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Surah al-Dhariyat (2)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Imam Hamiduddin Farahi
(Tr. by:Tariq Haashmi)

Winds and the Promised Retribution


The previous discussion makes it clear that the verses 1-4 (The winds that scatter dust, then carry the load, then speed lightly along, and then differentiate the affair) evoke the winds to substantiate the claim that follows. It is also clear that verse 7 (By the rippled clouds) cites the wintery clouds which frequently bring thunder and lightning to prove the claim that follows it. Clouds and thunder offer a more effective tool of warning and inspiring fear. It fits the occasion well. It highlights the gravity of their persistence in ignorance, conceitedness, indifference, and false assumptions. In the story of ‘Ād we find those fallen in these evils continue to shut their minds. Even after observing the signs of the impending punishment they joyfully welcomed it as clouds of rain. They were told that it was not what they expected. They were engrossed in sheer ignorance. The holy Qur’ān puts this incident in the following words:

They said, “Here is a passing cloud that will bring us rain.” No! It is but what you have sought to hasten: a hurricane bringing a woeful punishment.  (Q. 46:24) 

Both the proofs are of the same kind. The winds as well as clouds are clear signs of God. Both are natural phenomena God created. Winds are employed in useful as well destructive natural phenomena. Winds carry heavy watery clouds to a barren dead land. They carry the loaded ships to their destinations. These are their positive and benevolent operations. They, however, at times, blow violently and rain the land with sandstones. At times, they bring cold, thunder, and lightning. At other occasions, they bring incessant rains and flood the rivers, seas, and the land. All these operations and uses of winds are implied in the phrase muqassimāt amran (which differentiate the affair). God has power and control over the winds. His acts are always characterized by wisdom. He makes winds a beneficial natural phenomenon even in their extreme form. At occasions, He makes them destroy nations despite their apparent lean and weak blowing abilities. The punishment of Pharaoh proves this. We can even say that a single operation of winds proves a blessing for the believers and punishment for the rejecters. This is how winds differentiate between those who receive mercy and those who meet punishment. They in these operations act as rational beings, differentiating between the parties by the command of the Lord. The following passage from the Psalms contains a similar theme:

He sends his command to the earth. And his word runs swiftly. He showers down snow, white as wool, and sprinkles hoar-frost thick as ashes; crystals of ice he scatters like bread crumbs; he sends the cold, and the water stands frozen; he utters his words and the ice is melted; he blows with his wind and the waters flow. (Psalm 147: 15-18)

The last verse refers to winds as the word of God. This passage is a very difficult yet delicate discourse because the original Hebrew uses the same term for the word and the winds.

The most comprehensive Qur’ānic statement, regarding the signs of God, is the following verse:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the boats that sail the oceans with cargoes beneficial to man; and in the water, which God sent down from the sky and with which He revived the earth after its death and dispersed over it all kinds of living creatures; in the variation of the winds and in the clouds put to service, between earth and the skies: surely, in these there are many signs (ie. signs leading to tawḥīd, God’s power, providence, mercy, wisdom and justice) for rational men. (Q. 2:164)

In the variations of the winds and clouds— which benefit one people and harm another at the will of God— there are signs indicating that the affairs of all the created things in the universe are not purposelessly conducted. In the group of verses under discussion, the Almighty has specifically hinted towards this fact. He says that the winds differentiate between the virtuous and the rebellious. These verses also point out that God has power and cosmic jurisdiction over everything. Everything acts according to His will. The winds, which have no free will in the general meaning of the word, are also found working under the will of God. They perform acts which accord to His wisdom and justice. God has said: “To God belong the armies of the heavens and the earth.” (Q. 48:4) They work for the domination of the party of God. This group of verses includes the two messages of glad tidings and warnings, as has been clearly put in Sūrah al-Ṣāffāt. God swears by His representative armies in the beginning of Sūrah al-Ṣāffāt. Then He says: “We have already decreed concerning Our chosen prophets that they would receive Our help and that Our armies would be victorious.” (Q. 37:171-3)

All these things clearly evidence divine retribution. The subsequent discussions contain further detail. In my commentary on the punishment stories mentioned in the sūrah you shall learn the other fine points the winds and the clouds imply.


Coherence and Context (1-14)


The winds, which have been evoked in this passage, prove to be a blessing for one people and punishment for another. The holy Qur’ān, in most places, refers to the beneficial aspect of the winds. When it points out their use as a tool of punishment, it does so subtly by pointing out that they are under the control of the Wise Lord. That is why, here too, the initial oaths have been followed by a general assertion as a complement of oath (jawāb al-qasam), which implies mercy as well as punishment. The Almighty says: “What you are being promised is true and verily Judgment must indeed come to pass.” (Q. 51:5-6)

The sense of warning in the evidence sought from the ripply clouds is more vividly expressed. The very picture of the heavens with such clouds creates a strong impression of warning and rebuke. That is why it is immediately followed by a mention of those rejecters who mocked the idea of punishment and demanded that it be unleashed to them instantly. Allah refers to the punishment they deserve. Since the fate of the rejecters exemplified only one aspect of the promise of retribution the mention of the other party, the believers, and their reward becomes necessary which is afforded in the next verses. The Qur’ān generally contrasts encouragement with threats. Here God mentions the rejecters and their attributes first. It requires, as per the general Qur’ānic style, that their opposite, the party of believers, find a mention as well along with their attributes. This leads to the fact that these rejecters and mockers are not going to be rewarded like the believers. This fact has clearly been mentioned in many parts of the Qur’ān. The verses mentioning the second party, or the believers, follow:


