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Sūrah Nāzi’āt - ‘Abas
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)



Both these sūrahs form a pair in relation to the subject discussed in them. In the first sūrah, the Quraysh have been warned of their insolent behaviour through certain references from the episode of Moses (sws) and Pharaoh and through the  words ‘You are but a warner for those who fear it’ while in the second sūrah, this behaviour has been condemned in an extremely severe tone in the wake of an event.

In these sūrahs, particularly the second one, the Prophet (sws) is seemingly addressed, but a little deliberation shows that both are directed at the arrogant leadership of the Quraysh, and it is evident from their contents that, like the previous sūrahs, they were revealed in Makkah in the phase of indhār-i-‘ām of the Prophet’s mission (sws).

In the first sūrah, arguments on the actual theme are presented from various signs in the world around man and history, while in the second one, along with evidence from the world around man, the testimony of the various manifestations of Allah’s providence and power and control is also presented.

The central themes of both sūrahs is to substantiate the Day of Judgement, to warn the Quraysh with its reference and to admonish them on their behaviour towards it. In the second sūrah however, this admonishment has taken the form of a severe reprimand.


Sūrah Nāz’iāt

وَالنَّازِعَاتِ غَرْقًا  وَالنَّاشِطَاتِ نَشْطًا  وَالسَّابِحَاتِ سَبْحًا  فَالسَّابِقَاتِ سَبْقًا  فَالْمُدَبِّرَاتِ أَمْرًا (١-٥)

يَوْمَ تَرْجُفُ الرَّاجِفَةُ  تَتْبَعُهَا الرَّادِفَةُ  قُلُوبٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ وَاجِفَةٌ  أَبْصَارُهَا خَاشِعَةٌ (٦-٩)

يَقُولُونَ أَئِنَّا لَمَرْدُودُونَ فِي الْحَافِرَةِ  أَئِذَا كُنَّا عِظَامًا نَّخِرَةً  قَالُوا تِلْكَ إِذًا كَرَّةٌ خَاسِرَةٌ (١٠-١٢)

فَإِنَّمَا هِيَ زَجْرَةٌ وَاحِدَةٌ  فَإِذَا هُم بِالسَّاهِرَةِ (١٣-١٤)

هَلْ أتَاكَ حَدِيثُ مُوسَى  إِذْ نَادَاهُ رَبُّهُ بِالْوَادِ الْمُقَدَّسِ طُوًى  اذْهَبْ إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّهُ طَغَى  فَقُلْ هَل لَّكَ إِلَى أَن تَزَكَّى  وَأَهْدِيَكَ إِلَى رَبِّكَ فَتَخْشَى  فَأَرَاهُ الْآيَةَ الْكُبْرَى  فَكَذَّبَ وَعَصَى  ثُمَّ أَدْبَرَ يَسْعَى  فَحَشَرَ فَنَادَى  فَقَالَ أَنَا رَبُّكُمُ الْأَعْلَى  فَأَخَذَهُ اللَّهُ نَكَالَ الْآخِرَةِ وَالْأُولَى  إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَعِبْرَةً لِّمَن يَخْشَى (١٥-٣٣)

أَأَنتُمْ أَشَدُّ خَلْقًا أَمِ السَّمَاء بَنَاهَا  رَفَعَ سَمْكَهَا فَسَوَّاهَا  وَأَغْطَشَ لَيْلَهَا وَأَخْرَجَ ضُحَاهَا  وَالْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ ذَلِكَ دَحَاهَا  أَخْرَجَ مِنْهَا مَاءهَا وَمَرْعَاهَا  وَالْجِبَالَ أَرْسَاهَا  مَتَاعًا لَّكُمْ وَلِأَنْعَامِكُمْ (٢٧-٣٤)

فَإِذَا جَاءتِ الطَّامَّةُ الْكُبْرَى  يَوْمَ يَتَذَكَّرُ الْإِنسَانُ مَا سَعَى  وَبُرِّزَتِ الْجَحِيمُ لِمَن يَرَى  فَأَمَّا مَن طَغَى  وَآثَرَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا  فَإِنَّ الْجَحِيمَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَى  وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَى  فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَى (٣٤-٤١)

