Tafsir of Surah al Balad – The City (Surah 90)

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  1) I swear by this city – 2) and you are a freeman of this city – 3) and by a father and what he fathered: 4) We have created man for toil and struggle.

(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.)

“I swear by this” secure “city,” Mecca al-Mukarrama, the best of all cities without exception, especially when the Messenger ﷺ lived as one of its populace. “And you are a freeman of this city – and by a father and what he fathered,” i.e. Adam and his offspring. The point of the oath follows, “We have created man for toil and struggle,” it is possible that the verse be a reference to the various difficulties and hardships man faces during his life, in the grave and on “the day when the witnesses arise.”[1] The verse then shows that it is required of him to strive in working such deeds as would relieve him of these hardships and lead to eternal joy and bliss. If he does not do so, he will be faced with severe torment for eternity.

It is also possible that the meaning is that “We have indeed created man in the finest mould”[2] able to undertake many tasks and endure burdensome deeds. Yet, despite this, he does not show Allah gratitude for this great blessing, instead he ignores what is required of him in his state of well-being and is haughty before his Creator. In his ignorance and oppression he thinks that this state of well-being will endure forever and his ability to move and do things will never depart. This is why He proceeds to say,

  5) Does he think that no one has power over him? 6) He boasts, ‘I have squandered vast riches!’ 7) Does he think that no one has seen him? 9) Have We not given him two eyes, 9) and a tongue and two lips, 10) and shown him the two highways?

“Does he think that none has power over him?” thereby transgressing all bounds and exulting in the wealth he squandered to satiate his lusts. He boasts, “I have squandered vast riches!” Here Allah has called to consuming wealth to satiate ones lusts, and in sin, squandering or destruction of that wealth. This is because the spender gains no benefit from his spending; instead all he accrues is sorrow and loss, toil and decrease. This, however, is not the case for a person who spends for the good-pleasure of Allah, in paths of goodness; such a person has traded with Allah and the profit he accrues is many times what he spent.

Allah says, threatening this person who boasts about his spending to satiate his lusts, “Does he think that no one has seen him?” in what he has done, does he think that Allah does not see him and will not judge him for his deeds, the large and small? Indeed, most certainly, Allah sees him, his deeds are carefully recorded by the noble recording angels appointed over him who record every good and evil deed he does. He then emphasises His many blessings by saying, “Have We not given him two eyes, and a tongue and two lips,” giving him beauty, sight, speech and other necessary qualities. These then are the worldly benefits. He then mentions the religious benefits with His words, “and shown him the two highways?” the paths of good and evil. i.e. We have clarified guidance from misguidance and right-direction from straying for him. These ample blessings require the servant to establish the rights of Allah, to show Him gratitude, and not to employ them to disobey Him. However this person has not done this:

  11) But he has not braved the steep ascent. 12) What will make you understand what the steep ascent is? 13) It is freeing a slave, 14) or feeding, on a day of hunger, 15) an orphaned relative, 16) or a destitute man, dirt-poor. 17) Then, moreover, to be one of those who believe, counsel one another to patience, and counsel one another to mercy. 18) Such are the Companions of the Right.

“But he has not braved the steep ascent,” instead following his own desires. This path is hard upon such a person. This road is then explained, “What will make you understand what the steep ascent is? It is freeing a slave,” either by freeing him altogether or helping him to meet his freedom contract. This also applies, more so, to freeing Muslim prisoners of war. “Or feeding, on a day of hunger,” i.e. feeding a person who is more needy than you when you yourself are in need, “an orphaned relative, or a destitute man, dirt-poor,” covered in dust out of need and necessity. “Then, moreover, to be one of those who believe,” and work righteous deeds, i.e. they have faith in their hearts of that which is obligatory to believe in and work righteous deeds with their limbs. This then includes every word or deed which is obligatory or recommended, “counsel one another to patience” upon the obedience of Allah, away from disobedience of Him, and in the face of His decree such that they exhort each other to submit to it and face it with an open heart and a soul at peace, “and counsel one another to mercy,” to creation: they give to the needy, teach the ignorant, help them in whatever way they can, aid them in attaining both religious and worldly benefit, love for them what they love for themselves, and hate for them what they would hate for themselves. “Such,” people who meet the previous descriptions “are the Companions of the Right,” because they have did what Allah ordered of fulfilling His rights and the rights of His servants, and they abandoned what they were prohibited from, this being the very source of success.

  19) But those who disbelieved in Our Signs, such are the Companions of the Left. 20) Above them is a sealed vault of Fire.

“But those who disbelieved in Our Signs,” by throwing these matters behind their backs. They did not believe in Allah and neither did they work righteous deeds “they are the Companions of the Left. Above them is a sealed vault of Fire,” hemming them in, “in towering columns”[3] extending from behind them. Hence, its gates can never be re-opened and they are caged, confined in a constricted area, living on in despair and torment.


Endnotes

1. Ghafir (40): 51
2. at-Tin (95): 4
3. al-Humazah (104): 9

(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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