In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
- When the earth is shaken with her shaking
- And the earth brings forth her burdens
- And man says: What has befallen her?
- On that day she will tell her news,
- As if thy Lord had revealed to her.
- On that day men will come forth in sundry bodies that they
may be shown their works.
- So he who does an atoms weight of good will see it,
- And he who does an atoms weight of evil will see it.
This chapter is a Makkan revelation. The mighty revolution mentioned
in the last chapter, Al-Bayinah, (The Clear Evidence), and
which depended on the coming of the Holy Prophet (sas), could
not have been effected without an earthquake. For, how can centuries
of stagnation and inertia be eliminated unless a country is severely
shaken by an earthquake of wars and calamities? This is the earthquake
with which this chapter deals.
There is no doubt that this cataclysm refers to the Day of Resurrection,
but as has been explained on many occasions, the lifetime of the
Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas) was a representation on a smaller
scale of the mighty upheaval that would take place on the Day of
Resurrection, for the recompense for good and evil that took place
in Makkah then, serves as a sure preview of the happenings in the
Therefore, the earthquake pertains also to this life. Indeed, such
was the power and intensity of this explosion on Arabia in the time
of the Holy Prophet (sas), and so glorious were its repercussions,
that people could clearly see unfolding before their eyes a smaller
picture of the overwhelming earthquake promised in the Great Resurrection.
So, whatever descriptions of the earthquake are given in this chapter
concern the two resurrections, that is, the one which took place
during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas) and
also the one which has been fixed for the final Resurrection on
the Day of Judgement. Therefore, the following commentary will encompass
signs of both resurrections.
1. When the earth is shaken with her shaking
2. And the earth brings forth her burdens
3. And man says: What has befallen her?
Ath-qa-la-ha (brings forth her burdens) means, according
to Razi, the classical commentator of the Holy Qur'an, what is concealed
in its interior, or a hidden secret.
Zil-za-la-ha (shaken with her shaking) refers to an upheaval
that is calculated to cause a great commotion in the hearts of men.
It is a well-known fact that if the effects of an earthquake that
brings in its wake trials and tribulations cannot remove centuries
of stagnation and instil life in those who were dead for generations,
then it cannot be considered an eruption of cataclysmic proportions.
When a person is sound asleep in the languor of heedlessness it
is necessary to shake him over and over in order to rouse him. Sometimes
he does not get up at all and sometimes he wakes up for a while
and then promptly falls back in sleep, so he has to be rudely shaken
repeatedly in order to get him up. Similarly, a nation that has
sunk into the pit of passivity and sloth has to be shaken over and
over else it would not awake from its torpor.
So here, when reference is made to that wonderful material and
spiritual revolution to which Islam gave birth when it came into
the world, it is stated that it was necessary for Arabia to be thrown
into convulsion and that the upheaval should be such as to cause
a great awakening in the hearts of people.
And by Allah! look at how the Messenger of Allah and his companions
were afflicted by every imaginable kind of calamity; how many persecutions
they had to endure; how the sentence of boycott was pronounced on
them; how they were exiled and blockaded in a valley for three long
years; how many were slaughtered like lambs. In short, there was
no distress which they did not have to suffer.
But in using the word zil-za-la-ha (shaken with her shaking)
Allah was telling the Holy Prophet (sas) and his companions
that they had to get ready for more severe trials that were in store
for them, for Arabia was deservedly going to experience an eruption
of immense magnitude.
After the ordeals in Makkah came the Hijrah followed by
wars which brought such tumult and hardship that not only was the
whole of Arabia shaken to the core, but the people's hearts, which
had become harder than stone, were also softened to such an extent
that they were forced to bow their heads before the truth, and consternation
reigned as to the reason for this unprecedented earthquake.
