Overview - Surah 76: al-Insan (The Man )

Surah Introduction

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This Surah speaks about the ways the human being can attain growth and spiritual development.  The rewards of the Believers and the character of the Believers are also mentioned.

The Surah takes its name from the first Ayat, هَلْ أَتَىٰ عَلَى الْإِنسَانِ حِينٌ مِّنَ الدَّهْرِ لَمْ يَكُن شَيْئًا مَّذْكُورًا "Has there [not] come upon man a period of time when he was not a thing [even] mentioned?" [76:1].

There are 31 Ayat in this Surah.


Total Ayat31
Total Words *243
Root Words *118
Unique Root Words *3
Makki / MadaniMadani
Chronological Order* 98th (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation*
Events during/before this Surah*
Events during/after still to occur*
Names of Prophets Mentioned
No Prophets names are mentioned in this Surah
Surah Index
Adversity (patience during) , Charity, Cosmology (age of the Universe) , Crystal, Disbelievers (relationship to belivers) , Food, Heaven (immortal youths in) , Hell, Humankind (creation of) (from a drop of sperm), Judgement, Judgement (Day) , Pearls, Prayer (prostration) , Prayer (times of day of) , Qur’an, Revelation, Silk, Silver

Central Theme

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The theme of this Surah is to inform man of his true position in the world and to tell him that if he understood his true position rightly and adopted the attitude of gratefulness, he would meet with such and such good end and if he adopted the way of disbelief, he would meet with such and such evil ends. In the longer Surahs of the Qur’an this same theme has been presented at length, but a special characteristic of the style of the earliest Surahs revealed at Makkah is that the subjects dealt with at length in the later period, “have been presented in a brief but highly effective way in this period in such concise, elegant sentences as may automatically be preserved in the memory of the hearers.”

In this Surah, first of all man has been reminded that there was a time when he was nothing; then a humble beginning of him was made with a mixed drop of sperm and ovum of which even his mother was not aware; even she did not know that he had been conceived nor anyone else seeing the microscopic cell could say that it was a man, who in future would become the best of creation on the earth. After this, man has been warned, as to say: “Beginning your creation in this way We have developed and shaped you into what you are today in order to test and try you in the world. That is why, unlike other creatures, you were made intelligent and sensible and were shown both the way of gratitude and the way of ingratitude clearly so that you may show, in the interval that you have been granted here for work, whether you have emerged as a grateful servant from the test or an unbelieving, ungrateful wretch!” Then, just in one sentence, it has been stated decisively what will be the fate to be met with in the Hereafter by those who emerged as unbelievers from this test.

After this, in v. 5-22 continuously, the blessings with which those who do full justice to servitude in the world, will be favoured, have been mentioned in full detail. In these verses, not only have their best rewards been mentioned but they have also been told briefly what are the acts on the basis of which they would become worthy of those rewards. Another special characteristic of the earliest Surahs revealed at Makkah is that besides introducing in them briefly the fundamental beliefs and concepts of Islam, here and there, those moral qualities and virtuous acts have been mentioned, which are praiseworthy according to Islam and also those evils of deed and morality of which Islam strives to cleanse human life. These two things have not been mentioned with a view to show what good or evil result is entailed by them in the transitory life of the world, but they have been mentioned only to point out what enduring results they will produce in the eternal and everlasting life of the Hereafter, irrespective of whether an evil quality may prove useful or a good quality may prove harmful in the world.

This is the subject matter of the first section (v. 1-22). In the second section, addressing the Prophet, three things have been stated: first, that “it is in fact We Ourself Who are revealing this Qur’an gradually to you, and this is intended to inform the disbelievers, not you, that the Qur’an is not being fabricated by Muhammad but it is “We Who are revealing it, and it is Our Own wisdom which requires that We should reveal it piece by piece and not all at once.” Second, the Prophet has been told: “No matter how long it may take for the decree of your Lord to be enforced and no matter what afflictions may befall you in the meantime, in any case you should continue to perform your mission of Apostleship patiently and not to yield to the pressure tactics of any of these wicked and unbelieving people.” The third thing he has been told is: “Remember God day and night, perform the Prayer and spend your nights in the worship of God, for it is these things which sustain and strengthen those who call to God in the face of iniquity and disbelief.” Then in one single sentence, the actual cause of the disbelievers’ wrong attitude has been stated: they have forgotten the Hereafter and are enamored of the world. In the second sentence, they have been warned to the effect: “You have not come into being by yourself: We have created you. You have not made these broad shoulders and strong sturdy hands and feet for yourselves, it is We Who made these for you; and it so lies in Our power to treat you as We please. We can distort your figures, We can destroy you and replace you by some other nation. We can cause you to die and can recreate you in whatever form we like.”

