Lecture 9 in Tafseer series on Surah Kahf in Month of Ramadaan delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town on 12 April 2022
Our previous discussions concluded on the issue of understanding our relationship with this world. Our discussions went around people whose hearts are filled with love for the attractions of this material world and practically worship this world and consider it the ultimate purpose of their lives. The outcome of this approach was denial of Resurrection.
Now the following verses get into a discussion about the Hereafter itself.
Surah Kahf Verse 47 states:
وَيَوْمَ نُسَيّـِرُ الْجِبَالَ وَتَرَي الاَرْضَ بَارِزَةً وَحَشَرْنَاهُمْ فَلَمْ نُغَادِرْ مِنْهُمْ أَحَداً
“And (remember) the day We shall set the mountains in motion, and you will see the earth a leveled plain and We assemble them nor shall We leave out any one of them.”
The next verse presents a little picture of this Assembly.
ASSEMBLY IN A DISCIPLINED MANNER
Surah Kahf Verse 48 states:
وَعُرِضُوا عَلَي رَبّـِكَ صَفّاً لَّقَدْ جِئْتُمُونَا كَمَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ بَلْ زَعَمْتُمْ أَلَّن نَجْعَلَ لَكُم مَوْعِداً
“And they shall be presented before your Lord in ranks, (and Allah says:) ‘You have come to Us, as We created you upon the first time. But you thought that We should not appoint a meeting time for you’.”
Being presented in “saf” could refer to being presented before our Lord in an orderly disciplined manner in rows. Then the question of how these rows will be constituted has different possibilities.
Either every community or nation will be together.
Or people of different faiths will be together.
Or people who follow certain leaders will be together. But Allah knows best what these exact criteria are.
The reference to “You have come to Us, as We created you upon the first time” is proof of physical Resurrection!
Surah Kahf Verse 49 states:
وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ فَتَرَي الْمُـجْرِمِينَ مُشْفِقِينَ مِمَّا فِيهِ وَيَقُولُونَ يَاوَيْلَتَنَا مَالِ هَذَا الْكِتَابِ لاَ يُغَادِرُ صَغِيرَةً وَلاَ كَبِيرَةً إِلآَّ أَحْصَاهَا وَوَجَدُوا مَا عَمِلُوا حَاضِراً وَلاَ يِظْلِمُ رَبُّكَ أَحَداً
“And the Book (of deeds) is placed, and you see the guilty fearful at what is in it, and saying: ‘Alas for us! What a Book is this, that it leaves out nothing, small or great, but it has numbered it?’ And they will find all that they did confronting them; and your Lord does not treat anyone with injustice.”
We will see our actual actions before us and thus there is no possibility of injustice. Injustice is possible if one is punished for something that you have not done. In the Hereafter such unjust decisions cannot be taken as your actual actions will be before you.
DISCUSSION ABOUT HEREAFTER IS COMMON THEME IN QURAN
The details of the Hereafter is frequently discussed in different parts of the Quran, in particular in the shorter Surahs.
From among the details discussed we understand that everything as we know it in this world will collapse. Mountains, oceans, land, various structures, life, etc will all end. Thus the world will be an open naked plain before us. Thereafter Resurrection will occur.
MOUNTAINS WILL MOVE
The discussion about mountains in the Quran is quite frequent and at the time of Resurrection it is said that mountains will move. This reference is probably to our view of mountains being a sign of stability which to our amazement will move.
In various other verses other happenings to the mountains are mentioned.
Example in Surah Mursalaat Verse 10 it states:
وَإِذَا الْجِبَالُ نُسِفَتْ
“And when the mountains are carried away”
Or we read in Surah Haaqqah Verse 14;
وَحُمِلَتِ الْأَرْضُ وَالْجِبَالُ فَدُكَّتَا دَكَّةً وَاحِدَةً
“And the earth and the mountains shall be removed and crushed with a single crushing.”
Also we read in Surah Muzzammil Verse 14:
يَوْمَ تَرْجُفُ الْأَرْضُ وَالْجِبَالُ وَكَانَتِ الْجِبَالُ كَثِيبًا مَّهِيلً
“On the Day when the earth and the mountains will be in violent shake and the mountains will be a heap of sand.”
And we also read in Surah Waqiah Verses 5 and 6:
وَبُسَّتِ الْجِبَالُ بَسًّا
فَكَانَتْ هَبَاء مُّنبَثًّا
“And the mountains shall be powdered to dust.
Therefore, they shall become scattering dust particles.”
