Lecture 1- Surat An-Naba (Part I)

05-16-2024 10:36 AM Comment(s) By AIIM

Community in Crisis: A Culture of Doubt and the Undermining of Faith

Overview of Surah An-Naba

Surah An-Naba, named after the word "An-Naba" (The Great News), is a powerful chapter that captures the essence of the Day of Judgment and the certainty of resurrection. Classified as a Makki Surah, its consensus is reported by numerous commentators. Among the most critical objectives of Surah An-Naba are affirming the reality of the resurrection and the Day of Judgment, emphasizing the severity and magnitude of these events, and warning those who deny the resurrection of their impending doom.

The Surah begins by addressing the polytheists' questions about the Quran brought by Muhammad (peace be upon him), which includes messages of monotheism and resurrection. It warns them of the dire consequences if they persist in their arrogance and denial of the Prophet's message. The Surah provides evidence for Allah's Oneness and His immense power, showcasing the possibility of resurrection through various signs in creation. It vividly describes the events and horrors of the Day of Judgment, painting a compelling picture of what will transpire on that day. It also details the punishment awaiting the disbelievers in Hell, emphasizing the severity of their torment. 

Conversely, it describes the bliss and rewards prepared for the righteous in Paradise, highlighting the stark contrast between the fates of the believers and the disbelievers. The Surah affirms that the Day of Judgment is an undeniable reality and urges preparation through righteous deeds before its arrival. It concludes with a stern warning of imminent punishment and the presentation of good and evil deeds on that day, portraying the regret of the disbelievers who wish they had never existed.

Surah An-Naba serves as a profound reminder of the transient nature of this world and the certainty of the Hereafter. It calls upon believers to prepare for the Day of Judgment by adhering to divine guidance and living righteously and holily. Through its compelling verses, Surah An-Naba encourages deep reflection on humanity's ultimate fate and the importance of faith and good deeds.

The Context for Understanding Surat An-Naba

The final arrangement of the Mus'haf, which intertwines and alternates between Makki and Madani Quranic discourses, primarily addresses Muslims living under the influence of secular and non-religious ideologies. In these settings, Muslims experience a form of alienation often described as the "Second Strangeness" of Islam. Within such societies, Muslims typically have minimal control over critical aspects of their lives, such as education, social structures, and economic systems. As a result, they find themselves predominantly on the receiving end of these systems, with limited ability to exert influence.

In the absence of divine laws and objective moral standards stemming from revelation, cultures of corruption can emerge. These moral standards are not rooted in shifting human tastes and preferences but in the enduring principles of divine revelation. A segment of society often benefits from this corruption and actively resists efforts to address it through religion, as they perceive it as a threat to their privileges. This group, which we can refer to as the 'brokers of the status quo, 'is characterized by its mission to maintain the current state of affairs and prevent any transformative changes, thereby perpetuating the societal challenges faced by Muslims.

These brokers do not merely defend against potential threats; they proactively work to undermine the doctrine of accountability on the Day of Judgment, which is fundamental to the belief in Almighty Allah and the revelation of religion. They sponsor multifaceted campaigns that provoke doubts and skepticism about the coming of the Day of Judgment, where all actions will be judged.

Surat An-Naba begins by addressing the various campaigns and narratives propagated by societal institutions. The Surah opens with a rhetorical question: "What are they asking about?" This question sets the stage for a deeper exploration of the themes of accountability and the certainty of the Day of Judgment, challenging the ideologies promoted through multiple mediums. These include:

¨  Education Systems: Schools, colleges, and universities shape curricula to promote specific values.

¨  Media Outlets: Television, newspapers, radio, and online platforms shaping public opinion.

¨  Social Media: Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok influence social behaviors and cultural norms.

¨  Entertainment Industry: Movies, TV shows, music, and video games embedding ideological messages.

¨  Government Policies: Legislation and public policies reflecting specific ideological stances.

¨  Advertising and Marketing: Campaigns shaping consumer behavior and cultural values.

¨  Religious Institutions: Churches, mosques, temples, and other religious organizations disseminating beliefs.

¨  Think Tanks: Research organizations producing studies and policy recommendations.

¨  Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): Advocacy groups promoting social and political causes.

¨  Corporate Culture: Company policies and practices influencing employee behavior.

¨  Educational Materials: Textbooks and online resources provide knowledge through a specific lens.