So, the Holy Qur'an tells us that if an earthquake does not take
place, the earth cannot throw out its treasures. And indeed, how
true a statement is this! For today, fourteen hundred years after
the revelation of the Holy Qur'an, scientists have come to the conclusion
that all the minerals and priceless treasures that lie hidden in
the bowels of the earth may be brought to the surface of the earth
only through the agency of an earthquake and, in fact, this is what
really happens. If there is no earthquake, all these precious minerals
and invaluable metals and chemicals will be lost to people. And
it is to this spiritual truth that the Holy Qur'an draws our attention
when it tells us that just as in the physical world if earthquakes
do not occur, the hidden treasures beneath the earth cannot emerge,
so, too, in the spiritual world, if earthquakes of trials and tribulations
do not strike, then the hidden pearls in the nature of individuals
or nations cannot come into actuality. In other words, without an
earthquake of this severity, their innate talents cannot be discovered,
nor receive nourishment, nor can their sublime morals be seen.
The Arab people were a hidden treasure, and because of their savagery
and barbarity, their potential was concealed from the eyes of people.
In other words, they were a treasure that lay buried under brutality
and paganism. However, with the coming of Islam they had to undergo
such severe convulsions and calamities that their hidden pearls
flashed into view from under their concealed cover.
If the pious companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas)
did not have to encounter such severe torments and upheavals how
could we have witnessed these unparalleled examples of patience
and perseverance, bravery and courage, personal and financial sacrifice
and moral and spiritual excellence? If there were no Hijrah
and no wars, how could the world have beheld those incomparable
marvels of self-abnegation of which Muslims are so proud today?
Let us take a look for a moment at the lives of the Holy Prophet
(sas) and his noble companions. Every trial that befell them
and every torture they faced only served to burnish their high morals
and their sublime but hitherto latent capabilities and make them
so resplendent as to dazzle the eyes. If after the death of the
Holy Prophet (sas) Arabia was not convulsed by apostasy and
rebellion, how could the world have been apprised of the sterling
qualities of Hazrat Abu Bakr's character? If the armies of Iran
and Italy had not deliberately set out to trample the Muslims in
the dust, could the world have known of Hazrat 'Umar's glory? Again,
if the same nations and their numberless armies had not launched
attack after attack against the small Muslim community, how could
we have celebrated the heroic deeds of Khalid bin Walid? And if
the whole Christian world, including the European nations, had not
joined forces and advanced to capture the Holy Temple at Jerusalem,
would the valour and chivalry of the Sultan, Salah-ud-din Ayyubi,
have been venerated both in the East and the West?
In the same way, if the combined forces of Christianity, the Arya
Samaj, the atheistic communities and all false religions had not
united to attack Islam, the glory of the great Mujaddid of
the fourteenth century, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, would not have
been disclosed to us. And who would have heard of his departed companions
like Maulana Nur-ud-Din, Maulana Muhammad Ali and Khwajah Kamal-ud-din,
and their illustrious literary works and fervent missionary zeal
in the cause of Islam?
So, we see that an earthquake is indispensable in unearthing the
hidden capabilities of man. Maulana Nur-ud-Din, the first successor
to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, used to say that until a host of objections
was not raised against a particular verse of the Holy Qur'an, the
wealth of spiritual knowledge and insights contained in that verse
could not be revealed.
In short, that revelation that Islam brought to the world needed
a unique earthquake in order to bring out of the graves those who
were buried under centuries of unbelief and misguidance. And when
the time of that wonderful and glorious event comes to pass, man
will cry in amazement: "What has come over the earth?"
History has recorded what a mighty transformation the land of Arabia
underwent. In place of the darkness of savagery and barbarism, polytheism
and misguidance, overnight there shone the light of civilisation
and culture, righteousness and belief in one God and true moral
and spiritual guidance. Those who were dead for centuries received
life and became the standard-bearers of knowledge, guidance, culture
and purity of life which they carried all over the known world and
blessed every country with an unending legacy of divine knowledge
and wisdom. This metamorphosis so astonished the Shah of Iran that
he made certain derogatory remarks when he addressed the Muslim
ambassadors in his court. A summary of those words was immortalised
by the poet, Firdausi, in beautiful verses that captured the stupefaction
of the Shah. The following is an interpretation in English of the
Look at the audacity of these Arabs!
