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Surah Balad in English (“The City”) is the 90th chapter of the Qur’an
with 20 ayat. The Surat al-Balad, in spite of its brevity, contains some thought-provoking ideas.

Summary of Surah Al-Balad


• 1-7 Man, though created in misery, boasts of his
riches

• 8-16 Captives to be freed and the poor and orphan to be
fed

 17-20 Description of the companions of the right and left
hand


In the first part of the Surat, after mentioning some meaningful oaths,
this fact is pointed out that Man’s life, in this world, is always full of
toil and struggle which prepares him to be able to face troubles and
difficulties and therefore, he should not expect absolute tranquility and
comfort in the present world; that which is possible only in the next life.

In the next part of this Sura, a few of the greatest divine bounties
created for Man are enumerated and then, the discussion is given showing his
ingratitude.

In the last part of the Surah, people are divided into two groups: the
people of the Right Hand and the people of the Left Hand. Then, some
characteristics of the good deeds of the first group and their final fate are
stated and compared to the destiny of the opposite group; the Unbelievers
and sinners.
 

The senses derived from the verses of this Surah are decisive and vigorous,
the statements are short and categorical and the words are extremely effective
and explicit. The form and content of the verses show that the Surah is one of
the Meccan ones.

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    Surah Al-Balad in English Text Transliteration



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    Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem 


    Laaa Uqsimu Bihaazal Balad


    Wa Anta Hillum Bihaazal Balad


    Wa Waalidinw Wa Maa Walad


    Laqad Khalaqnal Insaana Fee Kabad


    Ayahsabu Al-lai Yaqdira ‘alaihi Ahad


    Yaqoolu Ahlaktu Maalal Lubadaa


    Ayahsabu Al Lam Yarahooo Ahad


    Alam Naj’al Lahoo ‘aynayn


    Wa Lisaananw Wa Shafatayn


    Wa Hadaynaahun Najdayn

    Falaq Tahamal-‘aqabah


    Wa Maaa Adraaka Mal’aqabah


    Fakku Raqabah


    Aw It’aamun Fee Yawmin Zee Masghabah


    Yateeman Zaa Maqrabah


    Aw Miskeenan Zaa Matrabah


    Summa Kaana Minal Lazeena Aamanoo Wa Tawaasaw Bissabri Wa Tawaasaw
    Bilmarhamah



    Ulaaa’ika As-haabul Maimanah


    Wallazeena Kafaroo Bi Aayaatinaa Hum As-haabul Mash’amah


    Alaihim Naarum Mu’sadah


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    Surah Balad English Translation Text



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    In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
    I do call to witness this City;-
    And thou art a freeman of this City;-
    And (the mystic ties of) parent and child;-
    Verily We have created man into toil and struggle.
    Thinketh he, that none hath power over him?
    He may say (boastfully); Wealth have I squandered in abundance!
    Thinketh he that none beholdeth him?
    Have We not made for him a pair of eyes?-
    And a tongue, and a pair of lips?-
    And shown him the two highways?
    But he hath made no haste on the path that is steep.
    And what will explain to thee the path that is steep?-
    (It is:) freeing the bondman;
    Or the giving of food on a day of privation
    To the orphan with claims of relationship,
    Or to the indigent (down) in the dust.

    Then will he be of those who believe, and enjoin patience, (constancy, and
    self-restraint), and enjoin deeds of kindness and compassion.
    Such are the Companions of the Right Hand.

    But those who reject Our Signs, are the (unhappy) Companions of the Left
    Hand.
    On them will be Fire vaulted over (all around).

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    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

    اللہ کے نام سے شروع جو نہایت مہربان ہمیشہ رحم فرمانے والا ہے




    1. لَا أُقْسِمُ بِهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ
    میں اس شہر (مکہ) کی قَسم کھاتا ہوں


    2. وَأَنْتَ حِلٌّ بِهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ
    (اے حبیبِ مکرّم!) اس لئے کہ آپ اس شہر میں تشریف فرما ہیں٭

    ٭ یہ ترجمہ ”لا زائدہ“ کے اعتبار سے ہے۔ لا ”نفئ صحیح“ کے لئے ہو تو ترجمہ یوں
    ہوگا: میں (اس وقت) اس شہر کی قَسم نہیں کھاؤں گا (اے حبیب!) جب آپ اس شہر سے
    رخصت ہو جائیں گے۔


    3. وَوَالِدٍ وَمَا وَلَدَ

    (اے حبیبِ مکرّم! آپ کے) والد (آدم یا ابراہیم علیہما السلام) کی قَسم اور (ان
    کی) قَسم جن کی ولادت ہوئی٭

    ٭ یعنی آدم علیہ السلام کی ذریّتِ صالحہ یا آپ ہی کی ذات گرامی جن کے باعث یہ
    شہرِ مکہ بھی لائقِ قَسم ٹھہرا ہے۔


    4. لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ
    بیشک ہم نے انسان کو مشقت میں (مبتلا رہنے والا) پیدا کیا ہے


    5. أَيَحْسَبُ أَنْ لَنْ يَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ أَحَدٌ
    کیا وہ یہ گمان کرتا ہے کہ اس پر ہرگز کوئی بھی قابو نہ پا سکے گا؟


    6. يَقُولُ أَهْلَكْتُ مَالًا لُبَدًا

    وہ (بڑے فخر سے) کہتا ہے کہ میں نے ڈھیروں مال خرچ کیا ہے


    7. أَيَحْسَبُ أَنْ لَمْ يَرَهُ أَحَدٌ

    کیا وہ یہ خیال کرتا ہے کہ اسے (یہ فضول خرچیاں کرتے ہوئے) کسی نے نہیں دیکھا


    8. أَلَمْ نَجْعَلْ لَهُ عَيْنَيْنِ
    اور (اسے) ایک زبان اور دو ہونٹ (نہیں دئیے)


    9. وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ

    اور (اسے) ایک زبان اور دو ہونٹ (نہیں دئیے)