¨  Public Spaces: Monuments, museums, and public art conveying historical narratives.

¨  Literature and Publications: Books, journals, and magazines exploring and propagating specific ideas.

¨  Community Programs: Local initiatives fostering social cohesion and promoting certain values.

¨  Propaganda Campaigns: Systematic efforts spreading specific ideologies through various media.

Organizations and states effectively shape societies' collective consciousness and cultural landscape by utilizing these mediums. Surat An-Naba calls into question these narratives, emphasizing the importance of accountability and the inevitable Day of Judgment and urging a return to divine guidance amidst widespread ideological influence.

Understanding Surat An-Naba requires recognizing these underlying contexts and the broader societal efforts to dilute the core messages of Islam. This noble chapter calls for a return to the fundamental beliefs in divine justice and the inevitable Day of Judgment, urging Muslims to remain steadfast in their faith despite the pervasive influence of secular ideologies and the concerted efforts of those who benefit from maintaining the status quo.

The Significance of a Faith-Centered Environment

The prophetic account of Al-As ibn Wail and the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) illustrates the essence of a faith-centered environment—a society anchored in certainty rather than speculation. Al-As ibn Wail approached the Prophet with a decayed bone and crushed it in his hand, asking, "O Muhammad, will Allah bring this back to life after what I see?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, "Yes, Allah will resurrect this, then cause you to die, revive you, and admit you to the Fire of Hell." Following this exchange, the verses at the end of Surah Ya-Sin were revealed: "Does man not see that We created him from a sperm-drop, yet he is an open adversary?" up to the end of the Surah. For additional narrations, refer to Al-Durr Al-Manthur and other Tafsir works.


Another historical account underscores the importance of a faith-centered environment and the responsibility of community leaders to prevent the spread of skepticism and doubt. Sabeegh, a man from Banu Tamim, arrived in Madinah, employing ambiguous words from the Quran to provoke skepticism. Upon learning about this, Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) prepared palm fronds and summoned Sabeegh. When Sabeegh arrived, he sat down, and Umar asked, "Who are you?" He replied, "I am Abdullah, Sabeegh." Umar responded, "And I am Abdullah, Umar." He then approached Sabeegh and began striking him with the palm fronds, causing his head to bleed until blood ran down his face. Sabeegh exclaimed, "Enough, O Commander of the Faithful! By Allah, the confusion I had in my head is gone!" This example illustrates how Umar, the leader of the faithful, acted decisively to preserve the integrity of faith and shield the community from the disruption caused by doubt and ambiguity.


These accounts highlight the critical role of a faith-centered environment in maintaining societal stability and spiritual clarity. In such an environment, faith is a personal belief and a communal anchor that guides actions, resolves doubts, and upholds the values and principles essential for a cohesive and just society.


An-Naba` Vs. Al-Khabar

"'Naba'' is specifically used to convey information previously unknown to the recipient, similar to breaking news in the media industry. While 'Khabar' can refer to information known or unknown to the recipient. This is why you can say, 'You are informing me about myself,' but you cannot say, 'You are telling me news about myself.' Likewise, you can say, 'You are informing me about what I possess,' but keep me from telling me news about what I possess.'


In the Quran, 'They will soon receive the tidings (Anba') of what they have been mocking,' shows that 'Naba' has a significant connotation. Thus, you can say, 'So-and-so will have news,' but you cannot use 'Khabar' in this sense. More precisely, 'Khabar' refers to something we have heard about before, while 'Naba' is something we hear for the first time."


What is intended by the Great News?

“Existential Questions" refer to deep inquiries about the meanings of life and existence, often dealing with concepts like the purpose of life, the nature of death, reality, and humanity's role in the universe. These questions might include:

  • Why do we exist?
  • Why are we here? What is the purpose of our existence?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Does life have a deeper purpose, or is it just a series of experiences and events?
  • What is humanity's fate after death?
  • Is there something beyond death, and if so, what is its nature?
  • Does the universe have a beginning or an end?
  • What is the nature of time, and is the universe finite or infinite?
  • Do we have free will?
  • Are we acting freely, or is everything predetermined?

These existential questions are typically the focus of philosophical and religious thought, and each culture or philosophical system provides different answers.

Unveiling the Wisdom Behind Surah An-Naba'

In Arabic, one meaning of 'Surah' is a wall separating two entities. Typically, if there's no gateway, people climb the wall to discover what's behind it. Similarly, each chapter of the Quran invites us to approach it as though entering a gate or climbing a wall to explore the wisdom contained within.

