Surah Sajdah: Prostration: Defining Paradise and Hell

Introduction

According to Muhammad Abdel Haleem, in the introduction to this surah:

A Meccan surah which takes its title from the bowing down of true believers in worship in verse 15. The truth of the Qur’an is emphasized at the beginning of the surah, and the Prophet is urged at the end of the surah to pay no attention to the dis- believers who cannot see the significance of God’s signs.

The most important verse of this surah in our opinion is the 17th, which is the key to understand the Quranic description of paradise and hell. The verse states: “No soul knows what joy is kept hidden in store for them as a reward for what they have done.”

The verse states that all the Quranic descriptions of rewards in paradise like rivers of milk and honey, non-intoxicating alcohol and chaste virgins are only a metaphor and not physical. The ultimate reality is that the Hereafter is a totally new spiritual paradigm that the human mind is completely unable to conceive and appreciate, just like a fetus cannot conceive what awaits him or her after it is painfully ejected through the birth canal!

Likewise, all the Quranic descriptions of punishment in hell are only metaphors not to be taken literally, nevertheless, not to be minimized or ignored. If someone does that he or she does it at his or her own peril!

If the Quranic description of Afterlife is understood in the light of this fundamental verse then all the objections against the seductive nature of physical paradise and gruesome nature rather than reformation of the hell disappear in thin air.

Once again, we believe the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. (87:16-19) The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Al Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

32:1. I am Allah, the All-Knowing.

الم

32:2. This scripture, free from all doubt, has been sent down from the Lord of the Worlds.

 تَنزِيلُ الْكِتَابِ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ مِن رَّبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

32:3. Yet they say, ‘Muhammad has made it up.’ No indeed! It is the Truth from your Lord, to warn a people who have had no one to warn them before, so that they may be guided.

  أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ ۚ بَلْ هُوَ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ لِتُنذِرَ قَوْمًا مَّا أَتَاهُم مِّن نَّذِيرٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ

32:4. It is God who created the heavens and the earth and everything between them in six periods. Then He established Himself on the Throne. You have no one but Him to protect you and no one to intercede for you, so why do you not take heed?

 اللَّـهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ ۖ مَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا شَفِيعٍ ۚ أَفَلَا تَتَذَكَّرُونَ

32:5. He runs everything, from the heavens to the earth, and everything will ascend to Him in the end, on a Day that will measure a thousand years in your reckoning.

  يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ ثُمَّ يَعْرُجُ إِلَيْهِ فِي يَوْمٍ كَانَ مِقْدَارُهُ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ مِّمَّا تَعُدُّونَ

32:6. Such is He who knows all that is unseen as well as what is seen, the Almighty, the Merciful,

 ذَٰلِكَ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ

32:7. Who gave everything its perfect form. He first created man from clay,

 الَّذِي أَحْسَنَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقَهُ ۖ وَبَدَأَ خَلْقَ الْإِنسَانِ مِن طِينٍ

32:8. then made his descendants from an extract of underrated fluid.

 ثُمَّ جَعَلَ نَسْلَهُ مِن سُلَالَةٍ مِّن مَّاءٍ مَّهِينٍ

32:9. Then He molded him; He breathed of His Spirit into him; He gave you hearing, sight, and understanding; but little thanks do you give.

 ثُمَّ سَوَّاهُ وَنَفَخَ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِهِ ۖ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۚ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ

32:10. They say, ‘What? When we have disappeared in the earth, shall we really be created anew?’  In fact, they deny the meeting with their Lord.

 وَقَالُوا أَإِذَا ضَلَلْنَا فِي الْأَرْضِ أَإِنَّا لَفِي خَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ ۚبَلْ هُم بِلِقَاءِ رَبِّهِمْ كَافِرُونَ

32:11. Say to them, ‘The angel of death appointed for you will reclaim you, and then you will be brought back to your Lord.’