    10. وَهَدَيْنَاهُ النَّجْدَيْنِ
    اور ہم نے اسے (خیر و شر کے) دو نمایاں راستے (بھی) دکھا دیئے


    11. فَلَا اقْتَحَمَ الْعَقَبَةَ

    وہ تو (دینِ حق اور عملِ خیر کی) دشوار گزار گھاٹی میں داخل ہی نہیں ہوا


    12. وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْعَقَبَةُ

     اور آپ کیا سمجھے ہیں کہ وہ (دینِ حق کے مجاہدہ کی) گھاٹی کیا ہے


    13. فَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ
    وہ (غلامی و محکومی کی زندگی سے) کسی گردن کا آزاد کرانا ہے


    14. أَوْ إِطْعَامٌ فِي يَوْمٍ ذِي مَسْغَبَةٍ

     یا بھوک والے دن (یعنی قحط و اَفلاس کے دور میں غریبوں اور محروم المعیشت
    لوگوں کو) کھانا کھلانا ہے (یعنی ان کے معاشی تعطل اور ابتلاء کو ختم کرنے کی
    جدّ و جہد کرنا ہے)


    15. يَتِيمًا ذَا مَقْرَبَةٍ
     قرابت دار یتیم کو


    16. أَوْ مِسْكِينًا ذَا مَتْرَبَةٍ
    یا شدید غربت کے مارے ہوئے محتاج کو جو محض خاک نشین (اور بے گھر) ہے


    17. ثُمَّ كَانَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ
    وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْمَرْحَمَةِ


    پھر (شرط یہ ہے کہ ایسی جدّ و جہد کرنے والا) وہ شخص ان لوگوں میں سے ہو جو
    ایمان لائے ہیں اور ایک دوسرے کو صبر و تحمل کی نصیحت کرتے ہیں اور باہم رحمت و
    شفقت کی تاکید کرتے ہیں



    18. أُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْمَيْمَنَةِ
    یہی لوگ دائیں طرف والے (یعنی اہلِ سعادت و مغفرت) ہیں


    19. وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِنَا هُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْمَشْأَمَةِ

    اور جن لوگوں نے ہماری آیتوں کا انکار کیا وہ بائیں طرف والے ہیں (یعنی اہلِ
    شقاوت و عذاب) ہیں


    20. عَلَيْهِمْ نَارٌ مُؤْصَدَةٌ


     ان پر (ہر طرف سے) بند کی ہوئی آگ (چھائی) ہوگی

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    Surah Balad Benefits and Virtues

    Surah Balad Benefits​


    1. Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad sallal laahu alaihi wasallam, has said
    that whoever recites Surah Balad will be safe from the Wrath of Allah (s.w.t.)
    on the Day of Reckoning.

    2. Those who recite Sura Balad in their farz prayers will be counted
    among the pious and will be given a high status in the company of the Prophets
    and martyrs.

    3. Writing Surah Al-Balad as a talisman and tying it around the neck of
    a child keeps him safe from illness.

    4. If water of Surat Balad Taweez is put in the nostrils acts as a
    cure for nose ailments.

    5. Those who recite Surah Al-Balad  Allah would keep him safe
    from His anger and displeasure and exempt him from the fire of hell.

    6. If Surah Al-Balad is written on paper and put on around the neck of
    a newborn child as a taweez the child would inshallah remain safe from those
    ailments which usually afflict children, moreover the child would not cry much
    and fits would not attack him.

    7. Recite Surah Al-Balad with safety from the anger of Allah.


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    Surah Balad English Translation Youtube Video



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    Surah Al Balad Tafseer in English


    90:1 لَا أُقْسِمُ بِهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ
    1) I swear by this city (Makkah)


    There are different ways that an oath can be taken in Arabic. In addition to
    using the preposition, ‘waw’ one can also use ‘bi’ which is not used commonly
    in the Quran. For example, bil-lahi is another usage of wallahi. Another way
    of taking an oath is to spell it out by using the phrase ‘I swear’ although
    this is not normal usage. Allah (SWT) never says ‘oqsimu’ in the Quran by
    itself rather He (SWT) will say something like ‘laa oqsimu’.


    The significance of this laa is spoken about a lot amongst linguists,
    grammarians, and the mufassiroon. Firstly it is not meant to be taken literally
    according to most scholars. In other words, it does not make sense to say ‘I do
    not swear by this city.


    Some scholars though nonetheless have tried to interpret it in this way. The
    benefit of this is that it can be considered Allah’s way of proclaiming that
    what He (SWT) is about to say is so powerful that He (SWT) does not even have
    to take an oath. However, this is not the majority of the stronger opinion.


    Laa actually underscores the existence of a counterargument. Allah (SWT) is
    about to say something that is contrary to what people believe but before He
    (SWT) teaches them the right thing He (SWT) says ‘no’ to and negates
    everything that they believe and hold to be true.


    In other words, a lot of nonsense is being said and before the people can be
    corrected they have to be silenced and this is done by saying ‘no!’ In our
    times it is equivalent to us saying – ‘stop!’ or ‘no, no, no – let me tell
    you!’ So this laa is there to negate all other ideas and others have commented
    that it refers to the attitudes that were highlighted in the previous surah.


    Allah (SWT) negates the weak characteristics man had when he thought badly of
    his Creator due to his wealth and blessings being limited.


    The word balad also appeared in the previous surah but the reference was to
    other cities where corruption and rebellion were rampant. These accounts were
    not simply historical lessons rather they are lessons that need to be learned
    for this city – Makkah.


    There is a transition made from those cities to this one and this will be a
    continuous style in this section of the Quran. Allah (SWT) will mention
    something in the general or in the past and then bring it right up to date in
    relation to the life and struggles of the messenger (saw).


    It is worth reminding ourselves that swearing by something is a means by which
    something is elevated and honored. Thus, by Allah (SWT) swearing by this city,   it is honored. Additionally, people’s attention is drawn to the thing that is
    sworn by and the response to the oath must be related to this city.