Text and Translation: Q. 51: 15-19


إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَعُيُونٍ آخِذِينَ مَا آتَاهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَبْلَ ذَلِكَ مُحْسِنِينَ كَانُوا قَلِيلًا مِّنَ اللَّيْلِ مَا يَهْجَعُونَ وَبِالْأَسْحَارِ هُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ وَفِي أَمْوَالِهِمْ حَقٌّ لِّلسَّائِلِ وَالْمَحْرُومِ

The righteous shall dwell amidst gardens and fountains. They shall be receiving what their Lord has decreed for them. For they have previously been virtuous. They would sleep but little in the night-time and would pray at dawn for God’s pardon. The beggars and the deprived had a share in their wealth. (Q. 51: 15-19)


Explanation of Words and Ta’wīl of Sentences and Phrases: (Q.51: 15-19)

al-muttaqīn: the righteous

This adjective gives a comprehensive meaning. It is a distinguishing quality. Detail can be found in our commentary on the initial verses of Sūrah al-Baqarah.1 In this context it implies, though subtly, the qualities opposite to that of the rejecters mentioned in the previous verses.


fī jannātin wa ‘uyūn: amidst gardens and fountains

This is expressive of success and pleasure. It also connotes permanence of the blessings.


Ākhidhīna: receiving

It is the best expression of permanence of the blessings. Instead of saying that they have received what God has bestowed upon them, it says that they would be the receivers of divine blessings. This clearly indicates that what they would have already been blessed with shall remain with them forever. This meaning is obtained in this phrase by its placement next to the previous sentence indicating continuity of the blessings. The meaning of the whole would be as follows: they would live forever in the gardens and would continue enjoying the blessings of their Lord.


innahum kānū: indeed they were

This expression too depicts the state of the successful believers. This state, however, has an argumentative aspect. This further corroborates the conclusion that the rejecters were not characterized by these qualities as has been clearly stated in many verses of the holy Qur’ān. The form and placement of the sentence makes it similar to iltifāt (direct address). It, in ways, resembles the divine saying in the previous group of verses: “Taste your fitnah” i.e. what you cherished in the worldly life. Here again it assumes that the Day of Judgment has already come. That is why the deeds and acts of the believers in the worldly life are expressed in the past tense.


Muḥsinīn: best performers

The word, in this context, has been used in a general sense. This adjective is specially and pointedly noted in the context of the best performance of the ṣalāh and the zakāh for two reasons. First, these two worship rituals are the most important practices in the religion. They have been considered the distinguishing signs of the believers. That is why we see that, in this passage, a mention of them is followed by two relevant qualities of the believers. Less sleep relates to the ṣalāh and generosity alludes to the zakāh.


kānū qalīlan min al-layli mā yahja‘ūn: They sleep but little in the night-time

Al-hujū‘ is sleep. The implication is that they interest themselves in offering the ṣalāh and remembering God during night-time. Elsewhere it has been stated: “They forsake their beds to pray to their Lord in fear and hope and give in alms from what We gave them.” (Q. 32:14) At another occasion God says: “O Muzzammil! keep vigil all night save for a little portion of it.” (Q. 73:1)

This sentence explains their quality of being muḥsin. The grammatical structure of the sentence can be explained in various ways without affecting the meaning. All the possible structures give a single meaning, i.e. they sleep little. The following structures are possible. 1. Their sleep has been little (innahum kānū qalīlan hujū‘uhum). 2. The time they sleep during the night was short (mā yahja‘ūna fīhī min al-layl). 3. They slept little time of the night (kānū yahja‘ūna qalīlan min al-layl). Imām Rāzī opines that the sentence structure is as follows: kānū qalīlīnawa innahum lāyahja‘ūna min al-layl i.e. they were less in number and that they do not sleep during the night-time. This is indeed a very improbable sentence structure.


wa bi al-asḥār: at dawn

Saḥr is used for the time a little before the daylight. This is the most appropriate time for seeking forgiveness. Concerning the muttaqīn it has been said: “[They are] steadfast, virtuous, heedful to God, and charitable. They implore forgiveness at dawn.” (Q. 3:17)

In one of the sound ḥadīths the Prophet (sws) mentioned this fact in no unclear terms. I have explained this issue in my commentary on the referred to verses forming part of Sūrah Āl-‘Imrān. Imām Ḥasan drew a very subtle meaning from the use of the conjunction wāw in the phrase wa bi al-asḥār (and at dawn). He held that this wāw indicates that the believers join this quality (praying at dawn) with the previous one (praying in the night time). He said: “they wholly remained engaged in praying during the night and prolong it till the time of seeking forgiveness in the morning approaches.”2 I believe the text does not reflect it plainly. Yet, however, this point is not very farfetched one. God knows best.


