Time of heaven and hell on earth, and of the Quran reaching all nations

Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 8 September 2023

“and when hell is kindled, and when the Garden is brought near — every soul will know what it has prepared.” — ch. 81, v. 12–14

وَ اِذَا الۡجَحِیۡمُ سُعِّرَتۡ ﴿۪ۙ۱۲  وَ اِذَا الۡجَنَّۃُ اُزۡلِفَتۡ ﴿۪ۙ۱۳  عَلِمَتۡ نَفۡسٌ مَّاۤ اَحۡضَرَتۡ ﴿ؕ۱۴

“And your companion is not mad. And truly he saw himself on the clear horizon. Nor is he miserly (with knowledge) of the unseen. Nor is it the word of an accursed devil. Where then are you going?  It is nothing but a Reminder for the nations, for whomever among you who wishes to go straight. And you do not (so) wish, unless Allah please, the Lord of the worlds.”  — ch. 81, v. 22–29

وَ مَا صَاحِبُکُمۡ بِمَجۡنُوۡنٍ ﴿ۚ۲۲  وَ لَقَدۡ رَاٰہُ بِالۡاُفُقِ الۡمُبِیۡنِ ﴿ۚ۲۳  وَ مَا ہُوَ عَلَی الۡغَیۡبِ بِضَنِیۡنٍ ﴿ۚ۲۴  وَ مَا ہُوَ بِقَوۡلِ شَیۡطٰنٍ رَّجِیۡمٍ ﴿ۙ۲۵ فَاَیۡنَ تَذۡہَبُوۡنَ ﴿ؕ۲۶  اِنۡ ہُوَ اِلَّا ذِکۡرٌ لِّلۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۲۷  لِمَنۡ شَآءَ مِنۡکُمۡ اَنۡ یَّسۡتَقِیۡمَ ﴿ؕ۲۸ وَ مَا تَشَآءُوۡنَ اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ یَّشَآءَ اللّٰہُ رَبُّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ﴿٪۲۹

In my khutba of two weeks ago I read out verses 1 to 11 of this chapter of the Quran, ch. 81, Al-Takwīr, which refer to the signs that will be seen at a time in the future. I mentioned that generally those happenings are considered as taking place on the Day of Judgment, but I showed how we can apply those verses to the modern develop­ments in the world that started in the last 200 years and are continuing at full pace at the present. If I may repeat them in summary, these signs were the passing away of moun­tains, camels becoming redundant, wild animals being gathered together, cities swelling in size (which is also translated as the seas rising or being set on fire), people being united, one-to-one, the abolition of the cruel custom of killing female babies at birth, the spread of books and sources of acquiring knowledge, and humans learning the secrets of heaven and travelling into space beyond the earth.

Just now I first recited the next two verses which come after these verses: “and when hell is kindled, and when the Garden is brought near — every soul will know what it has prepared.” What is stated here has led people to think that the happenings men­tioned in the earlier verses will take place on the Day of Judgment, because after mentioning them it is added here that hell and heaven will both be ready to receive people. However, this also can be applied to our modern life.

The heaven of worldly comforts has certainly come before us. The Quran tells us about the garden of heaven after death that the righteous will have in it “fruits and whatever they desire” (36:57; see also 25:16). Now as regards the physical human desires and needs, we can say with justification that people living in the developed countries certainly have all that they desire, although of course it is not literally true. Food and shelter are basic human needs. In terms of food, we no longer worry about whether we will get food; what we worry about is which brand of food to buy, which of the many kinds of foods available will be good for us, and whether to have English, Chinese, Indian, Japanese or other cuisine. In terms of shelter, we have homes providing us with protection from the weather, with means of heating and cooling available, as necessary according to the weather. What we worry about is which type and design of doors and windows to have in our house, and what colour of paint to decorate with. These are only the most basic examples of the heaven in which we find ourselves in this world due to discoveries made by the increase in human knowledge.

As to hell, humans also used their scientific discoveries for developing more and more powerful weapons. Even before the invention of nuclear weapons, when the First World War took place from 1914 to 1918, the powerful weapons used for bombardment, which had been invented up to that time, created a hell on earth for the soldiers in the trenches. During the Second World War also, although nuclear weapons did not exist till right at the end of the War, but the bombing of cities by conventional bombs and bombers brought hell into people’s homes. When the atomic bomb was used on two cities in Japan to bring this war to an end, it could deservedly be called hell on earth, given the enormous amount of heat and burning generated.

