It is derived from the word wan-nazi`at with which the Surah opens.
Period of Revelation
According to Hadrat Abdullah bin Abbas, this Surah was sent down after Surah An-Naba. Its subject matter also testifies that it belongs to the earliest period at Makkah.
Theme and Subject Matter
Its theme is affirmation of Resurrection and the life hereafter; It also warns of the consequences of belying the Messenger of God.
The Surah opens with oaths sworn by the angels who take the soul at deaths and those who hasten to carryout Allah's Commands, and those who conduct the affairs of the universe according to Divine Will, to assure that the Resurrection will certainly come to pass and the second life after death will certainly take place. For the angels who are employed to pluck out the soul today can also be employed to restore the soul tomorrow, and the angels who promptly execute Allah's Commands and conduct the affairs of the universe today can also upset the order of the universe tomorrow by orders of the same God and can also bring about a new order.
After this the people have been told, so as to say: "This work which you regard as absolutely impossible, is not any difficult for Allah, for which He may have to make lengthy preparations. Just a single jolt will upset this system of the world and a second jolt will be enough to cause you to appear as living beings in the new world. At that time the same people who were wont to deny it, would be trembling with fear and seeing with awe struck eyes all that they thought was impossible.
Then, relating the story of the Prophet Moses and Pharaoh briefly, the people have been warned to the effect: "You know full well what fate the Pharaoh met in consequence of belying the Messenger and rejecting the guidance brought by him and endeavoring to defeat his mission by trickery and deceit. If you do not learn any lesson from it and do not change your ways and attitude accordingly, you also will have to meet the same fate.
Then, in vv. 27-13, arguments have been given for the Hereafter and life after death. In this regard, the deniers have been asked the question:"Is your resurrection a more difficult task or the creation of the huge Universe which spreads around you to infinite distances with myriads of its stars and planets? Your recreation cannot be difficult for the God for Whom this was an easy task. Thus, after presenting in a single sentence, a decisive argument for the possibility of the Hereafter, attention has been drawn to the earth and its provisions that have been arranged in it for the sustenance of man and animal and of which everything testifies that it has been created with great wisdom for fulfilling some special purpose. Pointing to this the question has been left for the intellect of man to ponder for itself and form the opinion whether calling man to account after having delegated authority and responsibilities to a creature like him in this wise system would be more in keeping with the demands of wisdom, or that he should die after committing all sorts of misdeeds in the world and should perish and mix in the dust for ever and should never be called to account as to how he employed the authority and fulfilled the responsibilities entrusted to him. Instead of discussing this question, in vv. 34-41, it has been said: "When the Hereafter is established, men's eternal future will be determined on the criterion as to which of them rebelled against his God transgressing the bounds of service and made the material benefits and pleasures his objective of life and which of them feared standing before his Lord and refrained from fulfilling the unlawful desires of the self." This by itself provides the right answer to the above question to every such person who considers it honestly, free from stubbornness. For the only rational, logical and moral demand of giving authority and entrusting responsibilities to man in the world is that he should be called to account on this very basis ultimately and rewarded or punished accordingly.
In conclusion, the question of the disbelievers of Makkah as to when Resurrection will take place, has been answered. They asked the Holy Prophet this question over and over again. In reply it has been said that the knowledge of the time of its occurrence rests with Allah alone. The Messenger is there only to give the warning that it will certainly come. Now whoever wishes may mend his ways, fearing its coming, and whoever wishes may behave and conduct himself as he likes, fearless of its coming. When the appointed time comes, those very people who loved the life of this world and regarded its pleasures as the only object of life, would feel that they had stayed in the world only for an hour or so. Then they will realize how utterly they had ruined their future for ever for the sake of the short lived pleasures of the world.