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ السَّاعَةِ أَيَّانَ مُرْسَاهَا  فِيمَ أَنتَ مِن ذِكْرَاهَا  إِلَى رَبِّكَ مُنتَهَاهَا  إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مُنذِرُ مَن يَخْشَاهَا  كَأَنَّهُمْ يَوْمَ يَرَوْنَهَا لَمْ يَلْبَثُوا إِلَّا عَشِيَّةً أَوْ ضُحَاهَا (٤٢-٤٦)

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

These winds1 which tear out from the roots, and these winds which blow very gently, and these clouds which drift in the air, then outrun each other2, then conduct orders3 – they all testify [that what you are being promised with is bound to happen]. 1-5

The day4 when a shudder will take place, followed by another5; on that day many a heart will be trembling, their6 eyes downcast.  (6-9)

They ask: Shall we be restored to life [after death]? What! when we become decayed out bones7? They said: Then this return would be of sheer loss!8 (10-12)

[They will keep making fun like this; they should know:] This will be just a single shout9, then all of a sudden, they will be standing in an open expanse [of land].  (13-14)

[If you do not believe in this Day, then listen:] Has the story of Moses reached you10? The [story] when his Lord called out to him in the sacred valley of Tuwa saying: Go you to the Pharaoh; he has transgressed all bounds11. And ask him: Do you desire to reform yourself? Shall I show you the way to your Lord that you may become fearful of Him?12 Then he showed him the great sign [ the sign of the staff turning into a snake] but he denied it and did not accept it13. Then he turned back striving [against this call]. Then he summoned [his] people and proclaimed: It is Me who is your supreme Lord14. Then at last Allah seized him in the chastisement of the Hereafter and the present. Indeed in this [account O Quraysh!] there is a great lesson for those15 who fear. (15-26)

16[If you do not believe in that Day then speak up:] Are you more difficult to create or the heaven He has built. He has made it and raised high its dome and perfected it, and covered its night [which was spread over it] and [thereby] uncovered its day17, and this earth of yours, after that, He spread, and He brought forth from it, its water and its fodder, and set firm its  mountains over it18

-- as a means of sustenance for you and your cattle.  (27-33)

So [this is a fact O People! that] when that great upheaval takes place [all of this will be annihilated]. On that Day, man will remember whatever he had done, and Hell will be unveiled for those who will encounter it19. Then he who transgressed all bounds and preferred the life of this world20, this Hell shall be his abode, and he who feared the standing before his Lord and restrained his soul from lowly desires, then for him Paradise shall be the abode.  (34-41)

About this hour of doom, they ask you O Prophet!: When will it come to port21? What have you to do with this ? Unto your Lord rests its knowledge. You are but a warner for those who fear it22. The day when they will see it, they will think that they have remained in this world for not more than one evening or one of its mornings.  (42-46)


Sūrah ‘Abas

عَبَسَ وَتَوَلَّى  أَن جَاءهُ الْأَعْمَى  وَمَا يُدْرِيكَ لَعَلَّهُ يَزَّكَّى  أَوْ يَذَّكَّرُ فَتَنفَعَهُ الذِّكْرَى (١-٤)

أَمَّا مَنِ اسْتَغْنَى  فَأَنتَ لَهُ تَصَدَّى  وَمَا عَلَيْكَ أَلَّا يَزَّكَّى  وَأَمَّا مَن جَاءكَ يَسْعَى  وَهُوَ يَخْشَى  فَأَنتَ عَنْهُ تَلَهَّى (٥-١٠)

كَلَّا إِنَّهَا تَذْكِرَةٌ  فَمَن شَاء ذَكَرَهُ  فِي صُحُفٍ مُّكَرَّمَةٍ  مَّرْفُوعَةٍ مُّطَهَّرَةٍ  بِأَيْدِي سَفَرَةٍ  كِرَامٍ بَرَرَةٍ (١١-١٦)