    90:2 َوَأَنْتَ حِلٌّ بِهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ
    2) And you (Muhammad) are an inhabitant of this city

    And you (Muhammad) are going to be allowed (to fight) in this city


    After mentioning Makkah, which is the chief of all cities, Allah (SWT)
    mentions the leader of all His (SWT) slaves, the messenger (saw). At the end
    of the previous surah, Allah (SWT) addresses the tranquil soul and of all souls,   Muhammad (saw) is the most tranquil and so naturally he (saw) is the first
    person mentioned here. Allah (SWT) says that he is ‘hil’ in this city.


    The word hil has many origins and one of its variations is mustahal which
    would render the meaning of this verse as ‘You (Muhammad) have become
    permissible in this city. The people of Makkah including the polytheists
    enjoy the peace of Makkah and they respect it to the extent that they do not
    even hunt in the city, preferring to go outside the city to hunt.


    They even called the city Al Haram (a place where killing is not allowed) and
    recognise this city as a sanctuary and this was passed on through the
    teachings of their forefather Prophet Ibrahim (as). Yet, when it comes to the
    messenger (saw) these disbelievers suddenly consider it halal to kill him and
    so the messenger (saw) is being told that a time is coming when the mushrikeen
    will make halal this sacred law that has been made haram for them.


    The forces of kuffar and disbelief have a constitution and certain ethics,
    rules, and values that they uphold and take pride in but this illustrates that
    when it comes to opposition with the Muslims and any who stand by the mission
    of Islam that they are willing to break their rules.


    Thus, they are hypocritical when they say that they are standing by their
    principles by opposing the prophet, as it is these very principles that they
    break when they confront the Muslims. For example in a nation where you have
    the idea of due process and the principle that everyone is innocent until
    proven guilty, this very principle is sometimes set aside when it comes to Muslims.


    They can often be portrayed as evil ones so that people do not perceive
    them as humans who should be equal in the sight of the law. In the time of
    Fir’aun, his family had protection and were considered off limits. Yet, Musa
    (as) was attacked and fought so that he would leave Islam despite being raised
    in that house.


    Similarly, the Arabs would not attack someone from their own tribe and so in
    order to deal with Muhammad (saw) they had to come up with a way around this
    problem which led to the scheme where one member of each clan would
    participate in the murder thereby distributing blame to the point, there was no
    blame at all.


    This is important for us to know as Allah (SWT) is preparing us to expect
    injustice and opposition even by the standards of the disbelievers when we
    give dawah and spread and stand up for the message of Islam. They will break
    their own standards in opposition to those who believe and this is found over
    and over in the history of the prophets.


    A second opinion regarding hil is that Allah (SWT) is informing the messenger
    (saw) that something will be made permissible for him that has not been made
    permissible for anyone before him. This implies that at the conquest of Makkah for
    one day only it was permissible for Muhammad (saw), within the sanctuary, to
    order the execution of certain war criminals that had to be punished (although
    on the most part there was forgiveness).


    On that day also the messenger (saw) said in reference to a certain time
    during the day of the conquest of Makkah that ‘Surely Allah made Makkah
    Sacred/haram the day He created the skies and the Earth, and it will remain
    Holy/sacred until the establishment of the Final Hour. It was not made
    permissible (Hil) to anyone before me or to anyone after me, and it was not
    made permissible to me except for an hour in a day.


    Allah (swt) is telling the messenger (saw) that it will be halal for him to
    exact punishment on the disbeliever, which does not make sense in the Makkan
    context, and this surah by consensus is Makki. It only makes sense in the
    context of victory and so in this statement, there is a guarantee of the
    victory of Islam.


    This is one of the interpretations of this verse that exist even from the time
    of the companions. So, on the one hand, the believer’s conflict is illustrated through the word ‘hil’ but on the other hand, the victor in this
    conflict is also illustrated by the same word.


    A third opinion comes from the understanding that the word hil also can mean
    to arrive at or to descend on a place (e.g. ‘I have landed in this city and I
    am going to stay here and not move’). By this, the messenger (saw) is being
    told that he is a permanent fixture of the city.


    In other words, even when he is expelled from the city, he will nevertheless
    come back and establish his rule and this is another way in which the
    guarantee of the victory of Islam has been given to the messenger (saw). The
    root origin of the word ‘hil’ is ‘halla’ and literally means to untie
    something. For example the dua of Musa (as) in Surah Taha: And untie the knot
    in my tongue (20:27).


    When a traveler descends on a city the first thing he does is untie and
    unpack his bags, which is why the word hil was used for arrival. The
    implication captured in the language is that the messenger (saw) went up the
    mountain, received revelation, and then descended to the city with it. In these
    opening two verses, Allah (SWT) has honored Makkah twice.


    Firstly, by taking an oath by this blessed city, and secondly by giving a
    messenger who descended on the city with revelation. In a hadith found in Ibn
    Kathir (classed as Hasan by Al-Albani), narrated in the context of this verse,
    the messenger (saw) said that no one has ever been tortured for the sake of
    Allah like he has. Thus, the word hil has a lot of heavy context in it
    implying constant struggle but the tranquillity mentioned at the end of the
    previous surah will only be attained by the one struggling for Allah (SWT).

    90:3 وَوَالِدٍ وَمَا وَلَدَ
    3) And by the father and what he fathered


    In the previous surah forefathers and ancestors were mentioned but wrongdoers like the people of ‘Aad and Thamud. Now, Allah (SWT) shows the
    other side. Ma means ‘what’ but it can also be used for ta’ajjub (amazement)
    as if to say ‘what an amazing son he fathered!’ The father according to many
    mufassiroon refers to Adam (as) but in the context of this surah the stronger
    view is that it refers to Ibrahim (as) and from him came his son Ishmael (as)
    and through his lineage Muhammad (saw), the final Messenger of Allah (SWT).