Here, the object for which an oath has been sworn by beings having five qualities has not been mentioned; but the theme that follows by itself leads to the conclusion that the oath has been sworn to affirm that the Resurrection is a certainty, which must come to pass, when all dead men shall be resurrected. Nor is there any mention as to what are the beings possessed of the qualities. However, a large number of the Companions and their immediate successors and most of the commentators have expressed the opinion that they are the angels. Hadrat `Abdullah bin Mas`ud, Hadrat `Abdullah bin `Abbas, Masruq, Sa`id bin Jubair, Abu salih Abud-Duha and Suddi; say that "those who pluck out from the depths and those who draw out gently" imply the angels, who wrench out the soul of man at death from the very depths of his body, from its every fiber. "Those who glide about swiftly", according to Hadrat Ibn Mas`ud, Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubair and Abu Salih, also imply the angels, who hurry about swiftly in execution of Divine Commands as though they were gliding through space. The same meaning of "those who hasten out as in a race" has been taken by Hadrat `Ali, Mujahid, Masruq, Abu Salih and Hasan Bari, and hastening out implies that each one of them hurries on his errand as soon as he receives the first indication of Divine Will. "Those who conduct the affairs" also imply the angels as has been reported from Hadrat `Ali, Mujahid, 'Ata' Abu -Salih, Hasan Bari;, Qatadah, Rabi` bin Anas and Suddi. In other words, these are the workers of the Kingdom of the Universe, who are conducting all the affairs of the world in accordance with Allah's Command and Will. Though this meaning of these verses has not been reported in any authentic Hadith from the Holy Prophet, while this meaning has been given by some major Companions and their immediate successors and pupils, one is led to form the view that they must have obtained this knowledge from the Holy Prophet himself.
Now the question arises: On what basis has the oath been sworn by these angels for the occurrence of the Resurrection and life after death when they themselves are as imperceptible as the thing for the occurrence of which they have been presented as an evidence and as an argument. In our opinion the reason is (and Allah has the best knowledge) that the Arabs were not deniers of the existence of the angels. They themselves admitted that at the death the soul was taken out by the angels; they also believed that the angels moved at tremendous speeds; they could reach any place between the earth and the heavens instantly and promptly execute any errand that was entrusted to them. They also acknowledged that the angels are subordinate to Divine Will and they conduct the affairs of the universe strictly and precisely in accordance with Divine Will; they are not independent and masters of their will. They regarded them as daughters of Allah out of ignorance and worshiped them as deities, but they did not believe that they possessed the real authority as well. Therefore, the basis of the reasoning from the above mentioned attributes for the occurrence of the Resurrection and life after death is that the angels who took the soul by the order of God, could also restore the soul by the order of the same God; and the angels who conducted the affairs of the universe by the order of God could also upset this universe by the order of the same God whenever . He so ordered them and could also bring about a new world order. They would not show any negligence or delay in the execution of His Command.
2The first jolt implies the jolt which will destroy the earth and everything on it, and the second jolt at which all dead men will rise up from death and from their graves. This same state has been described in Surah Az-Zumar, thus: "And when the Trumpet shall be blown on that Day, all those who are in the heavens and the earth shall fall down dead except those whom Allah may allow (to live). Then the Trumpet shall be blown again and they will all stand up, looking around." (v. 68)
3"Some hearts", because, according to the Qur'an, only the disbelievers, the wicked people and the hypocrites will be terror-stricken on the Resurrection Day, the righteous believers will remain secure from this tenor. About them in Surah Al-Anbiya' it has been said: "The time of great fright will not trouble them at all; the angels will rush. forth to receive them, saying: `This is the very Day which you were promised'." (v. 103)
4That is, when they were told that they would surely be raised back to life after death, they started mocking it, saying to one another, "Well, if we have really to be restored to our former state of life, then we would certainly be doomed. "
5That is, "They are mocking it as an impossibility, whereas it is not at all a difficult task for Allah for the performance of which He may have to make lengthy preparations. For it only a single shout or cry is enough at which your dust of ash will gather together from wherever it lay, and you will suddenly find yourself alive on the back of the earth. Thinking this return to be a return to loss, you may try to escape from it however hard you may, but it will inevitably take place; it cannot be averted by your denial, escape or mockery."
6As the denial of the Resurrection and Hereafter by the disbelievers of Makkah and their mockery of it was not, in fact, rejection of a philosophy but belying Allah's Messengers, and the tricks that they were employing against the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) were not against an ordinary man but were meant to frustrate the mission of Allah's Messenger, the story of the Prophet Moses and the Pharaoh is being related before giving additional arguments for the occurrence of the Hereafter so that they are warned of the consequences of fighting with the Messenger and resisting the God Who sent him.
7According to general opinion among the commentators "the sacred . valley of 'Tuwa" means "the sacred valley which was named Tuwa". But, besides this, two other meanings of it also have been given:
(1) "The valley that was blessed and made sacred twice" . for it was first made sacred when Allah spoke to Moses in it for the first time, and it was blessed and made sacred for the second time when the Prophet Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and brought them into it; and
(2) "called out to him in the sacred valley in the night," and this is according to the meaning of tuwa in the Arabic idiom.
