Tafsir of Surah ‘Abasa – He Frowned (Surah 80)

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  1) He frowned and turned away 2) because the blind man came his way. 3) But, for all you know, he might well purify (himself), 4) or, profiting from the Reminder, take heed. 5) As for him who thinks himself without need, 6) to him are you fully attentive, 7) yet you are not [responsible] if he does not purify (himself). 8) But as for him who came to you in earnest endeavour, 9) fearful [of Allah], 10) to him are you inattentive.

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)

The reason for the revelation of these noble verses was that a blind believer came to the Prophet ﷺ to ask him questions and to learn from him. At the same time an affluent man came to him. The Prophet ﷺ was always desirous of guiding people to Islam and so he devoted his attention to the rich person and ignored the indigent blind man in the hope of guiding the former. As a result Allah sent down these verses reprimanding him in a gentle manner.

“He frowned” showing it on his face “and turned” his body “away because the blind man came his way.” Then Allah mentioned the benefit that lay in his attending to him: “But, for all you know, he” the blind man “might well purify (himself),” cleanse himself of lowly mannerisms and adorn himself with beautiful mannerisms, “or take heed, profiting from the reminder?” This is a great point of benefit and it is the purpose of the sending of Messengers, the purpose of giving admonition, and the purpose of reminding. Therefore attending to one who comes to you, desirous of such admonition and reminder, and is attentive, is more befitting and deserving. “As for him who thinks himself without need, to him are you fully attentive,” attending to a person who thinks himself self-sufficient, who is not asking, who is not desirous of good, coupled with your ignoring one who is more important than he is not befitting. “Yet you are not [responsible] if he is not purified,” there is no blame on you if he grows not in purity; hence if does not become pure, you are not held accountable for the evil that he works. “But as for him who came to you in earnest endeavour, fearful [of Allah], to him are you inattentive,” this then points to a well-known principle, ‘Something known should not be left for something possible. A benefit that is real should not be left for a benefit that is a mere possibility.’ This also points to the fact that one should more attentive to a student of knowledge, desirous of knowledge and in need of it, than any other person.

  11) No indeed! It is a reminder; 12) so whoever wants to can remember it.* 13) [Inscribed] in honoured pages, 14) exalted and purified, 15) by the hands of scribes, 16) noble and virtuous.

“No indeed! It is a reminder,” from Allah in all truth, by it He admonishes His servants. He shows them, through His Book, what they are in need of and He clarifies right guidance from straying. “So whoever wants to can remember it,” i.e. act by it as Allah says, “Say, ‘The truth is from your Lord’: Therefore let him who will believe, and let him who will, disbelieve.”[1] Then Allah mentions the place of this admonition, its greatness and its sanctity: “(Inscribed) in honoured pages, exalted,” in ranking and esteem “and purified,” from defect, from being harmed by the devils or their eavesdropping (and stealing), “by the hands of scribes,” the angels who are the envoys of Allah between Him and His servants, “noble,” full of goodness and blessings “and righteous,” in heart and deed.

  17) Woe to man, how ungrateful he is!** 18) From what substance did He create him? 19) From a sperm-drop He created him, then proportioned him.*** 20) Then He makes the way easy for him. 21) Then He causes his death and stows him in a grave. 22) Then, when He wills, He will raise him. 23) No, indeed! Man has not yet fulfilled what He commanded him.

“Woe to man! How ungrateful he is” of Allah’s blessing and how severe is he in his rejection of the truth after it has been made plain! But what is he? He is one of the weakest of creatures, created from “fluid (held) despicable”[2] “From what substance did He create him? From a sperm-drop He created him, then proportioned him,” into a well-formed man and precisely formulated his inner and outer strengths and abilities. “Then He makes the way easy for him,” makes the worldly and religious things easy for him, guides him to the Path and tests him with command and prohibition. “Then He causes his death and stows him in a grave,” honouring him with burial and not leaving him to rot on the surface of the earth like all other animals. “Then, when He wills, He will raise him,” from the dead for the Recompense. Allah alone regulates the affairs of man and does what has been previously mentioned, none shares with Him in this, yet “No, indeed! Man has not yet fulfilled what He commanded him,” he has not fulfilled his obligations and so remains deficient in his duty, in need of completing it. Then, after this, Allah directs man’s attention to his food, to ponder it, and to ponder how it reaches him after having first passed through many transitions:

  24) Then let man look at his food: 25) how We poured down water in abundance, 26) then We split the earth into furrows. 27) Then We made grain grow in it, 28) and grapes and herbage, 29) and olive and date-palm trees, 30) and gardens of dense, luxurious foliage, 31) and fruit and pasture, 32) for you and your livestock to enjoy.

“Then let man look to his food, how We poured down water in abundance,” sent down in rain in plenitude. “Then We split the earth into furrows,” for vegetation “then We made grain grow in it” in all its various types giving rise to delicious foods and delectable provision, “and grapes and herbage, and olive and date-palm trees,” these four have specifically been mentioned because of their benefits and advantages, “and gardens of dense, luxurious foliage,” containing trees and plants in such plenitude that they are entwined with each other, “and fruit,” food that man takes pleasure in eating such as grapes, pomegranates and the likes, “and pasture” as food for cattle and other animals. This is why Allah proceeds to say, “for you and your livestock,” which He created for you and made subservient to you, “to enjoy.”

Now, whoever ponders these blessings is led to show gratitude to his Lord, to expend all his efforts in turning in penitence to Him, to devote himself to obedience, and is led to believe in what He has informed us of.

  33) But when the Deafening Blast comes, 34) on that Day a man will flee from his brother, 35) and his mother and his father, 36) and his wife and his children. 37) That Day, each person will have concerns enough of his own. 38) That Day, some faces will be radiant, 39) laughing and rejoicing. 40) That Day, other faces will be covered in dust, 41) gloom overlaying them. 42) Those are the disbelievers, the dissolute.

“But when the Deafening Blast comes,” when the cry heralding the Day of Rising comes, a cry whose terror stuns the ears, their very cores are struck with trepidation at what they see of the horrors unfurling before them and at the realisation of the dire need they have of their previous deeds. “On that Day a man will flee,” from those he held in the highest regard and were most beloved to him: “from his brother, and his mother and his father, and his wife and his children” because “that Day, each person will have concerns enough of his own,” his only concern is his own self and how he can ransom it from the punishment, so much so that he has no care for any other. On this occasion, mankind will be divided into two groups: the felicitous and the wretched. As for the felicitous their “faces will be radiant,” showing their extreme joy and delight because they know that they have been successful, “laughing and rejoicing.” As for the wretched: “[others] faces will be covered in dust, gloom overlaying them,” black, murky, dark; having given up all hope of good, certainty dawning on them of the misery and wretchedness that is their lot. “Those are disbelievers, the dissolute,” those who were ungrateful for the blessings of Allah, denied His signs and boldly committed those things He had prohibited.

We ask Allah for pardon and well-being, He is the Bestower of Good, the Kind.


Endnotes

* or: “So whoever wants to can remember Him.”

** or: “Woe to man! What makes him so ungrateful?!”

*** or: “From a sperm-drop He created him, then set his destiny.”

1. al-Kahf (18): 29
2. al-Mursalat (77): 20

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)



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