يَآ أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّ زَلْزَلَةَ السَّاعَةِ شَيْءٌ عَظِيمٌ

“O mankind, be conscious your Lord. Indeed, the Earthquake of the [final] Hour is a terrible thing…” [Quran, 22: 1]

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The Day of Judgement, a pivotal event in the afterlife that will take place after the world comes to an end, is the Day on which every single human being ever to exist on Earth from the beginning of time to its end will be resurrected and held accountable for their actions for their eternal destiny – Heaven or Hell? – to be determined. Being of such paramount importance, this momentous Day is described by Allah ‘azza wa jal numerous times in the Qur’an, as He warns us of its coming and urges us to prepare ourselves for the horrors of that Day. Allah has informed us through His Revelations that the Day of Reckoning will begin with a mighty Blast and the Earth will undergo a terrible quake – such an enormous event it will be that Allah has dedicated a chapter after it in His Divine Book: Surah Zalzalah (99).

“An old man, saying that his heart had difficulty in remembering, and his tongue was sluggish asked the Prophet “Teach me the reading of a comprehensive surah.” So Rasulullah taught him to recite “Idha dhul dhilatil ardu zdhildhalaha” (Surah Zalzalah) up to the end…” (Abu Dawood)

Surah Zalzalah/Zilzaal (The Violent Shaking)

إِذَا زُلْزِلَتِ الْأَرْضُ زِلْزَالَهَا – When the earth is shaken with its [final] earthquake

وَأَخْرَجَتِ الْأَرْضُ أَثْقَالَهَا – And the earth discharges its burdens

وَقَالَ الْإِنسَانُ مَا لَهَا – And man says, “What is [wrong] with it?” –

يَوْمَئِذٍ تُحَدِّثُ أَخْبَارَهَا – That Day, it will report its news

بِأَنَّ رَبَّكَ أَوْحَى لَهَا – Because your Lord has inspired it.

يَوْمَئِذٍ يَصْدُرُ النَّاسُ أَشْتَاتًا لِّيُرَوْا أَعْمَالَهُمْ – That Day, the people will depart separated [into categories] to be shown their deeds.

فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ – So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it,

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ – And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.

Era of Revelation

There are differences in opinion as to whether the surah was revealed in Mecca or Medinah. Most commentators believe that it was revealed in the late Meccan period due to the style of its verses and thematic overview being like that of the other Meccan Surahs. Some commentators argue that it was revealed in early Medinan period based on the following hadeeth related by Ibn Abi Hatim from Abu Sa’id Khudri, who was an inhabitant of Medinah. He says:

“When the verse Fa-man ya mal mithqala dharratin khairan yarah, wa man ya mal mithqala dharratin sharran yarah, was revealed, I said: “O Messenger of Allah , shall I really see my deeds?” The Messenger replied in the affirmative. I submitted: “And every major sin?” He replied, “Yes”. I said: “And the minor sins too?” He replied “Yes”. Thereupon I exclaimed that I would then be ruined. The Prophet said: “Rejoice, O Abu Sa’id, for each good act will be equal to ten good acts like it.””

Related: Duas from the Quran

Thematic Overview

The disbelievers of Mecca often mocked the events of the Day of Reckoning as being “tales of the ancients!” because they seem so far-fetched. They had three main issues regarding it:

  • They couldn’t imagine the mighty events being described – like the enormous mountains floating, the skies being cracked open, people coming out of their graves in hordes etc. – ever coming true.
  • They couldn’t fathom the possibility of there being a record of every single action ever done on the face of this Earth and being accountable for them all.
  • Even if the above two points were *somehow* true, they believed their alihaa (false gods) will intervene with Allah on their behalf and save them.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala addresses all three of their delusions in this surah and annihilates any skepticism thoroughly by describing some events of the Day of Judgement and people’s reactions to it in an exceptionally tangible way.

The Earthquake

When the earth is shaken with its [final] earthquake”

Idhaa, meaning “when”, is used to remind someone about something they have forgotten. Do we keep forgetting about the mighty Earthquake that we will experience soon?