In conclusion, it has been said: This is an Admonition: whoever wills may accept it and take a path to his Lord. But man’s own will and desire is not everything in the world. No one’s will and desire can be fulfilled unless God (also) so wills. God’s willing is not haphazard: whatever He wills, He wills it on the basis of His knowledge and wisdom. He admits into His mercy whomever He regards as worthy of His mercy on the basis of His knowledge and wisdom and He has prepared a painful torment for those whom He finds unjust and wicked.

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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The Surah speaks about the origins of the Human and what will be given to those who struggle for Him and His cause.

Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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  • 'Insan' the human being is mentioned six times in Surah al-Qiyamah [75]. The following Surah is al-Insan [76].
  • Loving this world..
    كَلَّا بَلْ تُحِبُّونَ الْعَاجِلَةَ  وَتَذَرُونَ الْآخِرَةَ "No! But you love the immediate. And leave the Hereafter." [75: 20-21]
    إِنَّ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ يُحِبُّونَ الْعَاجِلَةَ وَيَذَرُونَ وَرَاءَهُمْ يَوْمًا ثَقِيلًا "Indeed, these [disbelievers] love the immediate and leave behind them a grave Day." [76:27]

The Virtues of the Surah

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  • Narrated Abu Huraira said, "The Prophet (ﷺ) used to recite the following in the Fajr prayer of Friday, "Alif, Lam, Mim, Tanzil" (Suratas- Sajda #32) and "Hal-ata-ala-l-Insani" (i.e. Surah-Ad-Dahr #76)." Bukhari no. 891

Special Features of the Surah

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Important key and unique words of the Surah

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Total Word Count per Ayat (shows how many words per Ayat) = 3*

Unique Root Words to this Surah only

3 unique root words that do not appear in any other Surah *

Top 10 Most Frequent Root Words used in this Surah

Root Word Frequency
in Surah
in Qur'an
ك و ن 8 1390
ش ي أ 6 519
أ ل ه 5 2851
ر ب ب 5 980
ك ف ر 4 525
ي و م 4 405
ر أ ي 4 328
ذ ك ر 3 292
ش ك ر 3 75
ش ر ب 3 39

Period of Revelation

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Most of the commentators, including Allama Zamakhshari, Imam Razi, Qadi, Baidawi, Allama Nizam ad-Din Nisaburi, Ibn Kathir and many others, regard it as a Makkan Surah and, according to Allama Alusi, the same is the opinion of the majority of scholars. However, some commentators hold the view that the Surah was revealed at Madīnah and some others say that it was revealed at Makkah but v. 8-10 of it were sent down at Madīnah.

As far as the subject matter and the style of the Surah are concerned, these are very different from those of the Madīnan Surahs. A little study of it rather shown that it is not only a Makkan Surah but it was revealed during the earliest period at Makkah, which began just after the revelation of the first seven verses of Surah 74: al-Muddathir (The Cloaked One).

Background Reasons for Revelation

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Relevant Hadith

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  • The universe was there before mankind existed, then Allah created man, provided him with guidance and let him use his free will: either to believe or to disbelieve.
  • An exemplary life in paradise for those who choose to believe.
  • Allah gradually sent this Qur'an according to the issues faced by mankind
  • This Qur'an is an admonition for those who want to adopt the way to their Rabb (God).
  • The greatest of intentions is to do an action for the sake of Allah not seeking reward or thanks,  إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللَّـهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا"[Saying], "We feed you only for the countenance of Allah. We wish not from you reward or gratitude." (76:9)

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Miscellaneous Issues

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