  قُلْ يَتَوَفَّاكُم مَّلَكُ الْمَوْتِ الَّذِي وُكِّلَ بِكُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ تُرْجَعُونَ

32:12. If only you could see the wrongdoers hang their heads before their Lord: ‘Our Lord, now that we have seen and heard, send us back and we shall do good. Now we are fully convinced.’

 وَلَوْ تَرَىٰ إِذِ الْمُجْرِمُونَ نَاكِسُو رُءُوسِهِمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ رَبَّنَا أَبْصَرْنَا وَسَمِعْنَا فَارْجِعْنَا نَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا إِنَّا مُوقِنُونَ

32:13. If it had been Our will, We could certainly have given every soul its true guidance, but My words have come true: “I shall certainly fill Hell with jinn and men together.”

 وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَآتَيْنَا كُلَّ نَفْسٍ هُدَاهَا وَلَـٰكِنْ حَقَّ الْقَوْلُ مِنِّي لَأَمْلَأَنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنَ الْجِنَّةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ

32:14.  So since you ignored the meeting of this Day of yours, now We shall ignore you: taste the long suffering for all you have done.

 فَذُوقُوا بِمَا نَسِيتُمْ لِقَاءَ يَوْمِكُمْ هَـٰذَا إِنَّا نَسِينَاكُمْ ۖ وَذُوقُوا عَذَابَ الْخُلْدِ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

32:15. The only people who truly believe in Our messages are those who, when they are reminded of them, bow down in worship, celebrate their Lord’s praises, and do not think themselves above this.

 إِنَّمَا يُؤْمِنُ بِآيَاتِنَا الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِّرُوا بِهَا خَرُّوا سُجَّدًا وَسَبَّحُوا بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ وَهُمْ لَا يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ

32:16. Their sides shun their beds in order to pray to their Lord in fear and hope; they share with others some of what We have given them.

 تَتَجَافَىٰ جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ

32:17. No soul knows what joy is kept hidden in store for them as a reward for what they have done.

  فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَّا أُخْفِيَ لَهُم مِّن قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَاءً بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

32:18. So, is someone who believes equal to someone who is disobedient? No, they are not equal.

 أَفَمَن كَانَ مُؤْمِنًا كَمَن كَانَ فَاسِقًا ۚ لَّا يَسْتَوُونَ

32:19. Those who believe and do good deeds will have Gardens as a reward for what they have done.

 أَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَلَهُمْ جَنَّاتُ الْمَأْوَىٰ نُزُلًا بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

32:20. As for those who defy God, their home will be the Fire. Whenever they try to escape it, they will be driven back into it, and they will be told, ‘Taste the torment of the Fire, which you used to deny.’

  وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فَسَقُوا فَمَأْوَاهُمُ النَّارُ ۖ كُلَّمَا أَرَادُوا أَن يَخْرُجُوا مِنْهَا أُعِيدُوا فِيهَا وَقِيلَ لَهُمْ ذُوقُوا عَذَابَ النَّارِ الَّذِي كُنتُم بِهِ تُكَذِّبُونَ

32:21. We shall certainly afflict them with trials in this life prior to the greater torment, so that perhaps they may return to the right path.

 وَلَنُذِيقَنَّهُم مِّنَ الْعَذَابِ الْأَدْنَىٰ دُونَ الْعَذَابِ الْأَكْبَرِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

32:22. Who does more wrong than someone who, when messages from his Lord are recited to him, turns away from them? We shall certainly exact retribution from the guilty.

 وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن ذُكِّرَ بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِ ثُمَّ أَعْرَضَ عَنْهَا ۚإِنَّا مِنَ الْمُجْرِمِينَ مُنتَقِمُونَ

32:23. We gave Moses the Book and We made it a guide for the Children of Israel.  So, Muhammad be not in doubt concerning Our giving you the Book.

 وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا مُوسَى الْكِتَابَ فَلَا تَكُن فِي مِرْيَةٍ مِّن لِّقَائِهِ ۖ وَجَعَلْنَاهُ هُدًى لِّبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ

32:24. When they became steadfast and believed firmly in Our messages, We raised leaders among the Israelites, guiding them according to Our command.

