An-Naba` is the 78th surah (chapter) of The Holy Qur’an. It consists of 40 ayat (verses) that were all revealed in Mecca.
THE THEME of this undoubtedly late Meccan surah (Suyuti) is the continuation of human life after bodily death, i.e., resurrection and God’s ultimate judgment. Its conventional title is derived from the word naba` appearing in the second verse.
بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 1
1. ABOUT WHAT do they [most often] ask one another?
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 2
عَنِ النَّبَإِ الْعَظِيمِ
2. About the awesome tiding [of resurrection],
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 3
الَّذِي هُمْ فِيهِ مُخْتَلِفُونَ
Allazi hum feehi mukh talifoon
3. on which they [so utterly] disagree.1
1 The question which preoccupies man above all others—the question as to whether there is life after death—has been variously answered throughout the ages. It is, of course, impossible to describe the innumerable variations of those answers; nevertheless, a few main lines of thought are clearly discernible, and their mention may be useful for a better understanding of the Qur’anic treatment of this problem. Some people—probably a minority—seem to be convinced that bodily death amounts to total and irreversible extinction, and that, therefore, all talk about a hereafter but an outcome of wishful thinking. Others are of the opinion that after individual death the human “life-essence” returns to the supposed source of its origin—conceived as the “universal soul”—and merges with it entirely. Some believe in a successive transmigration of the individual soul, at the moment of death, into another body, human or animal, but without a continuation of individual consciousness. Others, again, think that only the soul, and not the entire human “personality”, continues to live after death—that is, in a purely spiritual, disembodied form. And, lastly, some believe in an undiminished survival of the individual personality and consciousness, and regard death and resurrection as the twin stages of a positive act of re-creation of the entire human personality, in whatever form this may necessarily involve: and this is the Qur’anic view of the life to come.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 4
Kallaa sa y’alamoon
4. Nay, but in time they will come to understand [it]!
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 5
ثُمَّ كَلَّا سَيَعْلَمُونَ
Thumma kallaa sa y’alamoon
5. And once again:2 Nay, but in time they will come to understand!
2 For this rendering of the particle thumma, see Surah Al-An’am , note 31.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 6
أَلَمْ نَجْعَلِ الْأَرْضَ مِهَادًا
Alam naj’alil arda mihaa da
6. HAVE WE NOT made the earth a resting-place [for you],
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 7
Wal jibaala au taada
7. and the mountains [its] pegs?3
3 See Surah An-Nahl : 15—”He has placed firm mountains on earth, lest it sway with you”—and the corresponding note 11, which explains the reference to mountains as “pegs”.
The whole of this passage (verses 6-16) is meant to illustrate God’s almightiness and creativeness, as if to say, “Is not He who has created the universe equally able to resurrect and re-create man in whatever form He deems necessary?”
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 8
Wa khalaq naakum azwaaja
8. And We have created you in pairs;4
4 I.e., “with the same creative power We have created the miraculous polarity of the two sexes in you and in other animated beings”. The phenomenon of polarity, evident throughout the universe (see Surah YaSin : 36 and the corresponding note 18), is further illustrated in verses 9-11.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 9
وَجَعَلْنَا نَوْمَكُمْ سُبَاتًا
Waja’alna naumakum subata
9. and We have made your sleep [a symbol of] death5
5 Thus Zamakhshari, stressing the primary significance of subat as “cutting-off” (qat), i.e., “death”; also the famous second-century philologist Abu Ubaydah Ma’mar ibn al-Muthanna, who (as quoted by Razi) explains the above Qur’anic phrase as an “analogue (shibh) of death”.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 10
وَجَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ لِبَاسًا
Waja’alnal laila libasa
10. and made the night [its] cloak
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 11
وَجَعَلْنَا النَّهَارَ مَعَاشًا
Waja’alnan nahara ma ‘aasha
11. and made the day [a symbol of] life.6
6 According to Zamakhshari, the term ma’ash (“that whereby one lives”) is here synonymous with “life”.
In the polarity of sleep (or “death”) and wakefulness (or “life”) we see the allusion to bodily death and subsequent resurrection already touched upon in Surah Al-An’am : 60.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 12
