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Sūrahs Ā`lā - Ghāshīyah
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)



These sūrahs form a pair with regard to their subject matter. In both of them, besides the real theme, the Prophet (sws) is assured that he has no responsibility beyond reminding and cautioning the disbelievers. It is up to them to take heed, and it is then up to Allah to seize them for their arrogance if He so intends. The Prophet (sws) should not fret on this.

The sūrahs address the Prophet (sws) as well as the leadership of the Quraysh, and it is evident from their contents that like the previous sūrahs they were revealed in Makkah in the phase of Indhār-i-`ām of the Prophet’s mission.

In these sūrahs, though the assurance given to the Prophet (sws) and an expression of sorrow and regret on the attitude of his addressees are very distinct, yet a little deliberation shows that their central theme, like the previous sūrahs, is basically to warn the Quraysh of the Day of Judgement.


Sūrah Ā`lā

سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الْأَعْلَى  الَّذِي خَلَقَ فَسَوَّى  وَالَّذِي قَدَّرَ فَهَدَى  وَالَّذِي أَخْرَجَ الْمَرْعَى  فَجَعَلَهُ غُثَاء أَحْوَى (١-٥)

سَنُقْرِؤُكَ فَلَا تَنسَى  إِلَّا مَا شَاء اللَّهُ إِنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ الْجَهْرَ وَمَا يَخْفَى  وَنُيَسِّرُكَ لِلْيُسْرَى (٦-٨)

فَذَكِّرْ إِن نَّفَعَتِ الذِّكْرَى  سَيَذَّكَّرُ مَن يَخْشَى  وَيَتَجَنَّبُهَا الْأَشْقَى  الَّذِي يَصْلَى النَّارَ الْكُبْرَى  ثُمَّ لَا يَمُوتُ فِيهَا وَلَا يَحْيَى (٩-١٣)

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّى  وَذَكَرَ اسْمَ رَبِّهِ فَصَلَّى (١٤-١٥)

بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا  وَالْآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى  إِنَّ هَذَا لَفِي الصُّحُفِ الْأُولَى  صُحُفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمُوسَى (١٦-١٩)

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

Glorify1 the name of your Lord, most high [O Prophet], Who2 created [all things], then perfected [them]3, and Who set their destinies4 [for them], then [accordingly] showed them the way [to follow], and Who brought forth vegetation, then made it lush green5 .  (1-5)

[In a similar manner, this divine revelation will also gradually reach its end, then] soon We shall [finally] recite it to you, then you will not forget it except what Allah pleases6. Indeed, He knows what is manifest7 [before you] at this time and also what is hidden [from you]8. And [in a similar way],9 We shall lead you [from these difficulties] towards ease.  (6-8)

So, remind them, if reminding be profitable10. It will not be long before those who fear [Allah] take heed, and these wretched [people],11 they will evade it12. They  who  will  enter  the  Great

[At that time], however, successful shall be he who purified [himself, and for this]13 he remembered his Lord’s name, then prayed14. (14-15)

[No, you do not have any argument against it O People!] but give preference to this worldly life 15 in spite of the fact that the life to come is better and more lasting, [and then this is not something new]: It is written in the earlier scriptures as well – the scriptures of Abraham and Moses16.  (16-19) 


Sūrah Ghāshīyah

هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ الْغَاشِيَةِ  وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ خَاشِعَةٌ  عَامِلَةٌ نَّاصِبَةٌ  تَصْلَى نَارًا حَامِيَةً  تُسْقَى مِنْ عَيْنٍ آنِيَةٍ  لَّيْسَ لَهُمْ طَعَامٌ إِلَّا مِن ضَرِيعٍ  لَا يُسْمِنُ وَلَا يُغْنِي مِن جُوعٍ (١-٧)

وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ نَّاعِمَةٌ  لِسَعْيِهَا رَاضِيَةٌ  فِي جَنَّةٍ عَالِيَةٍ  لَّا تَسْمَعُ فِيهَا لَاغِيَةً  فِيهَا عَيْنٌ جَارِيَةٌ  فِيهَا سُرُرٌ مَّرْفُوعَةٌ  وَأَكْوَابٌ مَّوْضُوعَةٌ  وَنَمَارِقُ مَصْفُوفَةٌ  وَزَرَابِيُّ مَبْثُوثَةٌ (٨-١٦)

