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Surah Al-Muddaththir

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Maududi's Commentry (Tafseer) on Surah Al-Muddaththir

Mecca Mecca (4)
56Total Ayat: 56
2Total Ruku: 2


The Surah takes its name from the word al- muddaththir in the firstverse. This also is only a name, not a title of its subject matter.

Period of Revelation

The first seven verses of this Surah belong to the earliest period atMakkah. Even according to some traditions which have been related inBukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Musnad Ahmad, etc., on the authority ofHadrat Jabir bin Abdullah, these are the very earliest verses of theQur'an to be revealed to the Holy Prophet (upon whoa be peace). Butthe Muslim Ummah almost unanimously agreed that the earliest Revelationto the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) consisted of the first fiveverses of Surah Al-Alaq(XCVI) However, what is established by authentictraditions is that after this first Revelation, no Revelation camedown to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) for quite some time.Then, when it was resumed, it started with theme verses of Surah Al-Muddaththir. Imam Zuhri has given the following details of it:

"Revelation to the Holy Prophet remained suspended for quite some time,and it was such a period of deep grief and distress for him that hestarted going early to the tops of the mountains to throw himself downfrom them. But whenever he stood on the edge of a peak, the AngelGabriel would appear and tell him that he was Allah's Prophet. Thiswould console him and restore to him full peace of mind." (Ibn Jarir).

After this Imam Zuhri relates the following tradition on the authorityof Hadrat Jabir bin Abdullah:

"The Ho]y Messenger of Allah describingthe period of falrat al-wahi (break in revelation) said: One day whenI was passing on the way, I suddenly heard a call from heaven. Iraised my head and saw that the same Angel who had visited me in theCave of Hira was sitting on a throne between heaven and earth. Thisstruck terror in my heart, and reaching home quickly, I said: 'Coverme up, cover me up'. So the people of the house covered me up with aquilt (or blanket). At that time Allah sent down the Revelation: Yaayyuhal-Muddaththiru... From then on revelation became intense andcontinuous." (Bukhari, Muslim Musnad Ahmad, Ibn Jarir).

The rest ofthe Surah (vv. 8-56) was revealed when the first Hajj season came afterpublic preaching of Islam had begun in Makkah. This has been fullywell described in the Sirah by Ibn Hisham and we shall cite it below.

Theme and Subject Matter

As has been explained above, the earliest Revelation to the HolyProphet (upon whom be peace) consisted of the first five verses ofSurah Al-Alaq, in which it had been Said: "Read (O Prophet), in thename of your Lord, Who created: created man from a clot of congealedblood. Read: and your Lord is Most Generous, Who taught knowledge bythe pen, taught man what he did not know."

This was the firstexperience of Revelation met with suddenly by the Holy Prophet (uponwhom be peace). in this message it was not told what great mission hehad been entrusted with and what duties he had to perk form in future.He was only initiated into it and then left alone for a time so thatthe great strain this experience had caused should pass away and heshould mentally become prepared to receive the Revelation and performthe prophetic mission in the future. After this intermission whenRevelation Was resumed, the first seven verses of this Surah Wererevealed:In these he Was for the first time commanded to arise andwarn the people of the consequences of the way of life they werefollowing and to proclaim the greatness of God in the world whereothers were being magnified without any right. Along with that he wasgiven this instruction: The demand of the Unique mission that you haveto perform, now is that your life should be pure in every respect andyou should carry out the duty of reforming your people sincerelyirrespective of any worldly gain. Then, in the last sentence, he wasexhorted to endure with patience, for the sake of his Lord, all thehardships and troubles that he might have to face while performing hismission.

