Takathur forms a pair with Surah
Qari`ah, the preceding surah.
There is no essential difference between the topics discussed in the two.
In Surah Qari`ah,
it is pointed out that only the good deeds done in this world will be of
any use to a person in the Hereafter; they only will have weight in the
Balance of Justice. A person whose good deeds abound will attain salvation,
while a person whose evil deeds outnumber the good ones, however much a
treasure he might have amassed, will be doomed forever. Grief and regret
will be his only companions.
In this surah,
people who have confined all their efforts to achieve worldly gains, and
whose aim in life has remained nothing but to outdo one another in the
acquisition of wealth, are warned of the dreadful fate which awaits them.
They are the ones who spent their lives in the lust and greed for money,
and always remained possessed with an insatiable desire to accumulate the
luxuries and riches of this world. Throughout their lives, they remained
so occupied with this dash for wealth that they forgot the Day when they
would be held accountable for all their deeds. A day wherein they would
be flung into the raging fire of hell, if they would fail to justify their
deeds. They would be inquired about everything they had acquired, the manner
in which it was acquired, and the way it was expended and consumed. They
would be questioned about how they used their abilities, skills and other
blessings given to them by the Almighty; whether they used them to please
Him or employed them to satisfy their own lusts and gratify Satan.
Meaning of the Surah
The desire to surpass one another
in the acquisition of wealth has allured you until you reached the graves.
By no means! you will soon come to know! Yes, By no means! you will soon
come to know! (1-4)
By no means! if you knew with certainty
that you would surely come across Hell, and you would observe it by your
very eyes, and you would be questioned about these favours, then
Explanation of the Surah
(The desire to surpass one other
in the acquisition of wealth has allured you.) (1)
Alha means `to allure' and `to deceive'.
Takathur means `abundance in wealth and children'.
According to the custom in the pre-Islamic
Arab society, a family was responsible for the defence and security of
a tribe. Due to this reason, the family which had the largest number of
individuals was entrusted with this task. This naturally resulted in a
race to outdo one other not only in the accretion of wealth, but also in
the size of a family. Anyone who has studied their customs and traditions
knows that they used to take a lot of pride in not only outdoione another
in wealth but also in having a large family. In present times, with the
change in the social set up, this situation has also changed. Specially,
due to the widely acclaimed concept of family-planning, the general trend
is to raise the standard of living by having as small a family as possible.
Almost all people seem to be afflicted with this malady, and one seldom
comes across anyone who has not been a prey to this contagious disease.
Also, since no upper limit has been fixed in the standard of living, their
thirst for wealth never quenches, and in fact every bit gathered makes
them yearn for more. They have been caught in a vicious circle, and there
seems no end to this race for material gains. As no limit has been set
for the standard of living, the rate at which their greed is continuing
to increase, is much more than the rate at which the standard of living
itself is increasing. It is this which the Qur’an terms as takathur, and
asserts that it effectively allures a person to the extent that he becomes
unmindful to the other important realities of life. He is so overcome by
the desire to acquire worldly riches that he becomes totally indifferent
to the life that awaits him in the Hereafter.
(Until you reached the graves.)
This means that their whole life is
spent in the acquisition of wealth and material benefits, till the final
resting place is encountered. In Arabic, the verbal noun, ziyarat,
from which the word zurtum is derived, simply means `to see', contrary
to its connotation in Urdu, where a certain amount of holiness and sanctity
is also attached to this meaning. Hence, zurtum means: `you saw
the graves’ that is `you were consigned to the graves’. To quote a Hamasi
Idha zurtu ardan
wa’l biladu kama
(When I see my place years after remaining
away from it, it seems as if I have lost all my friends, but the place
is the same as it was before.)
Although there was an Arabic tradition,
according to which the Arabs used to keep an account of the graves of their
people and proudly mentioned them in their gatherings, but this is not
implied here. But, indeed one wonders why the expression zurtumu’l maqabir has been used by the Qur’an,
instead of simply saying `until death overtook you'. In my opinion, the
reason behind adopting this particular style is firstly, to maintain the
rhyme of the verses and secondly, to express regret and pity over the unfortunate
people, who have deprived themselves of the reward in the Hereafter by
indulging in a relentless race for wealth.
(By no means! you will soon come
to know. Yes, By no means! you will soon come to know.) (3-4)
This serves as a forceful intimation
to those who consider material success in life all that one must strive
for. It sounds a warning to those who after being explained everything,
are not willing to open their eyes to the actual reality. It cautions them
that this life whose charms have allured them so much is not the end. In
fact, the life in the Hereafter which at the moment is invisible to them
is the life for which they must really strive for, which very soon they
will behold from their very eyes.
The double stress in these verses
is to make this warning more efficacious, as well as to express the fact
that a nation which rejects and denies the message of a Prophet directly
assigned towards them, faces severe punishment not only in this world,
but also in the next. In other words, it admonishes them to either mend
their ways or get ready to face this double humiliation -- for a decision
about their fate is about to be made.
The threat hidden beneath the word
ta`lamun (you will come to know) is too evident to be described
(By no means! if you knew definitely
that you would surely come across Hell, and you would observe it by your
very eyes, and you would be questioned about these blessings, then...