    This is the more likely interpretation as the oaths began with the city of
    Makkah, which Ibrahim (as) inaugurated. By excluding the definite article from
    the words Walid and walad these multiple implications become possible.
    However, when the Arab hears the word Walid (father) he would think of his
    forefather Ibrahim (as).


    In the Quran and especially Makkan Quran we find that the three prophets
    mentioned most often in the discourse of dawah are Ibrahim (as), Musa (as), and
    Eesa (as). This is because the Makkans considered their lineage attached to
    Ibrahim (as) whilst the other audience of the messenger (saw) were the Jews
    and the Christians who affiliate themselves with Musa (as) and Eesa (as)
    respectively.


    These prophets feature the most as these are the three that are most likely to
    capture the ears of the audience of the prophet (saw). Allah (SWT) here is
    referring to the father of this city who inaugurated it and started this
    legacy and built the house of Allah (SWT).


    It was Ibrahim (as) who made the dua in Surah Baqarah: ‘Our Lord and send
    among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and
    teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the Exalted in
    Might, the Wise’ (2:129). The fulfillment of that dua was Ishmael (as) and
    finally Muhammad (saw), the final messenger of Allah (SWT).


    The word walad includes all the children and so it includes Muhammad (saw) but
    also the progeny of Ishmael (as), the vast majority of whom were doing
    shirk. Allah (SWT) here is showing His amazement to the Messenger of Allah who
    is staying true to the message of his father Ibrahim (as) but also His shock
    that the vast majority of Ibrahim’s children are rebelling against the legacy
    of their own father by rebelling against the messenger (saw).


    How can the Quraysh plot the murder of Muhammad (saw) who is simply reviving
    the religion of their father Ibrahim (as)?

    90:4 لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ
    4) Indeed We have created man (to live) in the hard struggle


    At the end of these oaths comes the response which is the central message of
    this surah. The human being has been created in kabad. Some of the mufassiroon
    commented that kabad means intense labor, toil that is overwhelming you
    from every direction.


    Allah (SWT) is saying that the human being has been created in an endless and
    exhausting struggle. In the previous surah man incorrectly thought that when
    Allah (SWT) gives him prestige and honor that all his troubles are over and
    that he has been honored. However, when his rizq has gone away he thinks that
    his lord has humiliated him.


    This surah begins with ‘laa’ – no. This implies that no matter your financial
    situation, what people think of you, or the life you live, whether they think
    you have a good life or a tough life, each and every human being has been
    created in an intense struggle. No matter where you come from man never stops
    worrying although one man’s problems may not be an issue for someone else.


    A wealthy person may be worried about his relationship with his family but
    that may be a trivial issue for someone who enjoys good relations with his
    family but is worried about his finances. Similarly, people in one part of the
    world will have completely different worries to someone in another part of the
    world.


    A child in the west may be concerned he does not have the latest gaming
    platform whereas a child in a less affluent part of the world is concerned
    about clean water and when his next meal will come.


    Allah (SWT) lets us know that no matter your situation you are in enormous
    struggle. It is important to note that there are two paths that are going to
    be discussed in this surah. The right path, the path of Allah (SWT), and the
    path of other than Allah (SWT).


    One can follow the path that Allah (SWT) wants you to follow and face a
    struggle or one could follow a path that his desires lead him to follow but
    still find it a struggle. Neither is easy but one appears easy and one appears
    hard. So you might as well struggle for something which will lead you to
    Allah’s mercy and reward rather than His anger and punishment.


    People run away from the commandments of Allah (SWT) thinking that it is going
    to bring difficulty whereas in reality turning away from guidance still leads
    to challenges and difficulties. Non-Muslims that are close to Islam are often
    dissuaded by a perception that following the commandments of Allah (SWT) is
    difficult.


    However, in Surah An-Nisa Allah (SWT) says: Allah desires that He should make
    light your burdens and man is created weak (4:28). Allah (SWT) knows what is
    better for us. Our lives are full of burdens but by following His (SWT)
    commandments it will become light. The medicine may taste bitter but it will
    bring comfort, ease, and relaxation to you.


    The word kabad means the middle of the day which was the toughest part of the
    day for the Arabs. It also means to be immersed in the middle of a sand dune
    makes walking difficult as your feet become embedded in the sand.


    The word kabad also refers to the liver and kibd was used when your liver was
    injured resulting in pain and hardship. Some of the mufassiroon commented and
    this was even an opinion amongst some of the companions that the word kabad
    refers to the different stages of life.


    The fact that the human struggles to come out of the womb struggles to drink
    its mother’s milk struggles to walk and then struggles throughout its life
    until death. Others have disagreed due to the fact that these difficulties are
    not unique to humans and because other creatures share them. Furthermore, as
    Allah (SWT) says ‘insaan’ there must then be another exhaustion that man
    suffers from in addition. Another opinion is that perhaps this labor is the
    covenant that Allah (SWT) put on every human being at the beginning of
    creation acknowledging that Allah (SWT) is their Rabb.


    This is the burden mankind carries. If they deny their duty to Allah (SWT) He
    will give them hardships in life but if they recognize and obey Allah (SWT)
    then these very hardships will elevate their status in the sight of Allah
    (SWT).


    Other mufassiroon say that the word insaan here refers specifically to a
    kaafir called Abul Asht, a wealthy man who spent his wealth in opposition to
    the Muslims. He was also known for his strength. He would place leather under
    his foot wagering that none could pull it out from under it and the leather
    would rip but his foot would not move.


    Some of the companions thought this referred to him because kabad means
    strength and Allah (SWT) created that human with enormous strength although
    the majority of mufassiroon say that when insaan is used it is really a
    commentary on the entire human race and that all human beings are created in
    this toil and struggle.


    It is also said that Allah (SWT) emphasizes in this oath that human beings
    are meant to struggle which they can’t escape, in it is also confirmation
    and strengthening to the messenger (saw) that he is not the only one
    struggling but rather struggle is a part of human legacy. When the messenger
    (saw) learned that something was from the Qadr (destiny) of Allah (SWT),
    including his struggle for Islam, he was satisfied and content.