al-maḥrūm: deprived

The word al-maḥrūm has been placed after the word al-sā’il seeker). This placement entails that it connotes those of the needy who do not ask others for help as the word sā’il already covers them. Qatādah holds the same view. He is reported to have said that it is applied to such among the needy who do not ask for help.3 Al-Zuhrī said that it refers to the self-restrained.4 Perhaps both of these exegetes base their view on the following verse: “(Alms are) for the poor who are restricted in the cause of God – cannot move about in the land for work: the ignorant take them for men of wealth on account of their self-restraint. You can recognize them by their look—they do not beg from men importunately.” (Q. 2:273)


Coherence and Context: Q. 51: 15-19

This passage contrasts the rejecters with the believers. A discourse marked with brevity (‘ījāz), this passage beautifully points to unstated things by contrasting them with the stated facts. These verses state that the rejecters are fallen in the depths of heedlessness. We can learn that the believers, contrarily, are fully conscious and are certain that they will meet their Lord. The attribute muttaqīn (God-conscious) guides us to this inference for the essence of consciousness is taqwā (God-consciousness). This has been explained earlier. Similarly when these verses state that the God-conscious perform good deeds in their best form and that they offer the ṣalāh and pay the zakāh we learn that the rejecters are hard hearted, wretched and misers. That is why the holy Qur’ān quotes them saying: “They would say, ‘We were not to offer the ṣalāh. We would not feed the needy.’” (Q. 74:43-4)

Verses 8-9 form a parenthetical comment. These follow arguments for the last accountability. These verses start with a disapproval of the conduct of the unbelievers. This is further followed by a mention of the fate of those showing the opposite conduct, the believers. This way the verses combine encouragement for the believers with warning to the rejecters. Then (in the below mentioned verses) the topic of arguments for the Last Judgment has been taken up yet another time, for it is the central theme (‘umūd) of the discourse. That is why the following passage has been conjoined with the preceding one by the use of the conjunction wāw (and). This points out that the oaths in the initial verses are based on arguments and signs. Now ponder over the next verses:


Text and Translation Q. 51: 20-23


وَفِي الْأَرْضِ آيَاتٌ لِّلْمُوقِنِينَ وَفِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَفَلَا تُبْصِرُونَ وَفِي السَّمَاء رِزْقُكُمْ وَمَا تُوعَدُونَ فَوَرَبِّ السَّمَاء وَالْأَرْضِ إِنَّهُ لَحَقٌّ مِّثْلَ مَا أَنَّكُمْ تَنطِقُونَ

On earth, and in your selves, there are signs for believers. Can you not see? Heavens holds your sustenance and all that you are promised. I swear by the Lord of heaven and earth, that this is true, as true as you speak! (Q. 51: 20-23)


Explanation of Words and Ta’wīl of Sentences and Phrases: Q. 51: 20-23


wa fī al-arḍ: On earth

This passage is joined with the meaning of the preceding oaths. It is as though it has been said, “verily in the alteration of the winds and the clouds there are signs which prove the Last Judgment. Similarly there are signs on earth and in your selves also proving the same reality.” The phrase ‘āyātlil-mūqinīn (signs for the believers), in this place, serves to state that only the mūqinīn(believers) may benefit from the signs. This restriction of the benefit of the signs to the muttaqīn follows a very frequently used Qur’ānic style. Consider the following verses:


Guidance for the muttaqīn (the God-fearing). (Q. 2:2)

Surely in this there is a reminder for every man who has a heart, and who hears heedfully. (Q. 50:37)

An insight (baṣīrah) and a reminder to every heedful man.  (Q. 50:8)

Surely in this there is a sign for him that dreads the torment of the hereafter. (Q. 11:103)

Signs for men of understanding. (Q. 45:5, Q. 13:4, Q. 16:12, Q. 30:24)


All these verses tell us that there are signs for those who intend to make use of and take guidance from them, just as the saying goes: “Day has dawned for those who have eyes.” These kinds of the verses give important lessons of two kinds.

First, all are not forced to take heed and benefit from the signs. These signs do not benefit everyone. We know that the rejecters could not benefit from them. These signs benefit only those who pay heed. One thing, however, is clear. These signs and arguments are clear and evident. It is only the people who fail to benefit from them.

Second, these verses explain the conditions that are to be fulfilled for taking benefit from these signs and arguments. The indicators and the conditions they allude to require analysis and deliberation. I intend to discuss some of these conditions here.

That only the mūqinīn may take benefit from these signs entails that signs help only those who make them a point to ponder on and infer guidance from them. We discern this from the fact that the argumentation from these signs is based on one’s tendency to rely on and believe in what they lead to for argumentation and inference is based on two things:

a. recognition of universally acknowledged facts upon which the argument rests, a priori data for example.

b. agreement to accept sound conclusions.

This is important because the rejecters of a fact can be of two kinds: a) those adopting sophistry and rejecting even the first principles, not to say of other forms of valid arguments and b) the blind followers and wrongdoers.

