Tafsir of Surah al Ghashiyah – The Pall (Surah 88)

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  1) Has news of the Pall reached you? 2) Faces that Day will be downcast, 3) labouring, haggard, 4) roasting in a scorching Fire. 5) They will be given drink from a scalding spring, 6) their only food being bitter dry thorns 7) which neither nourish nor still hunger.

“Has news of the Pall reached you?” Allah, in this chapter, mentions the events that will occur on the Day of Rising, the terrors that will unfurl and the severe hardships that will beset man. There they will be recompensed for their deeds and fall into one of two groups: the inhabitants of Paradise or the denizens of the Blazing Fire. He describes the denizens of the Fire: “Faces that Day,” the Day of Rising “will be downcast,” in humiliation, debasement and despair, “labouring, haggard,” worn out by the punishment, they will be dragged on their faces and “the Fire will envelop their faces.”[1]

It is also possible that this verse means that they had toiled and wearied themselves in worship in the worldly life, but because they lacked the basic pre-requisite – faith – their deeds became “scattered dust”[2] on the Day of Rising. Although, in itself, this meaning is correct, it is not the intent of the verse here for the context does not lend itself to such an interpretation. Therefore the correct opinion, undoubtedly, is the first. This is because these are specifically related to the Day of Judgment and the purpose is to mention the denizens of the Fire in their generality. If the second possibility were to be the intent of this verse, it would only apply to a small portion of the denizens of the Fire. Moreover, the verses speak of the condition of man when overshadowed with the Pall, they do not discuss his condition in this world.

“Roasting in a scorching Fire,” intensely hot, encompassing them from every direction. “They will be given drink from a scalding spring,” “Calamitous the drink and ill the resting-place!”[3] This is their drink, as for their food: “Their only food being bitter dry thorns which neither nourish nor still hunger,” one of two things are intended from food: to still hunger and remove its spasms or to nourish the body so it does not become emaciated. This food does neither of the two; instead it has the foulest taste and stench. We ask Allah for well-being!

  8) (Other) faces that Day will be radiant, 9) well-pleased with their past efforts, 10) in a lofty Garden 11) where they will hear no idle speech. 12) In it is a gushing spring, 13) couches raised high, 14) goblets placed at hand, 15) cushions ranged in rows, 16) and fine carpets outspread.

As for the people of goodness: “(Other) faces that Day will be radiance,” filled with “the radiance of delight.”[4] Their bodies feel extreme bliss, their faces are lit up and they feel unimaginable joy and delight. “Well-pleased with their past efforts,” in the worldly life of righteous deeds and beneficence to Allah’s servants. They will be glad when they see their reward stored for them and multiplied manifold. They will attain all that they had hoped for “in a lofty Garden,” containing all forms of blessings, lofty in position and containing lofty homes. It is positioned in the uppermost parts of Illiyin and it has solidly constructed, raised houses that have rooms, above which are more rooms, from which they look down upon what Allah has prepared for them of His grace. This is a lofty garden “whereof the fruit clusters are in easy reach,”[5] in their multitudes, luscious, resplendent and easy to pick no matter where they be without having to expend any effort. “Where they will hear no idle speech,” i.e. words that have no benefit let alone words that are actually prohibited. All words spoken therein will be good and fruitful comprising the remembrance of Allah and mention of His innumerable blessings. Their conduct and dealings with each other will be fine and pleasing, all of which brings delight to the hearts. “In it is a gushing spring,” this is collective noun, meaning that there are many gushing springs there flowing wherever they will, “couches raised high,” raised high in themselves and raised high by having soft cushions placed on them, “goblets placed at hand,” filled with delicious drinks made ready for them brought to them as and when they desire, waited on by “immortal youths.”[6] “Cushions” of silk, velvet and other materials that only Allah knows “ranged in rows,” ready for them to sit on or recline on, already set for them so they do not even need to arrange them, let alone make them, “and fine carpets outspread,” covered with seats.

  17) Do they not look at the camels, how they are created? 18) At the heaven, how it was raised high? 19) At the mountains, how they were set down? 20) And at the earth, how it was spread out?

Allah says, encouraging those who believe in the Messenger ﷺ, and those who don’t, to ponder the creation which itself point to His Oneness. “Do they not look at the camels, how they are created?” in an amazing fashion, how Allah has made them subservient to man, how Allah has brought about many benefits through them for man, benefits that they are in dire need of. “At the heaven, how it was raised high? At the mountains, how they were set down?” standing tall, astounding the onlooker, giving firmness to the earth, containing many beneficial things. “And the earth, how it is spread out” far and wide, and made subservient to His servants that they may live on its surface in ease, cultivate its earth, build their dwellings on it and travel through its pathways.

Know that the fact that earth has been spread out does not in any way negate the fact that it is a globe surrounded by space as has been proven both by theoretical research and actual observation. ‘Spreading out’ only negates something being a globe when that object is very small which, when spread out, would lose its circular shape. As for the earth, a huge body, there is nothing to prevent it being described as a globe as well as being described as spread out as is obvious to those who know.

  21) Therefore remind them! You are only a reminder. 22) You are not their controller. 23) But whoever turns away and disbelieves, 24) Allah will inflict the greatest punishment upon him. 25) Certainly they will return to Us, 26) and then their reckoning is Our concern.

“Therefore remind them,” the people, exhort them, give them glad-tidings and warn them “for you are only a reminder,” this is the purpose for which you have been sent: to call mankind to Allah and to admonish them, “You are their controller,” who would coerce them and neither are you charged for their deeds. Therefore if you fulfill your charge, you have carried out your duty and there is no blame on you, “and you are in no way a compeller over them; but warn by the Qur’an him who fears My threat.”[7] “But whoever turns away” from obedience “and disbelieves, Allah will inflict greatest punishment on him,” terrible and eternal. “Certainly they will return to Us,” when they will be gathered on the Day of Rising, “and then their reckoning” for their good and bad deeds “is Our concern.”

All praise and thanks are due to Allah.


Endnotes

“The way of the Prophet ﷺ was to recite two Surahs in Jumu’ah prayer: Soorat al-A’’laa (87) and al-Ghaashiyah (88), or he would recite al-Jumu’ah (62) and al-Munaafiqoon (63).” [IslamQA, fatwa No. 105329]

“…it was narrated that the Prophet ﷺ used to recite al-A’’la and al-Ghaashiyah in the Eid prayer” [IslamQA, fatwa No. 36491]

1. Ibrahim (14): 50
2. al-Furqan (25): 23
3. al-Kahf (18): 29
4. al-Mutaffifin (83): 25
5. al-Haqqah (69): 23
6. al-Waqi`ah (56): 17
7. Qaf (50): 45

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