وَبَنَيْنَا فَوْقَكُمْ سَبْعًا شِدَادًا
Wa banaina fauqakum sab ‘an shi daada
12. And We have built above you seven firmaments,7
7 Lit., “seven firm ones”, indicating the multiplicity of cosmic systems (see Surah Al-Baqarah , note 20).
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 13
وَجَعَلْنَا سِرَاجًا وَهَّاجًا
Waja’alna siraajaw wah haaja
13. and have placed [therein the sun,] a lamp full of blazing splendour.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 14
وَأَنْزَلْنَا مِنَ الْمُعْصِرَاتِ مَاءً ثَجَّاجًا
Wa anzalna minal m’usiraati maa-an thaj-jaaja
14. And from the wind-driven clouds We send down waters pouring in abundance,
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 15
لِنُخْرِجَ بِهِ حَبًّا وَنَبَاتًا
Linukh rija bihee habbaw wana baata
15. so that We might bring forth thereby grain, and herbs,
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 16
Wa jan naatin alfafa
16. and gardens dense with follage.8
8 Implying that the overwhelming evidence of purpose and plan in all observable nature points to the
existence of a conscious Creator who has “not created [anything of] this without meaning and purpose”
(Surah Al ‘Imran : 191), and who—as is stressed in the sequence will one day pronounce His judgment on every human being’s willingness or unwillingness to live up to the standards of morality made clear to him through inborn instinct as well as through divine revelation.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 17
إِنَّ يَوْمَ الْفَصْلِ كَانَ مِيقَاتًا
Inna yaumal-fasli kana meeqaata
17. VERILY, the Day of Distinction [between the true and the false]9 has indeed its appointed time:
9 See note 6 on Al-Mursalat : 13. This passage connects with verses 4-5.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 18
يَوْمَ يُنْفَخُ فِي الصُّورِ فَتَأْتُونَ أَفْوَاجًا
Yauma yun fakhu fis-soori fataa toona afwaaja
18. the Day when the trumpet [of resurrection] is sounded and you all come forward in multitudes;
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 19
وَفُتِحَتِ السَّمَاءُ فَكَانَتْ أَبْوَابًا
Wa futiha tis samaa-u fakaanat abwaaba
19. and when the skies are opened and become [as wide-flung] gates;10
10 Allegorically, “its mysteries will be opened to man’s understanding”—thus further amplifying the concept of “the Day of Distinction between the true and the false”.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 20
وَسُيِّرَتِ الْجِبَالُ فَكَانَتْ سَرَابًا
Wa suyyi raatil jibaalu fa kaanat saraaba
20. and when the mountains are made to vanish as if they had been a mirage.11
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 21
إِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ كَانَتْ مِرْصَادًا
Inna jahan nama kaanat mirsaada
21. [On that Day,] verily, hell will lie in wait [for those who deny the truth]—
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 22
Lit taa gheena ma aaba
22. a goal for all who are wont to transgress the bounds of what is right!
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 23
لَابِثِينَ فِيهَا أَحْقَابًا
Laa bitheena feehaa ahqaaba
23. In it shall they remain for a long time.12
12 I.e., not forever, since the term huqb or hiqbah (of which ahqab is the plural) denotes no more than “a period of time” or “a long time” (Jawhari)—according to some authorities, “eighty years”, according to others, “a year” or simply “years” (Asas, Qamus, Lisan al-Arab, etc.). But however one defines this term, it is obvious that it signifies a limited period of time, and not eternity: and this is in tune with many indications in the Qur’an to the effect that the suffering described as “hell” is not eternal (see note 114 on the last paragraph of Al-An’am : 128), as well as with several authentic sayings of the Prophet (e.g., the one quoted in note 10 on Ghafir : 12).
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 24
لَا يَذُوقُونَ فِيهَا بَرْدًا وَلَا شَرَابًا
Laa ya zooqoona feeha bar daw walaa sharaaba
24. Neither coolness shall they taste therein nor any [thirst-quenching] drink—
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 25
إِلَّا حَمِيمًا وَغَسَّاقًا
Illa hamee maw-wa ghas saaqa
25. only burning despair and ice-cold darkness:13
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 26
Jazaa-aw wi faaqa
26. a meet requital [for their sins]!
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 27
إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا لَا يَرْجُونَ حِسَابًا
Innahum kaanu laa yarjoona hisaaba
27. Behold, they were not expecting to be called to account,
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 28
وَكَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا كِذَّابًا
Wa kazzabu bi aayaa tina kizzaba
28. having given the lie to Our messages one and all:
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 29
وَكُلَّ شَيْءٍ أَحْصَيْنَاهُ كِتَابًا
Wa kulla shai-in ahsai naahu kitaa ba
29. but We have placed on record every single thing [of what they did].
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 30
فَذُوقُوا فَلَنْ نَزِيدَكُمْ إِلَّا عَذَابًا
Fa zooqoo falan-nazee dakum ill-laa azaaba
30. [And so We shall say:] “Taste, then, [the fruit of your evil doings,] for now We shall bestow on you nothing but more and more suffering!”14
14 Lit., “We shall not increase you in anything but suffering”: i.e., until the sins committed in this world are atoned for by commensurate suffering in the hereafter—for “whoever shall come [before God] with an evil deed will be requited with no more than the like thereof; and none shall be wronged” (Al-An’am : 160).
