This sūrah of 31 verses was revealed in Makkah and takes its name from the word al-insān (human) in the first verse. It is about human perfectibility, the virtues of good believers and the reward they will get in the Hereafter. It also contains advice for the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and hence for the believers dedicated to his cause.
- Did there pass (– and surely there did pass –) over human a stretch of time when he was a thing not mentioned and remembered (as human)?1
- This does not mean that humans did not exist at all during that stretch of time. Rather, as implied in sūrah 2: 28 and explained in the note 27, each member of humankind has some sort of existence in the world of atoms or particles. In other words, since it has already been evident in God’s Knowledge and determined by Destiny which particles among the innumerable particles of the world will constitute the body of which person, those particles, however widely distributed in air, water, and earth, had long been appointed to constitute the body of the particular individual, even though that individual was not known or men- tioned as (a) human being.
Humankind is the fruit of the Tree of creation and, therefore, contained its seed. So the Tree of creation has grown out of the seed of humankind. In other words, as a tree is the mature or developed form of its seed, each human being carries in his body and self the entire nature and original elements of other forms of existence. Thus, what meaning a seed bears with respect to a tree, humankind has it with respect to the universe. Science should concentrate on this point while investigating how life began on earth and how humankind originated.
- We have surely created human from a small quantity of mingled fluids, mov- ing him from one state to another, and (finally) We have made him one hearing and seeing (so that he may hear God’s Message and see His signs).
- And We have shown him the right way, whether he be grateful (and follow this way) or ungrateful (and follow the way opposed to the right one).2
2. God has created each human being with a disposition and capacity to believe in God and follow His way, and endowed him or her accordingly with the necessary faculties. This is His guidance based on, or originating in, His creation, as pointed out in 30: 30: So set your whole being upon the true religion (of Islam) as one of pure faith (free from unbelief, polytheism, and hypocrisy). This is the original pattern belonging to God on which He has originated humankind. No change can there be in God’s creation. This is the upright, ever- true Religion, but most of the people do not know. (See also Appendix 13.) Out of His
special compassion, He also sent us Messengers and showed us His way. Further than that, He made following His way very easy for humankind through the character and leadership of those Messengers. He declares: Messengers (have been sent as) bearers of glad tidings and warners, so that people might have no argument against God after the Messengers (had come to them). And God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Wise (4: 165). This is His showing of His right way. However, He has created humankind as distinct from other creatures and endowed us with free will; and so, He does not compel us to choose or follow His way. He has left it to free choice – such that we can be grateful and choose His way, or be ungrateful and choose our own way. But He has also informed humankind explicitly of the consequence of our choices.
So, humankind divides into two main groups after God’s guidance is conveyed to them: those who accept God’s guidance and follow it, and those who reject it. every one of them will be treated in the Hereafter according tohis or her choice. However, there is another group made up of those to whom the Divine guidance has not been conveyed or who have not been able to find it due to certain circumstances. They are the ones mentioned in 4: 98: except those truly oppressed among the men, and the women, and the children altogether without means and not guided to a way (to emigrate, and including those who, in their life- time, have not had a means to be guided to faith.) For those (while their circumstances are unchanged, it is expected that) God will not hold them accountable and will excuse them. Assuredly God is One Who excuses much, All-Forgiving (4: 98–99).
God will treat them in the Hereafter as He wills. However, it is greatly hoped that He will not punish particularly those among them who believe in God and do not oppress others, nor commit certain major sins such as murder, adultery, and the usurpation of others’ rights, such as are abhorrent to human conscience.
- We have surely prepared for the thankless unbelievers chains, and fetters, and a Blaze.
- The virtuous and godly will surely drink from a cup with heavenly wine fla- vored with heavenly additives.
- A spring from which God’s (virtuous and godly) servants will drink (their fill), causing it to gush abundantly.3
3. The last two verses may be considered together with 37: 45–47; 47: 15, and 56: 18–19.
- (They are those who) fulfill the vow (the promises and responsibilities that they undertake), and who fear a Day whose evil is extensive and encompassing (everyone that deserves it).
- They give food, however great be their need for it, with pleasure to the desti- tute, and to the orphan, and to the captive, (saying):4
4. This virtue is essential and common to godliness and true piety. See 2: 177; 3: 92.
- “We feed you only for God’s sake; we desire from you neither recompense nor thanks (we desire only the acceptance of God).
- “We are surely fearful of a Day from our Lord, (a Day) of frowning and severity (toward the guilty).”