قُتِلَ الْإِنسَانُ مَا أَكْفَرَهُ  مِنْ أَيِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقَهُ  مِن نُّطْفَةٍ خَلَقَهُ فَقَدَّرَهُ  ثُمَّ السَّبِيلَ يَسَّرَهُ  ثُمَّ أَمَاتَهُ فَأَقْبَرَهُ  ثُمَّ إِذَا شَاء أَنشَرَهُ (١٧-٢٢)

كَلَّا لَمَّا يَقْضِ مَا أَمَرَهُ  فَلْيَنظُرِ الْإِنسَانُ إِلَى طَعَامِهِ  أَنَّا صَبَبْنَا الْمَاء صَبًّا  ثُمَّ شَقَقْنَا الْأَرْضَ شَقًّا  فَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا حَبًّا  وَعِنَبًا وَقَضْبًا  وَزَيْتُونًا وَنَخْلًا  وَحَدَائِقَ غُلْبًا  وَفَاكِهَةً وَأَبًّا  مَّتَاعًا لَّكُمْ وَلِأَنْعَامِكُمْ (٢٣-٣٢)

فَإِذَا جَاءتِ الصَّاخَّةُ  يَوْمَ يَفِرُّ الْمَرْءُ مِنْ أَخِيهِ  وَأُمِّهِ وَأَبِيهِ  وَصَاحِبَتِهِ وَبَنِيهِ  لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مِّنْهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ شَأْنٌ يُغْنِيهِ  وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ مُّسْفِرَةٌ  ضَاحِكَةٌ مُّسْتَبْشِرَةٌ  وَوُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَلَيْهَا غَبَرَةٌ  تَرْهَقُهَا قَتَرَةٌ  أُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْكَفَرَةُ الْفَجَرَةُ (٣٣-٤٢)

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

He frowned and turned away23 -- [this Prophet of Ours] –because there came to him that blind man [interrupting his meeting with the leadership of the Quraysh]. And what do you know [O Prophet!] that he might have sought to reform [himself] or might have heard the admonition [when you delivered it]24 and might have gained from this admonition. (1-4)

And these who show indifference, you go after them even though you are not responsible if they are not reformed25; and he who comes to you with zeal and also fears [Allah], you neglect him.  (5-10

Certainly not! [there is no need to go after them]. This is but a  reminder26 so whoever wishes, can be reminded through it [and whoever wishes can turn a deaf ear towards it] -- [It is set down] on honoured27 pages28, exalted and untouched29, in the custody of scribes, honourable and faithful30.  (11-16)

Woe to man31! How ungrateful he is! [Does he not know from] what [his Lord] created him? From32 a drop of fluid. He made him33 and proportioned him. Then smoothed out for him [the path of life]. He then gave him death; then He had him put in a grave. Then [with no difficulty at all] He will bring him back to life again whenever He desires.  (17-22)

Certainly not! [He shall never be left without being held accountable for] he has still not complied with what his Lord had asked him34. [He needs evidence!] Then he should only see the food [he eats]: that We poured forth water in abundance then cleaved the earth asunder, then produced grain in it, and grapes and vegetables and olives and dates and luxurious gardens and fruits and fresh herbage as means of sustenance for you and your cattle35.  (23-32)

So when the deafening blast comes [ask them: Where will they go]. On that Day, man will flee from his brother and from his mother and his father, his wife and his children. Every one will be concerned with his own self.36 Many a face on that day will be bright, smiling and rejoicing, and many a face on that day will be gloomy, veiled in darkness. [They will be of] these very unbelievers, these wrongdoers37.  (33-42)





1. The winds and clouds are two very significant elements of nature which, in the past, destroyed nations who denied the Prophets (Rusul) of Allah directly sent towards them. While they ravaged the unbelievers, they, at the same time, became a means of comfort and sustenance for the believers. With these two diverse effects, they bear witness to the law of retribution faced by nations to whom Prophets of Allah were sent. This law, in turn, becomes a blatant testimony to the Day of Judgement.

2. A subtle portrayal of clouds in the sky.

3. That is in compliance with the orders of the Almighty, devastate some places by producing thunderous rains; leave some places drought-ridden and cause seasonal and beneficial rain at some other places.