The second category of the rejecters, at times, do not actually reject the first principles, but reject the sound conclusions immediately resulting from the first principles because of their conceitedness. We see that the holy Qur’ān frequently exposes this kind of contradiction in their view. It refers to this very wrong from them in frequent comments like the following ones: fa annā tu’fakūn (how then do you turn away?) and fa annā tusḥarūn (how then can you be so bewitched).

In short, the holy Qur’ān, in this context, has referred to the first condition for one can obtain sound knowledge through arguments. I believe those who lack this quality may not be considered humans. They belong to animals lacking rationality. They do not merit being addressed in this connection. Then in the next verses the holy Qur’ān has indicated the essence of yaqīn (belief) as you shall soon learn.

The Almighty has not mentioned the direct object of the implied verb in the adjective mūqinīn. It has not been stated what the referred to people believe in what they have firm faith in. This, I believe, is because the Qur’ān intends to keep it general so that all such things can be understood as that which ought to be believed in. The most fundamental realities among these include tawḥid (unicity of God), risālah (prophethood) and the Last Judgment.

Yaqīn, in this place, is not having belief in obvious imperial phenomena. This kind of yaqīn is found in all the humans including the rejecters (kāfir) and even the animals. Yaqīn here refers to the belief obtained through careful deliberation over the signs of God in the world and then inferring certain realities. Only this kind of yaqīn proves that one has a sound mind and intellect. This fact has been explained in detail in our commentary on verse three of Sūrah al-Baqarah.5

The word mūqinīn too is used in this passage in its general sense, as mentioned above. The context, however, guides us to know that it implies belief in the Afterlife. Besides, at other places, the Qur’ān makes this fact explicit, such as in the verse: wabi al-ākhirati hum yūqinūn (of the Judgment are they certain.)


Afa lātubṣirūn: Can you not see?

This interrogative is expressive of wonder as well as repulsion. The signs of God found in oneself are the more manifest and clearest ones of all. The one who fails to notice these is in fact blind.


wa fī al-arḍ […..] wa mā tū‘adūn (verses 20-22)

This passage covers an uncountable number of signs of tawḥīd, God’s providence, and wisdom. A Qur’ānic parallel follows: “Many of the signs in the heavens and the earth they pass by while not heeding them.” (Q. 12:105) The holy Qur’ān contains a lot of brief as well as detailed verses on this issue. I do not feel a need to repeat them all. Some of them, however, will be discussed later in this sūrah. The context of the verse indicates that the word āyāt implies only those of the signs which lead to the Afterlife. In fact all the signs of God’s providence, power, wisdom, and mercy lead to the Afterlife. This I have explained elsewhere in the book.

This passage follows a particular style of terseness. Sometimes a speaker confines the discussion to the mention of only one aspect of a thing. He considers it sufficient and leaves it for the listeners to deduce the complements. Thus the mention of the earth as sign of God suffices. Its opposite, the heavens, has been omitted. Similar the Almighty has mentioned the sustenance from the heavens and left out the part played by the earth. What has been promised concerning the heavens too has been considered sufficient and the part played by the earth again has been omitted. There are, however, many verses in which it has been explicitly mentioned that the heavens too contain the signs. That the earth too contains sources of sustenance and what is promised has also been made explicit in many other verses. As for the part played by the earth with regards to the promise of the Last Judgment, we can refer to the following verse: “It [the Last Day] is a heavy thing, in the heavens and on earth.” (Q. 7:187) The implication is that they [the heavens and the earth] are heavy with the signs of the Last Day which they carry. These are waiting for the command of their Lord to bear those signs.


Fa wa rabbi al-samā’i wa al-arḍ: I swear by the Lord of heaven and earth

This oath contains a clear argument for the Last Judgment for the signs found in the heavens and the earth mentioned earlier clearly lead to the afterlife. Then the Lord of the heavens and the earth has been referred to as witness to the fact that the Last Judgment is sure to come. If this oath would not be based on the signs recounted earlier, the oath would not have been conjugated with the previous verses by the particle fa [and/therefore] which connotes necessary immediate consequence. The preposition fa joins this sentence with the previous one very strongly and expressly. The word rabb (lord) also indicates the implied argumentation. Every sign in the heavens and the earth, and also in humans themselves, is a sign of the providence of God. All the arguments for the Last Judgment are based on this fact alone. This issue will be further explained in the next section.


innahū laḥaqqun: that this is true

The muqsam ‘alayhi (complement of the oath) repeats the assertion made in the oaths in beginning of the sūrah. In those verses it has been said, “that which you are being promised is true; and verily Judgment must indeed come to pass.” (Q. 51:5-6). The phrase mā tū‘adūna has again been repeated in the previous verse. That is why in this place the pronoun sufficed to indicate to it. This can, therefore, be paraphrased as follows: By the Lord of the Heavens and the earth you will surely be resurrected and judged. There is no doubt in that.


mithla mā annakum tanṭiqūn: as true as you speak

The word mithla has been put in the accusative (naṣab) form. It is an expression of circumstance or state of the pronoun “hū, (it)” in innahū (it is). There is no verb in the sentence to govern this adverb. The function of the absent verb is substituted by the word laḥaqqun (it is true). The grammarians call such a replacement shibh al-fi‘l, that takes the stead of a verb. An example is the sentence: “zayd ḥasunun ḍāḥikan (Zayd looks good while smiling).” In this sentence the noun ḥasanun (good/beautiful) works as a verb. This verbal sense becomes apparent in English. The sentence thus can be paraphrased as follows. What you are being promised, including resurrection, returning to God and reward and punishment, is true. There is no doubt in it. It is as true as you find yourselves speaking.