These drinkers of camels' milk and devourers of lizards' flesh.
Now they have dared to set their sights on the royal throne of Iran!
O Heaven, fie on Thee!
Can we find a more graphic description of the verse, And man
will ask: What has befallen her (that is, the earth) than this
expostulation of the Shah of Iran?
European Christian historians also have been forced to admit that
the phenomenal practical transfiguration wrought in Arabia by the
Holy Qur'an in just a few years has not been matched in the history
of the world. Indeed it is a most stupendous sight to the eyes of
every intelligent person. It is to this miracle that the poet, Hali,
refers in the following poetic composition:
Was it the flash of lightning or the clarion
call of the spiritual guide?
He who shook all Arabia to its foundations
Inspired in the hearts of all a new zeal.
A single voice awakened a slumbering nation.
The thunder of this messenger of Truth echoed in every corner
So desert and mountain alike reverberated with the name of the Almighty.
4. On that day she will tell her news,
Tu-had-di-thu (she will tell), that is, the existing state
of things will speak for themselves and will need no further description
(Abu Muslim in Tafsir Kabir).
5. As if thy Lord had revealed to her.
Here la-ha (to her) refers to the revelation of the Holy
Qur'an because the reformation that is to come about because of
this Book is for the benefit of the whole world. Not only will it
be a case of astonishment to the people of one country, but this
startling progress, perfection, knowledge and civilisation of the
servants of the Holy Qur'an will spread and flourish in every nook
and cranny of the world so that men of their own accord will exclaim:
"How wonderful indeed is the revelation of this Qur'an from
Allah and how universal is its benefit!"
Even today in Arabia, Iraq, Italy, Syria, Egypt, Spain, Morocco,
Algeria, Iran and India, in fact, wherever the light of Islam shone,
the evidence of an advanced and enlightened culture, civilisation
and government stands out conspicuously as a testimony of the legacy
that the Qur'anic revelation bequeathed to the world. Indeed, half
of the poet Hali's Musaddas is devoted to the explanation
of the verse: On that day she will tell her news, of which
the following lines are just a sample:
Visit the ruins of Cordoba,
And look at the niches and doors of the mosques.
Cast a glance at the palaces of the Arab princes,
Examine the desolate ruins of former glory and splendour
And notice the resplendence of their beauty even in their fallen
How even in the dust they shine like gold.
But this is not all, for is it not a universally accepted fact
that the foundation of European science and learning was built on
that very Islamic culture and civilisation which flowed to Europe
through Spain and Palestine? It is to this that the poet, Hali,
refers in this couplet:
The seeds of flowers of this beautiful
spring that now adorns the earth,
Were all sown by those servants of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
In his book, The Civilisation of the Arabs, Gustali Ban,
the famous French research scholar, has confirmed the fact that
every branch of human knowledge, learning and culture existing in
the world today owes its origin to the civilisation and culture
of the Arab Muslims who disseminated their learning throughout Europe.
In fact, does not every atom of the earth repeatedly celebrate the
truth that the Qur'anic revelation encompasses the whole world in
its merciful embrace? And did not this earthquake that shook Arabia
in that era of ignorance initiate an unprecedented world revolution,
the benefit of which will never be cut off till the Day of Resurrection?
6. On that day men will come forth in sundry bodies that they
may be shown their works.
7. So he who does an atom's weight of good will see it,
8. And he who does an atom's weight of evil will see it.
The expression a'ma-la-hum (their works) means what they
actually did or what they were engaged in just as the words, its
way of evil and its way of good (91:8) refer to the evil that
the soul will commit (in the future) or the righteous deeds it will
These verses inform us that when that mighty revolution takes place,
then the consequences of deeds will also be exposed to view and
in order to witness them people will have to come out of their respective
places in sundry groups. However, each person will contemplate his
own action all by himself as explained by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
in this memorable couplet:
When the prophecy reaches its term,
Some will be honoured and some will be disgraced.
