The Great News — 78:1–5 (part 1)
Here are my take on chapter 78 of the Quran. I took most translations from quran.com.
In general this chapter -like many Meccan chapters- proves that Allah is able to bring the dead to life and a day is coming when everyone will be raised up from grave and have to face consequence of deeds in this world.
78:1 About what are they asking one another?
The Arabic word (يتساءلون) indicates — at least- three things: a)interactive querying by multiple parties b) the query is repeated many times c) the act is done in a very strong and emphasized manner d) also there is this strain of mockery by the questioners towards the topics they question/doubt about!
Note in these verses as well as in many other places in the Quran that the referent of the pronoun “they” is not named. It is a tool to generalize individual as long as the qualities and characters are identified. The Quran is for all ages, and the dynamics of human behaviour remains the same. So, concentrating on individuals and particular tom, dick and harry is counter productive. What is important is to establish a template void of individuals but full of characters and traits of these individual which would repeat in future as they appeared in past and as they happened at the time of the Prophet Muhamad.
The opening of this chapter shows a method to draw attention of the audience to an important matter through starting with rhetorical question.
This method is applied a lot in the Quran. Can you tell me some other Meccan chapters opened with rhetorical questions?
One important take-away from this verse is the art of writing speech openers through rhetorical questions.
A good crowd sourcing project could be is to enumerate questions which the disbelievers asked in the Quran. Here I just list few and hope others will jump in and fill the rest.
When we are dust, will we indeed be [brought] into a new creation? [13:5]
When we have become dust as well as our forefathers, will we indeed be brought out [of the graves]? [27:67]
They ask, “When is the Day of Recompense?” [51:12]
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the Hour: when is its arrival? [79:42]
78:2–3 About the great news -That over which they are in disagreement.
The verse did not specify what is that “great news”, however it qualified that news to be something they disagree. Also, the verse did not specify who the pronoun “they” refer to. But it is safe to assume that “they” refers to the opponents of the Muslim community at the time when this chapter was revealed in Mecca.
Scholars listed three possibilities, which are NOT conflicting.
- The Quran: some said it is poem, some said it is magic, and some say it is nothing but old legends.
- Resurrection: Many other verses mention that a great number of the disbelievers did not believe that after being mixed with the soil, their soul would raise again and will be hold accountable for their deeds. The mode and tone of the rest of this chapter makes this possibility the strongest.
- Muhammad: Some said he is crazy, some said he is poet, some said he is a fortune teller.
It is amazing to note how today’s secular elders also share the same disagreements about these three subjects.
The word “disagree” alludes to the fact that some believe in the above and some do not believe, otherwise if all disbelieve, they are in “agreement” on disbelieving. Such was the case at the time of Muhammad. For example, his uncle believed that his nephew is a real messenger from Allah and thus supported him, however he could not abandon the worship of idols besides Allah. So is the case today. Many non Muslims believe Muhammad is the messenger of Allah and that Quran is the words of Allah, yet do not accept Islam and worship other deities.
Today, western ideology consider Quran a product of Muhammad and do not attribute it to Allah.. They do not believe that souls will raise again from grave. Also, they do not consider Muhammad as a messenger sent by Allah, rather a person bringing wise passages after some epileptic fits.
Given the above, this chapter is very relevant to today’s readers, and I hope continuing this journey with this chapter would address all these three subjects of disagreements.
78: 4–5 No! They are going to know. Then, no! They are going to know.
Indeed, very powerful rhetorical instrument! The word “Kalla” (كلا) here is translated as no, but it is a powerful denunciation instrument and is used only in Meccan verses.
Many people would die without knowing about these matters, but would one day surely know after raising from grave.
Some scholars noted that the repetition refers to once at the time of death, and once at the time of resurrection. Some further noted that, the first knowledge is the realization of the fact which they used to deny, and the second knowledge is after resurrection they would realiaze that they are going to face punishment for denying.
When a person is in death bed and he reached no-return stage, he/she starts to realize amazing things connected to other worlds. He starts of see angels of death, although people beside him does not realize that. Is not that amazing! Can doctors ever think of this situation?
It is amazing that today with information revolution and all sort of media outlets and huge repository of data and communication technology and all sorts of topics and ideas shared between millions of people, despite all that, such “great news” still remains very much untouched..
It is amazing how today’s agenda is so shallow and derailed from big issues and “great news”. Just pick a new channel today (e.g., FOX, ABC, CNN, etc.) and you will be amazed how the mass population is being hypnotized into matters that -at the very best case- is a wasteful of time.
It is a call to the public: start discovering these “great news” before it is too late and then you will discover it the hard way!