The following is based on a translation of Dr Fadhel al Samarrai’s Tafseer of Surah Tin.
والتين والزيتون * وَطُورِ سِينِينَ * وهاذا البلد الأمين * لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الإنسان في أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ * ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ * إِلاَّ الذينءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصالحات فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ * فَمَا يُكَذِّبُكَ بَعْدُ بالدين * أَلَيْسَ الله بِأَحْكَمِ الحاكمين
(1) By the fig and the olive (2) and Mount Sinai (3) and this safe land, (4) We created man in the finest mould. (5) Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low, (6) except for those who have iman and do right actions: they will have a reward which never fails. (7) What could make you deny the Reckoning after this? (8) Is Allah not the most just of Judges?
The sura begins with the oath: والتين والزيتون ‘By the fig and the olive’ which are two well-known trees and the mufasireen have cited several reasons for mentioning these two trees.
The fruit from one of these trees has a stone (olive) and the other does not (fig). It was mentioned that the fig is one of the trees in paradise. It was reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was presented with a dish of food made from fig, so he ﷺ ate and he said to his companions:
كلوا فلو قلتُ إنَّ فاكهة نزلت من الجنة لقلتُ هذه لأن فاكهة الجنة بلا عجم
“Eat! If I was to say that there has been a fruit descended from paradise, then I would have said it is this (fig), because the fruit of paradise is without stones.”
Also it was mentioned that Adam (as) sewed leaves from the fig tree to cover his private parts when it was uncovered in paradise.
As for the olive, then its virtues have also been mentioned in the noble Qur’an.
The mufasireen have cited other reports indicating the possible reasons for the mentioning of the fig and the olive of which there is no need for further discussion.
We are not totally sure if the opening of the chapter with the oath of a tree supposedly from paradise i.e. fig, has any connection or not with the number of verses in this chapter.
Indeed, the number of the verses in this chapter are eight and there are eight gates of paradise. This opinion maybe false, although there may be some merits to it. We have noticed this type of connection in the Qur’an.
For example, Allah says in Surah Al-Rahman: فَبِأَيِّ آلاۤءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَان ‘So which one of favours will you deny’ when discussing the description of paradise eight times with the eight gates of paradise, and that happened twice in the chapter. The first time is between verses 46-61 and the second time is between the verses 62-77. It also repeated the threat seven times with seven gates of hell, beginning from his saying: سَنَفْرُغُ لَكُمْ أَيُّهَ ٱلثَّقَلاَنِ ‘We will attend to you, O prominent beings.’  until: فَبِأَىِّ ءَالَآءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ ‘Which then of the bounties of your Lord will you deny’ .
Some mufasireen mentioned: Indeed the chapter of Al-Qadr comprises thirty words because of the number of days in the month of Ramadan, and indeed Allah said: هي (it) in His saying: سَلاَمٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ ٱلْفَجْر ‘Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.’  هي is the 27th word, which is an indication to the fact that the Night of Power is the 27th night of Ramadan.
Based upon this – whatever the case may be – most of these links perhaps they are corresponding, and Allah knows best.
It was said: “Indeed what is intended with the fig and olive are two mountains from the holy land, and it is said in Syriac ‘Mount Tur Tin’ and ‘Mount Tur Zayta’, because they both grow figs and olives.”
The relationship between the fig and olive and the verses after them is not obvious and requires deeper contemplation.
It was said: “Allah sent from each one of these three places a prophet who possesses great will and who had a great sharia. So the first location is the fig and the olive and it is Jerusalem where Allah sent Isa ibn Maryam (as). The second is Mount Sinai where Allah spoke to Musa bin Imran, and the third is Makkah which is protected land and whoever enters it, he is safe, and it is where Allah sent Muhammed ﷺ.”
It came in التبيان في أقسام القرآن ‘The explanation of Oaths of the Quran’: “He (swt) made an oath with these three great places where His prophets and messengers appeared, the originators of great sharias and many nations. So the fig and the olive, what is intended by the two well-known trees in essence and their origins, it is the sacred land… And it is the appearance of the servant of Allah, and His messenger, and His word His spirit, Isa Ibn Marayam. Also Mount Sinai is where His slave, and His messenger and His spokesman, Musa appeared, also the fact that it is the mountain in which He spoke to him and confided in him and He sent him to Firawn and his people.
