At that time, it will be fully confirmed that the good news was the totality of creation, and that man is the representative of the Creator. He therefore encompasses the characteristics of the entire creation in his genes. The whole story of the cosmos exists in the microcosm of man.

  1. And faces that Day, dust will be on them.

Ghabarah, dust, comes from the verbal root ghabara, 'to elapse, pass, be bygone', and in its more intense related form, ghabbara, meaning 'to soil, or cover with dust'. Dust is something that descends and adheres to a surface to which it does not belong. This verse says that their faces will be covered with dust, meaning that they will have allowed their eternal, pure reality to be covered with something foreign on it.

  1. Darkness will cover them.

Rahiqa, "to come over or overtake someone," is the root of tarhaquhā. Murhiq, which is from the same root, means "oppressive". The implication of this ayah is that one will be oppressed by this blackness. This is a description of the basic duality, indicating the happiness of those who are in abandonment and the misery of those who are not. These conditions are polarized and exaggerated here into black and white so that they can be clearly seen.

  1. These are the ones who cover up, the wicket.

Those beings who have been encompassed by this gloomy, black tiredness are those who are in degenerate kufr. This is the description of an act, i.e., covering up, which does not occur within a normal arena of action; rather it occurs at the level of pure psyche, or h (soul, spirit). This is why even the most sophisticated human language can only allude to it. Knowledge of it can come about only when the h, which in fact is man's true self, is recognized. That is why it is said that if one truly knows oneself, one knows one's Lord.

This is the whole purpose and meaning of a spiritual path, of reflection. If reflection does not lead to this point, it will at best give an experience of transcendence. If it does not lead to this realization, it may at least make one a better Muslim or a better Christian. But the message from all the prophets, including the prophet Muhammad, sall-llāhu 'alayhi wa ālihi wa sallam, is tawhīd, the independent Oneness of Allah, and the oneness of man's own reality.

End of the Surah

Back Up Next

The Opening - A Commentary on Chapter 1: Surat Al-Fatiha ] The Cow - A Commentary on Chapter 2: Surat Al-Baqarah ] The Family of 'Imrān - A Commentary on Chapter 3: Surat Al-'Imrān ] The Spider - A Commentary on Chapter 29: Surat Al-'Ankabt ] The Heart of the Qur`an - A Commentary on Chapter 36: Surat Ya Sin ] The Beneficent - A Commentary on Chapter 55: Surat Al-Rahmn ] The Event - A Commentary on Chapter 56: Surat Al-Wqi'ah ] The Kingdom - A Commentary on Chapter 67: Surat Al-Mulk ] The Jinn - A Commentary on Chapter 72: Surat Al-Jinn ] The Unwrapped - A Commentary on Chapter 73: Surat Al-Muzzammil ] A Commentary on the Last Section of the Qur`an ]