And finally we read in Surah al-Qaari’ah Verse 5:
وَتَكُونُ الْجِبَالُ كَالْعِهْنِ الْمَنفُوشِ
“And the mountains will be like carded wool.”
Our intention is not to give detailed explanations for why these varying descriptions in relation to the condition of mountains is described in the Quran but only to give a glimpse of the verses that refer to this.
RECORD OF MULTI LEVEL MINUTE DETAILS AWAITS US
Which book will be placed before is? Allamah Tabatabai, Ayatullah Baqir Sadr and other deep thinking scholars believe, based on a comprehensive study of various verses of the Quran that we will be presented with three books, not one book as is commonly thought.
Firstly there will be a general book that will have a general record of everything that will be handed over to us. Verse 49 of Surah Kahf refers to this book because the address that is found in this verse is not to an individual but to all. The previous verse confirms this when it says:
“You all have come to Us”
Then there will be a second book given to us that we identify from Surah Jaathiya Verse 28 as follows:
وَتَرَی كُلَّ اُمَّةٍ جَاثِيَةً كُلُّ اُمَّةٍ تُدْعَی إِلَی كِتَابِهَا الْيَوْمَ تُجْزَوْنَ مَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
“And you will see [on the Day of Resurrection] each nation humbled to their knees; each nation shall be called to its Record [of deeds]. This Day you shall be recompensed for what you used to do.”
Here every nation is called to its book. Ayatullah Baqir Sadr very beautifully discusses this in detail in his book “Historical Trends in Quran” in light of our communal responsibility in addition to our individual responsibility. To further expound on this reality he refers to verse 25 of Surah Anfaal as follows:
وَاتَّقُوا فِتْنَةً لَا تُصِيبَنَّ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْكُمْ خَاصَّةً ۖ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ
“And keep from the evil of an affliction which shall not smite in particular those of you who committed injustice (but all of you); and know that Allah is severe in retribution.”
Not only individual oppressors are accountable but also nations as such where a particular individual did not necessarily do the exact act of oppression but was part of the nation that did it. Here the issue of social responsibility becomes very clear and we will have to answer regarding what we did to change our society.
The third book is the one given to an individual. We read in Surah Israa Verse 13 and 14 as follows:
وَكُلَّ إِنسَانٍ أَلْزَمْنَاهُ طَآئِرَهُ فِي عُنُقِهِ وَنُخْرِجُ لَهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ كِتَاباً يَلْقَاهُ مَنشُوراً
“And every man’s record of action have We fastened to his neck; and on the Day of Judgment, We shall bring out for him a book which he will find wide open.”
اقْرَأْ كِتَابَكَ كَفَي بِنَفْسِكَ الْيَوْمَ عَلَيْكَ حَسِيباً
“(It will be said to him): ‘Read your book; your own self suffices today as a reckoner against you’.”
So we will receive three accounts, not one!! These are:
– a global account;
– a national account; and
– an individual account
FINDING OUR ACTUAL ACTIONS PRESENTED TO US
Part of Verse 49 above says:
وَوَجَدُوا مَا عَمِلُوا حَاضِراً
“And they will find all that they did confronting them”
This is an interesting and thought provoking discussion. We all know that Islam promises reward to good doers and punishment to those who do bad. That is putting it in simple terms.
What is reward and punishment? Again in simple terms reward is Paradise (Jannah) and punishment is Hell (Jahannam).
However deep reflection of Quranic verses reflects a more delicate understanding of the reality of reward and punishment. On this point, scholars have three views:
– firstly there’s the view that reward and punishment works on the basis of a contractual agreement between Almighty Allah and us whereby the incurring of a particular crime brings a specific punishment and the same goes for doing good bringing a specific reward. The relationship between your action and recompense is nothing beyond a contractual one. For example in this world you may get 3 months imprisonment for a crime, but there is no relationship between the crime committed and going to prison for 3 months – it’s purely by contractual agreement. The same idea is presented with respect to the recompense in the Hereafter
– secondly there’s the view that one’s actions reflect inside our souls whereby they create a “malaka” or capacity within us of good or bad. In the Hereafter this built up capacity will create a good or bad place for you.
– thirdly there’s the view that bad action does not necessarily create a bad soul which creates a bad world for you in the Hereafter (as the second view states). The same goes for good action. So this third view is that our actions themselves are real (not accidental) which have an external face and an internal face.
So when you do good or bad in this world, one sees it’s beauty or ugliness on the outside but it also has an inner core beauty or ugliness that you do not see. However that inner core beauty or ugliness DOES exist. So on the day of Judgement Almighty Allah will simply remove the veil so that we can see the naked inner reality of our actions that we could not see before.
