Being one of the earliest Revelations to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, this sūrah has 56 verses and derives its name from the word al-muddaththir in the first verse, meaning “the cloaked and solitary one.” It outlines almost all the fundamentals of faith and the basic truths pertaining to humankind with which the Qur’ān is closely concerned.
- O you cloaked one (who has preferred solitude)!1
- After the first Revelation in the cave of Hirah, the Revelation did not come for some time. During this break, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, usually pre- ferred solitude in his home, and waited for the new Revelation to come. One day, when he was walking outside, he saw Gabriel in his original form, “sitting between the heaven and the earth.” This marked the end of the intermission, and the Revelation that began to come with this sūrah continued without cessation.
- Arise and warn!2
- God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was both a warner (against all kinds of misguidance and transgression), and one who gave good tidings in return for correct belief and good deeds. So the command, “warn,” also suggests giving glad tidings. However, especially in the beginning, warning took priority.
- And declare your Lord’s (indescribable and incomparable) greatness.
- And keep your clothing clean!3
3. This verse is about the absolute purity of the garments and should be considered together with the third verse as a preparation for the Prayer, which is ordered in the following verses. Or, if we take into account that the Qur’ān likens righteousness and piety to a garment (7: 26), in addition to its outward meaning, this verse may also signify deepening or growing in devotion to God.
However, these orders should not be regarded as only pertaining to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings; they are directed to all believers.
- Keep away from all pollution.
- Do not consider your fulfillment of these orders as a kindness (to God and people).
- And for the sake of your Lord be patient (in fulfilling your duty toward God
- Then, when the Horn is sounded,
- That Day will be a day of hardship,
- For the unbelievers, not easy.
- Leave Me (to deal) with him whom I created alone,
- And I enabled for him abundant wealth,
- And children around him as means of power;
- And I have granted him all means and status for a comfortable life.
- And yet, he desires that I should give more.
- By no means! Surely he has been in obstinate opposition to Our Revela- tions.
- I will oblige him to a strenuous climb.4
4. This refers to the difficulties that this man would encounter in the world and the tor- ment awaiting him in the Hellfire. The man (Walīd ibn Mughīrah) mentioned here did cease to lose his wealth and children after the revelation of these verses until he died, though the verse is not limited historically and can also apply to any one of us who chooses this life over the hereafter.
- He pondered and he calculated (how he could disprove the Qur’an in peo- ple’s sight).
- Be away from God’s mercy, how he calculated!
- Yea, be away from God’s mercy!5 how he calculated!
5. The original of the initial phrases in the last two verses, interpreted as, Be away from God’s mercy, and Yea, may God preserve him from the evil eye!, is QuTiLa. It also has a figurative, derisive meaning, which is, May God preserve him from the evil eye! This figu- rativewhich, in fact, is used to say,, “How badly he did it, but in an affected manner as if he knew everything and did well whatever he does!” seems to be more apt in the second case.
- Then he looked around (in the manner of one who will decide on a matter about which he is asked).
- Then he frowned and scowled.
- Then he turned his back and (despite inwardly acknowledging the Qur’an’s Divine origin), grew in arrogance,
- And he said: “This is nothing but sorcery (of a sort transmitted from sorcer- ers) from old times.
- “This is nothing but the word of a mortal.”
- I will make him enter a pit of Hell.
- What enables you to perceive what that pit is?
- It leaves none (but entirely burns everyone of those thrown into it), nor does it spare anyone (so that they might die and escape).
- It scorches up the skin.
- Over it there are nineteen (keepers).
- We have appointed none but angels as keepers of the Fire, and We have not caused their number to be anything but a trial for those who disbelieve, that those who were granted the Book before may become certain (that Muhammad, who explains everything revealed to him without any hesitation in the face of all antagonism and derision, is God’s Messenger), and those who believe may grow firmer in faith; and that both they who were granted the Book before and the believers may feel no doubt at all; and those in whose hearts there is a disease and the unbelievers may say: “What does God mean by this description?” Thus, God leads astray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. None knows your Lord’s hosts except He. All this is but a reminder to the mortals (so that they may take heed and act accordingly).6
6. The unbelievers who rejected the afterlife and, therefore, any fact or Qur’ānic expres- sion concerning it, scoffed at the idea that there are 19 keepers over the Fire, saying that they could easily defeat such a number. So God explained that these 19 are angels, not human beings. However, those unbelievers considered angels as “the daughters of God” and, therefore, did not hold their power in awe. Another verse (66: 6) describes them: Over it are angels stern and strict (in executing the command to punish), who do not disobey God in whatever He commands them, and carry out what they are commanded (to carry out). So this otherworldly fact became a means of trial for them. God has many other hosts about which we do not know. The Qur’ān mentions such facts, in addition to some other purposes, as a reminder and explanation for humans, especially unbelievers, who tend to perceive God and the facts concerning Him in human terms.
- No indeed (the Qur’an is not as the unbelievers claim)! By the moon,
- And by the night when it retreats,
- And by the morning when it shines forth,7
7. Swearing by the moon and the night when it retreats and the morning when it shines
forth implies that the daylight and the sun of God’s guidance are about to replace the moon and the night in the history of humanity.
- Surely it (the Qur’an) is of the greatest (of God’s signs);
- A warning for humankind,
- For everyone of you, whether he goes forward (by choosing faith and good deeds) or hangs back (because his choice of unbelief and sin pulls him away from the Straight Path).
- every person is held in pledge for what he earns (through his deeds),
- except the people of the Right (the people of happiness and prosperity who receive their Records in their right hands. God will forgive them and reward them with much more than they earned).8
8. Believing in God and obedience to Him in His commandments are among God’s rights upon human beings, so everyone is held in pledge by God as they are duty-bound to fulfill this right of God upon them. Those who fulfill this duty are released, while others are kept in Hell. The Qur’ān classifies people into three groups, according to whether they have fulfilled this duty or not, and according to the degree of its fulfillment (see 56: 7–10). In addition to the two groups mentioned in this sūrah (namely, the people of the Right and the disbelieving criminals [the people of the Left]), there are those foremost in faith and good deeds, and in serving God’s cause; they will be the foremost (in receiving and enjoying God’s mercy). Since they are the nearest to God and constant in faith and good deeds – a and as they will, therefore, be exempt from being tried in the Supreme court in the Here- after (37: 128) – they are not mentioned in the verses discussed.
- Dwelling in Gardens (whose beauty cannot be perceived while in the world), they will put questions to one another
- About the disbelieving criminals, (and convey the answers they give):
- “What has brought you into the pit?”
- They will reply: “We were not of those who prayed (who turn to God in sincere worship);
- “Nor did we use to feed the destitute.
- “We used to plunge (in falsehood and sin) together with those who plunged (in it).
- “And we used to deny the (coming of the) Day of Judgment.
- “Until what is certain to come did come upon us.”
- And so, of no benefit to them will be the intercession of any who are entitled to intercede, (even if they are allowed to intercede).
- What, then, is the matter with them that they turn away in aversion from the Reminder (the Qur’an),
- As though they were frightened wild donkeys
- Fleeing from a lion!
- Indeed, every one of them desires that he should be given a Book (particular to him) opened out.
- By no means! Indeed, they do not (believe in and, therefore, do not) fear the Hereafter.
- By no means! This (Qur’an) is a reminder and admonition (sufficient for all).
- So, whoever wills receives admonition and takes heed.
- Yet they will not receive admonition and take heed unless God wills; He is the Lord of righteousness and piety, and the Lord of forgiveness.9
9. That is, all success depends on God’s absolute Will and forgiveness. But He wills success and forgiveness for those who revere Him and act righteously and piously.