 وَجَعَلْنَا مِنْهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا لَمَّا صَبَرُوا ۖ وَكَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا يُوقِنُونَ

32:25. [Muhammad], it is your Lord who will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning their differences.

  إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ يَفْصِلُ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فِيمَا كَانُوا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ

32:26. Is it not a lesson for them how many generations We destroyed before them, in whose homes they now walk? There truly are signs in this—do they not hear? 

  أَوَلَمْ يَهْدِ لَهُمْ كَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا مِن قَبْلِهِم مِّنَ الْقُرُونِ يَمْشُونَ فِي مَسَاكِنِهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ ۖ أَفَلَا يَسْمَعُونَ

32:27. Have they not seen how We drive rain to the barren land, and with it produce vegetation from which their cattle and they themselves eat? Do they not observe?

 أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّا نَسُوقُ الْمَاءَ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ الْجُرُزِ فَنُخْرِجُ بِهِ زَرْعًا تَأْكُلُ مِنْهُ أَنْعَامُهُمْ وَأَنفُسُهُمْ ۖ أَفَلَا يُبْصِرُونَ

32:28. And they say, ‘When will this Judgement be, if you are telling the truth?’

  وَيَقُولُونَ مَتَىٰ هَـٰذَا الْفَتْحُ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

32:29. On the Day of Judgement it will be no use for the disbelievers to believe; they will be granted no respite.

 قُلْ يَوْمَ الْفَتْحِ لَا يَنفَعُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِيمَانُهُمْ وَلَا هُمْ يُنظَرُونَ

32:30. So [Muhammad], turn away from them and wait: they too are waiting.

 فَأَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ وَانتَظِرْ إِنَّهُم مُّنتَظِرُونَ

Commentary

In the commentary below of each verse we first quote the translation of each verse and where we decide not to suggest a commentary, assuming that the translation is self evident we just state the translation and nothing else.

32:1

The initials الم appear before a few surahs, including surah number 2, 3, 29, 30, 31 and 32.  These are understood variably by different commentators. One reasonable understanding is that these initials stand for:  I am Allah, the All-Knowing. In this sense they serve as an apt prelude before all these surahs.

All together 29 surahs have some initials in the beginning.

32:2

“This scripture, free from all doubt, has been sent down from the Lord of the Worlds.”

The Quran is a revelation from رَّبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ, ‘Lord of the Worlds’ or ‘the Creator and the Sustainer of all the worlds,’ for the commentary of this term please see the second verse in Surah Al Fatihah: The Opening.

32:3

“Yet they say, ‘Muhammad has made it up.’ No indeed! It is the Truth from your Lord, to warn a people who have had no one to warn them before, so that they may be guided.”

32:4

“It is God who created the heavens and the earth and everything between them in six periods. Then He established Himself on the Throne. You have no one but Him to protect you and no one to intercede for you, so why do you not take heed?”

Regarding the creation of the heavens and the earth . . . in six days or periods also see 10:3; 11:7; 25:59; 50:38; 57:4.

In the past the Quranic commentators and especially the commentators of the Bible of similar verses had interpreted such verses as literal days, but now we understand these in more general terms as it is now known through astronomy and physics that our universe is more than 13 billion years old and our solar system is 4.5 billion years old.

The very next verse of this surah presents justification to see the six days as six periods.

If God is the Creator and the Master of our universe then it would stand to logic that there is no other protector for us beside Him. According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in the commentary of this verse:

That people have neither protector, nor intercessor other than God means that none may intercede or help without God’s Permission (IK, Z), as in 10:3: There is no intercessor, save by His Leave (see also 19:87; 20:109; 39:44; 43:86; 53:26; 74:48; 2:48c; 2:255c), which is another means of confirming God’s absolute sovereignty (see 2:107).

32:5

“He runs everything, from the heavens to the earth, and everything will ascend to Him in the end, on a Day that will measure a thousand years in your reckoning.”