Zalzala has a four letter root z-l-z-l that refers to someone who keeps tripping and slipping again. This means that people will be shaken so thoroughly that they will be unable to stand upright during the earthquake and it will be as if they are in a drunken state. This is captured in the verse “On that Day…you will see the people [appearing] intoxicated while they are not intoxicated…” [Quran, 22:2]

Zilzaalahaa, which literally means “it’s (the earth’s) shaking” refers to a unique repetitive convulsion of its own that is incomparable to anything that has ever preceded it and anything that can be possible after it – a mighty shaking beyond our imagination that’s the very worst and cannot go any higher on a Richter scale. The haa also captures the fact that the *entire* earth will shake on that Day and it will not be like the periodic and local earthquakes that we experience in this life. Zilzaalahaa also implies that it is the Earth’s destiny to quake on that Day and that’s what it was created for.

Free Treasures! – Wait… no one cares?

“And the earth discharges its burdens…”

Akhraja means “to take or pull something out” or “to extract something”.

Athqaala literally means “burden”. The picture depicted by this word is that of a heavy bag packed for a long journey and you push it until you reach your destination and once you are there, you let go of it in relief.

Imagine a child with free reign in a candy store. Naturally, he will keep stuffing his mouth with treats. Can you imagine the violent throwing-up that will eventually occur? One interpretation of the verse is that, the Earth is carrying the burden of our sins and wrongdoings and is loaded and filled with them to the brim so that it on the Day of Judgement it “throws up” every single thing that ever happened on its back. Some commentators added that athqalahaa also includes the coming out of every literal thing from the Earth – after which it finally experiences relief. And people will be in shock because they will see things they never expected to see coming out of it – the rising of the dead, the treasures hidden therein that they used to run after in this life: e.g. mountains of gold, oceans of oil etc., and no one will care about it all then and every single person will realize how in vain the things they were running after all along actually were.

Narrated by Abu Hurairah (radiyaAllahu ‘anhu): “The earth will throw out the pieces of its liver (its contents). Gold and silver will come out like columns. A murderer will come and say, `I killed for this’. The one who broke the ties of kinship will say, `For this I severed the ties of kinship’ The thief will say, `For this I got my hands amputated’. Then they will leave it there and no one will take anything from it.” (Muslim)

The Bewilderment of the Disbelievers/Skeptics

“And man says, “What is [wrong] with it?”” –

Every single person on that day will be in shock as if they didn’t know this Day was coming. Insaan comes from the root nasyan which means “to forget”. It also refers to the fact that everyone will be on their own even though the earth will be congested with people. However, Ash Shawkani rahimahullah commented that this verse only refers to the disbelievers because the mu’min knows what going on, as supported by the verse:

They will say, “O woe to us! Who has raised us up from our sleeping place?” [The answer will be], “This is what the Most Merciful had promised, and the messengers told the truth.” [Quran, 36: 52]

The Earth – A Witness?

“That Day, it will report its news”

“Because your Lord has inspired it.”

Haddatha refers to speaking in a way that assumes that the audience has no knowledge of the topic. Khabr is a present or past news about something that is already known. The word Au’haa comes from I’haa which means to hint someone to do something in secret. In addition Au’haa also captures “permission” for something someone *wants* to do; here, the earth *wants* to complain against us to Allah.  

As a whole, Yawmaidhin tuhaddithu akhbaraha means that the Earth will act as a witness regarding every last one of the deeds done on it including the ones people have completely trivialized and forgotten about so that it’ll be like hearing about them for the first time for them. And the Earth will do it – bi anna rabbaka au’haalahaa – because Allah will give the Earth instruction and permission to do it.

Narrated by Abu Hurairah (radiyaAllahu ‘anhu), the Prophet ﷺ recited this verse and asked: “Do you know what annals it will relate?” The people said: “Allah and His Messenger have the best knowledge.” Thereupon the Prophet ﷺ said: “The annals are that the earth is witness to all the deeds that every servant has done on its surface. It will say: so and so had done such and such on a particular day. These will be the annals the earth will narrate.” (Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i)

The definition of Aloneness

That Day, the people will depart separated [into categories] to be shown their deeds.

Yasduru, from sadeer, means that they are going to go and then come back. That is, people will leave this Earth when they die, and then they will come back to witness a whole new Earth where everything has changed with the commencing of the Day of Truth.

Ashtaata comes from shattaa which refers to something that is one, but then it is broken down to multiple parts.

Yuraw is derived from the root word ra’a which means “to see” – both literally and figuratively. That is, it is to see and to understand what is going on in such a way that there remains absolutely *no confusion* as to how the person came upon the end result, Heaven or Hell.

A’maal are deeds or actions that we do *consciously*, as opposed to fi’l which refers to the actions done subconsciously.