Then he swore an oath by the safe city and it is Makkah where the seal of His prophets and His messengers, master of the son of Adam appeared, so He progressed in this oath from the honourable to the most honourable. He began with the place of the appearance of the Messiah (Isa ibn Maryam), then He repeated with the place of the appearance of the spokesman, then He concluded it with the appearance of His servant, His messenger, the most honourable of his creation.”
The contrasting example to this is from the Torah which Allah revealed upon his spokesman Musa: (جاء من طور سيناء، وأشرق من ساعير، واستعلن من فاران), ‘He came from Mount Sinai, and he arose from the flames, and he announced from mount Faran.’
So the oath with Mount Sinai is for his sending the mission to Musa ibn Imran, and Allah began with it to indicate the sequence of the situation. Then He mentioned the prophet of Al-Masih (Messiah). Then He concluded with the prophethood of Muhammed ﷺ. This is the preponderant view in my opinion, because the suitability between these places of the oath is obvious from this.
Let us look to the order of those things for which the oaths were taken. It begins with the fig and then the olives, and the olives are more honourable and virtuous than the fig. Indeed Allah testified that it is a blessed tree when He said: يُوقَدُ مِن شَجَرَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ ‘It was ignited from a blessed tree’ [An-Nur, 24:35]. The olive is a fruit from one angle and it is fuel and oil from another angle, since the olive is also used for lighting lamps and lights.
Then Allah made an oath with Mount Sinai and it is more virtuous than what was mentioned before it, because it is the mountain on which The Lord spoke to Musa and He conversed with him and sent him to Firawn and his people.
Then look from another angle how Mount Sinai was placed next to the olives and not next to the fig, and this mentioning of the olive with Mount Sinai appears in another place in the Glorious Revelation.
وَشَجَرَةً تَخْرُجُ مِن طُورِ سَيْنَآءَ تَنبُتُ بِٱلدُّهْنِ وَصِبْغٍ لِّلآكِلِيِنَ
‘And [We brought forth] a tree issuing from Mount Sinai which produces oil and food for those who eat.’
And this tree, it is the olive tree by the consensus of the mufasireen. Al Wahidi said: “All the commentators have said, indeed what is meant by this tree is the olive tree”.
Allah then swore an oath by the safe city, and it is the Honourable city of Makkah, birthplace of the Messenger ﷺ, the place of his mission and place of the House (Ka’ba) which is a guidance for the worlds. It is the most virtuous of places in the sight of Allah and it is the most beloved to Him just as it came in the noble hadith. So the oaths progressed from the good to the best and from the noble to the noblest.
So you see how the verses progressed from the fig to the olive then to Mount Sinai, and then to the safe land of Allah (Makkah), where He concluded with the final message, the noblest of messages.
Allah has described this city with الأمين ‘safety’ and this description was chosen purposefully, and no other description was suitable as its substitute. So الأمين is a description which bears the meaning of الأمانة ‘trust’, and it also carries the meaning of الأمن ‘safety’, and both meanings are intended.
From the perspective of الأمانة ‘trust’, it was described with ‘safety’ because it is a place of fulfilling trust which is the message, and trust necessitates for it to be in a place of safety. So the message is a trust, and the trusted spirit is Jibreel (as) who brought down and delivered it to the ‘The honest and trustworthy’ Muhammad ﷺ in the safe city of Makkah. So look to how the description chosen here is the best of choices and the most suitable.
Therefore, the trust is a messenger (angel) who is described with trust carried the message, then delivered it to a person described with trust, in the city described with trust. It came in Ruh Al Maani: “and His trust is to protect whoever enters it, just as the trustworthy protects what he was entrusted with.”
As for the perspective of الأمن ‘safety’, Makkah was a safe city before Islam and after it. Our master Ibrahim (as) made a supplication for safety before it became a city and after it became a city, so he said first: رَبِّ اجعَل هٰذا بَلَدًا آمِنًا ‘my lord, make this city a safe city’ [Al-Baqara, 2:126] and after he said: رَبِّ ٱجْعَلْ هَـٰذَا ٱلْبَلَدَ آمِناً ‘my lord, make this city safe’ [Ibrahim, 14:35]
Makkah was therefore called with safety by the father of the prophets Ibrahim (as), and Allah responded to this supplication when He (swt) said: وَمَن دَخَلَهُ كَانَ آمِناً ‘and whoever enters it, then he will be safe’ [Aal-Imran, 3:97] and Allah said: وَإِذْ جَعَلْنَا ٱلْبَيْتَ مَثَابَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَمْناً ‘And [mention] when We made the House a place of return for the people and [a place of] security.’ [2:125]
The word الأمين ‘safety’ is upon the pattern of فعيل for exaggeration with the meaning of الآمن ‘safety’. It is also possible for it to be الأمين on the pattern ofفعيلاً with the meaning of مفعول (passive participle), like جريح ‘wounded’ with the meaning of مجروح ‘wounded’ and أسير ‘captive’ with the meaning of مأسور ‘captive’. So الآمن on this pattern will be المأمون ‘the one who is trusted’, i.e. the one who is trusted from calamities.