Before Albert Einstein humanity did not have any conception that time can be relative.Nevertheless, this verse and a few other verses of the holy Quran clearly allude to that. The latest scientific understanding of time serves us not only in science and technology but also in theology: NOVA Documentary: The Illusion of Time — The Best Paradigm to Understand Fore-knowledge of God.

32:6

“Such is He who knows all that is unseen as well as what is seen, the Almighty, the Merciful.”

The latest understanding of time helps us conceptualize the idea how God knows not only ‘unseen as well as what is seen’ of the present and the past but also of the future.

32:7

“Who gave everything its perfect form. He first created man from clay.”

We have often quoted from Seyyed Hossein Nasr and other past commentaries.

A question may be asked why did we need to write a new commentary of our own if we were so extensively banking on the other commentaries. A quick answer is that we wanted to remove the short comings of the other commentaries as we saw them. For example, we felt that the other commentaries did not benefit from the development in different sciences in the last century especially biology. For example, Seyyed Hossein Nasr takes Adam to be the first human and does not believe in evolution and suggests that the prophet Adam was created from a statue of mud:

The clay from which Adam and, by extension, all human beings were created is variously described as being like potter’s clay (55:14); dried clay, made of molded mud (15:26); a draught of clay (23:12); and viscous clay (37:11). These different forms of clay can be seen as describing stages of human creation: from dust (3:59), to viscous clay, to molded mud, to dried clay, like earthen vessels (55:14), at which point it is ready for the spirit to be blown into it.

Despite the lack of the prior commentators acknowledging evolution, the evidence of biological evolution and common ancestry of all life forms on planet earth is rising to the level of self evident for many well versed biologists and humans have existed for much longer than 6000 years, when the prophet Adam lived. For further discussion on this issue please read: Surah Al Baqara (The Cow): Section 4: Adam and Eve.

According to Muhammad Ali:

See 23:12-14, where the various stages through which man passes in his creation are spoken of in detail, and 23:12a. The wonderful beauty of creation from the atom to the most brilliant star in the realm of matter, and from the smallest ant to the most  developed form of life in man, could not have been known to an unlearned Arabian 1,300 years ago, yet he sees, as stated here, that everything that was created was beautiful. This beauty in creation undoubtedly emanated from the same Source, from the Great Creator Who, according to the Holy Qur’an, has the ‘most beautiful names’ (17:110; 20:8; 59:24).

32:8

“Then made his descendants from an extract of underrated fluid.”

Here the reference is clearly to semen.

32:9

“Then He molded him; He breathed of His Spirit into him; He gave you hearing, sight, and understanding; but little thanks do you give.”

At some point in our development in our mothers’ wombs we develop our soul and our different faculties including our understanding.

According to Muhammad Ali:

This verse shows that the spirit of God is breathed into every man. This points to a mystical relation between human nature and Divine nature. The word ruh does not here mean the animal soul, because the animal soul is common to man and the animal kingdom. It is something which distinguishes man from the animal world. It is due to this spirit Divine that he rules the creation and it is due to the same Divine spirit in him that he receives a new life after death — a life in which he lives in God and with God — the meeting with God or liqa Allah, as it is called in v. 10.

32:10

“They say, ‘What? When we have disappeared in the earth, shall we really be created anew?’  In fact, they deny the meeting with their Lord.”

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in the commentary of this verse:

The question in this verse may be seen as meaning,  “When our bodies have decomposed, are we to be reconstituted?” (IJ, JJ). This is similar to the more common objection voiced by disbelievers, What! When we are dead and have become dust and bones, are we to be resurrected? (56:47; cf. 17:49, 98; 23:82-83; 36:78; 37:16-17, 53; 50:3; 79:11).

The nonbelievers keep asking similar questions about the Afterlife and the holy Quran repeatedly cites different aspects of the first Creation or our universe as a proof for things to come and at times coming to life of the dead earth after life giving rain, as a metaphor for resurrection as well.

All such verses are collected in an article by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times: Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story!’

