Al-Qur’an: Suratul Mudathir 31-37
أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم
وَما جَعَلْنا أَصْحابَ النَّارِ إِلاَّ مَلائِكَةً وَما جَعَلْنا عِدَّتَهُمْ إِلاَّ فِتْنَةً لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِيَسْتَيْقِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتابَ وَيَزْدادَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِيماناً وَلا يَرْتابَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتابَ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَلِيَقُولَ الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ مَرَضٌ وَالْكافِرُونَ ماذا أَرادَ اللَّهُ بِهذا مَثَلاً كَذلِكَ يُضِلُّ اللَّهُ مَنْ يَشاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَنْ يَشاءُ وَما يَعْلَمُ جُنُودَ رَبِّكَ إِلاَّ هُوَ وَما هِيَ إِلاَّ ذِكْرى لِلْبَشَرِ (31) كَلاَّ وَالْقَمَرِ (32) وَاللَّيْلِ إِذْ أَدْبَرَ (33) وَالصُّبْحِ إِذا أَسْفَرَ (34) إِنَّها لَإِحْدَى الْكُبَرِ (35) نَذِيراً لِلْبَشَرِ (36) لِمَنْ شاءَ مِنْكُمْ أَنْ يَتَقَدَّمَ أَوْ يَتَأَخَّرَ (37)
Interpretation of the meaning
- And we have not made the guardians of Fire except angels, and we have made their number only as a trial for the disbelievers, in order that the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) may arrive at a certainty and the believers may increase in faith and that no doubts may be left for the people of the Scripture and the believers, and that those in whose hearts is a disease (of hypocrisy) and the disbelievers may say: “What Allah intends by this example?” Thus Allah leads astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And none can know the soldiers of your Lord but He. And this is only a Reminder to mankind.
- Nay, and by the moon,
- And by the night when it withdraws,
- And by the dawn when it brightens,
- Verily, it is but one of the greatest calamities.
- A warning to mankind,
- To any of you that chooses to go forward (by working righteous deeds), or to remain behind (by committing sins).
الحكمة في اختيار عدد خزنة جهنم التسعة عشر
THE WISDOM BEHIND THE NUMBER OF GUARDS (19) OVER HELL
Cause of revelation (verse 31)
- Ibn Ishaq and Qatadah reported that one day Abu Jahl said: O you groups of Quraysh, Muhammad is threatening that the guardians of Fire who will punish you are nineteen in number, will it not be sufficient that only a hundred men among you will overpower each one of those guardians?. Then Allah revealed (to specify the type of guardians): And we have not made the guardians of Fire except angels…
- In another report, Al-Haaris ibn Kaldah said: O you Quraysh, I’m capable to defeat up to seventeen among those nineteen soldiers of Fire, promise me to handle the remaining two. Then Allah revealed the verse (to specify the type of guardians as angels)
- The Fire or Hell is the most severe punishment that Allah has prepared for disbelievers and criminals. A vivid description was necessary as a strict warning.
- In the previous verse of this surah, Allah mentioned the fixed number of guardians over the Fire as nineteen without specifying their type. The disbelievers quickly demonstrated their ridiculous arrogance and likened the supernatural order of the hereafter with that of this life.
- The guardians of the Fire are nineteen angels who will ensure the adequate punishment of its inmates accordingly. The whole of the inmates of hell, both human beings and the jinns can never overpower even only one among them.
- The nineteen angels as guardians over the Fire will be another means to intensify the sufferings of its inmates, these angels will have the strongest hatred and anger against the inmates and the zeal to ensure the most adequate punishment. This zeal and hatred was clear in the response of Malik, the master of the guardians:
وَنَادَوْا يَا مَالِكُ لِيَقْضِ عَلَيْنَا رَبُّكَ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ مَاكِثُونَ
And they (i.e. inmates of hell) will cry out: “O Malik! Let your Lord make an end of us.” He will say: “Verily you shall abide forever.”
- Allah revealed the information about the guardians of hell (as nineteen angels) for some reasons: (1) as a trial for the disbelievers (2) as an assurance of the truth of Islam to the people of the Scripture, i.e. Jews and Christians (3) as a means to increase the faith of the believers.
- A trial for the disbelievers: The information revealed increased the disbelievers in their disbelief and denial. They increased in arrogance by comparing their naturally weak and limited strengths with the supernatural powers. Life lesson: disbelief and arrogance are the strongest means of increasing in misguidance. Muslims should observe and avoid the traces of disbelief and arrogance in order to benefit better from every truth.
- Assurance of the truth of Islam to the people of the Scripture: The nineteen in number as the guardians of hell had been revealed by Allah in the divine scripture given to the Jews and Christians. The people of the book concealed this information and it was not known to the prophet. Allah revealed this information in the Qur’an in order that when recited to them, they will ascertain the divine origin of Islam and its conformity with the message of earlier messengers and accept it. Unfortunately, many of them still deny.
- A means to increase the faith of the believers: Whenever the believers accept any truth from the revelation, Allah will increase them in guidance and assurance. Their awareness about the might of Allah and their love for Him will increase as they are more aware of the punishment from which He saved them. The believers are moved away from hell as far as they move closer to paradise. Righteous deeds are prescribed as the means to attain the pleasure of Allah required for paradise. Faith will motivate right actions. The warning in this verse is to make the believers more aware of the dangers of hell and increase in their race away from it.
- The disbelievers and hypocrites are known for wasting every opportunity to take admonition. They wonder why such detail about hell should be revealed, the disease of disbelief and hypocrisy in their hearts prevent them from comprehending the message, and they consider the information as unnecessary. Belief is a precious divine gift that believers must appreciate and protect dearly.
- Sure, these nineteen in number as guardians of hell was a part of a clear detail about hell: (1) the sufferings in hell will be unimaginably severe (2) the rightful inmates of hell must have wasted all opportunities of salvation with arrogance, hence they deserve no mercy therein (3) the difference between belief and disbelief is arrogance, the disbeliever is capable of accepting the truth as the believer, they have only chosen in their free-will to reject the truth with arrogance. (4) detailed information can be a reason for increased awareness and better actions. (5) different perspectives to how human beings perceive information.
- This was the description of hell, it is a threat, and a reminder. A threat in the perception of disbelievers and hypocrite, it increases them in disbelief and misguidance. A reminder in the perception of true believers, it increases them in belief and guidance.