It came in Ruhu Al-Maani: “The trustworthy الأمين is on the pattern of فعيل with the meaning of the active participle فاعل i.e. الآمن is from أمُن ‘the man was trusted’, with a damma on the letter meem, with a trust so he is a trustee…and his trust is to protect whoever gave it to him. Also the trustee protects that which he has been entrusted with…As for the meaning of the passive participle مفعول i.e. the one who is trusted from أمنه ‘he trusted him’ i.e. he does not fear him, and its link to the city is figurative. The trusted in reality is the people, i.e. do not fear their havoc regarding it, or the statement is based upon omission and handing over something for caretaking, i.e. the one who is trusted with it from havoc or danger.”
It came in ‘Al Bahar Al Muheet’: أمين is for exaggeration i.e. safety is for whoever is in it and whoever enters it and whatever is in it from a bird and animal, or from أمُن ‘the man trusted him with trust’ – damma on the meem – just as the trustee protects that which he was entrusted with. It is permissible with the passive participle from ‘he trusted him because he is trusted from any havoc’.
You may say, why did Allah choose the word الأمين instead of الآمن which He repeated in other places in the Qur’an?
أَوَلَمْ نُمَكِّن لَّهُمْ حَرَماً آمِناً
‘Have we not established for them a safe sanctuary’
أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْاْ أَنَّا جَعَلْنَا حَرَماً آمِناً وَيُتَخَطَّفُ ٱلنَّاسُ مِنْ حَوْلِهِمْ
‘And He said: Have they not seen that We made [Makkah] a safe sanctuary’
The answer is because Allah’s choice of the word الأمين combines the meaning of: safety and trust, the active and passive participle, and the literal and the figurative. It is a trustee, safety and the trusted, and all these meanings are intended and required.
Look now to the response of the oath (جواب القسم) which is Allah’s saying: لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا ٱلإِنسَانَ فِيۤ أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ ‘We have certainly created man in the best of stature’, and how it is compatible with what was sworn with precision, harmony and beauty.
When people responded to this call they were two groups, one who accepted and one who rejected. The condition of both groups was mentioned. So the condition of most people was mentioned and they are those who reverted to the أسفل سافلين ‘lowest of the low’. The others are the believers, and لهم أجر غير ممنون ‘for them is a never-ending reward’.
When the messages are a method or way for man and a law for him, then the reply of the oath pertains to human nature and the method. So the nature of man was mentioned in Allah’s saying: قَدْ خَلَقْنَا ٱلإِنسَانَ فِيۤ أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيم ‘We have certainly created man in the best of stature’ and He mentioned the method in His saying: إِلاَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ ‘Except for those who believe and do righteous deeds’.
There is an indication here to the method of man which necessitates that it is suitable with the nature of man without any contradiction, without which he would fail.
Therefore you will see that this is the most complete response to the oath, and the most suitable and perfect for what was before and after it.
Look from another angle to Allah’s saying: قَدْ خَلَقْنَا ٱلإِنسَانَ فِيۤ أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيم ‘We have certainly created man in the best of stature’. Here Allah attributes the creation to Himself and He did not use the passive verb. This is because it is the place of demonstrating His great power and His action and how wonderful and beautiful His work is and something to be marvelled at. Therefore, creation was attributed to Him, and this is a clear style in the Qur’an.
This is similar to blessings and favours which Allah attributes to Himself. He (swt) said:
وَمِمَّنْ خَلَقْنَآ أُمَّةٌ يَهْدُونَ بِٱلْحَقِّ وَبِهِ يَعْدِلُونَ
Among those We have created there is a community who guide by the Truth and act justly according to it.
and He said:
أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْاْ أَنَّا خَلَقْنَا لَهُم مِمَّا عَمِلَتْ أَيْدِينَآ أَنْعاماً فَهُمْ لَهَا مَالِكُونَ * وَذَلَّلْنَاهَا لَهُمْ فَمِنْهَا رَكُوبُهُمْ وَمِنْهَا يَأْكُلُونَ
We have made them tame for them and some they ride and some they eat.