32:11-12

“Say to them, ‘The angel of death appointed for you will reclaim you, and then you will be brought back to your Lord.'”

“If only you could see the wrongdoers hang their heads before their Lord: ‘Our Lord, now that we have seen and heard, send us back and we shall do good. Now we are fully convinced.’”

32:13

“If it had been Our will, We could certainly have given every soul its true guidance, but My words have come true: ‘I shall certainly fill Hell with jinn and men together.’”

According to Muhammad Ali:

God’s word, as repeated so often in the Holy Qur’an, is that the right way has been pointed out to man but he is given the choice to accept or reject it, and that those who rejected that word and did not forsake evil ways would go to hell. The reference in if We had pleased is to the fact that man is not compelled to submit to the Divine law. His superiority lies in the fact that he has been given a choice. If he exercises that choice rightly, he attains to eminence; if he exercises it wrongly, he must taste of the evil consequences of his deeds.

32:14-16

“So since you ignored the meeting of this Day of yours, now We shall ignore you: taste the long suffering for all you have done.”

“The only people who truly believe in Our messages are those who, when they are reminded of them, bow down in worship, celebrate their Lord’s praises, and do not think themselves above this.”

“Their sides shun their beds in order to pray to their Lord in fear and hope; they share with others some of what We have given them.”

32:17

“No soul knows what joy is kept hidden in store for them as a reward for what they have done.”

This we believe is the most important verse of this surah.

The verse states that all the Quranic descriptions of rewards in paradise like rivers of milk and honey, non-intoxicating alcohol and chaste virgins are only a metaphor and not physical. The ultimate reality is that the Hereafter is a totally new spiritual paradigm that the human mind is completely unable to conceive and appreciate, just like a fetus cannot conceive what awaits him or her after it is painfully ejected through the birth canal!

Likewise, all the Quranic descriptions of punishment in hell are only metaphors not to be taken literally, nevertheless, not to be minimized or ignored. If someone does that he or she does it at his or her own peril!

According to Malik Ghulam Farid:

Describing the form and nature of the blessings and comforts of Paradise the Holy Prophet is reported to have said: ‘No eye has yet seen them (the blessings of Paradise), nor has any ear heard of them, nor can human mind conceive of them’ (Bukhari, Kitab Bad’aI-Khalq). The hadith shows that the blessings of the life to come will not be material. They will be the spiritual representations of good deeds and actions the righteous believers might have done in’the present life. The words used to describe them in the Qur’an have been used only in a metaphorical sense. The present verse may also mean that Divine boons and blessings that will be bestowed upon the righteous believers in the next world are far too good and too plentiful, even to be imagined or conceived of.  They will be far beyond the widest stretch of human imagination.

If the Quranic description of Afterlife is understood in the light of this fundamental verse then all the objections against the seductive nature of physical paradise and gruesome nature rather than reformation of the hell, disappear in thin air.

Once again, we believe the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. (87:16-19) The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Al Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah.

Understanding this verse and its influence on the broader understanding of the Afterlife and paradise and hell also gives us another epiphany. It is the insight that by choosing any verse as fundamental or primary and reading the rest of verses on that theme secondary to the primary verse, can very dramatically change the understanding of the Quran on the particular subject.  But, the Quran does not define which verses are primary or secondary, only the human commentators do. So, ultimately the Quran is like beauty and is in the eye of the beholder, in this case the commentator’s vision and insights.

In other words, the Quranic understanding or commentary ultimately depends on the piety, knowledge, honesty, inclinations and biases of the commentators and there are just no exceptions.

32:18-20

“So, is someone who believes equal to someone who is disobedient? No, they are not equal.”

“Those who believe and do good deeds will have Gardens as a reward for what they have done.”

“As for those who defy God, their home will be the Fire. Whenever they try to escape it, they will be driven back into it, and they will be told, ‘Taste the torment of the Fire, which you used to deny.’”