The earlier authorities do not differ over the interpretation of the verse. They, however, differ over the original (not apparent) declensions of the word mithla. Some commentators hold that its original case is nominative (raf‘). They hold that it has only been put in accusative form (naṣab) only because it has, in this place, been attributed to something which is indeclinable (ghayr mutamakkin). This follows the use of the phrase yawma’idhin (that day). A group of the reciters of the Qur’ān including Ḥamzah, Kisā’ī and Abū Bakr have read the word as mithlu with the final ḍammah making it marfū‘ (in the nominative case). All these grammatical structures give the same meaning. The best explanation of the use of this similitude (likeness of promise with the phenomenon of human speech), in this occasion, is that it implies certain arguments. This issue will be discussed in the ninth section.


Nature of Evidence for Accountability in Q. 51: 20-23

These four signs cover all the evidences for accountability found in the heavens, the earth and in humans themselves. We know that God has created wonders in humans as well as in the earth and the heavens and what lies between these two. He has created things which reveal His power to create. Everything corresponds to the needs and requirements of others. One thing supports the function of the other. Thus in every such wonder and creature of God there are signs which contain clear arguments for tawḥīd and God’s providence. A little deliberation on the order of the universe shows that the creator of this universe is dominant, powerful, knowing, wise, just and merciful. Further deliberation shows that a creator possessing these attributes must hold humans accountable for their actions in life. All these attributes demand that He hold final judgment. The signs in the universe and in humans lead to the fact that there is one God (tawḥīd). Then unicity of God leads to the necessity of retribution and accountability. The holy Qur’ān has put this order of the arguments elsewhere in clear terms. I have discussed some of such arguments in my work Ḥujaj al-Qur’ān (Arguments in the Qur’ān).6 In this passage, God Almighty started by a reference to the signs of God’s providence in general terms. Then He has referred specifically to the signs which call for retribution. He has indicated this line of argument in the verse: “And in the heavens is your sustenance and also that which you are promised.” (Q. 51:22). It argues that the Lord who provides sustenance from the heavens and the earth has not created humans without purpose. He will not leave them unaccountable. Elsewhere it has been put plainly in the following words: “Do you think that We created you in jest, and that you would not be brought back to Us (for account)?” (Q. 23:115)

This theme has been put clearly in the next verse. God says: “By the Lord of heaven and earth, this is true, as true as the fact that you speak!” (Q. 51:23). The verse bases retribution and accountability on the fact that God is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. This includes all the signs found in the heavens and earth and human beings themselves which lead to accountability. This fact has been explicitly mentioned in the holy Qur’ān at another occasion, for one part of the Qur’ān explains other parts. God says: “Soon will We show them our signs in the (furthest) regions [of the earth], and in their own persons, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the truth.” (Q. 41:53) The implication is that it the last judgment is true. This implication becomes clear when we study the last part of the same verse. God says: “Is it not enough that your Lord does witness all things?” (Q. 41:53) That He is the Lord and that He observes everything sufficiently proves that He will hold a final judgment. This has further been explained in the verse immediately following the above mentioned one. God says: “Beware! Are they in doubt concerning the meeting with their Lord? Beware! It is He that does encompass all things!” (Q. 41:54). Omniscience, power, dominion, rule, wisdom and mercy of God, all entail final judgment.

The above is an analysis of the argumentation contained in the group of verses under discussion. These arguments have been detailed and explained in other parts of the Qur’ān. I cannot afford detailing them all in this place. I will confine the discussion to the part of this argumentation that is necessary to detail here.


The Speech Faculty as Evidence for the Last Judgment

It is clear that when the phrase “mithla mā annakum tanṭiqūn (as true as the fact that you are speaking now)” is joined with what precedes it, it means that the Last Judgment, which includes resurrection and retribution, is a reality. It is sure to come. It is as sure as the reality in which you find yourselves speaking. Do not then doubt it. This much obviously follows from the wording of the statement. However, comparison of the possibility of the last judgment with the possibility of the human speech is a kind of similitude. It contains some points of wisdom calling for deliberation. God has chosen to refer to the speech phenomenon in order to make us consider something important. He could have said, “as true as you see, or hear, or eat or drink”. But he has not. When we ponder over the question why speech has been specifically mentioned we understand two great realities:

Speech phenomenon is the most certain observation. We are sure of this experience more than any other human activity.

It must involve something that can be presented as proof for the final judgment. This you shall learn soon. You will see that both these issues contain substantial wisdom which polish reason and cure the hearts.

I begin by explaining the first point. I base my view that speech is the most certain of phenomena on three facts.