أَفَلَا يَنظُرُونَ إِلَى الْإِبِلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ  وَإِلَى السَّمَاء كَيْفَ رُفِعَتْ  وَإِلَى الْجِبَالِ كَيْفَ نُصِبَتْ  وَإِلَى الْأَرْضِ كَيْفَ سُطِحَتْ (١٧-٢٠)

فَذَكِّرْ إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مُذَكِّرٌ  لَّسْتَ عَلَيْهِم بِمُصَيْطِرٍ  إِلَّا مَن تَوَلَّى وَكَفَرَ  فَيُعَذِّبُهُ اللَّهُ الْعَذَابَ الْأَكْبَرَ  إِنَّ إِلَيْنَا إِيَابَهُمْ  ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا حِسَابَهُمْ (٢١-٢٦)

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

Has the news of the great calamity reached you [O Prophet!]17 which will over spread [the whole world]?18 Many a face19 on that day will be downcast, worn out, exhausted. They will enter the blazing fire.20 They will be given to drink from a seething spring. Their only food will be thorny dry grass21 , which will neither nourish them nor satisfy their hunger22.  (1-7)

[On the other hand], many a face on that day will be radiant, pleased with their endeavours23 in a lofty garden24. They will hear no absurd talk there. In it will be a running spring. In it there will be high thrones, and goblets set forth, and carpets arranged, and cushions spread all over.25  (8-16)

[If they do not believe]26 , then do they not see the camels, How they have been made?27 And do they not behold the sky, How it has been raised high? And do they not look at the mountains, How they have been set firm?28 And do they not see the earth,29 How it has been spread out.30 (17-20)

[If they do not believe in spite of this], then just go on reminding them [O Prophet!]. Your duty is only to remind them; you are not to force them. [Those who take heed will definitely believe in it]31. As for those who turn away and reject [it], Allah will inflict on them that great punishment [the punishment of Hell]. Indeed, then to Us will they return. Then it is upon Us to call them to account.  (21-26)







1. Glorifying Allah means to renounce all attributes in Allah which are unworthy of Him, and to remember Him with a true comprehension of His attributes such that one’s heart and soul is engaged in His constant remembrance: it is only vigilant remembrance which provides one with the patience and endurance to brave the storms of life.

The Prophet at the time of revelation of this sūrah was undergoing a very difficult period in his mission and being thoroughly conscientious was at times depressed on the outcome of his endeavours. Here he has been asked to be patient and persevere in the cause of the truth. This can only be done if he keeps afresh in his mind the true comprehension of the attributes of Allah.

2. The next few verses mention two distinct examples which shed light on a common law of nature: there exists the principle of gradual progression and development in all the phenomena of nature. Everything reaches its culmination after passing through various stages. Nothing is created in its ultimate form in the very first step; on the contrary, things gradually take their ultimate shape. Furthermore, this gradual progression is nurtured and nourished by providence and it seems that each subsequent stage is the result of a tremendous system of nourishment and development provided by nature itself.

3. The creation of man’s physical being passes through various stages before it reaches its pinnacle in his youth.

4. This word encompasses all the potentials and abilities found in the instinct and intuition of an individual which gradually surface and reach their peak in his personality after passing through various stages.

5. This is another example of the phenomenon of gradual development in the world round man. The vegetation which springs from the earth slowly but surely becomes luxuriant at the zenith of its life period.

6. This is the assurance given to the Prophet (sws) on his intense desire to receive the Qur’ān in one go in order to silence his opponents and on his equally strong desire to collect and compile it lest it should get lost. The phenomenon of gradual development referred to in the earlier verses is meant to remind him that all this will take place gradually.

7. This refers to the difficult circumstances which confronted the Prophet (sws) at the time of revelation of this sūrah.

8. This refers to the future which at the time of revelation of the sūrah was veiled from the eyes – the future in which the Prophet’s enemies shall be humbled, and in which he and his companions shall triumph.

9. That is in accordance with the law of gradual progression referred to in the initial verses of the sūrah: very soon the Prophet (sws)’s troubles shall be over, and he shall succeed in his mission.

10. A further note of assurance to the Prophet (sws). He must not lose hope or feel dejected. It is not his responsibility to make his opponents accept faith. His only responsibility is to urge and remind them of the truth – that too if they are willing to hear him. If they are not, he should leave their matter to Allah.

11. That is the arrogant leadership of the Quraysh.

12. This evasiveness is in accordance with the law of the Almighty for those who do not pay heed to the voice of their conscience. It is a punishment for disregarding the light of truth found within a person.

