Surah 99 The Earthquake - az Zalzalah
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful!
When the earth is rocked with her (final) earthquake, when the earth shakes off her burdens, and man cries: What is the matter with her? on that day she will tell her news, that your Lord has inspired her (with His command). On that day men will issue forth in small groups to be shown their labours. Whoever does an atom's eight of good will see it then, and who ever has done an atom's weight of evil will see it then also.
According to some reports, this surah is a Medinan revelation but other reports say it was revealed in Makka. The latter report seems to us to be more valid, because the surah's mode of expression and its subject matter are more in line with the style and subjects of Makkan surahs.
The surah gives a violent shake to drowsy hearts; the subject matter, the scene drawn and the rhythm all contribute to the effect of a violent jolt. It is a powerful blast that makes the earth and all that is on it quake and tremble. Men hardly recover their senses when they find themselves confronted with the reckoning, weighing and evaluating of actions and deeds, and with recompense. All this is expressed in a few short phrases, which is characteristic of this thirtieth part of the Qur'an as a whole and is forcefully portrayed in this surah.
When the Earth is rocked with her (final) earthquake, when the Earth shakes off her burdens, and man cries, ' What is the matter with her?' on that day she will tell her news, that your Lord has inspired her with His (command).
It is the Day of Judgement when the firm earth trembles and quakes violently. yields up her long-carried loads of bodies and metals and other matters which have weighed heavily on her. It is a scene that makes every firm and solid object under the feet of the listeners shake and totter. They think themselves to be staggering and toddling and the earth beneath them shuddering and quaking. It is a scene which cuts the heart from everything on earth it clings to, thinking it to be firm and everlasting. This is the first impression created by these scenes which the Qur'an portrays. The Quranimparts to them a kind of movement which is transmitted almost to the very sinews of the listener as soon as he hears these unique expressions. This impact is all the more forceful because man is portrayed as confronting the scene described and revealing his reaction and reflexes while beholding it: "And man cries: What is the matter with her?"
It is the question advanced by the bewildered. astonished, surprised and puzzled who sees something unfamiliar to him, encounters what is imperceptible to his senses and beholds what makes him impatient and agitated. So he bursts out, "What is the matter with her"? What is quaking and shaking her so violently?" He cries as he reels and staggers, trying to hold on to anything which may support him or keep him upright. But all around him waver and totter violently.
Man has experienced earthquakes and volcanoes which have filled him with awe and terror and have brought to him ruin and destruction. But when man witnesses the quake of the Day of Resurrection he sees no similarity between it and the earthquakes and volcanoes of this world. He neither knows its secrets, nor does he remember anything similar to it. It is something august and dreadful, taking place for the first time ever.
"On that day", when this quake occurs, leaving man entirely shaken, "she (the Earth) will tell her news, that your Lord has inspired her". This earth will then tell her news, describe her condition and what has happened to her. It all will have been brought about simply because "your Lord has inspired her", ordered her to shake and quake so fiercely and to shake off her burdens. She obeys only the Lord's orders"in true submission to Him." (Al-Qur'an 84:2) She will relate her news because what will be taking place is a simple and clear account of what lies behind it of Allah's orders and inspiration to the earth.
At this point when man is astonished and puzzled, and as the rhythm gasps with dread and terror, with surprise and wonder, tottering and shuddering - at this point when man can hardly keep his breath, crying "What is the matter with her? What has happened to her?" - at this point he encounters the scene of resurrection, reckoning, weighing and recompense. "On that Day men will issue forth in small groups to be shown their labours. Whoever has done an atoms weight of good will see it then, and whoever has done an atom 's weight of evil will see it then also."
In the twinkling of an eye we behold the scene of people coming out of their graves; "On that Day mankind will issue forth in small groups". We behold them issuing forth from all over the globe: "as if they were swarming locusts". (Al-Qur'an 54:2) This is also a scene unknown to man, it is something unprecedented, unique in nature, with all human generations issuing forth here and there, all over the globe. "On that Day, the Earth will split asunder and they will come out in haste". (Al-Qur'an 50:44) Wherever you look you behold a ghost coming up, then he hurries away, caring for nothing and never looking back nor turning his face either left or right. They all are "rushing to the Summoner" (Al-Qur'an 54:8), with their heads down and their eyes staring forward, "for each one of them will on that day have enough preoccupation's of his own". (Al-Qur'an 80:37)
It is a scene indescribable in human language. It is ghastly and it is also astonishing. All these adjectives and all their synonymous and analogous terms in the dictionary cannot describe this scene, while it would be better conceived with a stretch of imagination and contemplation within the limits and capacity of the human mind.
"On that Day men will issue forth in small groups to be shown their labours". This is far more terrible and dreadful. They go to where they will be shown their deeds. They have to face their deeds and their rewards or punishments. Encountering one's deeds may be, sometimes, far more severe than any punishment. Man sometimes does things which he avoids even thinking about when he is alone.
In a spell of repentance and remorse, man would even turn his face from some of his deeds because they are ghastly. Then, in what condition will he be on that day when he faces his deeds in front of all mankind and in the presence of Allah, the Great, the Almighty, the All-Powerful? It is a terrible and frightful punishment, although it is only that they are shown their deeds and have to confront their labours. But following this confrontation (between men and their deeds) comes the accurate reckoning which does not leave an atom's weight of good or evil un-assesed or without reward. "Whoever has done an atom 's weight of good will see it then, and whoever has done an atoms 's weight of evil will see it then also".
"An atom's weight": the early commentators on the Qur'an explain this phrase as "a mosquito" or "a particle of dust" which could be seen only when exposed to the light of the sun. These were the smallest things they could think of, and which may be referred to as an "atom". But now we know that the word "atom" refers to a definite thing which is much smaller than that "particle of dust" seen in the sunlight. For the particle of dust can be seen by the human eye while it is impossible to see the atom, even with the help of the most powerful microscopes in laboratories. It is only "conceived" by the scientists. None of them has seen it either with his eyes or with his microscope. All that they have seen is its effects. This atom, or what is similar to it in weight, whether good or bad, will be brought forth and shown to its doer, who will then receive its reward. At that time man does not undervalue any of his actions and deeds, whether good or bad. He does not say, "Oh, this is a trivial thing which has no weight or consideration". On the contrary, his conscience will be as sensitive to everything he has done as an accurate scale registering even the weight of an atom favourably or unfavourably. There is nothing parallel or similar to this measure in this world, except the believing heart. For the believing heart is sensitive to even an atom's weight of either good or evil. But there are some hearts in this world which are unmoved even by mountains of sins and crimes. They remain unaffected while suppressing fountains of good which are far firmer than the mountains. These hearts are conceited in this earth but on the Day of Judgement they are crushed under their own burdens.