Surah al-A`raf (The Elevated Places) 7 : 187

يَسْـَٔلُونَكَ عَنِ ٱلسَّاعَةِ أَيَّانَ مُرْسَىٰهَا ۖ قُلْ إِنَّمَا عِلْمُهَا عِندَ رَبِّى ۖ لَا يُجَلِّيهَا لِوَقْتِهَآ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ ثَقُلَتْ فِى ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ ۚ لَا تَأْتِيكُمْ إِلَّا بَغْتَةً ۗ يَسْـَٔلُونَكَ كَأَنَّكَ حَفِىٌّ عَنْهَا ۖ قُلْ إِنَّمَا عِلْمُهَا عِندَ ٱللَّهِ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ ٱلنَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the Hour: when is its arrival? Say, "Its knowledge is only with my Lord. None will reveal its time except Him. It lays heavily upon the heavens and the earth. It will not come upon you except unexpectedly." They ask you as if you are familiar with it. Say, "Its knowledge is only with Allāh, but most of the people do not know."

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

At this point in the sūrah we look at the scene of the unbelievers’ surprise, wonder and incredulousness towards the concept of the hereafter. This is all seen in their questioning that is given in overtones of ridicule and derision: “They ask you about the Last Hour: `When will it come to pass?” (Verse 187)

That Hour is part of a store of knowledge that God has kept to Himself and revealed to no creature. But the unbelievers questioned the Prophet about it either to test his knowledge, or to express their surprise and amusement, or to portray their contempt and derision. They ask about the time when it will take place: “When will it come to pass?” (Verse 187) But the Prophet (peace be upon him) is a human being who never made any claim to know anything that lies beyond the reach of human perception. He is instructed to leave that to the Lord, and to tell people that its knowledge is part of the attributes of Godhead. As a human being, he does not make any claim to anything that goes beyond the limits of humanity. He knows only what his Lord has vouchsafed to him of divine revelations. “Say: ‘Knowledge of it rests with my Lord alone. None but He will reveal it at its appointed time.’” (Verse 187) God, who alone knows the Hour and its timing, will not reveal it until its appointed time. No one else can say anything about it with any degree of certitude.

Their attentions are turned away from asking about its time to consider its nature and to reflect on its seriousness. It is certainly a matter of great importance, and its burden is heavy indeed. Its weight is felt in the heavens and the earth. Besides, it comes suddenly when people who do not pay attention to it are still unaware of its approach: “It will weigh heavily on the heavens and the earth; and it will not fall on you except suddenly.” (Verse 187) Therefore, it is only wise to be prepared for it before it comes suddenly, when no precaution will be of use. Preparations and precautions must be taken well in advance, when time is ample and people still expect to live longer. No one knows when it will exactly arrive. Therefore, everyone should prepare for it now, without losing a moment or an hour, because it may come at any time.
 
The sūrah wonders at those who question the Prophet (peace be upon him) about the Hour. They do not understand the nature of the divine message or the Messenger, and they do not know the nature of Godhead, and the attribute of humility the Prophet adopts towards his Lord. “They will ask you further as if you yourself persistently enquire about it.” (Verse 187) They always ask about it, as if you are required to disclose its time. But God’s Messenger does not ask his Lord about something when he is aware that God has chosen to keep it to Himself: “Say: ‘Knowledge of it rests with my Lord alone.’” (Verse 187) He has chosen to keep that information to Himself and not to reveal it to any of His creatures, “though most people remain unaware.” (Verse 187)
 
But this does not apply to knowledge of the Hour only. It applies to everything in the realm which lies beyond the reach of human perception. It is God alone who knows all that there is in that realm. He does not give knowledge of any of it, except to someone He chooses, at the time and in the measure He determines. Hence, people do not have the ability to cause themselves any benefit or harm. They may do something which they hope to be beneficial to them, but they soon discover its consequences to be very harmful. Or they may take an initiative to remove some harm but they do not reckon with its adverse results. Or they may do something reluctantly, because they are forced to do it, and then discover it to be very beneficial for them. Alternatively, they may approach something with enthusiasm, only to discover that it results in their own suffering: “It may well be that you hate a thing although it is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you.” (2: 216)

This is summed up by an Arab poet who says: “Would that someone shows me my destination before I start my journey! How could that be when one has to complete a journey to get to one’s destination. ”This is the human position in relation to what lies beyond human perception. Human beings may achieve great progress, but when it comes to what God has chosen to keep away from them, they will remain confined to the limitation of their human knowledge.

In his great position of honour and his closeness to his Lord, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is commanded to declare to mankind that when it comes to the realm that lies beyond our perception, he is only a human being who can cause himself neither benefit nor harm. This is because he is not given that knowledge, nor is he one to know the destination before starting the journey, or the consequences of actions before they take place. Hence, he cannot choose his actions on the basis of their consequences, because these are withheld from him.

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *


3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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A study of its contents clearly shows that the period of its revelation is about the same as that of Surah 6: al-An’am (The Grazing Livestock), i.e. the last year of the Prophet's life at Makkah, but it cannot be asserted with certainty which of these two were sent down earlier. The manner of its admonition clearly indicates that it belongs to the same period. [Ref: Mawdudi]

It is considered the longest surah revealed during the Makkan period. Some consider this surah to have been revealed after Surah 38: Sad. [Ref: Tafsir al-Maudheei, Dr. Mustafah Muslim, vol. 3, p. 2]

8. Reasons for Revelation

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9. Relevant Hadith

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