Surah Ma‘arij

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
Tr by Shehzad Saleem

     Surah Ma‘arij forms a pair with Surah Haqqah, the preceding surah with regard to the subject discussed in them. The first surah cautions the Quraysh about the punishment of the Herein and the Hereafter and the second surah warns such people from among the Quraysh of their fate as made fun of this very punishment and asked to hasten its arrival.  
     The surah is directed at the leadership of the Quraysh, and it is evident from its contents that, like the previous surahs of this group, it was revealed in Makkah in the phase of Inzar of the Prophet's misson (sws).  

Central Theme 
     The central theme of Surah Ma‘arij is to warn those among the Quraysh of their fate who are making fun of the consequences of denying the Inzar of the Qur’an about the Day of Judgement and are asking to hasten their advent, and to urge the Prophet (sws) to persevere in the cause of truth and to tell the unbelievers that Paradise is the reward of all good deeds; a person whose evil deeds outnumber his good ones even if he is from the high ups of the society shall never enter this everlasting kingdom.  
     In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.  
     A person in haste asked to hasten the punishment which is bound to befall upon these unbelievers1. No one can avert it. It will be from the Lord [--Most High and Noble--] of the ascending stairways. [They measure everything from their own scales and then ask to hasten its arrival. Tell them that] the angels and the Spirit ascend towards Him in a Day the measure of which [according to your calculation] is fifty thousand years2. So [O Prophet!] with grace and dignity bear [their hastiness] with patience3. They hold it far off4 and We see it near at hand.  (1-7)  
     [They will also see it].  
     The Day when the sky become like sediment of oil and the mountains become like tufts of carded wool5, and no sincere friend [at that time] shall inquire after his friend [though] they shall be shown to one another. The sinner will long to redeem himself from the torment of that Day by offering his sons, his wife, his brother, his family who used to give him shelter and all the people of the earth as ransom and then save himself from it6. (8-14)  
     By no means! it7 is the flame of Fire which strips open the skin, and calls8 every person who turned his back and drew away and amassed riches and hoarded them.  (15-19)  
     [These people shall continue with their hasty attitude. Just ignore them O Prophet!]. Verily, man has been created very impatient9. [If he does not discipline himself, then indeed] whenever some affliction befalls him he becomes depressed and when good fortune befalls him he becomes stingy. Not so those who pray, who are always steadfast in prayer; who set aside a fixed portion in their wealth for those who ask and for those who are ashamed to ask; who truly believe in the Day of Reckoning and dread the punishment of their Lord10 -- Verily the punishment of their Lord is not a thing to be careless of -- and those who preserve  their  chastity  --  save with their wives and slave-girls11, for in their cases they are not blameworthy. But they who seek to go beyond this, then it is they who are transgressors -- and those who keep their trusts and promises [both with regard to Allah and with regard to their fellow human beings] and those who stand firm in their testimonies and those who keep guard over their prayers. It is they who will be in gardens of paradise, laden with honours. (19-35)  
     [There is no doubt that it is they who will be in the gardens of paradise]. Then what is the matter with these unbelievers that [after hearing this decision of Ours] they rush madly at you in multitudes from right and left? Does each man among them covet to enter the garden of bliss [just because he possesses a high status in this world]? By no means! [they should not show conceit on this status]. We have created them out of what they [very well] know. (36-39)  
     [Then do they reckon that We shall not be able to create them a second time]? Nay! I swear by the Lord who is the Master of all the vastness of the East and the West [that since We are the Master, then indeed] We can create them [a second time] in a better form and We shall not be powerless in this regard. So [if they do not understand this then] leave them to chat and play about until they encounter that day of theirs about which they are being threatened. The Day on which they will rush from their graves as if racing towards targets marked. Their eyes downcast. Disgrace covering them. This is the Day about which they had been warned. (40-44) 


1. When the leadership of the Quraysh was threatened with punishment, they used to ask the Prophet ((sws) to hasten its arrival. This inquiry was of course meant to make fun of the warnings sounded by the Prophet (sws) about this punishment. 
2. The verse stresses that the time of this punishment is known only to Allah. He has set the time for it keeping in view His comprehensive scheme about this world which is based on His all-encompassing wisdom. The time frame of His decrees cannot be measured and judged on the basis of man made scales. There are some days in His kingdom which span over fifty thousand ‘human’ years. 
3. Patience marked with grace and dignity is one in which a person is not disheartened in adverse circumstances and continues to stand firm in his stance. 
4. That is they consider the Day of Judgement as a far fetched phenomenon. 
5. These events of the Day of Judgement signify the vulnerability of such great manifestations of nature as the heavens and the mountains which the foremost addressees of the Qur’an considered as eternal. They are warned that if the mountains shall be in such a state of destruction, they can well imagine what will happen to their own strongholds and citadels. 
6. The intense desire in a sinner to save himself from the agony of punishment on that Day will lead him to desert the closest of relatives -- something quite unthinkable in the strong tribal society of the Arabs. 
7. That is the threatened punishment is the flame of Hell. 
8. The subtle use of the Arabic word tad‘u (to call) effectively conveys the fact that the calls of the Prophet (sws), if unheeded, shall one day make way to the inescapable calls of Hell. 
9. The element of haste and impatience in a man's nature is not something condemnable in itself for it is the source of all his initiatives and ambitions. It is only when it manifests itself in an immoderate and intemperate manner that it becomes harmful. A whole set of directives which follows this verse and continues up to verse thirty four is prescribed by the Qur’an to discipline and regulate this instinctive urge of human nature. 
10. This is the real motive behind all their good deeds. 
11. The institution of slavery was never a part of Islam. Islam inherited a society in which this institution was an integral part. It embarked upon a series of measures to eliminate this menace of human bondage gradually from the society. During this gradual elimination, which was adopted keeping in view its deep roots in the society as well as in the human psyche, an interim period slavery continued to exist. The verse refers to this very period. 

 (Adapted  from Ghamidi's "Al-Bayaan")