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 31
إِنَّ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ مَفَازًا
Inna lil mutta qeena mafaaza
31. [But,] verily for the God-conscious there is supreme fulfilment in store:15
15 I.e., the fulfilment of all that a human being may ever desire (Razi), symbolized by the “luxuriant gardens”, etc., of the sequence.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 32
Hadaa-iqa wa a’anaa ba
32. luxuriant gardens and vinyards,
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 33
Wa kaawa ‘iba at raaba
33. and splendid companions well matched,16
16 For the above rendering of atrab, see Surah Al-Waqi’ah , note 15. As regards my rendering of kawa’ib as “splendid companions”, it is to be remembered that the term ka’b—from which the participle ka’ib is derived—has many meanings, and that one of these meanings is “prominence”, “eminence” or “glory” (Lisan al-Arab); thus, the verb ka’ba, when applied to a person, signifies “he made [another person] prominent”, “glorious” or “splendid” (ibid.) Based on this tropical meaning of both the verb ka’ba and the noun ka’b, the participle ka’ib has often been used, in popular parlance, to denote “a girl whose breasts are becoming prominent” or “are budding” hence, many commentators see in it an allusion to some sort of youthful “female companions’ who would entertain the (presumably male) inmates of paradise. But quite apart from the fact that all Qur’anic allegories of the joys of paradise invariably apply to men and women alike, this interpretation of kawa’ib overlooks the purely derivative origin of the above popular usage—which is based on the tropical connotation of “prominence” inherent in the noun ka’b—and substitutes for this obvious tropism the literal meaning of something that is physically prominent: and this, in my opinion, is utterly unjustified. If we bear in mind that the Qur’anic descriptions of the blessings of paradise are always allegorical, we realize that in the above context the term kawa’ib can have no other meaning than “glorious [or “splendid”] beings”, without any definition of sex; and that, in combination with the term atrab, it denotes, “splendid companions well matched”—thus alluding to the relations of the blest with one another, and stressing the absolute mutual compatibility and equal dignity of all of them. See also note 13 on Surah Al-Waqi’ah : 34.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 34
Wa ka’san di haaqa
34. and a cup [of happiness] overflowing.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 35
لَا يَسْمَعُونَ فِيهَا لَغْوًا وَلَا كِذَّابًا
Laa yasma’oona fiha lagh waw walaa kizzaba
35. No empty talk will they hear in that [paradise], nor any lie.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 36
جَزَاءً مِنْ رَبِّكَ عَطَاءً حِسَابًا
Jazaa-am mir-rabbika ataa-an hisaaba
36. [All this will be] a reward from thy Sustainer, a gift in accordance with [His Own] reckoning17—
17 I.e., not merely in accordance with their good deeds but far in excess of them, in accordance with God’s unlimited bounty.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 37
رَبِّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا الرَّحْمَٰنِ ۖ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْهُ خِطَابًا
Rabbis samaa waati wal ardi wa maa baina humar rahmaani laa yam likoona minhu khitaaba
37. [a reward from] the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, the Most Gracious! [And] none shall have it in their power to raise their voices unto Him
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 38
يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الرُّوحُ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ صَفًّا ۖ لَا يَتَكَلَّمُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وَقَالَ صَوَابًا
Yauma yaqoo mur roohu wal malaa-ikatu saf-fal laa yatakallamoona ill-laa man azina lahur rahmaanu wa qaala sawaaba
38. on the Day when all [human] souls18 and all the angels will stand up in ranks: none will speak but he to whom the Most Gracious will have given leave; and [everyone] will say [only] what is right.19
18 Lit., “the soul”, in the singular but implying a plural. This is, according to Ibn Abbas, Qatadah and Al-Hasan (all of them quoted by Tabari), the meaning of ar-ruh in the above context.
19 This includes the symbolic right of the prophets to “intercede” for the sinners on Judgment Day (see Surah Yunus : 3—”There is none that could intercede with Him unless He grants leave therefor”—and the corresponding note 7, which makes it clear that such “intercession” implies God’s a-priori acceptance of the sinner’s repentance). In a wider sense, the statement that he whom God will allow to speak “will say [only] what is right” implies the impossibility of anyone’s being untruthful on Judgment Day.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 39
ذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمُ الْحَقُّ ۖ فَمَنْ شَاءَ اتَّخَذَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِ مَآبًا
Zaalikal yaumul haqqu faman shaa-at ta khaaza ill-laa rabbihi ma-aaba
39. That will be the Day of Ultimate Truth:20 whoever wills, then, let him take the path that leads towards his Sustainer!
20 Cf. Surah Al-Haqqah : 1 and the corresponding note 1. Objectively, it will be the moment when the ultimate reality of human life and its purpose will become fully accessible to man’s understanding.
Surah An-Naba` Ayat 40
إِنَّا أَنْذَرْنَاكُمْ عَذَابًا قَرِيبًا يَوْمَ يَنْظُرُ الْمَرْءُ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ وَيَقُولُ الْكَافِرُ يَا لَيْتَنِي كُنْتُ تُرَابًا
In naa anzar naakum azaaban qareebaiy-yauma yan zurul marr-u maa qaddamat yadaahu wa ya qoolul-kaafiru yaa lai tanee kuntu turaaba
40. Verily, We have warned you of suffering near at hand—[suffering] on the Day when man shall [clearly] see what his hands have sent ahead, and when he who has denied the truth shall say, “Oh, would that I were mere dust… !”21
21 Cf. Surah Al-Haqqah : 27.
Source: The Message of the Quran by Muhammad Asad