    90:5 أَيَحْسَبُ أَنْ لَنْ يَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ أَحَدٌ
    5) Does he think that no one will have power over him?


    Allah (SWT) describes the psychological conflict of the human being. On the
    inside man is stressed and worried but trying to maintain an exterior that
    does not indicate stress. This is manifest in our society most clearly amongst
    celebrities who on the outside exhibit confidence and happiness but behind the
    scenes may be stressed out, taking drugs, and suffering from depression.


    This display of confidence is found in other people too from the young
    reckless driver who does not think he will be caught and considers himself
    above the law to the unchallenged tyrannical ruler that brings death to his
    people because he does not believe he can be stopped.


    Allah (SWT) says that this person assumes (yahsab) that he is above everyone
    else and that none can overpower him. The word ahad was used in the previous
    surah to explain that Allah’s punishment is like no other and here the same
    word is used to indicate that this person thinks that no one, not even Allah
    (SWT) can overpower him.


    The surah thus far has alluded to things in the past but the word ‘lan’ is a
    negative particle forcing the tense into the future and with it, there is now
    an attitude of heedlessness of the future. This person is not concerned about
    the future and anyone who does not reflect on the past and how Allah (SWT) has
    dealt with arrogant people before him has not prepared for the future.

    90:6 يَقُولُ أَهْلَكْتُ مَالًا لُبَدًا
    6) ‘I have wasted abundant wealth’ he says


    In this verse, this person’s arrogant assumptions and thoughts develop and get
    strong enough to the point that he actually says some things out loud. Lubad
    comes from libda which is a sticky liquid almost like a glue that you can pile
    things on top of and lubad is used for a huge pile that is stuck together.


    This person is essentially saying that he has amassed wealth upon wealth and
    then destroyed large parts of it. This is very similar to someone in our time
    remarking that they have ‘blown’ a large amount of money on a new car for
    example and is a means by which arrogance is shown.


    This person does not say that he spent a lot of money rather he specifically
    wants to show people that he has wasted money. This is his way of publicizing
    the fact that he is so rich that he does not even care about the money he has
    wasted. People often spend a lot of money updating their car or building up
    their handbag collection so that people will admire it.


    People will show off to others by telling them how much money they have spent
    on their clothes just so that they can build up their esteem by seeing the
    shocked expression on someone’s face. This person thinks that the only way to
    get respect in society is through amassing wealth and then spending it openly
    and recklessly remember this very person in the previous surah felt that
    his lord had belittled him when his wealth was restricted.


    The other way this verse is interpreted is that when the call is made to spend
    on a good cause like the orphans and the needy, this person will say that he
    has blown all his money as an excuse to avoid donating. As this person is
    known to be wealthy in society he is concerned that he will be approached
    first to donate and so he takes pre-emptive action by broadcasting the news
    that he has already spent a lot of money making it easier for him to decline.


    Alternatively, if this insaan is referring to the most adamant disbelievers
    struggling against Islam then some have interpreted it as referring to Abul
    Asht mentioned earlier who said that he should be considered the leader of the
    disbelievers as he had spent the most in opposition to the messenger (saw).


    Notice also that this verse is a contrast to the same human being in the
    previous surah who in verse twenty-four regretted not spending for his future
    life in the hereafter whereas this verse shows us what he was doing with his
    money in this world. Allah (SWT) is showing us that this person will
    eventually regret wasting his money on fruitless endeavors when he could have
    been investing for his real life in the next world.

    90:7 أَيَحْسَبُ أَنْ لَمْ يَرَهُ أَحَدٌ
    7) Does he think that no one saw him?


    Allah (SWT) asks if this person assumes that no one saw him. The word lam is a
    negative particle and forces the tense of the verb into the past. The Quraysh
    had begun to believe that they had a natural-born right to the honors and
    riches of Makkah.


    However, it was Allah (swt) who gave this barren city life, its rizq, and made
    it safe only through the dua of Ibrahim (as) and if the Quraysh are unwilling
    to reflect on the legacy of Ibrahim (as) then they should at least reflect on
    their own life and the provisions they enjoy but are not entitled to. They
    should know that Allah (SWT) is watching the evil they do and the way they
    earn and spend their money against His Messenger.

    90:8 أَلَمْ نَجْعَلْ لَهُ عَيْنَيْنِ
    8) Did We not give him eyes?


    Immediately after Allah (SWT) asks cannot the One who gave you your eyes see
    all that you do? All the money this person possesses would not be able to
    afford this blessing alone that Allah (SWT) has given. This person may think
    that he owns a house and his camels but he has paid nothing for the eyes that
    Allah (SWT) gave.

    90:9 وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ
    9) And a tongue and two lips?


    According to a hadith, the lips are a means by which you control your tongue.
    Allah (SWT) has given two lips to control and silence our tongues. The tongue
    which a few verses ago boasted about the wealth is wasted. This person’s
    arrogance was shown through his tongue, firstly at his assumption that none
    can control him and then that no one who saw him, will be a witness against him on
    the Day of Judgement.


    The tongue truly is a remarkable creation that allows us to process our
    thoughts into words in a fraction of a second and therefore requires us to
    exercise caution in our speech.

    90:10 وَهَدَيْنَاهُ النَّجْدَيْنِ
    10) And shown him the two ways (good and evil)?


    The following hadith of the messenger (saw) helps put this verse into context:
    ‘Rush towards your Lord people because certainly that which is little and
    enough is better than something plentiful but deceptive. People, there are
    only two paths, the path of good and the path of evil, so what makes you love
    the path of evil more than the good path?’


    The word hadaa means to guide someone and by Allah (SWT) saying that He has
    guided us to two paths the majority opinion is that this refers to the paths
    of good and evil. This has also been illustrated in other places in the Quran
    for example in Surah Al Baqarah: There is no compulsion in religion; truly the
    right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore whoever rejects
    evil and believes in Allah has indeed laid hold on the firmest handle which
    shall not break off Allah hears and knows all things (2:256).


