This sūrah of eight verses was revealed in Madīnah. It takes its name from the word zilzāl (violent earthquake) in the first verse. It is concerned with some important events that will take place on the Day of Resurrection.
- When the earth quakes with a violent quaking destined for it,
- And the earth yields up its burdens;
- And human cries out, “What is the matter with it?” –
- On that day she will recount all its tidings,
- As your Lord has inspired her to do so.1
- The verses are, both in wording and meaning, possibly relating major events during the final destruction and re-building of the world; or, they may be referring to earthquakes in general. During the final destruction of the world, the earth will be shaken with a violent shock (56: 4) by a violent blast of the Trumpet (79: 6). The mountains will be as a heap of slipping sand (73: 14), and the earth flattened out (84: 3), casting forth whatever is in it, and becoming empty (84: 4). The graves will be overturned and bring out their contents (82: 4). In short, during that destruction, whatever is in the earth – mines, treasures, and dead bodies – will be thrown out. Then, the first blast of the Trumpet will be followed by a second one (79: 7), and the dead will be revived and hasten toward the Plain of Gathering (50: 44; 70: 43). The unbelievers will witness the destruction of the world, and they will be greatly shaken also by the second blow of the Trumpet and revival. Thus, the unbelievers will come to understand the truth of Doomsday; and everything about it will be revealed to them. They will also come to see the truth of whatever God’s Messengers brought from God. After the Resurrection, the earth may relate all the deeds done on it during its worldly life by God making it speak literally, in some fashion, as He will also make human bodily organs speak against humans (sūrah 41: 20–21, note 6).
Whatever human beings suffer is usually the result of their sins and faults – of their rebel- lion against God in His commandments or laws of the Religion and life. So, an earthquake, though it usually causes some treasures to be revealed and thermal sources to form, also informs humans of, and warns them against, their sins and faults – in addition to testing their resolve to turn to God as their only source of Mercy, and to acknowledge God’s power in their livesAs understood from some Qur’ānic verses (17: 44; 41: 21), even inanimate ob- jects have some life, or they have a spirit particular to themselves that represents them. So they are directly affected by the deeds of humans. It is, therefore, not incorrect to interpret these five verses of this sūrah as referring also to all earthquakes that take place throughout the world.
- On that day, all humans will come forth in different companies, to be shown their deeds (that they did in the world).2
2. everyone will go to the Supreme court or Tribunal alone and be questioned about their deeds (6: 94; 18: 48). They will also be sorted out into the people of Paradise and the people of Hell. The people of Paradise will be in two main groups: those who are the nearest to God, and the others. During one stage, or for part of the Day of Resurrection, people will be called in groups, each after its leader (17: 71). The verse encompasses all these mean- ings.
- And so, whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it;
- And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.3
3. Whatever a person does is not unnoticed by God, and He records whatever people do. Both in this world and in the Hereafter, everyone will see and receive the consequences of their deeds. This is the basic principle of belief in God’s justice and the Hereafter. The believers will receive most of the reward of their (religiously) good deeds in the Hereafter, though God does not leave them unrewarded, even in this world. But the unbelievers will receive the rewards of their good deeds only in this world; and the recompense for their evil deeds will generally be postponed to the Hereafter, even though they may sometimes suffer for some of their deeds in this world. In the Hereafter, every person will be shown all of his or her deeds, down to the smallest ones. However, as God overlooks and forgives many of people’s evils in the world, except unbelief and the association of partners with Him, He will also forgive some evils of His believing servants in the Hereafter.