(ENGLISH) COMMENTARY BY MUHAMMED ESED
( BY MUHAMMED ESED )
88 - AL-GHASHIYAH
In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

        
REVEALED most probably about the middle of the Mecca period, this surah derives its title from the participial noun al-ghashiyah in the first verse.
1. HAS THERE COME unto thee the tiding of the Overshadowing Event?' (1)

1 - I.e., the Day of Resurrection.

2. Some faces will on that Day be downcast,
3. toiling [under burdens of sin], worn out [by fear],
4. about to enter a glowing fire,
5. given to drink from a boiling spring.
6. No food for them save the bitterness of dry thorns,
7. which gives no strength and neither stills hunger. (2)

2 - According to Al-Qiffal (as quoted by Razi), this kind of hellish drink and food is a metonym for utter hopelessness and abasement. As regards the noun dari - which is said to be a bitter, thorny plant in its dried state (Jawhari) - it is to be borne in mind that it is derived from the verb daraa or daria, which signifies "he [or "it"] became abject" or "abased" (ibid.): hence my rendering of this (obviously metaphorical) expression as "the bitterness of dry thorns". A similarly metaphorical meaning attaches to the expression "a boiling spring" in verse 5, which recalls the term hamim so often mentioned in the Qur'an (see note 62 on the last sentence of 6:70).

8. [And] some faces will on that Day shine with bliss,
9. well-pleased with [the fruit of] their striving,
10. in a garden sublime,
11. wherein thou wilt hear no empty talk.
12. Countless springs (3) will flow therein,

3 Lit., "a spring" - but, as Zamakhshari and lbn Kathir point out, the singular form has here a generic import, implying "a multitude of springs". This metaphor of the life-giving element is analogous to that of the "running waters" (anhar) frequently mentioned in Qur'anic descriptions of paradise.

13. [and] there will be thrones [of happiness] raised high, (4)

4 - See note 34 on 15:47.

14. and goblets placed ready,
15. and cushions ranged,
16. and carpets spread out
17. DO, THEN, they [who deny resurrection] never gaze at the clouds pregnant with water, [and observe] how they are created? (5)

5 - Implying that a denial of resurrection and life in the hereafter renders the concept of a conscious Creator utterly meaningless; hence my interpretation of the words "who deny resurrection" in the first part of this verse. - As regards the noun ibil, it denotes, as a rule, "camels": a generic plural which has no singular form. But one must remember that it also signifies "clouds bearing rain-water" (Lisan al-Arab, Qamus, Taj al-Arus) - a meaning which is preferable in the present context. If the term were used in the sense of "camels", the reference to it in the above verse would have been primarily - if not exclusively - addressed to the Arabian contemporaries of the Prophet, to whom the camel was always an object of admiration on account of its outstanding endurance, the many uses to which it could be put (riding, load-bearing, and as a source of milk, flesh and fine wool) and its indispensability to people living amid deserts. But precisely because a reference to "camels" would restrict its significance to people of a particular environment and a particular time (without even the benefit of a historical allusion to past events), it must be ruled out here, for the Qur'anic appeals to observe the wonders of the God-created universe are invariably directed at people of all times and all environments. Hence, there is every reason to assume that the term ibil relates here not to camels but to "clouds pregnant with water": the more so as such an allusion to the miraculous, cyclic process of the evaporation of water, the skyward ascension of vapour, its condensation and, finally, its precipitation over the earth is definitely more in tune with the subsequent mention (in verses 18-20) of sky, mountains and earth, than would be a reference to "camels", however admirable and noteworthy these animals may be.

18. And at the sky, how it is raised aloft?
19. And at the mountains, how firmly they are reared?
20. And at the earth, how it is spread out?
21. And so, [O Prophet,] exhort them; thy task is only to exhort:
22. thou canst not compel them [to believe]. (6)

6 - Lit., "thou hast no power over them".

23. However, as for him who turns away, being bent on denying the truth,
24. him will God cause to suffer the greatest suffering [in the life to come]:
25. for behold, unto Us will be their return,
26. and verily, It is for Us to call them to account.