Tafsir Zone - Surah 50: Qaf (Qaf)

Tafsir Zone

Surah Qaf 50:0

Overview (Verses 1 - 4)

Truth and Denial

In its initial section, comprising the first 15 verses, the surah speaks about resurrection and its denial by the unbelievers who wonder that it should even be mentioned, let alone asserted. The Qur'an, however, not only addresses their denial of the truth of resurrection, it also aims to put their deviant minds back on the right track. It tries first to awaken their hearts, alerting them to contemplation of the great truths that are clearly manifest in the universe. It does not engage them in any intellectual argument about resurrection; instead, it tries to bring life into their hearts and minds so that they can reflect. It puts before them the truth that is clearly evident in everything around them so that they will respond. This method is especially effective and is one that should be carefully studied by advocates of the divine message.

The surah begins with an oath by the letter Qaf by the glorious Qur'an, which is composed of letters like Qaf.  In fact, this is the first letter of the word 'Qur'an'. The surah does not mention the subject matter of the oath, leaving it as a way to open the door to whatever the surah wants to say. Thus, the oath serves to alert us to the fact that what comes afterwards is momentous. This is indeed what is intended, as the surah immediately moves away from the oath using the conjunction bal which has no English equivalent.' It now begins to discuss their amazement at what God's Messenger and the Qur'an say about the dead being brought back to life: But the unbelievers deem it strange that a warner from among themselves should have come to them and they say: `This is indeed most strange! When we have died and become dust...? Such a return to lift is too far-fetched." (Verses 2-3)

They think it strange that someone from among themselves should warn them when this is indeed the very thing that human nature easily accepts. It is most natural that God should have chosen one of them to deliver His message for he was someone who could readily share their feelings, speak their language, take part in their activities, be amongst them through their lives, appreciate their motives as also recognize their abilities and limits. Such a person is the best one to warn them against what may happen should they persist in their erring ways, to teach them how to change course, and to outline the duties that they have to fulfil. He would be the first to discharge these duties.

They felt it strange, however, to have such a message delivered in the first place, and were particularly amazed that this Messenger should speak to them about their being raised from the dead. Resurrection is central to the Islamic faith; indeed, it is the foundation on which all requirements of Islam are based. Every Muslim is required to support the truth against falsehood and uphold goodness against evil. A Muslim needs to make everything he does in life an act of worship, by ensuring that whatever he does aims to win God's acceptance and serve His cause. All action must be rewarded, and reward might not be forthcoming during our life's journey on earth. It is thus deferred until the final reckoning is done. This means that another world is needed. Hence resurrection, so as to face the reckoning in the next world. Should this fundamental principle of a second life disappear from a person's mindset, that person cannot form a clear concept of Islam and so cannot follow it.

Those people in Makkah, however, did not look at the question in this light at all. They were too naive to understand the true nature of life and death, or to visualize God's power. Hence they said: "When we have died and become dust...? Such a return to lift is too far-fetched." (Verse 3) Thus, to them, it was a question of improbability of life after death when people's bodies have decomposed and turned to dust. Yet, since life takes place in the first place, why is it improbable for it to occur again. Moreover, this miracle of life occurs before their very eyes at every moment. It is there around them throughout the universe. It is to this that the Qur'an draws their attention in this surah.

Before we continue with what the surah says about the universe and the images of life it portrays we need to reflect a little on the fact that people perish. This is pointed out by the unbelievers as they say: "When we have died and become dust...?" So people die and perish. Whoever reads what those unbelievers say will look at himself and people living in his vicinity and imagine how death occurs. In fact, he will begin to feel how he will turn to nothing when he is still alive, walking on earth.
Nothing shakes a person's heart like death, and nothing fills him with dread like perishing. The surah's comment strengthens this effect as it describes the earth eating them little by little: "We know very well what the earth takes away from them. We have an unfailing, comprehensive record." (Verse 4) The phraseology of this comment shows the earth as a living thing that swallows, little by little, their buried bodies in a steady progressive action asserting that God knows what the earth swallows and that it is all recorded. Nothing is lost even though they may die and perish. As for putting life back into this dust that remains from their bodies, this is merely a repeat of what had happened before and what continues to happen in endless processes of bringing forth life anew.