4. After substantiating the Day of Judgement, a graphic description of some of the events which will take place on that Day follows.

5. The implied meaning being that it is not difficult at all for the Almighty to bring about the Day of Judgement: the whole matter is just a matter of two jolts.

6. Literally: eyes’ of the hearts. This alludes to the fact that a person’s heart is actually the true representative of his personality. The eyes merely reveal what the hearts conceal.

7. The scoff and scorn present in these queries is quite obvious.

8. After making fun, this is what they remark as if they are very serious. The remark also depicts their inner self – they are not totally convinced in denying the Day of Judgement. They do feel weight in the arguments offered in its support, but they do not want to accept them since that would entail heavy responsibilities.

9. This refers to the second of the two jolts which will take place on the Day of Judgement. Cf (39:68).

10. The subsequent verses present historical evidence on the Day of Judgement. The implication being that the Quraysh are behaving in a similar manner; if they are to avoid the fate met by the Pharaoh, they must mend their ways.

11. This refers to the Pharaoh’s claim of being God and to the oppressive attitude he had adopted towards the Israelites.

12. Here the Prophet Moses (sws) has summed up a great reality in a few words: the foremost way to reform one’s self is to be fearful of Allah, which in turn is dependent on His true comprehension.

13. That is he did not accept the earnest calls of the Prophet Moses (sws) mentioned earlier.

14. This in a single sentence is a reference to the Pharaoh’s speech quoted in Sūrah Zukhruf (43:51-55).

15. Though the statement is a general one, yet it is quite obvious that it is directed towards the Quraysh.

16. In the next few verses, some signs and manifestations of the Almighty’s providence and His power and control in the world around man are mentioned. They necessitate that a day will come when man be held accountable for his deeds, and also indicate that bringing about such a day is no difficult a task for Allah.

17. Originally, at the time of creation, everything was enveloped in darkness as is pointed out in Sūrah Dukhān. A part of this darkness was covered to reveal light and thus the day.

18. The earth and the heavens were created simultaneously, but perfected in stages. It is evident from these and other verses in the Qur’ān that the heavens and things associated with it were brought to completion first and then the earth and all that was needed to make it appropriate for life were completed.

19. That is Hell will be uncovered only for those who would have to face it subsequently.

20. This is the real crime which actually makes a person worthy of the eternal punishment of Hell.

21. This remark, again, has an element of slant and scorn in it.

22. That is those who are not fearful of the Day of Judgement will believe only after seeing it.

23. It is evident from various Ahādīth that the blind person referred to here is Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktūm, a paternal cousin of the Prophet’s wife Khadīja (rta). From the given context, it seems that one day he had suddenly intruded into one of the Prophet’s sittings (sws) with the leadership of the Quraysh. The displeasure shown by the Prophet (sws) at his arrival was probably because he thought that this might have an undesirable affect on the chiefs of the Quraysh and as such he might lose an opportunity to present his message before them. The pitch and tone of the sūrah evidently indicates that the Prophet (sws) has been chided by the Almighty on showing indifference to a poor blind person, yet a deeper analysis of the sūrah reveals that it is the leadership of the Quraysh who have been actually chided and censured. The subsequent verses clearly show that the Prophet (sws) had taken much more upon himself than was actually required of him as regards presenting his message before the leadership of the Quraysh. There is not the slightest stint of any unbecoming conduct on his part. All he did was to exceed the limits of his duty in fervent zeal. The Almighty then graciously corrected him on this. Consequently, the words ‘He frowned and turned away …’ which indirectly refer to the Prophet (sws) also indicate this – for a direct address would have made such a loving redress an instance of severe reproof. It must also be kept in consideration that Prophets of Allah always initially address the influential sections of the society, since winning them over almost ensures acceptance of their message in the society. However, the class who generally responds positively to these calls is the poor and deprived, who are not the foremost addressees of this message. This further brings to light the admonishment hidden in these initial verses of the sūrah for the leadership of the Quraysh assembled around the Prophet (sws). The Prophet (sws) had been earnestly calling them towards a truth, yet the response he was getting was not from them but from someone who was not even his direct addressee initially.