[Ya Sin, 36:72]
So look how Allah attributes creation in the place of blessings and favours to Himself whereas when He said: وَخُلِقَ ٱلإِنسَانُ ضَعِيفاً ‘and mankind was created weak’. [An-Nisaa, 4:28] He used the passive verb when the aim was to explain the deficiency of man and his weaknesses. Allah said:
خُلِقَ ٱلإنْسَانُ مِنْ عَجَلٍ
Man was created hasty.
and He said:
إِنَّ ٱلإِنسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعاً * إِذَا مَسَّهُ ٱلشَّرُّ جَزُوعاً * وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ ٱلْخَيْرُ مَنُوعاً
Truly man was created headstrong – desperate when bad things happen, begrudging when good things come.
Look to the difference between the situations. Something has gone from the best form to the worst of the worst. This from one angle, and from another angle, that Allah attributed the creation to Himself because the situation is the explanation of the of the method or way of man. So Allah intended to explain the clear method for man, and that He is the creator of Man and no one else other than Him knows what is best what is most suitable for him. Had the subject been established upon the passive, then that would not have been understood explicitly.
So you see that attributing creation to Allah The Most High is the most suitable thing in this situation. You may ask, and why did Allah attribute ‘returning to the lowest of the low’ to Himself, where He said: ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ ‘then we returned him to the lowest of the low’, when this is not a place of favour nor an explanation of any blessings?
The answer is that indeed this attribution is the most appropriate thing here whereas it’s not suitable elsewhere. Allah intended to mention that in His hand is the beginning and the end, and that He is the Powerful, firstly and lastly, and that there is no critic of His judgement. Allah does what He wills in the beginning and in the end, and this will not happen except with the attribution of this matter to Himself, The Most High.
If Allah had said: لقد خلقنا الإنسان في أحسن تقويم ثم رُدّ أسفل سافلين ‘Indeed we created man in the best of moulds, then he was returned to the lowest of the low’, then ردّاً ‘returning’ would mean here that Allah changed him while corrupting his nature and destroying what He had created! The meaning of لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا ٱلإِنسَانَ فِيۤ أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيم is that Allah formed mankind upon the best form and in every issue he is the best in terms of physical and moral issues.
Allah said after it: ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِين, so He brought the particle ثُمَّ ‘then’ which gives the benefit of sequence and delay, because man being the lowest of the low is not a punishment for his nature but rather he will weaken over the course of time. So from the perspective of time it gives the benefit of gradual weakness. Also from the perspective of rank it informs of gradual weakness. Therefore man being the best of forms or moulds, will gradually weaken and be moved to the lowest of the low. Therefore the particle ثُمَّ ‘then’ informs here of weakness of time and weakness in rank.
It was disputed regarding the meaning of أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِين. One group of mufasireen understood that it means the very end of life, and what is meant by that is old age and weakness, apparent and hidden strength, and weakness of the mind until it becomes unable to know anything.
The meaning of the exception إِلاَّ for this meaning, is that those from the aged who are righteous, for them is a lasting reward without being cut off which was written for them in their time of old age. Also it was written for them in the time of their good health and in the time of their strength. In the hadith: إنَّ المؤمن إذا رُدّ لأرذل العمر كُتِبَ له ما كان يعمل في قوته ‘Indeed the believer, when he returns to old age, then it will be written for him what he used to do in the time of his strength.’ So the reward is never ending, that is to say it is not interrupted.
Others understood that what is intended by is the lowest of the lowly position, and it is hellfire or achievement of the lowest position of the hellfire. The meaning of the exception إِلاَّ for this is apparent, so those who are righteous were excluded from returning to that.