- So God will surely preserve them from the evil of that Day and enable them to find radiance and joy.
- He will reward them for all that they endure: a Garden (of Paradise) and garments of silk.
- Reclining therein on thrones. They will find therein neither (burning) sun nor severe cold.
- And its shade will come down low over them, and its clusters of fruit hang down low within their reach.
- And they will be served with vessels of silver and goblets like crystal,
- crystal-clear, made of silver; they themselves determine the measure of the drink (as they wish.)5
5. That is, therein will be for them everything that they desire, and in God’s Presence there is yet more (50: 35).
- And there they will be given to drink of a cup flavored with ginger (of Para- dise),
- (Filled from) a spring therein called Salsabil (as it flows smoothly and con- tinuously as they wish).
- There will go round them youths of perpetual freshness;6 when you see them, you would think them scattered pearls.
6. On these youths, see sūrah 56, note 3.
- And wherever you have a look therein, you will see unimaginable delight and a great kingdom.
- Upon those (servants) will be garments of fine green silk and brocade, and they will be adorned with armbands of silver;7 and their Lord will favor them with the service of a pure drink:
7. On these garments and armbands, see sūrah 18, note 18.
- “This is what has been (prepared) for you as a reward, and your endeavor has
been recognized and accepted.”
- It is We Who send down the Qur’an on you (O Messenger) in parts,
- So wait patiently for your Lord’s judgment, and pay no heed to (the desires and caprices of ) any of them who is a willful sinner or a thankless unbeliever.
- And remember and mention the Name of your Lord (in worship) in the early morning and in the afternoon.
- And during part of the night prostrate to Him, and glorify Him a long part of the night.8
8. In many verses (e.g., 11: 114; 17: 78; 20: 130), the Qur’ān orders mentioning God or His Name, glorifying Him, and prostrating to Him. These orders are generally understood and interpreted as commanding prayer to God. Accordingly, in the last two verses in this sūrah, it orders mentioning His Name in the early morning (meaning the Dawn Prayer), and from noon until the evening (meaning the Noon/Afternoon Prayer). And it orders prostrating before Him, during part of the night (meaning the evening, the Late evening or early Night Prayer), and glorifying Him. a long part of the night (meaning the Tahajjud Prayer). Five daily services of Prayer were ordered during the Ascension in the 11th year of the Makkan period of Islam. Until then, as it is understood from the relevant verses, the Prayer was performed at three times – in the morning before the sunrise, at any time from noon until the evening, and in the early part of night. The Tahajjud Prayer (the Prayer in the second part of night before dawn) was also stressed.
Understanding mention of the Lord’s Name as meaning the Morning and Afternoon Prayer, and prostration as meaning the early night Prayer, and glorification as meaning the Tahajjud Prayer may indicate that we should prolong qirā’ah (recitation of the Qur’ān) in the Morning and Noon/Afternoon Prayers; that prostration is more important in the evening and Late evening Prayers; and that glorification is more highly recommended in the Tahajjud Prayer. God knows best.
- Those (sinful unbelievers) love and prefer that which is in advance (the pres- ent, worldly life), and neglect a grievous Day ahead of them.
- It is We Who have created them and made firm their composition, and whenever We will, We can change their structure and character entirely.
- All this is an admonition and reminder, and so let him who wills, take a path to his Lord.
- You cannot will unless God wills.9 Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
9. For the meaning of this statement and the relation between God’s absolute Will and human free will, see sūrah 2, notes 10, 23; sūrah 3, note 30; sūrah 4, note 18; sūrah 6, note 9; sūrah 11, note 1; and note 2 on this sūrah, and Appendix 7. To summarize what has been said so far:
God’s Will is absolute and encompasses human free will. From one perspective, the Divine Will is identical with Divine Knowledge. God knows (beforehand) what people freely will to do, and all that they do is within God’s Knowledge. The actions of humankind are within God’s Knowledge and Wisdom. That is, in order for their will to be a cause of their deeds, God’s all-encompassing Wisdom also has a part in it. This verse’s concluding with mentioning God as All-Knowing and All-Wise, points to this fact. It is God Who has endowed humankind with free will, and human beings always need God to be able to use their free will and accomplish what they will. God has designed human life and established the reality of deeds, and all that a person meets in consequence of their deeds. No one can go beyond this encompassing design. God never compels a person to do a particular deed; the human experience of free choice of action is quite real, and it must be so, for everyone is responsible and accountable for their actions.
- He admits whom He wills into His mercy; and as to the wrongdoers, He has prepared for them a painful punishment.