Yawmaidhin yasdurun naasu ashtaatalli yuraaw a’maalahum – On that Day, people will be ranked according to their conscious deeds (good or evil) and their status, career, neighborhood, friends and family of this life will have no influence on their ranks – in other words, they will have no intercessors and no one to carry their burdens for them.

We will see our deeds…

“So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it”

“And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it”

Faa refers to the purpose of all the calamities that have occurred up to this point – everything in the Earth has been preparing for what will happen after it – i.e. The Reckoning.

Ya’mal, derived from ‘amal, as mentioned earlier are the actions that are done consciously.

Mithqaala refers to a tool or scale that in and of itself has no weight but by which the weight of the other end of the scale is known.

Dharraa is the smallest imaginable thing. Commentators have rendered several examples to help explain the word: for the ancient Arabs, the smallest thing was the egg laid by an ant, which is dharra. The specks of dust floating in the air that are seen when a beam of sunlight shines through an opening into a dark room is dharra. Or the “atom” as we now know, is dharra. Logically, the smaller something is the more weightless it is. But in a mithqaal, every single deed, no matter how small, will have its designated weight.

Khairan is something that is naturally known to be good and no one can even mistakenly think it to be bad. For example, being truthful, saving a life etc.

Sharran is something that is universally evil and no one can even mistakenly think it to be good, e.g. lying, killing a person etc.

Yaraahu, derived from ra’a, as mentioned earlier, means to clearly see and understand without any doubt at all.

Famaan-ya’mal mithqaala dharratin khairan yaraahu – So whoever did a good deed consciously will see it for themselves on that Day no matter if it is as small as the speck of a dust and as weightless that they considered it unimportant and all but forgot about it as soon as they did it.

Narrated by ‘Adi ibn Hatim (radiyaAllahu ‘anhu), Prophet said: “Save yourselves from the fire of Hell even if it be by giving away a bit of a date, or by uttering a good word.” In another narration, Prophet said: “Do not look upon any good work as insignificant, even if it be emptying a bucket into the vessel of one asking for water, or receiving a brother of yours with a pleasant face.” [Bukhari]

Wa maan-ya’mal mithqaala dharratin sharran-yaraahu – And whoever did an evil deed consciously will see it for themselves on that Day even if it was like that of an atom in size and in weight – so small and insignificant and that they trivialized it and didn’t even worry about doing it.

“And the record [of deeds] will be placed [open], and you will see the guilty fearful of that within it, and they will say, “Oh, woe to us! It leaves out neither a small thing nor a great one, but numbers them (all)!” And they will find what they did present [before them]. And your Lord does injustice to no one.” [Quran, 18:49]

The good news for the believers is that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Verily, Allah has recorded good and bad deeds and He made them clear. Whoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, then Allah will record it as a complete good deed. If he intends to do it and does so, then Allah the Exalted will record it as ten good deeds up to seven hundred times as much or even more. If he intends to do a bad deed and does not do it, then Allah will record for him one complete good deed. If he does it then Allah will record for him a single bad deed.” [Bukhari]

As for the disbelievers, they are recompensed for any good deed they do in this life, and they will have no share of it in the hereafter. Can one expect to be paid by someone who they never worked for? The disbelievers never believed in God’s ayaat and didn’t care about Him at all in this life so it’s only logical that God won’t care about them in the next. And Allah is al ‘Adl, the Most Just, al Hakeem, The Most Wise.

You may also like to read about: Laylatul Qadr

In conclusion…

Have you ever experienced an earthquake? The swinging of the doors, the rattling of the windows, and the shaking of the ground beneath your feet as you hold on to a hard surface to stop swaying? With heart in your throat, you feel like your end has finally arrived. Until Allah saves you and gives you another chance… It’s only a brief trailer of the upcoming massive event that will spare no one on the Day we will all be held accountable for every single one of our actions. There will be no refuge and no one to carry our burden of sins. The Prophet ﷺ told us to remember the destroyer of pleasures (i.e. death) often. Because indeed the Last Day is near and it will be in no way easy. Every single person will be terrified: children’s hair will turn gray with fear, mothers will leave their children, pregnant women will undergo miscarriage and family and friends will denounce each other. On that Day, all we will have left with us is our deeds – the good and the bad. May Allah ‘azza wa jal make us of those who pay heed to His Warnings and make us among the people who:

“…believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – [they] will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.” [Quran, 2:62]

Related Video: Surah Zalzalah Beautiful Recitation

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