In the implementation of this Divine Command when the HolyMessenger of Allah began to preach Islam and recite the Qur'anic Surahsrevealed successively, the people of Makkah felt alarmed, and itprovoked a great storm of opposition and hostility. A few monthspassed in this state until the Hajj season approached. The people ofMakkah feared that if Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace) startedvisiting the caravans of the pilgrims coming from all over Arabia attheir halting places and reciting the spell binding and uniqueRevelations of the Qur'an in their assemblies on the occasion of Hajj,his message would reach every part of Arabia and influence countlesspeople. Therefore, the Quraish chiefs held a conference and settledthat they would start a propaganda campaign against the Holy Prophet(upon whom be peace) among the pilgrims as soon as they arrived. Afterthey had agreed on this, Walid bin al-Mughirah said to the assembledpeople: "If you said contradictory things about Muhuammad (upon whombe Allah's peace and blessings), we all would lose our trust among thepeople. Therefore, let us agree upon one opinion, which we should allsay without dispute. Some people said that they would call Muhammad(upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) a soothsayer. Walid said :No, by God, be is not a soothsayer. We have seen the soothsayers: whatthey murmur and what they utter has no remote resemblance with theQur'an. Some other people said: Then we say be is possessed. Walidsaid: He is not a possessed one: we have seen bad and insane people;the way one talks disjointedly and behaves foolishly in that state isknown to all: who would believe that what Muhammad (upon whom bepeace) presented was the incoherent speech of a madman? The peoplesaid: Then we say he is a poet. Walid said: No, he is not a poet, forwe know poetry in all its forms, and what he presents conforms to noform of it. The people said: Then he is a sorcerer. Walid said: He isno sorcerer either: we have Seen sorcerers and we also know whatmethods they adopt for their sorcery. This also does not apply toMuhammad. Then he said: "Whichever of these things you said aboutMuhammad, it would be known to be a false accusation. By God, hisspeech is sweet, his root is deep and his branches are fruitful. Atthis Abu Jahl urging on Walid said: Your people will never be pleasedwith you unless you say something about Muhammad. He said: Let methink over it awhile. Then, after prolonged thought and consideration,he said: The nearest thing to the truth is that you tell the Arabsthat he is a sorcerer, who has brought a message by which he separatesa man from his father; and from his brother, and from his wife andchildren, and from his family. They all agreed on what Walid hadproposed. Then, according to a scheme the men of Quraish spread amongthe pilgrims in the Hajj season and they warned everyone they met ofthe sorcery of Muhammad (upon whom be peace) and of his stirring updivisions in the families by it." But the result was that by theirthis plan the Quraish chiefs themselves made the name of the HolyMessenger known throughout Arabia. (Ibn Hisham, pp. 288-289. ThatWalid had made this proposal on the insistence of Abu Jahl has beenrelated by Ibn Jarir in his Tafsir on the authority of Ikrimah).

This same event has been reviewed and commented upon in the second section of this Surah. The sequence of its contents is as follows:

In vv. 8-10 the deniers of Truth have been warned, saying: "You will see the evil result of what you are doing today on the Resurrection Day."

In vv. 11-26, without naming Walid bin al-Mughirah, it has been told how Allah had blessed him and how inimical he proved to be to true Faith. In this connection, his mental conflict has been portrayed, telling that, on the one hand, he was fully convinced of the truth of Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) and the Qur'an, but, on the other, he did not want to risk his leadership and position among his people. Therefore, not only he did not believe himself but after a long-drawn-out conflict with his conscience he also came out with the proposal that in order to restrain the people from believing the Qur'an should be branded as magic. After exposing his evil nature, it has been said: "Notwithstanding such evil inclinations and misdeeds, this person desires that he should be further blessed, whereas he has now become worthy of Hell, and never of further blessings."

In vv. 27-48, the dreadfulness of Hell has been depicted and it has been explained as to people of what character and morals really deserve it.

In vv. 49-53, the root cause of the disbelievers' aversion has been pointed out, saying: "Since they are fearless of the Hereafter, and look upon this worldly life as an end in itself, they flee from the Qur'an as though they were wild asses fleeing away from the lion: therefore, they propose unreasonable conditions for believing, whereas even if each and every condition of theirs was fulfilled, they could not advance even an inch on the way of Faith with their denial of the Hereafter."

Inconclusion, it has been explicitly stated: Allah does not stand inneed of anybody's faith that He may fulfill his conditions. The Qur'anis an admonition that has been presented before the people openly; nowwhoever wills may accept it. Allah has a right that the people shouldfear His disobedience and He alone has the power to forgive the onewho adopts piety and an attitude of God consciousness even though onemay have committed many acts of disobedience in the past.

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