8Here, one should understand a few things well:
(1) The dialogue that took place between the Prophet Moses and Allah Almighty at the time of appointing him to the office of Prophethood has been related at some places briefly and at others in full detail in the Qur'an as the occasion demanded. Here; brevity was the need; therefore, only a resume has been given. Fuller details are found in Ta Ha: 9-48, Ash-Shua`ra': 10-17, An Naml: 7-12, AI-Qasas: 29-35.
(2) The rebellion of the Pharaoh referred to here relates to his transgressing the bounds of service and rebelling both against the Creator and against His creatures. As for his rebellion against the Creator, it is being mentioned a little below when he gathered his people together and prolaimed: "I am your lord, the supreme." As against the creatures his rebellion was that he had divided his subjects into classes; he treated the weak classes tyrannically and had reduced his entire nation to slavery as has been mentioned in Al-Qasas: 4 and Az-Zukhruf: 54.
(3) The instruction given to Moses was: "Go, you and your brother Aaron, to Pharaoh for he has transgressed all bounds. Talk to him gently; maybe that he is convinced by admonition or is imbued with fear." (Ta Ha: 44). One model of the gentle speech has been given in these verses, which shows what right method a preacher should adopt when preaching to a perverted man. Other models are given in Ta Ha: 49-52, Ash-Shua`ra': 23-28, and Al-Qasas: 37. These verses are of those in which Allah has taught the correct methods of preaching Islam in the Qur'an.
(4) The Prophet Moses had not been sent to Pharaoh only for the deliverance of the children of Israel as some people seem to think but the primary object of his appointment was to show Pharaoh and his people the right way, and the second object was that if he did not accept the right way, the children of Israel (who in fact were a Muslim people) should be taken out of his slavery and from Egypt. This thing becomes plain from these verses too, for there is no mention whatever in these of the deliverance of the children of Israel, but the Prophet Moses has been commanded to present the message of the Truth before Pharaoh, and this is confirmed by those verses also in which the Prophet Moses has preached Islam as well as demanded freedom of the children of Israel, e.g. see Al-A`raf 104-105, Ta Ha: 47-52, Ash-Shua ara': 16-17, 23-28. (For further explanation, see E.N. 74 of Yunus).
(5) Here, "to adopt purity" means to adopt purity of belief, morals and deeds, or, in other words, to accept Islam. Ibn Zaid says: "Wherever in the Qur'an the word tazakka (purity) has been use, it implies acceptance of Islam." As an example of this he has cited the following three verses: "And this is the reward of him who adopts purity", i.e. accepts Islam; "and what would make you know that he might adopt purity", i.e. becomes a Muslim (`Abasa:3); "And you would not be responsible if he did not adapt purity", i.e. did not become a Muslim (`Abasa: 7). (Ibn Jarir).
(6) "That I may guide you to your Lord so that you may have fear (of Him)" means: "When you recognize your Lord and come to know that you are His slave, and not a free man, you will inevitably have fear of Him in your heart, for fear of God is the thing on which depends the right attitude of man in the world. Without the knowledge and fear of God no purity of the self can be possible."
9"The great Sign" : the turning of the staff into a serpent, as has been mentioned at several places in the Qur'an. Obviously there could be no greater sign than that a lifeless staff should turn into a living serpent right in front of the eyes of the people, that it should devour the artificial serpents produced by the magicians out of their staffs and cords, and when the Prophet Moses should pick it up, it should become a walking stick again. This was proof that it was Allah, Lord of the worlds, Who had sent Moses as a Prophet.
10According to the details given at other places in the Qur'an, he summoned skillful magicians from all over Egypt and made them produce serpents out of sticks and cords in front of the assembled people so that they were convinced that Moses (peace be upon him was not a Prophet but a magician, and that the miracle worked by him of turning a staff into a serpent, could also be worked by other magicians. But this device of his recoiled upon himself and the defeated magicians themselves admitted that what Moses (peace be on him) had displayed was no magic but a miracle.