    The implication here is that Allah (SWT) has clearly shown what is right and
    what is wrong.


    Makkan Quran talks a lot about universal good, for example, taking care of
    orphans and giving to the needy, the rights of neighbors, etc. So before the
    finer details of the shariah are mentioned Allah (SWT) imparts general moral
    principles that anyone can relate to even the polytheists of Makkah who had no
    exposure to divine scripture like the people of the book.


    This is something that Allah (SWT) has pre-programmed into every human being
    and so it is part of human nature to know that killing is wrong. Studies in
    psychology have shown that when someone lies for the first time or someone who
    is not a professional liar lies (e.g. a politician or actor) there are
    physiological changes in that person such as an increase in his blood
    pressure, a change in the pitch of his voice and the hair on his skin may even
    stand up.


    Essentially, the human being was not programmed to lie and his fitrah is
    inclined towards truth and this is why all cultures and societies unanimously
    love truthfulness and dislike lying as a trait in people.


    Other places in the Quran where the word hadaa is found sometimes see it
    accompanied with a preposition but here as in Al Fatiha, there is no
    preposition. The removal of prepositions linguistically makes a phrase more
    comprehensive and meaningful.


    In this case, removing the ‘to’ or ‘ila’ enhances the meaning from simply
    ‘guided to two paths’ to ‘guide to and along the two paths. When someone
    chooses the path of good sincerely Allah (SWT) facilities that path for them
    and guides them along it and when someone chooses the path of evil Allah (SWT)
    makes that path achievable for them.


    The word najd means a mountain that has no vegetation or trees and is bare
    rock and in there is a clear path leading up. The image given in this verse is
    that of a man at the foot of a mountain with two paths ahead of him, one
    leading right and one leading left and Allah (SWT) has clearly shown where
    each path leads. These two paths both lead up and both involve climbing which
    means that both require labor in ascension.


    This has been taught to us already in this surah where we learned that man was
    created in struggle and this is now being reinforced with this image. Now
    imagine that one of these paths is easy but gets difficult the further up you
    get and the second is difficult early on but gets easier as one progresses
    further. There is a parallel here to the struggle of man. As far as man is
    concerned the human being will always prefer ease over difficulty preferring
    to defer difficulty to a later date how often when presented with a task
    does one say that they’ll deal with it later.

    90:11 َلَا اقْتَحَمَ الْعَقَبَةَ
    11) Yet he has not attempted the steep path


    The word ‘aqabah is also a word used to refer to a path heading up a
    mountain range and so is almost synonymous with the word najd except that the
    word ‘aqabah means a path that is very difficult to climb. So Allah (SWT) has
    shown us two paths one of which is not just najd but also ‘aqabah. ‘Iqtihaam
    is to jump into something without giving it any thought and to involve
    yourself in a task that will involve a lot of work only to realize later that
    it is exhausting.


    Furthermore, once you have committed yourself to this task there is no backing
    out, like putting together furniture, you think you can do it but then it
    starts getting difficult and you realize at the halfway point that this is
    tougher than you first thought. Allah (SWT) is telling us that after showing
    man the two paths he chose not to commit himself to the hard path.


    The first word in the verse is laa and precedes the word iqtahama which is in
    the past tense. Maa would have been the normal expected negative particle here
    as laa is not typically used with the past tense (laa yaqtahimu would be
    deemed normal). There are some subtle implications here captured by the change
    in just one word. Laa necessitates that multiple things are being negated
    which is one reason it is used instead of maa.


    ‘iqtahama though is just one act whereas in ‘aqabah there are multiple things
    involved, which will become apparent as the surah progresses, and as a result,   this is what some scholars say the laa refers to. Laa can also imply a dua
    rendering the meaning ‘Why didn’t he? Why didn’t he climb the tougher path?’
    Allah (SWT) has given man eyes and the ability to do so why didn’t he climb
    the steep path?


    Thus, the falaa actually has the meaning of limadha (why) almost as if Allah
    (SWT) is complaining that the human did not jump right in and take up the struggle,   and in doing it is almost as if He (SWT) is giving us the challenge to engage in
    this struggle. Others comment that this path is the path to salvation and
    there is an indication given at the end of this surah as to what you will see
    when you start reaching the top of this path.

    90:12 َمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْعَقَبَةُ
    12) And what will make you know what the steep path is?


    In the Quran we find both ‘wa ma adraaka’ and ‘wa ma yudreeka’. The former is
    the past tense and the latter is the present tense. Allah (SWT) asks in the
    past tense what would have given any clue as to what that steep path is and
    whenever the question is asked in the past tense information is given but not
    when the question is asked in the present tense. For example, Allah (SWT) does
    not inform us of when the final hour will come to pass. Thus, it is a mercy
    that the word adraaka is used here as it means that Allah (SWT) will teach us
    what this path is because if we did not know we would never be able to take
    it.

    90:13 فَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ
    13) It is to free a slave


    The literal meaning of this verse is to rescue someone from slavery. Ikrimah
    bin Abi Jahl (ra) had a unique opinion about this verse and interpreted it as
    freeing oneself from the slavery of sins by making repentance. This however is
    not the majority opinion. In the Quran, there are two words used for rescue.
    Ankadha is to rescue someone from some kind of danger like fire and fakah is
    used when you are trying to rescue someone from prison or slavery.


    The word raqabah literally means the back of the neck and the imagery here is
    of a chain tied around the neck. If the chain is pulled from the front then
    the person in chains would have to follow his master. If the chain is pulled
    from the back however the slave is choked and this depicts the pain of being a
    slave.


    In Islamic literature, slavery is mentioned in two ways, firstly literal or
    physical slavery, and secondly the slavery of a debt which is also like a chokehold on someone. The first word in this verse is in the nominal and not the
    verbal form and therefore implies commitment whereas the verbal form would
    mean one has freed a slave only once. The commitment is manifested in
    committing oneself to free slaves, those imprisoned unjustly, and the
    oppressed.