Some mufasireen focussed on the spiritual aspects. It came in the ‘In the shade of Qur’an’:
“The emphasis here is on man’s spiritual qualities since these are the ones which drag man down to the most ignoble state when he deviates from his upright nature and turns away from correct belief…He is made in such a way as to be able to attain a sublime standard, superior to that of the highest ranking angels…At the same time, man is given the dubious ability to sink down to levels unreached by any other creature: ‘Then We brought him down to the lowest of the low.’ In this case, the animals are superior to him and more upright, since they do not violate their nature…‘Except for those who believe and do good deeds.’ For these are the ones who stick to their upright nature, consolidate it with belief and righteous deeds, and who elevate it to the highest level it can attain…”
The apparent meaning of the verse is expansive including all what they mentioned. It also informs that the life for other than believer is hardship and distress, and a life of misery and suffering. Allah said:
وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَن ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنكاً وَنَحْشُرُهُ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيامَةِ أَعْمَىٰ
‘And whoever turns away from My remembrance – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.’
He (swt) said:
وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِٱللَّهِ فَكَأَنَّمَا خَرَّ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ فَتَخْطَفُهُ ٱلطَّيْرُ أَوْ تَهْوِي بِهِ ٱلرِّيحُ فِي مَكَانٍ سَحِيقٍ
‘As for anyone who associates others with Allah, it is as though he had fallen from the sky and the birds had seized him and carried him away or the wind had dropped him in a distant place.’
Therefore the lives of those people is deteriorating and low and they are the أسفل سافلين ‘lowest of the low’. Then let us look to the exception: إِلاَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ ‘except those who believe and perform righteous deeds’.
Indeed it excluded ‘those who believe and perform righteous deeds’ from those who returned to the ‘lowest of the low’, and it did not add to that. So why did Allah not say something similar to what He said in Sura Al-Asr:
وَٱلْعَصْرِ * إِنَّ ٱلإِنسَانَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ * إِلاَّ ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِٱلْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِٱلصَّبْرِ
‘And by Time, indeed man is in loss, except those who believe and perform righteous deeds and mutually enjoin the truth and mutually enjoin patience’.
Here Allah explaines to us that faith and righteous action, will prevent him from returning to the lowest of the low. However, he will not be prevented from loss which passes him by (i.e. afflicted by it) while he did not enjoin the truth and patience because anyone who abandons something from that, he will lose something from the reward that he would have profited from if he had done it. So look to the difference between the two situations and between the two exceptions.
It came in Al-Bayan: “and ponder the wisdom of the Qur’an when He said: ‘indeed man is in loss’. Indeed He narrowed that exception and He specified it, then He said ‘except those who have faith and perform righteous action’ and when He said ‘then we returned him to the lowest of the low’, He expanded the exception and He generalised it, so He said: ‘except those who believe, perform righteous deeds, mutually enjoin the truth and mutually enjoin patience’ and He did not say: ‘and they mutually enjoin’ because the mutual enjoining, it is not an issue of faith and righteous deeds, and the additional action was stipulated as something beyond his bare minimum action.
Therefore whoever is not like that, then he lost this profit, so he will be in loss, but this does not mean that he will be the lowest of the low.
Therefore, indeed man may establish what is obligatory upon him and not command others with it. So commanding good and forbidding evil is an additional level or rank and it may be mandatory upon the elite and the very best of those capable. It may also be a duty of sufficiency (الكفاية) and it may be recommended (مستحبة).
The mutual enjoining of the truth includes the truth which is mandatory and the truth which is recommended, and the patience which is mandatory and the patience which is recommended. For these people when they enjoin the truth and when they enjoin the patience, for them will be the reward of those who lost out by not enjoining upon others although they established what is obligatory upon themselves. Even though these people are not from those who have lost themselves and their families. So there is absolute loss of something.
Then Allah said: فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ ‘for they will have a reward uninterrupted’. It was said that the meaning of ممنون is not deficient and not interrupted, and it was said its meaning is they are not upset with favours upon them. The correct position is that all of these are intended and it is from the descriptions of the reward because it is necessary for it to be non-interrupted and not to be loathsome of the favour.
Allah said: غير ممنون ‘non-interrupted’ in order to combine all of these meanings, and He did not say: غير مقطوع ‘not-cut off’ nor any forms of significance. Therefore it informed of any other inferior meaning. Look to how Allah added ف in His saying: فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ whereas He did not use ف in a similar verse: إِلاَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ لَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُون ‘except those who have iman and do right actions: they will have a wage which never fails.’ (Al-Inshiqaq, 84:25) This is because the contexts are different.