Surah An-Naba', the 78th chapter of the Quran, is part of the Makki section, representing the Meccan period. During that time, as indicated earlier in the section on the contexts to understand the contents of Surat An-Naba', the early Muslim community faced significant cultural, financial, social, and political challenges under non-Muslim dominance, leaving them in a state of heedlessness (Ghaflah). Similarly, many individuals face challenges that cloud their understanding and purpose today. The Makki revelations, including Surah An-Naba, are designed to awaken hearts and offer guidance, helping us find clarity and purpose despite our distractions and obstacles.

As we approach the boundaries surrounding Surah An-Naba' Al-Azeem and peer through the gate or over the wall, we observe a society engulfed in doubt, marked by pervasive questions challenging the certainty of the Hereafter. This is not a faith-centered community but rather one distant from faith. Furthermore, these skeptical questions not only sideline faith from society but also maintain its marginalization, preventing it from guiding the community toward certainty and purpose. Now let us contextualize the following introductory verses of Surat An-Naba`

Unveiling the Great News (An-Naba' Al-Azeem): (78:1-3)

The distinction between 'Naba' and 'Khabar' in the Quran is crucial for understanding the depth of divine messages. 'Naba,' typically representing significant, previously unknown news, carries an impactful sense of urgency akin to breaking news in modern media. 

This contrasts with 'Khabar,' which may refer to known and unknown information. This distinction is vital, as illustrated in the Quranic verse, 'They will soon receive the tidings (Anba') of what they have been mocking,' underscoring the significance and newness of 'Naba.'

Surat An-Naba', the 78th chapter of the Quran, begins by addressing profound existential questions through its verses:

  1. "What are they asking one another?"
  2. "About the great news (Naba),"
  3. "About which they are in disagreement."

The disagreement in verse 3 reflects the skepticism and rejection of the Day of Resurrection prevalent among non-believers and superficial believers. Denial of resurrection after death contradicts faith and takes various forms. It can appear as a rejection of the resurrection of both souls and bodies or as a rejection of bodily resurrection while acknowledging only the resurrection of souls. Sometimes, this denial manifests as a belief in the transmigration or reincarnation of souls into other bodies. In other cases, it rejects the resurrection of ignorant souls while accepting only that of knowledgeable ones.

These questions dive deep into the core tenets of Islamic Monotheism, the prophetic revelations, and the concept of the Day of Resurrection, central themes that shape our moral and existential understanding.

Makki Quranic Discourse on Certainties and Misconceptions (78:4-5)

The subsequent verses: 

4. "Nay, they will come to know!"

5. "Nay, again, they will come to know!"

The Makki Quranic discourse affirms beliefs and refutes misconceptions like skepticism about the Hereafter, using language rooted in certainties rather than theories. It addresses the destiny awaiting those who reject these certainties or entertain misconceptions. Moreover, it goes beyond the surface, revealing the ultimate fate of skeptics and deniers. The Quran begins by depicting vivid scenes of belief and denial concerning the Hereafter, offering glimpses of Paradise and Hellfire.

This can be likened to a professor noticing his students expressing skepticism and doubts about final exams and responding by rhetorically questioning their skepticism. Similarly, the Quran employs rhetorical challenges in these chapters, directly confronting those who deny the Hereafter. As a result, readers of these verses either embrace faith and strengthen their convictions or reject the revelation entirely. The Quran distinguishes between those who follow divine guidance and those who turn away. It illustrates their distinct fates in the Hereafter to emphasize the importance of making conscious choices rooted in truth.

The above verses emphasize the inevitable realization of these truths through 'the eye of certainty' (Ain Al-Yaqeen) and 'the truth of certainty' (Haqq Al-Yaqeen). This iterative declaration highlights the certainty of divine truth and reflects the divine patience with human skepticism.

Ibn Ashur notes that the revelations in this Surah acted as a decisive rebuttal to the disbelievers, mainly through the affirmation of Tawheed and the principle of accountability. These revelations challenged the prevailing beliefs and practices, urging deep reflection on the true nature of reality.

Thus, as we traverse the teachings of Surat An-Naba', we are invited to scale the walls of superficial understanding to reach a vantage point that offers a clear view of the profound truths that shape our existence and guide our choices toward justice, accountability, and spiritual awakening.


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