    Makkan Quran is very forthright in the cause of freeing slaves and we are
    taught here that if you want to climb the right path then become committed to
    freeing the slave. This is an apt response to critics of Islam who question
    why Islam endorses slavery whereas the truth is that Islam systematically
    abolished the institution of slavery.

    90:14 أَوْ إِطْعَامٌ فِي يَوْمٍ ذِي مَسْغَبَةٍ
    14) To feed at a time of hunger


    In the previous surah, we read about selfish people and the first act of
    climbing the mountain is to become selfless. In the Quran, there are
    specifically four words used for hunger and the word used here is masghabah
    which means widespread hunger. In our times this may be referred to as famine
    or even bad economic times.


    Allah (SWT) is saying that this mountain is tough to climb because you have to
    feed and be committed to feeding and notice again the nominal form (a timeless
    commitment) of the word itt’aam. Furthermore, this feeding must occur
    especially in bad economic times. In a time which is possessed with
    overwhelming hunger that has come to everyone meaning that you are reluctant
    to give as you yourself are hungry.


    However, if you want to become a true humanitarian you have to give preference
    to others over yourself. Allah (SWT) has not yet spoken in this surah about
    Imaan and the akhirah but rather the universal ethics and morals of becoming
    selfless. The previous surah taught us that kufr leads to corruption in the
    cities and here Allah (SWT) is instructing us to oppose this corruption by
    being selfless and helping the weak and oppressed (the people most affected by
    this corruption).

    90:15 َتِيمًا ذَا مَقْرَبَةٍ
    15) An orphaned relative


    Dhaa maqrabah means not only the orphan close to you i.e. related to you but
    also the orphan who is in close proximity to you i.e. the orphan in your
    community or neighborhood. Allah (SWT) encourages the kind treatment of
    orphans and this is almost a response to the verse in the previous surah which
    reprimands those that do not honor the orphans: No indeed! You (people) do
    not honor orphans (Al-Fajr 89:17).


    Allah (SWT) first calls for kind treatment of orphans in your family like your
    niece or nephew and then for those in our communities therefore we should
    try to know the orphans in our communities. Even the disbeliever can relate to
    these verses because this address is to the insaan in general and not
    specifically the believers.

    90:16 أَوْ مِسْكِينًا ذَا مَتْرَبَةٍ
    16) Or to a needy person in distress


    The word miskeen comes from maskana and is used in many places in the Quran.
    One of the ways it has been defined is as someone who barely has the life
    essentials to survive like assets, savings, and maybe even home but somehow
    they still survive.


    The kind of person who when you meet them causes you to wonder how they can
    possibly survive like this. Allah (SWT) says that this needy person possesses
    dust. The word turab means dust and matraba literally mean clinging to the
    dust. Thus, this person is completely covered and overwhelmed by dust. This
    has been interpreted as meaning that this person is homeless as if he had a
    home he would not be covered in dust.


    Secondly, he is going around looking for food which causes him to get covered
    in dust and thirdly his bed is dust and so naturally when he gets up he is
    covered in dust. This poor person walks around without a home, barely
    surviving. This is the response to the verse in the previous surah which
    discussed not just those who do not feed the needy but also those who do not
    encourage others to feed them: And you do not encourage one another to feed
    the poor (Al-Fajr 89:18).

    90:17 ثُمَّ كَانَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ
    وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْمَرْحَمَةِ

    17) And to become one of those who urge one another to perseverance,
    patience, and compassion



    There are many charitable organizations that work to feed and provide for the
    poor, hungry, and homeless (may Allah reward them). However, despite their
    efforts year on year the scale of the problem increases. Charities, therefore, do not advertise how big the problem is so that people are not overwhelmed and
    dissuaded from donating. In fact, they will often concentrate on what people
    can do to help by making the problem appear smaller.


    For example, schemes such as sponsoring an orphan’s education. These are
    problems in our societies that have always been there and the previous surah
    in fact informed us that this happens because people have caused corruption by
    rebelling against Allah (SWT).


    Therefore, although humanitarian work is essentially the most effective way to
    deal with this problem of corruption and inequality is to strike at the heart
    of the problem and to return to Allah (SWT).


    This is why after mentioning the freeing of the slaves, and giving to the orphans
    and the needy, Imaan is discussed.


    Allah (SWT) says about the believers in Surah An-Noor that He will establish
    them on the earth and will replace them after fear, peace, and safety
    (An-Noor 24:55). This is because belief and safety are connected and when you
    turn to Allah (SWT) He will send His blessings from the sky and by His justice
    and revelation create a society in which these problems are properly dealt
    with. This is proven through the lives of the famous Khulafa like Umar bin al
    Khattab (RA). All this justice and enrichment of society was due to one thing;
    Imaan – guidance from Allah (SWT) and its implementation.


    The word tawasaw is in the plural form and means they are enjoined yet kaana is in
    the singular. Allah (SWT) informs us that after he came to Imaan he then
    became one of those who believe and who enjoin each other in perseverance and
    urge one another to compassion. The immediate switch to the plural means that
    when you become a person of Imaan you join the ranks of other believers.


    You are not in this struggle to help humanity alone but rather you are now in
    a larger communal struggle of believers. The word wasiyya is to leave a will
    or a legacy and tawaasi are to advise, motivate, encourage, and counsel one
    another. They have now become believers but the situation still seems hopeless
    so they have to advise and counsel one another to keep motivated and patient.


    The word sabr captures four different attributes in English, patience,
    commitment, consistency, and constancy. So no matter how hard something might
    be or how great the challenge is, they continue to advise each other in
    persevering in this cause. The task of climbing this hill is difficult and one
    may lose hope and so you need someone to encourage you. It is almost like
    saying to one another, ‘Come on, we can do this. Let’s stay firm, the reward
    is great. The disbelievers were too lazy to climb the steep path and did not
    have the self-restraint to prevent themselves from indulging in their desires.


