81. At-Takwir (The Folding Up)
Revealed in Makkah in the early years of Islam, this sūrah of 29 verses takes its name from the verb kuwwirat (folded up or The Folding Up) in the first verse. At-Takwir draws attention to the Hereafter by mentioning certain events that will occur during the final destruction of the world and the rebuilding thereof. It also establishes the Divine origin and authenticity of the Qur’ān and the Messengership of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. When the sun is folded up (and darkened);1
2. And when the stars fall (losing their luster);
3. And when the mountains are set moving;
4. And when (highly prized) pregnant camels are left untended;
5. And when the wild beasts (as also the domesticated ones) go forth from their places of rest (in terror of the destruction of the world, and then, following their revival, are gathered together before God, for the settlement of their accounts);2
6. And when the seas rise up boiling;
7. And when the souls are coupled (the righteous men with pure, righteous spouses, and the evil ones with their evil spouses and with devilish companions);3
8. And when the female infant, buried alive, is questioned
9. For what crime she was killed;4
10. And when the scrolls (of the deeds of every person) are laid open;5
11. And when the heaven is torn away (with all the truths becoming manifest);6
12. And when the Blazing Flame is kindled (to fierce heat);
13. And when Paradise is brought near (for the God-revering, pious to enter)—
14. Every person will (then) come to know what he has prepared (for himself).
15. Oh, I swear by the stars which recede (disappearing in the sun’s light),
16. And rise in their course, and then set (disappearing again);
17. And by the night as it inclines to depart;
18. And the morning as it breathes—
19. That this (which informs you of all the events mentioned) is the Word (brought) by an honored messenger (Gabriel),
20. Endowed with power, with high rank and esteem before the Lord of the Supreme Throne,
21. One obeyed (by his aides) and trustworthy (in fulfilling God’s orders, most particularly conveying the Revelation).
22. And your companion (the Messenger who has spent his life among you) is not a madman;
23. Indeed he saw him (Gabriel) on the clear horizon.7
24. He is not niggardly (in conveying to you Revelation and knowledge) of the Unseen (what lies beyond the reach of your sense-perception).
25. Nor is it (this Qur’ān) the Word of any devil excluded from God’s Mercy.
26. Then, where are you going?
27. It is nothing other than a Reminder (and instruction) for all conscious beings,
28. For any of you who wills to take a straight path (and follow it without deviance).
29. But you cannot will (to do so) unless God wills—8 the Lord of the worlds.
1. Besides the brilliant metaphor contained in folded up (or “rolled,” or “wrapped up”), the verse alludes to several related events, as related by Said Nursi:
First, by drawing back non-existence, ether, and the skies respectively, like veils, Almighty God brought a brilliant lamp (the sun) out of the treasury of His Mercy to illuminate and be displayed to the world. After the world is destroyed, He will again wrap it in its veils and remove it.
Second, the sun is an official of God charged with spreading its light and giving heat, and with winding light and darkness alternately round the world’s head, like a turban. Each evening, it gathers up and conceals its light. Sometimes it does little work because a cloud veils it; sometimes it withdraws from working because the moon draws a veil over its face and closes its account book for a short, fixed time. At some future time, this official will resign from its post. Even if there is no cause for its dismissal, due to the two black spots growing on its face, as they have begun to do, the sun will obey the Divine command to draw back the light it sends to the earth and wrap it around its own head. God will also order it: “You no longer have any duty toward the earth. Now, go to Hell and burn those who, by worshipping you, have insulted an obedient official with disloyalty as if you had claimed divinity.” Through its black-spotted face, the sun exhibits the meaning of: When the sun is folded up. (See The Words, “The 25th Word,” 445.)
2. For an explanation, see 6: 38, note 8. Although animals are not responsible for any religious commands, they are responsible for, and ruled by, God’s law of the operation of the world (ash–Shari‘at at-takwīnī). So they will be called to account for having, or not, observed this law in relation to themselves. Also, human beings will be questioned about their treatment of the animals.
3. See sūrah 4: 57; sūrah 37: 22; sūrah 43: 36; sūrah 44: 54.
4. Many pagan Arabs buried their daughters alive during the pre-Islamic era of Ignorance (sūrah 16: 58–59). Women were despised, not only in pre-Islamic Arabia, but almost throughout the world, including in Roman and Sassanid lands. The Qur’ān openly declares that people will be questioned concerning this.
After God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had declared his Messengership, a Companion told him what he had done with his daughter:
O Messenger of God, I had a daughter. One day I told her mother to dress her, for I was taking her to her uncle. My poor wife knew what this meant, but could do nothing but obey and weep. She dressed the girl, who was very happy that she was going to see her uncle. I took her near a well, and told her to look down into it. While she was looking into the well, I kicked her into it. While she was rolling down, she was shouting: “Daddy, Daddy!”
As he was recounting this, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, sobbed (as if he had lost one of his nearest kinsfolk) (ad-Dārimī, “Muqaddimah,” 7–8).
Hearts had become hard. Pits were dug in the desert for innocent girls to be buried in. Human beings were more brutal and cruel than hyenas. The powerful crushed the weak. Brutality was taken for humanity, cruelty received approval, the bloodthirsty were exalted, bloodshed was considered a virtue, and adultery and fornication were more common than legal marriage. In short, the family structure had been destroyed.
This dark period was followed by Islam, whereupon all these evils were eradicated. People who had once been extremely cruel were transformed into such compassionate people that they inquired about the penalty to be paid for accidentally trampling locusts. (For details, see The Messenger of God.) Islam also forbade abortion, particularly after the seventh week of pregnancy, unless there were pressing medical reasons. This verse also includes this.
5. This verse implies that at the time of the Resurrection, everyone’s deeds will be revealed on written pages. At first glance, this appears rather strange and incomprehensible. But as indicated by this sūrah, just as the renewal of spring parallels another resurrection, the “laying open of the scrolls” has a very clear parallel. Every fruit-bearing tree and flowering plant has its properties, functions, and deeds. It performs its worship particular to itself. All of its deeds and the record of its life are inscribed in each seed that will emerge the next spring in another plot of soil. In the language of shape and form, the trees or flowering plants grow from seeds that were buried the previous autumn, eloquently indicating the original tree’s or flowering plant’s life and deeds, and spread out the pages of their deeds through their branches, twigs, leaves, blossoms, and fruits. He Who says, When the scrolls are laid open, is the same Being Who, before our eyes, achieves these feats in a very wise, prudent, efficient, and subtle way. Such a way is dictated by His Names the All-Wise, All-Preserving, All-Sustaining and Training, and All-Subtle.
6. See sūrah 25: 25; sūrah 39: 67; sūrah 40: 16; sūrah 69: 18.
7. See sūrah 53: 7, note 3; sūrah 74: 1, note 1.
8. See sūrah 76, note 9.