An example would perhaps serve to illustrate the point further. Consider a shepherd who is looking for one of his sheep that has wandered off from the main herd; he spends a lot of time in recovering it, neglecting the ones which were at hand and needed his attention. When he returns, his master rebukes him for this negligence saying ‘You have spent a lot of time in looking for a mad goat. You should have left it to die in the wilderness or become prey to some hound. Such a crazy animal does not deserve your attention.’ A deep analyses of these words reveals that it is the lost sheep that is being chided and not the shepherd though it is the shepherd who is addressed. Likewise, in these verses, it is the Quraysh who have been rebuked though they have not been directly addressed. 

24. A mention of the qualities of the true seekers of purification. Generally there used to be two categories of people who would spend time in the company of the Prophet (sws): those who would ask questions to reform themselves and others who would not have any questions but would wait to benefit from the answer of the Prophet (sws) to some one else’s question.

25. These words clearly show that the Prophet (sws) had gone far beyond what was required of him, and he had certainly not committed any fault which had invoked the wrath of the Almighty. Since the Prophets of Allah are a role model for their people, the Almighty corrects even a slight deviation on their part.

26. That is the Qur’ān can only be beneficial to those who desire to be reminded and the Prophet’s responsibility is only to remind such people through this divine message. These verses also show that the Prophet (sws) had burdened himself with a task which was over and above his duty and was not required of him. Here he has been sympathetically reminded of his actual responsibility.

27. This is a further explanation of the attitude of indifference mentioned earlier on which the Prophet (sws) should adopt: It is but worthy of a book as grand and majestic as the Qur’ān to be presented before those who want to benefit from the guidance it provides. It is not to be presented meekly and imploringly. It does not need to be accepted by those who show indifference to it. This attitude is only proving fateful for them. The Prophet (sws) should rest assured, for very soon the arrogance he is encountering is going to be severely dealt with.

28. The Arabic word suhuf in this plural form (singular: sahīfah) has the connotation of a book. Here it refers to the lawh-i-mahfuz, the protected tablet on which the Qur’ān was originally inscribed and which rests in the custody of the angels.

29. That is no evil spirit or Satan has even touched this illustrious book or tampered with it, as the Quraysh used to allege.

30. A mention of the exalted status and loyalty of the angels who guard the tablet.

31. Though a general word ‘man’ has been used, yet it implies the leaders of the Quraysh, with whose mention the sūrah began.

32. That is before showing haughtiness and denying the Day of Judgement, he must reflect on the insignificant material from which he was created. One reason for the arrogance of the Quraysh was the life of affluence they were leading in this world. They conceitedly contended that even if such a day would come, they would be rewarded with a similar life.

33. The next few verses describe the various phases and stages of life through which a man passes, and show the Almighty’s power and wisdom in His creation. The manner in which a person born in the form of a helpless individual is nurtured and nourished, physically as well as spiritually, by the arrangement made by the Almighty show that this creation is no act of amusement or merriment. It entails a day of accountability for which each individual must prepare himself. Such is the power and might of Allah that recreating man is a task which He is capable of accomplishing with an almost contemptuous ease.

34. The acknowledgement of the providence of the Almighty and of a day of accountability is part of every person’s intuition. The Prophets of Allah also remind man of these facts. The Quraysh are scolded here because they were yet to comply with this decree of human nature.

35. The next few verses depict a profound sign of the Almighty’s providence and power in the world around man: variance and variety in edibles provided by nature to nurture man and his cattle. Keeping in view the Arab society and surroundings, all the essential fruits and nutritives have been enumerated. All this arrangement is to nurture man and his cattle, and all these favours and privileges entail responsibility. The food could have been of a single kind. The variety in it shows that the Almighty has arranged to quench the thirst for variety in human nature.

36. The implication being that today family and tribal relationships are means of pride and vanity for the Quraysh, but on that day all such ties will no longer be of any help to them.

37. That is these faces will be of these very people which are today in front of the Prophet (sws).

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