    The word rahma means mercy but marhama is extremely powerful mercy that
    goes in every direction. Allah (SWT) is telling us that you can only be a true
    humanitarian if you prefer others over yourself constantly with Imaan. Thus,
    they encourage each other for the sake of universal mercy as having Imaan
    means that you have mercy for mankind as a whole. However, real mercy is not
    just caring for the welfare of humans in this life but also the welfare of
    humans in the next life and this is done by encouraging each other to Islam
    and to commit to Islam. Simply taking care of one’s welfare in this life
    will not help the welfare of that person in the next life.

    90:18 ُولَٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْمَيْمَنَةِ
    18) Those who do this will be on the right-hand side


    The term ashab al yameen refers to those people who are on the right side, who
    will dwell in paradise, and who will have their books given in their right
    hands. The term ashab al maymanah though refers to those people who are on the
    far right, people who are extra secure on the right path, closer to Allah’s
    mercy, and far from the center. May Allah make us from them.


    Something interesting to point out is the subtle difference in the sequencing
    between this surah and the previous surah. In the previous surah, the people of
    hellfire were mentioned before the people of paradise. In this surah the
    reverse is true and the people of paradise are mentioned first and then the
    people of hellfire.


    Similarly, in this surah, we found the yateem mentioned before the miskeen
    whereas in the previous surah the miskeen was mentioned first. Also, the end
    of Surah Al-Fajr mentions Jannah whilst the end of this surah mentions the
    hellfire.

    90:19 َالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِنَا هُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْمَشْأَمَةِ
    19) But those who disbelieve in Our revelations will be on the left-hand
    side 



    Until now there has been no discussion on revelation in the whole surah. Most
    of the surah has been about al ‘aqabah and humanitarian work with a little
    mention of Imaan but now the root cause of all this is given. It is disbelief
    in the miraculous signs of Allah (SWT). Often when one thinks of Imaan they
    think of Imaan in Allah (SWT) but this surah is highlighting Imaan in
    something else, Imaan in the revelations of Allah (SWT).


    This is because the revelation of Allah (SWT) is the one true guide to solving
    the problems of humanity. Those who are in disbelief of this guidance are in
    kufr and will continue to experience corruption in the land. In English, the
    word ayah is often translated as a verse which in English literature is used for
    poetry, and in the biblical context, it is used to refer to verses of the bible.


    This is perhaps not a translation that should sit comfortably with Muslims as
    the Quran emphatically declares it has nothing to do with poetry. Furthermore,
    some people claim that parts of the Quran came from the bible and so the last
    thing you want people to think about when they are thinking about the Quran is
    the bible. Thus, when the Quran is translated we have to be careful about not
    just the words but also the messages those words send to the audience
    listening.


    The word ayah in the Quran means two things, a sign, and a miracle and so can
    be translated as a miraculous sign. It is a word used to describe the
    miraculous birth of Eesa (as) or the staff of Musa (as) turning into a snake.


    Something that points to the oneness of Allah (SWT) is also called an ayah and
    as the revelation and the creation, when you reflect on them, both point to
    the oneness of Allah (SWT), they are called ayat. The word mashamah in Arabic
    means the overwhelming curse and ash-shu’oom is something vile and disgusting
    so much so that people stay away from you out of disgust almost as if you are
    cursed. Thus, Allah (SWT) is saying that those who disbelieve in His
    miraculous signs are people associated with the curse or the left side as
    mashamah also means the left-hand side.


    The Arabs considered things associated with the left-hand side as a cursed or
    vile things and this is something that has continued in the tradition of Islam.
    For example in purification Muslims use the left hand and use the right hand
    for good and blessed things and this is the sunnah of the messenger (saw) (and
    it may be that the Arabs originally got this tradition from the religion of
    their father Prophet Ibrahim (as)).


    The ayat of Allah (SWT) is of two kinds, revelation and creation. We
    often understand a disbeliever to be someone who denies the revelation but
    there can also be kufr in the other signs of Allah (SWT). There are miraculous
    signs inside and outside us in addition to the miraculous signs inside the
    revelation of Allah (SWT).


    In this surah alone there are miraculous signs in how Allah (SWT) looks inside
    the psyche of the human and tells us what he is thinking without that person
    even disclosing it. It is one thing for the messenger to know what the person
    said but how can he know what the person thinks?


    Thus, Allah (SWT) has captured these people’s inner thoughts in his miraculous
    revelation and yet even this they deny, refusing to reflect on it. The
    ultimate message of this surah is that the people who will have the easiest
    transition to Islam are those people that are decent human beings, the people
    that are not engulfed in self-pleasure and who have concern for humanity.

    90:20 َلَيْهِمْ نَارٌ مُؤْصَدَةٌ
    20) And the Fire will close in on them

    Upon them will be the Fire, enveloping them with closed exits


    When Allah (SWT) spoke of the people of the right hand he did not mention
    Jannah but when he spoke about the people of the left hand he gave extra
    detail and mentioned hellfire. This is because every surah has a climate and
    atmosphere and the climate of this surah is very tough as is indicated by the
    tough words used throughout e.g. la, najdayn, ‘aqabah, ‘iqtahama.


    The ending of this surah focuses and emphasizes more so the people of hellfire
    whilst the previous surah had an ending that emphasised more so the people of
    paradise. The word wasad means to seal something with another thing on top.
    For example, placing a lid on a cooking pot so that the steam does not escape.
    It is also used to describe closing the door in a room that has no other
    escape.


    The imagery therefore given here is of a fire from which there is no escape
    and which in addition is sealed so that the heat of the fire does not
    escape, thereby intensifying further the heat inside. At the beginning of this
    surah, we learned that man is created in toil in this Dunya and at the end, we
    learn that if he does not do the right thing and toil for Allah (SWT) there is
    a far worse toil coming which will last forever. May Allah (SWT) protect us
    from the fire and enter us directly into Jannah.


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