The context in Al-Inshiqaq is mostly mentioning the disbelievers, and Allah had lengthened their mentioning and the description of their punishment. So He said:
وَأَمَّا مَنْ أُوتِيَ كِتَٰبَهُ وَرَآءَ ظَهْرِهِ * فَسَوْفَ يَدْعُواْ ثُبُوراً * وَيَصْلَىٰ سَعِيراً * إِنَّهُ كَانَ فِيۤ أَهْلِهِ مَسْرُوراً * إِنَّهُ ظَنَّ أَن لَّن يَحُورَ * بَلَىٰ إِنَّ رَبَّهُ كَانَ بِهِ بَصِيراً * فَلاَ أُقْسِمُ بِٱلشَّفَقِ * وَٱللَّيْلِ وَمَا وَسَقَ * وَٱلْقَمَرِ إِذَا ٱتَّسَقَ * لَتَرْكَبُنَّ طَبَقاً عَن طَبقٍ * فَمَا لَهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ * وَإِذَا قُرِىءَ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلْقُرْآنُ لاَ يَسْجُدُونَ * بَلِ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ يُكَذِّبُونَ * وَٱللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يُوعُونَ * فَبَشِّرْهُمْ بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ * إِلاَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ لَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُو
But as for him who is given his Book behind his back, he will cry out for destruction but will be roasted in a Searing Blaze. He used to be joyful in his family. He thought that he was never going to return. But in fact his Lord was always watching him! No, I swear by the evening glow, and the night and all it shrouds, and the moon when it is full, you will mount up stage by stage! What is the matter with them that they have no iman and, when the Qur’an is recited to them, do not prostrate? In fact those who are kafir say that it is lies. But Allah knows best what they are storing in their hearts. Give them the news of a painful punishment – except those who have iman and do right actions: they will have a wage which never fails.
Whereas for the believers Allah did not add to His saying:
فَأَمَّا مَنْ أُوتِيَ كِتَـٰبَهُ بِيَمِينِهِ * فَسَوْفَ يُحَاسَبُ حِسَاباً يَسِيراً * وَيَنقَلِبُ إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهِ مَسْرُوراً
‘As for him who is given his Book in his right hand, he will be given an easy reckoning and return to his family joyfully.’
So look how Allah lengthened the description of the disbelievers, their actions and their punishment, and how he abbreviated the discussion about the believers. Therefore the ف was omitted from the section of the believers in Sura Inshiqaq so as to be harmonious with conciseness. However, in Sura Tin Allah did not mention the disbelievers and He did not add to the saying: ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ ‘then we returned him to the lowest of the low’, meaning the human being, and it is not explicit that what is meant by it is the disbelievers or other than them, as we have mentioned.
Look to each of the two chapters, and how each one deals with the discussion about man. So Sura Inshiqaq begins with mentioning the toil of man, his difficulties and his hard work:
يٰأَيُّهَا ٱلإِنسَٰنُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ كَدْحاً فَمُلاَقِيهِ
O Man! You are toiling laboriously towards your Lord but meet Him you will!
His lord will turn man to experience shocks and successive difficulties which exceed each other in intensity, so He said:
فَلاَ أُقْسِمُ بِٱلشَّفَقِ * وَٱللَّيْلِ وَمَا وَسَقَ * وَٱلْقَمَرِ إِذَا ٱتَّسَقَ * لَتَرْكَبُنَّ طَبَقاً عَن طَبق
‘No, I swear by the evening glow, and the night and all it shrouds, and the moon when it is full, you will mount up stage by stage!’
In Sura Tin by contrast Allah began by honouring man, so He said: لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا ٱلإِنسَانَ فِيۤ أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ ‘We have certainly created man in the best of stature’ which was suitable for the continuous emphasis of His reward and the absence of His resentment. This meaning is due to the addition of the ف in Al-Tin and not in Al-Inshiqaq.
Allah then said: فَمَا يُكَذِّبُكَ بَعْدُ بِٱلدِّينِ ‘What could make you deny the Reckoning after this?’ The meaning being: what is the reason Oh Mankind that made you deny the day of reckoning after the clear proof has come to you?
The meaning is also that Allah created man from sperm and He formed man well-proportioned and his rank was elevated to perfection. If he is steadfast he will experience changes from one state to another. The evidence is clear about the power of the creator to gather and resurrect because the One who created you is able to return you after your death and recreate you as a new creation, and the fact that even if he made you weak, then he has made you weaker at the first creation.