Accordingly, when Makkah was conquered, the first results of the
great revolution were observed. People found themselves into two
opposing groups: the first group comprised those cruel unbelievers
of Makkah who experienced a fate of great shame and humiliation.
In the second group stood the formerly oppressed companions who
were relishing that day the fruits of honour and victory. So, those
who chose the path of goodness received a good result which was
plainly evident to all, and those who opted for a life of evil saw
before their eyes the bitter consequences of that unfortunate choice.
In the war between good and evil, each person perceived the result
of his actions in direct proportion to the measure of his choice
and was rewarded according to the degree of his actions.
The example of the consequences of deeds that became visible in
this very life provides strong proof that actions do produce results
and that finally a day will come when the full manifestation of
deeds will take place. On that day the consequence of the smallest
deed will be laid bare even an atoms weight of good
or evil will be disclosed.
In the Latter Age, a great material revolution will take place
in which the whole world will be turned upside down, and the foundation
of a new world order will be laid because of an unprecedented explosion
of knowledge which will encompass both earth and outer space. So
stupendous will be this new knowledge that it will bewilder the
minds of men.
It is a testimony to Allah's glory that today new scientific researches
are confirming what the Holy Qur'an revealed to us fourteen hundred
years ago - that no word or deed of man is ever lost or destroyed,
but they are all preserved in the vast expanse of the universe exactly
as sounds are preserved in a gramophone record and actions and movements
of actors are recorded in films.
So, scientists are deeply engaged in trying to decipher the records
preserved in the book of nature. They affirm that if this attempt
is successful there will be a tremendous revolution in the historical
records of the world and the veracity or falsity of historians will
come to light as well as the words and actions of every character
in history. Uspan, an English Muslim convert and former editor of
the Outlook and the Light (two magazines), has made
an incisive remark on this matter, boldly declaring that the day
the records conserved in the book of nature are decoded the result
would be the immediate collapse of Christianity, for the false stories
relating to the Godhead of the Messiah, Prophet Jesus, and his being
taken up alive to heaven will be exposed and consequently the doctrines
of the Trinity and the Atonement will vanish from the face of the
Of course, Allah, Most High, has promised us in this chapter that
when the great revolution takes place on the Day of Judgement the
resultant earthquakes and convulsions will be such that no secret
will remain hidden in the world and a most bewildering change will
take place in the Universe and this will leave man in utter consternation.
On that day, this world's record that is preserved in the book of
nature will be seen and heard and through Allah's command His sound-box
will play its music and the film of man's actions will appear on
the cinema screen. Then man will realise how merciful to him was
the revelation of Allah's Holy Book, the Qur'an, which came to warn
him of this dreadful day and to urge him to walk along the straight
path, for if he takes this path, no shame shall befall him on the
day when all secrets will be exposed. On that day, men will be gathered
together to witness their deeds but the conditions will vary: for
those who acted righteously, it will be a day of happiness when
they will be heroes of their film, whilst for those who chose the
way of opposition to the truth, it will be a day of terrible anxiety,
confusion and perturbation. That is because their hidden sins which
they kept concealed from the whole world will be played on a big
screen for all to see. And what greater humiliation can there be
than for supposedly cultured and noble people to have their foul
and impure deeds exposed to public view?
The concern will naturally arise in the hearts of man: will every
action of man, including those sins forgiven by Allah be shown to
everybody on the Day of Resurrection? If that is so, then why make
taubah and istighfar, that is, supplication for forgiveness
and the suppression of sins? The answer to this is that every action
will indeed be exposed but those sins which have been forgiven by
Allah will be seen only by the person who has been forgiven and
not by everyone. This fulfils the promise of every deed being witnessed,
yet at the same time, it is in keeping with the Divine attributes
of Ghaffar and Sattar, which mean the One Who forgives
and covers up the wrong-doings of His servants (who beg for forgiveness
and make amends). And for this favour of the Almighty, the servant
should bow down in this life at the threshold of his Lord and thank
Him for His unbounded mercy for concealing on the Day of Resurrection
the sins which He has out of His bounty and grace forgiven him.