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in the commentary of these verses:

The verse 18 is one of several verses to ask a rhetorical  question aimed at indicating the utter disparity between believers and disbelievers. Elsewhere, their disparity is likened to that between the blind and the seeing (see 11:24.; 13:19; 35:19; 40:58), the living and the dead (35:22), or those who know and those who do not know (39:9; see also 3:162; 5:100; 38:28; 39:9; 47:14-15; 59:20; 68:5).

The reward of those who genuinely prostrate and submit to the will of God is paradise: “Those who believe and do good deeds will have Gardens as a reward for what they have done.” (32:19)

32:21

“We shall certainly afflict them with trials in this life prior to the greater torment, so that perhaps they may return to the right path.”

The trials in our life are meant to jolt and drive us to better understanding of the Truth. Some of us benefit from them and others continue to pursue the prior distortions.

32:22

“Who does more wrong than someone who, when messages from his Lord are recited to him, turns away from them? We shall certainly exact retribution from the guilty.”

Our Merciful God has created this universe for our benefit and set up a paradigm for our flourishing in this temporal life and for more to follow in the Afterlife. So, one who fails to recognize the very basic paradigm and creates a world view of his or her own removed from reality, is choosing the wrong paradigm and track for him or herself.

Like flat earthers, still several thousand strong, choose a scientific paradigm doomed to failure in scientific spheres, likewise choosing the wrong spiritual paradigm sets one for failure.

32:23-25

“We gave Moses the Book and We made it a guide for the Children of Israel.  So, Muhammad be not in doubt concerning Our giving you the Book.”

“When they became steadfast and believed firmly in Our messages, We raised leaders among the Israelites, guiding them according to Our command.”

“[Muhammad], it is your Lord who will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning their differences.”

Here, Allah is presenting Islam as a continuation of the paradigm of Judaism.

32:26

“Is it not a lesson for them how many generations We destroyed before them, in whose homes they now walk? There truly are signs in this—do they not hear?” 

There are a couple of well known archaeological sites in and around Arabia of the destroyed generations. Here we list two that have been included in UNESCO world heritage sites: UNESCO: Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madâin Sâlih) and UNESCO about Petra in Jordan: Nabateans were the Thamud mentioned in the Quran.

32:27

“Have they not seen how We drive rain to the barren land, and with it produce vegetation from which their cattle and they themselves eat? Do they not observe?”

Coming to life of the death earth is on several occasions used as a metaphor for Afterlife in the holy Quran.

32:28-29

“And they say, ‘When will this Judgement be, if you are telling the truth?’”

“On the Day of Judgement it will be no use for the disbelievers to believe; they will be granted no respite.”

The disbelievers in a mocking tone ask: “When will this Judgement be, if you are telling the truth?” God is not going to give humanity a date for the Day of Judgment as it takes away from the basic paradigm that He has set for our faith, on reasonable and not mathematical or conclusive evidence and of future accountability, the timing of which is not precisely laid out to maintain an element of surprise and suspense about the final destruction of our aboard, our earth.

As we get to the end of the surah, let us observe that as in most surahs, we have learnt about Monotheism, attributes of the Transcendent God of Abrahamic faiths and accountability from different angles and perspectives.

32:30

“So [Muhammad], turn away from them and wait: they too are waiting.”

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in the commentary of this verse:

Believers are counseled to wait for the punishment  to be sent down upon the disbelievers (JJ). They, too, are waiting means that the disbelievers are expecting and awaiting the believers’ destruction as well (JJ). They, too, are waiting can also be read with a sense of irony, meaning that the disbelievers are waiting for their own destruction, though they do not know that this is what they are awaiting. For other instances of this ironic statement with slight variations, see 6:158c; 7:71; 9:52; 10:20, 102; 11:122; 2o:135; 52:31.

A large majority of the disbelievers will only be judged in the Afterlife for their deeds, good and bad and not the slightest injustice will be done to them by the Merciful and Forgiving God.

However, those few who excel in their misdeeds in persecuting the prophets and the believers, are sometimes made an example of by the Gracious God, in this very world.

2 thoughts on “Surah Sajdah: Prostration: Defining Paradise and Hell

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