In the Shade of the Quran (part 30)

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  • In the Shade of the Quran (part 30)

  • Surah 100 The Courses - al Adiyat

    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful!


    By the snorting coursers, striking sparks of fire, by those which sour to raid at dawn, blazing a trail of dust, cleaving into the center of the enemy: man is surely un-grateful to his Lord, and of this he him self is a witness; and truly, he is passionate in his love for wordly riches. But he is un-aware that when the contents of the graves are scattered about, and what is in the breasts is brought out, surely their Lord will on that know all about them.



    This surah is presented in rapid and violent touches. The text moves swiftly from one scene to another. As we come to the last verse, everything - the verbal expressions, the connotations, the subject matter and the rhythm - settle down in a manner similar to that of a courser reaching the finishing point. The surah starts with the scene of war steeds running, snorting, striking sparks of fire with their hoofs, launching a raid at dawn and blazing a trail of dust, cleaving suddenly into the centre of the enemies, taking them by surprise and striking terror and fear in their hearts.

    Then follows a picture of the human self: a scene of ingratitude, ignobleness, greed and extreme miserliness. Immediately after that there is a description of graves laid open and their contents scattered, and the secrets of hearts poured out. Finally the trail of dust, ingratitude and miserliness, the contents of the graves and the dragged out secrets all come to the same terminus. They come to Allah and settle down: "surely their Lord will on that day know all about them."

    The rhythm of the surah is robust and thunderous and thus fits well with the dusty and clamorous atmosphere generated by the upturned graves and the secrets violently pulled out of the breasts. These characteristics of the rhythm are also appropriate to the picture of ingratitude, thank lessness and extreme miserliness. A framework for this picture is provided by a dusty and tumultuous atmosphere of horses racing and thundering. Thus the frame and the picture are in perfect harmony with each other.

    "By the snorting coursers. striking sparks of fire, by those which scour to the raid at dawn, blazing a trail of dust, cleaving into the centre of the enemy, man is surely ungrateful to his Lord. And of this he himself is a witness; ant truly, he is passionate in his love for worldly riches ".

    Allah swears by the war horses and describes their movements one after the other - running, snorting and neighing. They strike their hoofs against rocks, producing sparks of fire. They wage their attack early at dawn in order to take the enemy by surprise, producing a trail of dust during the unexpected battle. They pierce swiftly the enemy ranks creating disorder and confusion amongst them. These successive stages were well known to those who were first addressed by the Holy Qur'an. The fact that Allah swears by the horses provides an emphatic suggestion that the movement portrayed is a lovable one and men should respond to it actively. This they do only after realising how precious it is in the measure of Allah, which is reflected in His paying attention to it. Added to all this is the harmony between this scene and the scenes which are the subject of the Divine oath, namely the state of the human soul when it is devoid of faith and its impetus. The Qur'an draws man's attention to this state in order that he may gather all his willpower to combat it. For Allah is perfectly aware of how deeply it is ingrained in man and what great pressure it exercises on him.

    "Man is surely ungrateful to his Lord and of this he himself is a witness; And truly, he is passionate in his love for worldly riches". It is a fact that man reacts with ingratitude to all the bounties of his Lord. He denies the favours which Allah confers on him. His thanklessness and ingratitude is reflected in a host of actions and verbal statements which will serve as witness against him. Or perhaps, on the Day of Judgement, he may testify against himself, admitting his ingratitude: "and of this he himself is a witness ". For on the Day of Judgement he will speak the plain truth even against himself, without any contentions or excuses. "And truly, he is passionate in his love for worldly riches". Man is a passionate self-lover. But he loves only what he imagines to be good for him: wealth, power and the pleasures of this world. This is his nature unless he has faith which changes his concepts, values and even his concerns. Faith changes his ingratitude to humble thankfulness. It changes his greed and miserliness to benevolence and compassion. It makes him aware of the proper values which are worthy of being the object of ambition and hard competition. Indeed these are much more exalted than money, power and mundane pleasures.

    Man without faith is an ignoble creature having only trivial ambitions and petty concerns. However big his desires, however strong his ambitions and high his objectives may seem, he remains sunk in the cesspool of this earth, confined within the limits of this life, imprisoned in self. He cannot be freed or elevated except by an attachment to a world superior to this earth, extending beyond this life; a world which originates from Allah who is the First Being and returning to Allah the Eternal; a world into which this life and the life hereafter converge and which has no end.

    Hence, the final touch in the surah provides the cure for ingratitude, greed and miserliness. It portrays the scene of resurrection in a way which makes man shudder, and puts his love for wealth and indulgence in worldly riches out of his mind, unshackling his soul and setting it free from earthly attachments: "But is he unaware that when the contents of the graves are scattered about, and what is in the breasts is brought out, surely their Lord will on that day know all about them". It is a violent and frightening scene in which we witness the "scattering about" of the contents of the graves and the bringing out of the secrets of the hearts which were closely guarded, kept away from everyone. The Arabic terms used here for scattering and pulling are very forceful, suggesting an atmosphere of violence and force. Does he not know when this will take place? The mere awareness of all this is enough to inspire man to seek an answer and explore every avenue in search of it, while at the same time discerning all that may result from these wild movements. These nimble and agile movements finally come to where every matter and destiny is settled: "surely their Lord will on that day know all about them ". So to their Lord is their end. He "on that day" knows them and all their affairs and secrets. Allah certainly knows everything at all times and in all conditions but the knowledge of "that day" has some effects to which their attentions are drawn here. It is a knowledge which necessitates the reckoning and reward. This implicit meaning is the one underlined here.

    The surah is a swift, vehement and breathless piece, with a sudden terminus of meaning, expression and rhythm. It reflects a unique Qur'anic method of expression.


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