The speech faculty is the most direct experience of human beings. We know that human beings come into contact and experience other things through the thinking process which is a mental speech. The thinking process lies immediately connected to the self. There is no other connector between the self and the mind. Thinking indeed is the original and pure form of speech. This is why the human self is called the speaking self. As for the external manifestation of speech, the auditory speech, that is only a manifestation and material form of the original speech activity. Thus experience and knowledge of the speech faculty is the most obvious and immediate human knowledge. It is the most self-evident and fundamental truth.

The speech faculty is the most deep-rooted and well ingrained in the human self. It is an essential part of the human nature. That is why they define a human being as speaking animal. The Arabs themselves acknowledge this fact. Al-Muraqqish al-Akbar says:


hal bi al-diyāri ’an tujība ṣamam

law kāna ḥayyun/rasmun nāṭiqan kallam


(Is there only deafness in the settlement (which cannot) respond? Had there been someone alive and with power of speech he would have spoken.)7

All the states and external manifestations of the human self provide various kinds of corroboratory evidences proving certain facts. Speech, however, is the only faculty which combines in itself most of such diverse signs and arguments.

Some facts are self-evident. They are natural truths. Yet sometimes we offer corroboratory evidences for them. Such corroboratory evidences are independent from and above the self-evident nature of the given facts. They are usually helpful in convincing us and adding to strength to our belief in these facts.

If you consider the speech phenomenon with this perspective you will learn that it contains and involves more evidences to the given facts than any other human faculty. A human being, endowed with speech faculty, first engages in thinking and reasoning. This thinking and reasoning is the original inner speech activity. By this he experiences himself. He learns that he exists. Then the reasoning man expresses his thought by his tongue. He speaks of only that which he thinks. The voice he utters returns to him. What he expresses he hears. This increases his belief in his existence. Then these evidences based on human speech continue increasing. Every word, rather, every alphabet one utters evidences these mutual corroboratory facts. Nothing is clearer a sign leading to the existence of the speaking self, or the human being. This is why the Almighty has referred to mere human speech in this place. He has not used the word mithla nuṭuqikum (like your speech). He has referred to human activity and the experience of speech. He used the words mithla mā annakum tanṭiqūn (the way you speak). The above discussion shows that our knowledge of and belief in anything we know in is a branch (far‘) of our reliance on and use of our speech: the origin of all beliefs and argumentations.

Now we discuss the second point, that this similitude implies certain evidences leading to the Last Judgment. There is no denying the fact that, at times, similitude is based on mere claims. This aspect of the figure of speech is frequently employed by poets. However, at times, the similitude implies a sort of argument as is the case with the present example. We know based on the original form of speech of reasoning and thinking, that there is a common bond between a thing and what is presented as an example to it. It is based on this shared quality that the similitude is possible. This is similar to the practice of analogy. Take the example of wine. You say that an intoxicant like khamar is ḥarām. By this you indicate the reason which makes something ḥarām. This shared quality is referred to as manāṭ al-ḥukm (the cause of the directive). Then if the manāt al-ḥukm (the effective cause) is more evident in the new case then the directive applies to it (far‘) all the more. Such an application is called qiyās awlā (superior qiyās).

Keeping the above in perspective we state that the comparison of human speech with the last judgment is not a mere similitude. It contains an argument for the necessary final judgment. When you ponder over the coherence in the discourse it would become clear to you that the phenomenon of human speech in many aspects resembles and corresponds to the issue of the last divine judgment. Now I proceed to explain these important similarities between the two.

1. The oath itself leads to the first common connector of the speech and the last judgment. This oath, like many others, is an argumentative oath. I have explained this issue in my book Im‘ān fī Aqsām al-Qur’ān (A Study of Qur’ānic Oaths).8 Here the evidence adduced is the providence of the Lord of the heavens and the earth. We have explained in the preceding paragraphs that the heavens and the earth are full of signs of providence of God leading to the necessity of the last judgment. This oath adduces as evidence the heavens and the earth and the signs contained in both of these. All these, the heavens and the earth and the signs they contain, evidence that the people are being provided by God. Among these signs, speech is the most clear and manifest one. God Himself has referred to it in the following verse: “They will say: “[Allah] has given us speech,- [He] who gives speech to everything.”” (Q. 41:21) At another occasion, it has been stated: “there is not a thing but celebrates His praise.” (Q. 17:44). It is as though it has been said, “just as you have speech so do these things speak, thus return to the Lord is an indubitable fact.”

2. God has endowed human beings not only with the power to speak but to repeat what they speak. By repeated efforts man can improve his expression. He speaks better the next time. This way he can master perfection in speech. It is the greatest of God’s blessings upon man. It has been said in the holy Qur’ān: “He created man. He taught him how to speak.” (Q. 55:3-4) If man ponders over his power to speak and repeats his statements he learns that it is not possible for him to deny that God has power to create things after their destruction. This is just as humans can speak something and then speak it again or continue to speak. It is even easier for God to recreate things because He has created everything by His word (kalimah). He does not need to use any raw material for the making of things. He says: “For to anything which We have willed, We but say the word, ‘Be’, and it is.” (Q. 16:40).