13. Whilst the previous verses mention the fate of those who could not benefit from the calls of the Prophet (sws), these verses mention the fate of those who paid heed to them. Those who purified their souls would attain salvation and would be rewarded with Paradise.

14. This, in a few words, is the essence of the guidance given by the Almighty to mankind through His Prophets. Remembering the Almighty with a true comprehension of His attributes and praying at the stipulated times. Prayer is actually the greatest form of remembering the Almighty.

15. This is the real reason behind the denial of the arrogant leadership of the Quraysh. They have no grounds for denial except their worldly interests. They have invented baseless doubts to fool the masses and to give them an impression of their own veracity.

16. The fact that the life of the Hereafter is the real life is not just the claim of the Qur’ān. The previous scriptures also mention it. Genesis, Numbers, Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy – scriptures which, in spite of being tampered with, still depict the teachings of the Prophets Abraham (sws) and Moses (sws), and still have the force to stir our souls about the ultimate reality: the Hereafter.

17. Though the Prophet (sws) is addressed in here, it is evident from the subsequent verses that these verses are actually directed at the arrogant leadership of the Quraysh.

18. This inquiry is meant to highlight the awesome and profound nature of a great event: the Day of Judgement. It has not been posed to obtain an answer.

19. A person’s face is the greatest representative of his inner feelings. It will reflect the agony of a disbeliever on that Day.

20. This is the real reason of the agony mentioned in the previous verse. When a person will come to know that he has been condemned to Hell, his face will turn gloomy.

21. That is no edibles will they have to eat. They will have no option but to eat “non-edible” things like thorny bushes.

22. Food basically has two utilities: to nourish the body and to appease hunger. But the food given to the inmates of Hell will have none of these.

23. They will be happy with the reward of their deeds which they did in the previous world.

24. The Arabian concept of a good orchard was one in which it stood on a high level from the ground and which was hemmed with date palms so that it could attract the eye from far off and be safe and secure from the onslaught of floods and gusty scorching winds.

25. This is a portrayal of Paradise. Similar depictions have been made in other verses of the Qur’ān as well. Since these depictions are veiled in similitudes, the apparent difference in details should not be regarded as contradictions. They rather present the variety and assortment in the blessings of the Almighty as well as the various levels in Paradise in which the believers shall dwell.

26. The subsequent verses present evidence for the Day of Judgement.

27. The first thing mentioned is the camel, a very common animal in the Arabian society. The way it has been put to the obedient service of man is something which shows how providence is nourishing his needs of its own accord. The utility of the camels was immense for the Arabs. It was the most convenient and efficient means of travel. It is able to live without food and water for weeks and thrive merely on thorny bushes. Its toughness makes it very suitable for arduous tasks. Its meat, skin, milk and even his faeces are beneficial to its master. This great favour of the Almighty entails gratitude and points to the fact that the Almighty will one day take an account of the favours He has bestowed on man.

28. The strength and wisdom of the Almighty is evident from the sturdy skies above and the lofty mountains set forth on the earth. The immense expanse of the sky requires no columns to support it. The sun, the moon and the stars all are suspended in it and are a means of sustenance for the dwellers of the earth. The clouds which send down rain float in it. The mountains maintain the balance of the earth. The way they are implanted in the earth shows that they are created by someone who has profound power and strength. The argument is that someone who is capable of creating such huge structures as the skies and the mountains certainly has the power to re-create man. Those who have doubts about the possibility of man’s re-creation need to ponder over this.

29. The way this earth provides support and sustenance to man is again a commonly observed phenomenon. Like a cradle it looks after its inhabitants and provides them with a wealth of materials; its soil, trees, orchards, springs and wells provide for them and for their animals.

30. The unique style of the order in which these signs are presented needs to be noted. First of all, the most obvious thing in the immediate environment of the addressees is presented: the camel. From here the eyes are directed to the sky. From the sky, the eyes are directed downwards to observe the mountains before they reach the earth, which is mentioned at the very last.

In these signs, two – the camel and the earth – are more indicative of the Almighty’s providence and two – the skies and the mountains – are more connotative of the Almighty’s power and wisdom. It needs to be appreciated that it is these attributes of the Almighty upon which the whole edifice of the philosophy of the Qur’ān stands.

31. A word of assurance to the Prophet (sws): He cannot make his addressees accept the truth unless they are willing to accept it. The fact is that they have no excuse to deny it. The world around them is replete with the evidence of the realities they are denying. It is their own ill-will that is stopping them from accepting the truth.

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