TAJASSUM AL-A’MAL – EMBODIMENT OF DEEDS
This is called Tajassum al-a’mal which means embodiment of deeds. That’s why one of the titles of the Day of Judgement is يوم تبلى السرائر “the Day when secrets will be unveiled”.
Many great scholars of our modern times like Mulla Sadra, Sheikh Bahai, Imam Khomeini, etc believe in Tajassum al-a’mal.
Thus the verse says:
وَوَجَدُوا مَا عَمِلُوا حَاضِراً
“And they will find all that they did confronting them”
Thus they will not find the reward or punishment of their actions but will find their actions itself presenting themselves as their reward or punishment.
Surah Aali Imraan Verse 30 states:
يَوْمَ تَجِدُ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا عَمِلَتْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ مُّحْضَرًا وَمَا عَمِلَتْ مِن سُوَءٍ تَوَدُّ لَوْ أَنَّ بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَهُ أَمَدًا بَعِيدًا وَيُحَذِّرُكُمُ اللّهُ نَفْسَهُ وَاللّهُ رَؤُوفُ بِالْعِبَادِ
“On the Day (of Judgement) when everyone shall find present what he has done of good; but (as for) what he has done of evil, he will wish there were a far distance between it and himself; and Allah warns you to be cautious of (disobeying) His Essence and Allah is full of pity to the servants.”
Allamah Tabatabai explains that if deeds were meant to be annihilated, then the wish for a far distance between oneself and the deed makes no sense. Even science somehow proves that nothing in this world is annihilated but simply changes form.
Thus we also read in Surah Zilzal Verses 7 and 8:
فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ
وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ
“So, whoever has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it.”
“And whoever has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.”
The reference to “see it” is seeing the action itself.
We read a narration of a story wherein Prophet Muhammad (sawa) offered a woman food to eat during the day in the Month of Ramadaan as she was backbiting which in reality is equivalent to eating the dead flesh of the one you are backbiting – so in reality she was not fasting! The woman even denied having been involved in backbiting so Prophet Muhammad (sawa) asked her to vomit into a bowl and pieces of flesh came out!! In shock she asked where did this flesh come from as she did not eat meat in a long time. Prophet Muhammad (sawa) informed her that the reality of backbiting is to eat the dead flesh of your brother.
This is stated in Surah Hujarat Verse 12:
وَلَآ يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا أيُحِبُّ أحَدُكُمْ أن يَأكُلَ لَحْمَ أخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ
“neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? By no means, [since] you would hate it”
This is the real inner face of backbiting. All that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) did was to remove the veil that prevented the woman from seeing the reality of this ugly act.
Scholars have presented various verses of the Quran to further prove this concept of Tajassum al-a’mal.
Example Surah Hadid Verse 13 states:
يَوْمَ يَقُولُ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالْمُنَافِقَاتُ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا انظُرُونَا نَقْتَبِسْ مِن نُّورِكُمْ قِيلَ ارْجِعُوا وَرَاءكُمْ فَالْتَمِسُوا نُورًا
“On the Day when the hypocrites – men and women – will say to the believers: “Glance at us! Let us get something from your light!” It will be said: “Go back to your rear! Then seek light!”
The hypocrites will be told to go back and find light in their own actions.
So the reality of reward and punishment is the removal of the veil to expose the inner face of our actions.
There’s a narration where Qays asked Prophet Muhammad (sawa) for advise to which he responded “O Qays! You have no option that a friend will be buried with you in your grave. That friend is alive when you are dead. If that friend was generous, it will be generous to you. And if that friend was terrible, it will desert you and you will not be resurrected except with him and along with him and you will not be asked except about him and do you know who is that friend that will be with you all along? Ensure that friend is righteous for if it is reformed, you will be comfortable with it and if it is corrupt then it will be very difficult to accompany it and that friend is your actions”.
In relation to our actions appearing before us and our ability to recognize our actions after so many years, Imam Saadiq (a.s) says: “you will see your very actions performed before you to the extent that you will think that you actually performed this action a mere hour ago”.
Thus we understand the narrations which speak about a light appearing in our grave when we are buried in that dark hole and identifying itself as a Surah of the Quran that you recited, for example or love of Ahlul Bait (a.s) which is considered as one of the best long lasting good deeds (باقيات الصالحات) which is embodied in the form of light and comfort.
In conclusion there are scholars who believe that all three views can be possible and understood in conjunction with each other.
Part 10 in this series continues tomorrow In-sha’Allah.