The entire creation of God is but a word from Him. He has created the heavens and earth by His word. He can repeat this creation process through the word at will. Even more so, it is easier for Him to recreate. He says: “It is He Who begins creation; then repeats it; and for Him it is the easiest.” (Q. 30:27) If this is correct that He creates everything and then continues creating it, then, it follows that, He will not find it difficult to recreate humans after their death. God has said: “Is not He who created the heavens and the earth able to create the like thereof?” (Q. 36:81) “To create the like thereof” implies that He is able to recreate them after giving them death. For, the discussion here revolves in the context of proving the afterlife. Thus the mere fact that He is the creator of the heavens and the earth is sufficient proof that He can recreate. This fact has been clearly put in other verses dealing with the proofs for the afterlife. Those verses base their argument merely on the fact that God has the perfect power to create and that He knows all. This has been indicated in the verses which follow the above mentioned one (Q. 30:27). God says: “Yes, indeed! for He is the Creator Supreme, of skill and knowledge! Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, “be”, and it is! So glory to Him in whose hands is the dominion of all things: and to Him will you be all brought back.” (Q. 36:81-3). Similarly, He has stated, “Verily, all things have We created in proportion and measure. And our command is but single,—like the twinkling of an eye.” (Q. 54:49-50)

To sum up, the implication is that in the fact that you speak, there is evidence that the Lord has great power to resurrect you. He has more power over the recreation than that you have on repeating your speech experience. It is easier for Him to recreate than for you to speak from another angle also. When you speak you make use of some material means which God has created for the purpose. At times you do not have access to such means, and then you fail to speak. At times you forget what you say previously and are no more able to reproduce what you spoke of, completely or partially. As for God, His power to resurrect is absolute. He is as powerful to recreate as He is to create. What we have stated above has been mentioned in clear words in various places in the holy Qur’ān. Consider the following verses:


Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones? Nay, We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers. (Q. 75:3-4)

 And you certainly know already the first form of creation: why then do you not celebrate His praises? (Q. 56:62)

And He makes comparisons for Us, and forgets his own creation: He says: “Who can give life to dry bones and decomposed ones at that?” Say: “He will give them life who created them for the first time! for He is Well-versed in every kind of creation!” (Q. 36:78-9)


There are numerous other verses on this theme. This kind of argumentation for the afterlife argues with only those who negate the afterlife declaring it an impossible work. Response to their objection is thus obtained in rejection of the view that it is impossible for God to resurrect them.

3. Speech returns to the speaker. Only the deaf cannot perceive it. Moreover, a deaf person is often speechless. He cannot speak. Similarly the creations of God shall return to Him. Just as the voice of a speaker’s utterances return to him the creation must return to its creator for it is He who controls it perfectly. All the creatures exist because of His will. It does not escape His rule, His power and His knowledge. The following verses refer to this reality: “Is not He who created the heavens and the earth able to create the like thereof? Yes, indeed! for He is the Supreme Creator, of skill and knowledge! Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is: ‘be,’, and it is! So glory to Him in whose hands is the dominion of all things: and to Him will you be all brought back.” (Q. 36:81-3). How is it possible that God creates all of creation and then they do not return to Him? Does God speak but not hear? Does He create and yet lack the ability to observe His creation? Does he create things ex nihilo and then loses control over them? Does He plan all the creation and then loses rule over these? Certainly not.

This argumentation confutes the view that it is not possible for God to resurrect things once they are destroyed completely. This view has been quoted in the following verse: “What! When we die and become dust, [shall we live again]. That is a sort of return far from our understanding.” We already know how much of them the earth takes away: With Us is a guarding record.” (Q. 50:3-4) The same theme has been expressed in the following verses: They say: “What! when we die and become dust and bones, could we really be raised up again? Such things have been promised to us and to our fathers before! They are nothing but tales of the ancients!” Say: “To whom belong the earth and all beings therein if you know?” They will say: “To Allah.” Say: “Yet will you not receive admonition?” Say: “Who is the Lord of the seven heavens, and the Lord of the Supreme throne?” They will say: “[They belong] to Allah.” Say: “Will you not then fear?” Say: “Who is it in whose hands is the governance of all things,- who protects [all], but is not protected [of any]? [Say:] if you know.” They will say: “[It belongs] to Allah.” Say: “Then how are you deluded?” (Q. 23:82-9)

Notice how emphatically these verses point that all the creation is in His grip and rule. All belongs to Him. All lie in His dominion. He is the shelter. Nothing can shelter Him. He guards everything. This kind of argument proving the power of God and His ability to resurrect is frequently found in the holy Qur’ān. I do not need to present all the verses in this regard. I consider the above specimen sufficient a model of this form of arguments.

