Chapter Scripts

Surah Qaf 50:11-20

50:11 As sustenance apportioned to men, and by [all] this We bring dead land to life, [and] even so will be [man’s] coming-forth from death.

Explanation

The first part of the above sentence – i.e., the phrase yatalaqqa al–mutalaqqiyan – may be understood in either of two senses: “the two that are meant to receive do receive”, or “the two that aim at meeting each other do meet”. The classical commentators adopt, as a rule, the first sense and, consequently, interpret the passage thus: ….. the two angels that are charged with recording man’s doings – do record them, sitting on his right and on his left”. In my opinion, however, the second of the two possible meanings (“the two that aim at meeting each other”) corresponds better with the preceding verse, which speaks of what man’s innermost self (nafs) – whispers within him”, i.e., voices his subconscious desires. Thus, “the two that aim at a meeting” are, I believe, the two demands of, or, more properly, the two fundamental motive forces within man’s nature: his primal, instinctive urges and desires, both sensual and non-sensual (all of them comprised in the modern psychological term “libido”), on the one side, and his reason, both intuitive and reflective, on the other. The “sitting (qa’id) on the right and on the left” is, to my mind, a metaphor for the conflicting nature of these dual forces which strive for predominance within every human being: hence, my rendering of qa’id as “contending”. This interpretation is, moreover, strongly supported by the reference, in verse 21, to man’s appearing on Judgment Day with “that which drives and that which bears witness” – a phrase which undoubtedly alludes to man’s instinctive urges as well as his conscious reason (see note 14 below).

50:12 [Long] before those [who now deny resurrection) did Noah’s people give the lie to this truth, and [so did] the folk of Ar-Rass, and [the tribes of] Thamud. 

Explanation

i.e., his conscience, The “uttering of a word” is conceptually connected with the “whispering” within man’s psyche spoken of in the preceding verse.

50:13 And ‘Ad, and Pharaoh, and Lot’s brethren.

Explanation

i.e., full insight into one’s own self.

50:14 And the dwellers of the wooded dales [of Madyan], and the people of Tuba’ they all gave the lie to the apostles – and thereupon that whereof I had warned [them] came true.

Explanation

Lit., “with that which drives (sa’iq) and that which bears witness (shahid)”. While the former term evidently circumscribes man’s primal urges – and particularly those which drive him into unrestrained self-indulgence and, thus, into sin – the term shahd (rendered by me as “conscious mind”) alludes here to the awakening of the deeper layers of man’s consciousness, leading to a sudden perception of his own moral reality – the “lifting of the veil” referred to in the next verse – which forces him to “bear witness” against himself (cf. 17:14, 24:24, 36:65, 41:20 ff.).

50:15 Could We, then, be [thought of as being] worn out by the first creation? Nay – but some people are [still] lost in doubt about [the possibility of] a new creation!

Explanation

Lit., “his intimate companion” (qarinuhu). The term qarin denotes something that is “connected”, “linked” or “intimately associated” with another thing (cf. 41:25 and 43:36, where qarin is rendered as “[one’s] other self”). In the present instance – read together with verse 21 – the term apparently denotes “one part” of man, namely, his awakened moral consciousness.

50:16 Now, Verily, it is We who have created man, and We know what his innermost self whispers within him, for We are closer to him than his neck-vein.

Explanation

i.e., the sinner’s reason will plead that he had always been more or less conscious, and perhaps even critical, of the urges and appetites that drove him into evildoing: but, as is shown in the sequence, this belated and, therefore, morally ineffective rational cognition does not diminish but, rather, enhances the burden of man’s guilt.

50:17 [And so] whenever the two demands [of his nature] come face to face, contending from the right and from the left.

Explanation

In this instance, as well as in verse 26, the imperative “cast” has the dual form (alqiya). As many classical philologists (and almost all of the commentators) point out, – this is linguistically permissible for the sake of special stress and is equivalent to an emphatic repetition of the imperative in question. Alternatively, the dual form may be taken as indicative of an actual duality thus addressed: namely, the two manifestations within man’s psyche alluded to in verse 17 and described in verse 21 as sa’iq and shahid (see note 14 above), both of which, in their interaction, is responsible for his spiritual downfall and, hence, for his suffering in the life to come.

50:18 Not even a word can he utter but there is a watcher with him, ever-present.

Explanation

This relates not merely to the veneration of real or imaginary beings or forces to which one ascribes divine qualities, but also to the “worship” of false values and immoral concepts to which people often adhere with an almost religious fervor.

50:19 And [then] the twilight of death brings with it the [full] truth – that [very thing, O man,] from which thou wouldst always look away!

Explanation

Lit., as in verse 23, “his intimate companion” (qarin): but whereas there it may be taken as denoting man’s moral consciousness or reason (cf. note 15 above), in the present instance the “speaker” is obviously its counterpart, namely, the complex of the sinner’s instinctive urges and inordinate, unrestrained appetites summarized in the term sa’iq (“that which drives”) and often symbolized as shaytan (“satan” or “satanic force”: see Razi’s remarks quoted in note 31 on 14:22.) In this sense, the term qarin has the same connotation as in 41:25 and 43:36.

50:20 And [in the end] the trumpet [of resurrection] will be blown, that will be the Day of a warning fulfilled.

Explanation

Lit., “him” or “it” – referring to man’s faculty of conscious, controlling reason (shahid).

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