Look to the excellent connection of this speech with what was before it, and then look how Allah inferred the recompense with textual and rational evidences. So the textual evidence, is what the revealed, heavenly messages informed of, and Allah had mentioned from these messages the greatest of them and they are the messages of Musa, Isa and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). The rational proof is by the deduction of the creation of man in the best stature and his increase and decrease in status.
Then look how Allah chose the word الدين deen and He did not choose الجزاء or الحساب accountability, النشور resurrection and the like thereof. Mentioning the places of the messages is in harmony with the word deen, because these are religions, and that is intended by the meaning of deen in addition to the meaning of recompense, and the meaning is: what reason made you a denier of the correct religion after these advanced and developed evidences? So Allah is the one who created man in the best stature, and is the one who prescribed for you the best method which will make you happy in the worldly life and the hereafter. Therefore the word deen combined the meaning of religion and the meaning of recompense, and if it was said to you: فما الذي يكذبك بالجزاء ‘what caused you to deny the recompense’, then these two meanings would have not have been combined.
So you see the choice of the word deen occurred in its place with complete harmony.
Allah then said: أَلَيْسَ ٱللَّهُ بِأَحْكَمِ ٱلْحَاكِمِينَ ‘Is not Allah the most just of judges?’ and أحكم الحاكمين ‘most just of judges’ and this contains the meaning of the one who possesses greatness and the one who is best to them in the management of their affairs. It contains the meaning of being the best of judges, because حكم hukm contains the meaning of الحكمة wisdom and it contains the meaning of القضاء judgment and it is the decision in the المحاكم court.
According to the first angle the meaning will be: is He not the one who did that while being بأحكم الحاكمين ‘the wisest of the wise’ in creation and management of affairs, and that His wisdom is profound and there is no limit to it. When Allah explained that He is the wisest of those who are wise, it is clear that it specifies the return and the recompense because His wisdom rejects man to be left in futility and without purpose, and not accounting him for his actions. So how can Allah be considered the wisest of those who are wise while not recompensing the doer of good due to his goodness and the sinner due to his sins? Is that nothing but a slander to Allah’s judgement and His wisdom?
According to the second angle the meaning will be: Is Allah not the most just judge of those who judge, so He judges between his slaves in what they used to differ in. Allah said:
أَنتَ تَحْكُمُ بَيْنَ عِبَادِكَ فِي مَا كَانُواْ فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ
‘You will judge between your servants concerning that over which they used to differ.’
Look at the strength of connection between this verse and what is before it from two angles. Indeed Allah’s wisdom necessitates the return and the recompense, and the recompense and the decision between creation requires the presence of a judge. In fact, it requires the existence of the most just of judges. Therefore Allah combines with this expression the two meanings: the just judgment and wisdom. In fact He has combined several meanings with this expression, because every word from أحكم الحاكمين will carry the meaning of judgement and wisdom so Allah has combined four meanings, all of which are intended, and they are:
- أحكم الحاكمين He is the most wise judge
- He is wisest of them in terms of wisdom
- أقضى الحكماء He is the most just in terms of wisdom
- أقضى القضاة He is the most just judge
So consider how Allah combined the four meanings leading to four expressions in one abbreviated expression, and if He said: أقضى القاضين then it would have indicated upon one meaning alone.
Consider how Allah uses the style of an affirmative question and He did not use the informative style. So He did not say: إن الله أحكم الحاكمين ‘Indeed Allah is the most wisest of the wise’, and the like thereof, and those addressed will confirm Allah’s statement to themselves and subscribe to the enactment of the judgement, so he will say: وَأَنَاْ عَلَىٰ ذٰلِكُمْ مِّنَ ٱلشَّاهِدِينَ ‘Yes indeed I am upon that from the witnesses’ [Al-Anbiya, 20:56]
Look to the connection between the end of the chapter with its beginning. The ending of every verse was chosen to combine several meanings in one instance. The word الأمين was chosen in order to combine the meaning of security and trust and وأسفل سافلين to combine the end of life and reaching the lowest position in hell, غير ممنون in order to combine the meaning of never-ending and them not being dissatisfied with the favour, and the word الدين to combine recompense and religion and أحكم الحاكمين in order to combine wisdom and judgment. So look at the precision in the choice and beauty in this arrangement. Is Allah not the one who said, بأحكم الحاكمين ‘most just and wise of judges’? In fact I am from the witnesses to that.