4. The fourth aspect of argumentation from the human speech for the afterlife is based on the similarity between God’s attributes of providence and justice and the human faculty of speech. We know that the holy Qur’ān forwards the arguments based on God’s providence in many ways. A full understanding of these arguments requires that one keeps in mind that God’s providence and justice are necessary complements of each other. The concept of providence cannot be imagined without perfect justice. The holy Qur’ān, therefore, clearly and unequivocally declares that the heavens and the earth rest upon divine justice. It says: “If the truth had been in accord with their desires, truly the heavens and the earth, and all beings therein would have been in corruption.” (Q. 23:71)

In this passage, signs of the heavens and the earth have been mentioned first. This is followed by evidence from God’s providence proving the afterlife. The conclusion uses the example of human speech to stress certainty of the afterlife. The entire structure of arguments can be put plainly as follows:

All of your planned acts start from thinking. This is mental speech. Your faculty of speech distinguishes you from the rest of the animals who lack this faculty. This is your distinctive attribute and quality. Similarly God too has held distinctive qualities. He is characterized by the attribute of justice and mercy. In this universe, you observe various wonderful phenomena. All of these indicate that this universe has been created by someone possessed of profound wisdom. This in turn proves that the universe has been created for a specific purpose and that it will surely meet an end involving mercy and wisdom. It follows from this that you have not been created without purpose. It is, therefore, necessary that everybody is held accountable for his conduct in this worldly life and is rewarded or punished according to his deeds. God must differentiate between the good and the evil, the virtuous and the pious.

This conclusion has been clearly affirmed in various places in the holy Qur’ān. Consider a few such verses:


Shall we then treat the believers like the criminals? What is the matter with you? How do you judge? (Q. 67:35-6)

It is He who begins the process of creation. He shall repeat it so that He may reward with justice those who believe and work righteousness. (Q. 10:4)

We did not create heaven and earth and all between without purpose! That was the thought of those who do not believe in the afterlife. But woe to the rejecters because of the fire! Shall we treat those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, the same as those who do mischief on earth? Shall we treat those who fear God, the same as the disobedient? (Q. 30:27-8)

 Such reminders are frequently sounded in the holy Qur’ān. The basic argument behind all of them is that the divine mercy, justice, and wisdom demand the final judgment. In other words it says that you speak out of specific purposes and ends. God has similarly created the heavens and the earth and humans themselves for a specific purpose. They will be led to fulfill this purpose. This latter fact is rather sounder and well established and more obvious than the former, for the Lord is perfectly wise and just. When humans perform acts and speak to meet specific purposes, the one who is more just and wise must have also created the universe for a defined purpose.

This interpretation is better, sounder and truer to the text. Still however I do not claim that I have covered all the meanings and significations of the text. Meanings and significations of the divine speech may only exhaustively covered by God himself.



(Translated by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)


1. The author has explained in his commentary on Sūrah al-Baqarah that ittiqā’ in the Qur’an is used in four senses.

1. Protection against something that threatens with harms.

2. Fear of any harm and evil.

3. Fearfulness of a person conscious of the al-knowing Allah who blesses a grateful person and does not approve of rejection and sinfulness.

4. Combination of these three senses. When used in this sense it refers to persisting in avoiding sin fearing its harmful effects and corresponding displeasure from the Almighty. The verb and its cognates are abundantly used unaccompanied by the objects in the Qur’an. In this sense the word taqwā is often employed. (Ḥamīd al-Dīn Farāhī, Nizām al-Qur’ān, Sūrah al-Baqarah, 1st ed., (A‘ẓam Garh: Dā’irah al-Ḥamīdiyyah, 2000), 60-61.

2. Abū Ja‘far Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, Jāmi‘ al-bayān ‘an ta’wīl ay al-Qur’an, 1st ed., vol. 26 (Beirut: Dār iḥyā’ al-turāth al-‘arabī, 2001), 234.

3. Ibid., vol. 26, 125.

4. Ibid.

5. Yuqinūn, ayqanabial-shay’ means he knows it surely and does not have any doubt regarding it. The almighty says: “Nay. were you to know with certainty of mind, you shall certainly see Hell-Fire! Again, you shall see it with certainty of sight!” (Q. 102:5-7)

What is the difference between īmān and īqān? Īmān implies recognition and acceptance. Its opposite is (takdhīb) belying, (juḥūd) knowingly rejection and kufr (rejetion). Opposite of īqān is doubt and uncertainity. Every mūqin (the one who is certain of something) is not necessarily true in his statement. Rather men at time reject facts out of haughtiness and conceit while they are certain of them. An example is afforded by Pharaoh and his allies. The Qur’ān says: “But when Our signs came to them, clear and manifest, they said: "This is sorcery manifest!" And they rejected those signs in iniquity and arrogance.” (Q. 27:13-4)

Similarly not everyone who believes (āmanā) is certain in his belief. At times one believes in this on the basis of probability. Then Allah Almighty blesses him with the capability and he escapes from the impression of ẓann. However, the īmān is not perfect unless attended by certitude (īqān). Thus āmān is two parts: knowledge and submission. With the perfect presence of these two the īmān is perfected. However, when a man of pure unaffected heart has knowledge it suffices him because the knowledge necessarily lends sumission and ability to act according to the knowledge to a man of pure heart to the level of his knowledge.

As for īqān it the cognitive part of īmān yet it adds a degree in the knowledge. (Farāhī, Nizam al-Qur’ān, al-Baqarah, 3)

6. The author could not complete the manual. The manuscript is still unpublished.

7. Al-Mufaḍḍaliyyāt, 7th ed. Editors. Ahmad Muhammad Shakir and Abd al-Salam Muhammad Haroon, (Cairo: Dar al-Ma‘ārif, Nd.), 237. 

8. Farāhī, A Study of the Qur’ānic Oaths, al-Mawrid, Lahore, 2010.

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