From that time onwards, politicians and scientists realised that with the spread of these weapons the world could be completely destroyed if they were used by countries against one another. And since that first use of nuclear weapons, this potential and capacity for world-wide destruction has indeed fully come into existence. Never before in human history, earlier than the end of the Second World War in 1945, was the prospect of the complete destruction of the world present right before every human’s eyes. Even long before such modern weapons, there was of course a possibility of widespread destruction in the world by earthquakes, flood and other disasters, including the earth itself being hit by some object from space. But, firstly, that possibility was not of the utter destruction of the whole world, but parts of it. Secondly, that possibility of destruction was rather vague and unclear and based on human imagination. But now that possibi­lity is before our eyes like a stark reality and we can envision in detail how it may unfold and engulf the world. So we may say that the same spread of books and knowledge, and the learning of the secrets of how the heavens work, which has brought us paradise on earth for our physical well-being, it has also brought into our view, right before us, a complete hell.

I now move on to the second set of verses that I recited, which occur at the end of the same chapter of the Quran. The first two are: “And your companion is not mad. And truly he saw himself on the clear horizon.” “Your companion” is the Holy Prophet Muhammad. When this chapter was revealed and it conveyed the prophecies that I have dealt with in my khutba of two weeks ago, people must have thought that it was madness to say that such things could happen. They could neither imagine them happening in this world nor in the Hereafter. So this verse declares that the Holy Prophet Muhammad is not a madman. They are reminded that he is their companion, and he is in their company all the time. They know him in and out. He is not some remote figure living far from them. They would know if he was really mad. The next words, “And truly he saw himself on the clear horizon”, indicate that his message and his name would spread as far as you can see. The teachings he is bringing are permanent and stable, so that they will spread all over the world, and he himself has been shown that this would happen. And that spread of his message will take place universally when the signs given at the beginning of the chapter, such as “when the mountains are made to pass away”, are clearly seen fulfilled in the world.

The next verse is: “Nor is he miserly (with knowledge) of the unseen”. This again refers to the prophecies given at the beginning of this chapter, meaning that he is giving out these prophecies in abundance, relating to matters which are yet unseen. He is not withholding any of the grand prophecies revealed to him, perhaps thinking that he will not be believed but will be mocked. Then it says: “Nor is it the word of an accursed devil” (81:25). In our times, some thirty years ago, the book The Satanic Verses was published, and causing a great inter­national controversy. The book was based on a baseless story that certain verses revealed to the Holy Prophet had been inspired by the devil, and that Allah later on cancelled them from the Holy Prophet’s revelation. The Holy Quran, however, had declared in this chapter, revealed in the earliest days of the Holy Prophet’s mission, that nothing in the Quran is a word from the Satan. Perhaps Muslims objecting to this book would have been more successful if, instead of protesting against the book and calling for the killing of the author, they had announced to the world that the Quran informed us 1400 years ago it would get called as the word of the devil, and it already answered this allegation at that time.

The next verses are: “where then are you going?  It is nothing but a Reminder for the nations.” You cannot now go elsewhere because this is the Book from which people everywhere will henceforth find guidance. This revelation came at the very start of the Holy Prophet’s mission when he had hardly any followers, he was not known anywhere outside his own town, and only a little of the Quran had been revealed. It was not as if the Quran was anything like a book, which the Holy Prophet could present to people as a book, let alone say to them that it was a reminder for all the nations of the world. So this is a grand prophecy that the Quran would first become a book and then reach all the nations. This prophecy has been made at the end of the same short chapter where at the beginning those signs are set out which I have been discussing, that they have been fulfilled by the developments of the modern world. This means that when we see those signs, i.e., of the camels being abandoned, the books being spread, and the heaven having its covering removed, etc., then we should know that this is the time when the Quran will reach all the nations.

After saying that the Quran is a reminder for the nations, the chapter closes with the verses 28 and 29: “for whomever among you who wishes to go straight. And you do not (so) wish, unless Allah please, the Lord of the worlds”. The first verse here explains what is meant by the Quran being a “reminder”. Its teachings lead to the straight path to God, and that path is open through the Quran to anyone who wishes to follow it. But what about the next verse: “And you do not (so) wish, unless Allah please, the Lord of the worlds”? Many believe wrongly that this means that Allah, in case of some people, wills and ordains that they do not have the wish to follow the right path. There are other interpretations of this which makes more sense. But I would like to point out that while the first verse is in the singular tense, talking about one person, “whomever among you who wishes to go straight”, the second verse is in the plural, talking about many people: “And you do not (so) wish, unless Allah please, the Lord of the worlds”. We can take that as meaning that the spread of Islam on a wide scale will only happen in accordance with the will of Allah when He brings about those circumstances that are prophesied in the beginning of this chapter. May Allah grant us to work for that end, ameen.