11This proclamation of Pharaoh has been mentioned at several places in the Qur'an. On one occasion he said to the Prophet Moses: "If you took another one as a deity beside me, I would cast you in the prison." (Ash-Shua`ra': 29). On another occasion he had addressed his courtiers, saying: "O chiefs, I do not know of any other god of yours than myself. (Al-Qasas.: 38). By this Pharaoh did not mean, nor could he ever mean, that he himself was the creator of the universe and he had made the world, nor that he denied the existence of Allah and claimed to be lord of the universe, nor that he regarded only himself as a deity of the people in the religious sense. In the Qur'an itself there is a clear testimony that as regards religion he himself worshiped other gods. Once his courtiers said to him: "Will you leave Moses and his people free to spread chaos in the land, and let them discard you and your deities?" (Al A`raf: 127). And in the Qur'an itself this saying of the Pharaoh also has been cited: "Had Moses been sent by Allah, why were not bracelets of gold sent down to him, or a company of angels as attendants?" (AzZukhruf: 53). Thus, in fact, he called himself a god and supreme deity not in the religious but in the political sense. What he meant was that he possessed the sovereign rights: no one beside him had the right to rule in his kingdom and there was no superior power whose orders could be enforced in the land. (For further explanation. see E.N. 85 of Al-A`raf, E.N. 21 of Ta Ha, E.N.'s 24, 26 of Ash Shua'ra', E-N.'s 52, 53 of Al-Qasas E.N. 49 of Az-Zukhruf).
12"...who fears": who fears the consequences of denying God's Messenger, which the Pharaoh experienced in the past.
13Now arguments are being given for the possibility of Resurrection and life after death and their being the very demand and requirement of wisdom.
14Here, creation implies the recreation of men, and the heaven the entire firmament which contains countless stars and planets, and innumerable solar systems and galaxies. means to say: "You think that your resurrection after death is something extremely improbable and you express wonder saying: `How is it possible that when our very bones will have decayed and become rotten the scattered particles of our bodies will be reassembled and made living once again?' But have you ever also considered whether the great universe is harder to create or your own re-creation in the form in which you were created in the first instance? The God Who created you in the first instance cannot be powerless to create you once again." This same argument for life after death has been given at several places in the Qur'an. For example, in Surah Ya Sin it has been said: "Is not He Who created the heavens and the earth able to create the like of them (again)? Why not, when He is the skillful Creator." (v. 81) And in Surah Al-Mu'min it was said: "Surely the creation of the heavens and the earth is a greater task than the creation of man, but most people do not know. (v. 57)
15The night and the day have been attributed to the heaven, for the night falls when the sun of the heavens sets and the day dawns when it rises. The word "cover" has been used for the night in the sense that after the sun has set the darkness of the night so spreads over the earth as though it has covered it from above by a curtain.
16"After that He spread out the earth" does not mean that Allah created the earth after the creation of the heavens, but it is a style of expression just like our saying after making mention of something: "Then this is noteworthy." The object is not to express the sequence of occurrence between the two things but to draw attention from the first to the second thing although both may exist together. Several instances of this style are found in the Qur'an, e.g. in Surah Al-Qalam it is said: "(He is) oppressive, and after that, ignoble by birth." This does not mean that first he became oppressive and then he turned ignoble by birth, but it means: "He is oppressive, and above all, ignoble by birth." Likewise, in Surah Al-Balad it is said: "Should free a slave...then be of those who believe." This also does not mean that first he should act righteously and then believe. but that along with doing righteous deeds he should also be characterized by belief. Here, one should also understand that at some places in the Qur'an the creation of the earth has been mentioned first and then the creation of the heavens, as in Al-Baqarah: 29, and at others the creation of the heavens has been mentioned first and then of the earth, as in these verses. There is, in fact, no contradiction in this. At no place the object is to tell what was created first and what afterwards, but wherever the context requires that the excellences of the power of Allah be made prominent, the heavens have been mentioned first and then the earth, and where the context requires that the people be made to appreciate and acknowledge the blessings that they are benefiting by on the earth, the mention of the earth has been made before that of the heavens. (For further explanation, see E.N's 13,14 of Ha Mim As-Sajdah).
17"Pasture" here does not only imply pasture and fodder for the animals but all kinds of herbal produce suitable for consumption both by man and by animal. An example of the use of rat'. which is generally used in Arabic for the grazing animals, is found in Surah Yusuf: 12, signifying that this word is sometimes used for man also. The brothers of Joseph said to their father: "Send Joseph with us tomorrow that he may freely graze and enjoy sport. " Here, the word grace (rat`) for the child has been used in the meaning that he may move about freely in the jungle and pluck and eat fruit.