These verses unveil the real reason
behind the carefree attitude of such people. It is attributed to their
lack of belief in the Day of Judgement, a day in which they will observe
the abyss of Hell from their very eyes. A day when they will be held
answerable for all the favours and blessings the Almighty had showered
upon them, and which they had squandered against His liking. If they had
a true belief in the Day of Judgement, they would never have indulged in
these material pursuits, and would have spent all their time and energies
in preparing themselves for it.
It would be appropriate here to analyze
the grammatical structure and construction of these verses. The apodosis
of the hypothetical particle law (jawavb-i-law) is omitted here.
Though almost all the commentators agree to this, but they do not consider
the subsequent verses as subordinate to this conditional clause of the
foremost verse. However, in my opinion the subsequent verses are also subordinate
to the hypothetical particle law of the first verse, and they are
not separate or independent sentences. The over all apodosis of law is
omitted because the context readily suggests it. We can unfold the whole
sentence as thus: `If you knew all these aspects, you would never have
adopted this attitude’. In grammatical terminology, the verse latarawunnal
in place of the object of the verse law ta'alamuna
`ilama’l yaqin (If you knew with certainty
that you would see the blazing fire of hell). The asseverative particle
lam, appended to the energetic
verb tarawunna is meant to emphasize this certainty.
It follows from this that the ‘ilmu’l
Yaqin or certain knowledge needed to
have faith in the Day of Judgement is already present in the manifest verses
of the Qur’an, in our own intuition,
as well as in every phenomenon of nature. As such, every person must accept
and acclaim this reality. Anyone who evades it by paying no heed to these
strong testimonies present inside and outside him, can have no excuse for
this attitude, and strictly deserves to be punished.
Another evident conclusion is that
though certain knowledge about realities which in this world have been
concealed from our eyes can be obtained from the Qur’an,
and from the testimonies of the human instinct and the cosmic order, yet
‘ainu’l yaqin or the certainty obtained
by actually beholding a reality can only be possible in the Hereafter because
this type of knowledge solely relates to the observation of the concealed
realities. On these grounds, I consider as baseless, the claim of some
people that `ainu’l yaqin can be obtained
in this world as well. Only `ilmu’l yaqin
about a reality on the basis of external evidences can be obtained
in this world, and which, of course, one day will be observed directly.
The last verse thummah latusalunna
yawmaizin `anin naim also has a subordinate
relation with the verse law ta'almuna
`ilmal yaqin (The correct translation
reads thus: `If you knew that on that day you would be questioned about
every favour and blessing’). By this `questioning', is actually meant that
they would be punished for misusing these blessings, and for being ungrateful
to the Almighty.
The word na`im
encompasses all the skills and capabilities, as well as all means and
resources God has blessed us with. All these privileges and favours necessitate
that we should be grateful to God, and expend them in the way He has prescribed
for us and within the limits set by Him. If these blessings are wasted
or misused, then this negligence must necessarily be punished by the wrath
of God. A person's eyes, ears, heart, brain, and indeed all his organs
and limbs are a blessing of God. Similarly, all the latent and apparent
skills and abilities that he has been blessed with, as well as all his
means and resources are a gift of God. It is the natural right of
these blessings that God should be thanked for this bestowal, and that
they should be used within the limits prescribed by Him. At the same time,
one must not become so possessed with them that he actually starts worshipping
them, forgetting the real Creator. Those who commit such excesses will
be severely dealt with on the Day of Judgement.
Since in this surah,
the evils of the acquisition of wealth are highlighted, wealth, which is
one of the connotations of the word na‘im
is specially discussed here. Every person will be held accountable
for the manner in which he had acquired his wealth, and the ways in which
he had spent it. Those who had spent it against the liking of the Almighty,
and did not care to acquire it by legitimate means, worshipping it by spending
all their lives accumulating it will be confronted by the fate mentioned
in Surah Humaza:
Perdition for every (evil) gesticulator, faultfinder
who amassed wealth, and greedily hoarded it thinking that his wealth will
render him immortal. By no means! he will be flung into that which smashes
to pieces. And what do you imagine what that which smashes to pieces is?
A fire kindled by God, which will rise up to their hearts. They will be
enshrouded in it, fastened to columns very high.
At the end, the overall apodosis of the
particle law is omitted, as has been indicated before. There are
many places in the Qur’an where
this style is adopted because the omission is so obvious that it needs
no words for its expression. This style very effectively conveys the intended
meaning, which is in fact very comprehensive and whose expression might
otherwise be against the norms of brevity, a distinctive feature of the
In this case, the omitted part which
is left to the imagination of the reader, is actually a final warning for
these people. It is a means of urging them to calmly review all their hitherto
policies. It cautions them to seriously analyze their attitude about some
undeniable and inescapable realities of life. It exhorts them to deeply
contemplate over the pattern of their lives and assess how far from reality
they had always remained; how incorrect and unrealistic was their attitude
about it. If they had earnestly thought about them, they would not have
wasted their lives in oblivion. But then, all is not lost. They are being
offered a final chance to mend their ways, and change their life styles.
They should now confine all their efforts and undertakings to earn the
eternal happiness of the Hereafter, instead of wasting them in material
This whole meaning is being suggested
by this omission -- a perfect example of how effectively the Qur’an uses brevity to conceal profound meanings in a minimum number of words.
(Translated from "Tadabbur-i- Qur’an"
by Shehzad Saleem)