69 The Inevitable Hour (al-ha): Poems based upon the Qur’an with exegesis

“Forsaken” painting by John Lautermilch

Abdel Haleem translation: http://www.kaskas.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Quran-Abdel-Haleem-Translation-1.pdf

The Surah begins with an exclamatory statement, “The Inevitable Hour!,
 and what follows is the description of what happened to those communities who didn’t believe their messenger — “crashing blow,” “deafening blast,” “furious wind,” “the ruined cities,” “seized them with an evertightening grip,” and then the gentle reminder of how Allah saved the righteous on the Noah’s Ark. For in every one of the unrighteous communities Allah saves the righteous before the destruction — “attentive ears may take heed” (v. 11). When Muhammad was initially communicated with by the Archangel Gabriel, Muhammad was told to “read,” and when he told Gabriel a couple times that he couldn’t read, he was held in an “evertightening grip” by the angel. By the angel’s actions it is clear that the non-verbal message was to pay attention and listen, meaning to use your reason, and look deeper at what is being communicated to you. The same phrase is stated in this Surah, but pertaining to the Last Day, “seized them with an evertightening grip,” so it can be surmised the listeners are being told to listen deeper and reflect.

This Surah has a fairly simple structure — the end destruction, previous destructions, the end destruction. When the Day of the Great Event comes, “the angels will be on all sides of it and, on that Day, eight of them will bear the throne of your Lord above them” (v.17). The Judgement seat of God will be raised high, and he will be readied with all of his angels for the delivery of our souls. Furthermore, this section states that the righteous will be given their records of deeds in their rights hands, but those being sent to Hell will be given their records in their left hands, which is the dirty hand. Al-Ghazali describes in his book, Revival of Religious Sciences, how the Arabs (before the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught them proper hygiene), would wipe themselves after defecating with their left hands, and then afterwards wipe their hands on the bottom of their left foot. So, you can imagine how filthy the left hand must have been — that is why only the right hand was used for eating, etc. The Prophet (pbuh) taught them to go out of the city, find three rocks to wipe with, and then use a minimal amount of water for additional cleaning. Also, he provided them with many other instructions for proper hygiene as well as the strict cleansing instructions for wudu. Obviously, the improved hygiene helped prevent disease, reduced bacteria growth in food and water, and generally enhanced the society’s well being.

The disobedient will cry out with complete understanding that their wealth was of no use to them, and the perceived power they thought they had while living was just dust in the wind. The unrighteous will be bound with a chain seventy meters long. Seventy is a derivative of seven, which is an important spiritual number meaning the completeness or fullness of all things. The next phrase is significant, “he would not believe in Almighty God, he never encouraged feeding the hungry” (vs. 33–34); lack of belief, and not taking care of the needy. This shows how important our care of the poor and needy is — second after belief.

“Lord, thou hast given justice to the poor as against the rich, for all of them have exactly the same right to life.” Shawqi

Since all of our possession are not really ours, as all things are provided to us by the Great and Merciful Allah, we must come to a clear understanding that our abundance must be shared with those who are less fortunate. This is Allah’s way of assuring all people have the opportunity for life. Next, it is mentioned, the only food the unrighteous will be given “…is the filth that only sinners eat” (vs. 36–37). This should not be taken literally, but as the sinful behaviors that sinners engage in which lead them to hell — vice, corruption, greed, murder, etc. while the righteous will eat abundantly of fruit in paradise — this symbolizes the good deeds which was evidence of the working of Allah’s Spirit in their lives.

The next section addresses the disbelievers refutation of the Qur’an — it is a book of poetry, Muhammad is a soothsayer, it is full of lies. Gabriel assures that if Muhammad attributed some falsehood to the angels and Allah, they would “have seized his right hand and cut off his lifeblood” (vs. 44–46). Again, this is the hand of cleanliness or righteousness, so it would have been cut off as a sign of unrighteousness. The disbelievers are admonished, “how little you believe!” and “how little you reflect!” (v. 41–42). Reflecting on the true words of the Prophet (pbuh) are the only way to digest the spiritual food they are being given — otherwise they will have no understanding and it will go right through them without settling in the heart of understanding.

The Surah closes with, “This [Qur’an] is a reminder for those who are aware of God.” Awareness stems from using one’s reason, intuition and knowledge to obtain understanding and belief, and then constant processing of the truths from the Qur’an for ongoing transformation or change of behavior.

So, Prophet, glorify the name of your Lord the Almighty.


Your possessions are not your own
but belong to Allah only — 
will you hoard them 
just for yourselves?
He gives to all abundantly
as a gift from Himself — 
do you not see?
Open your eyes to the truth
so that you may see
others suffering.

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