18In these verses arguments have been given for the Resurrection and life after death from two aspects: first, that it is not at all difficult to establish these for the power of that God Who has made this vast and huge universe with such wonderful balance and this earth with such provisions. Second, that the pointers to the perfect wisdom of Allah which are clearly visible in the universe and the earth, point out that nothing is happening here purposelessly. The balance that exists between countless of the stars and planets and galaxies in the heavens testifies that all this has not happened haphazardly but there is a well thought-out plan working behind it. The regular alternation of the night and day is an evidence that this system has been established with supreme wisdom and knowledge for making the earth a home and place of settlement. On this very earth are found regions where the alternation of the night and day takes place within 24 hours and also those regions where there are longer days and longer nights. A very large part of the earth's population lives in the first kind of the regions. Then as the days and nights go on becoming longer and longer, life goes on becoming harder and harder and population thinner and thinner. So much so that the regions where there are six-month-long days and six-month-long nights, are not at all fit for human settlement. Arranging both these types of the land on this very earth Allah has provided the evidence that this regular order of the alternation of night and day has not come about accidentally but has been brought about with great wisdom precisely in accordance with a scheme to make the earth a place fit for human settlement. Likewise, spreading out the earth so that it becomes a fit place to live in, providing in it that water which should be palatable for man and animal and a cause of growth for vegetation, setting in it mountains and creating all those things which may become a means of life for both man and animal- all these are a manifest sign that they are not chance happenings of the purposeless works of a care-free person but each one of these has been arranged purposefully by a Supreme, Wise Being. Now every sensible and intelligent man can consider for himself whether the necessity and occurrence of the Hereafter is the requirement of wisdom or its negation. The person who in spite of seeing all this says that there is no Hereafter, in fact, says that everything in the universe is happening wisely and purposefully, but only the creation of man on the earth as a being endowed with sense and power is meaningless and foolish. For there could be nothing more purposeless than delegating to man vast powers of appropriation in the earth and providing him an opportunity to do good as well as evil deeds but then failing to ever subject him to accountability.
19This implies the Resurrection for which the words at-Taammat alkubra have been used. Taammah by itself is a grievous calamity which afflicts everybody. Then it has been further qualified by the word kubra (great), which shows that the mere word taammah is not enough to describe fully its intensity and severity.
20That is, "When man will see that the same Day of accountability of which he was being foretold in the world, has come, he will start remembering each one of his misdeeds done in the world even before his records are handed over to him. Some people experience this even in the world. if at some time they come across a dangerous situation suddenly when death seems to be staring them in the face, their whole life-film flashes across their mind's eye all at once.
21Here, in a few words, it has been told briefly what shall be the criterion of the final judgment in the Hereafter. One kind of the conduct of life in the world is that transgressing all bounds of service man should rebel against his God and should make up his mind that he would seek only the benefits and pleasures of this world in whatever way they could be sought and achieved. The other kind of conduct is that while man passes life in the world he should constantly keep in view the truth that ultimately one day he has to stand before his Lord, and should refrain from fulfilling the evil desires of the self only for the fear that if he earned an unlawful benefit in obedience to his self, or enjoyed an evil pleasure, what answer he would give to his Lord. The criterion of the judgment in the Hereafter will be which of the two kinds of conduct he adopted in the world. If he had adopted the first kind of conduct, his permanent abode would be Hell, and if he had adopted the second kind of conduct, his permanent home would be Paradise.
22The disbelievers of Makkah asked this question of the Holy Prophet over and over again. By this they did not mean to know the time and date of the coming of Resurrection but to mock it. (For further explanation, see E.N. 35 of Surah Al-Mulk).
23This also we have explained in E.N. 36 of Surah Al-Mulk above. As for the words "you are only a Warner to him who fears it", they do not mean that it is not your duty to warn those who do not fear, but it means: "Your warning will benefit only him who fears the coming of that Day."
24This theme has occurred at several places in the Qur'an and been explained in the corresponding Notes. For it, see E.N. 53 of Yunus, E.N. 56 of Bani Isra'il, E.N. 80 of Ta Ha, E.N. 101 of Al-Mu'minun, E.N.'s 81, 82 of ArRum, E.N. 48 of Ya Sin. Besides, this theme has also occurred in Al-Ahqaf: 35 but we have not explained it there for fear of repetition.