Are They Waiting for the Angels to Descend?
The major portion of Surah Al-Anaam has been revealed to correct the beliefs and deeds of the people of Makkah and to remove their doubts and to answer questions raised by them. All through the Surah, especially in the previous Ayaat, the people of Makkah and the rest of Arabia were given to understand that they had seen open signs and miracles at the hands of the Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam. They had heard about the prophecies of past books and prophets about him. Then, they had themselves listened to the recitation of the Qur’an from one totally unlettered (Ummiyy) – a standing miracle on its own. Now the avenues of truth lay ‘open’ before them.
The argument of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala stood conclusively established against them. Believing was all they needed to do. What else could it be they were waiting for before they would do that? This subject was eloquently put in this ayah. [Maarif-ul-Qur’an]
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says,
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala sternly threatens the disbelievers, those who defy His Messengers, deny His Ayaat, and hinder from His path. Are these people waiting to believe only when the angels of death reach them, or are they waiting to be on the plains of Resurrection when Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala will come to decide destinies, or are they waiting to see some last signs of the coming of the fateful Day. That the Most Exalted Rabb of all shall appear on the Judgment Day has been mentioned in several Ayaat of the Qur’an.
In Surah al-Baqarah Ayah 210, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says,
“Do they await but that Allah should come to them in covers of clouds and the angels [as well] and the matter is [then] decided? And to Allah [all] matters are returned.”
About the coming of the signs, Ibn Katheer writes before the commencement of the Day of Resurrection, there will appear signs and portents of the Last Hour that will be witnessed by the people living at the time. In a section about this Ayah, Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Huraira radhiAllahu `anhu said that the Messenger of Allah said,
لَا تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ حَتَّى تَطْلُعَ الشَّمْسُ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا فَإِذَا رَآهَا النَّاسُ آمَنَ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَذَلِكَ حِين
“The Last Hour will not commence until the sun rises from the west. When the people witness that, they will all believe. This is when: ‘no good will it do to a person to believe then, if he believed not before.’”
Ibn Jareer recorded that Abu Huraira said that the Messenger of Allah said,
ثَلَاثٌ إِذَا خَرَجْنَ لَا يَنْفَعُ نَفْسًا إِيمَانُهَا لَمْ تَكُنْ آمَنَتْ مِنْ قَبْل أَوْ كَسَبَتْ فِي إِيمَانِهَا خَيْرًا، طُلُوعُ الشَّمْسِ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا وَالدَّجَّالُ وَدَابَّةُ الْأَرْض
“Three, if they appear, then a soul will not benefit from its faith, if it had not believed before or earned good in its faith: when the sun rises from the west, Ad-Dajjal and the Beast of the earth.”
Ahmad also recorded this hadetthh, and in his narration, the Prophet mentioned the Smoke. Imam Ahmad recorded that `Amr bin Jareer said, “Three Muslim men sat with Marwan in Madina and they heard him talking about the signs (of the Last Hour). He said that the first sign will be the appearance of Ad-Dajjal. So these men went to `Abdullah bin `Amr and told him what they heard from Marwan about the signs. Ibn `Amr said, Marwan said nothing. I remember that I heard the Messenger of Allah saying,
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ الْآياتِ خُرُوجًا طُلُوعُ الشَّمْسِ مِنْ مَغْرِبِهَا وَخُرُوجُ الدَّابَّةِ ضُحًى فَأَيَّتُهُمَا كَانَتْ قَبْلَ صَاحِبَتِهَا فَالْأُخْرَى عَلَى أَثَرِهَا
“The first of the signs to appear are the sun rising from the west and the Beast that appears in the early morning. Whichever comes before the other, then the second sign will appear soon after it.”
Then `Abdullah said – and he used to read the Scriptures – “And I think the first of them is the sun rising from the west. That is because when it sets it comes under the Throne, prostrates and seeks permission to return. So it is permitted to return until Allah wants it to rise from the west. So it does as it normally would, it comes beneath the Throne, it prostrates and seeks permission to return. But it will get no response. Then it will seek permission to return (again), but it will get no response, until what Allah wills of the night to pass goes by, and it realizes that if it is permitted to return it would not (be able to) reach the east. It says; ‘My Lord! The east is so far, what good would I be to the people?’ Until the horizons appear as a (lightless) ring, it seeks permission to return and is told; ‘Rise from your place,’ so it rises upon the people from where it set.” Then he recited,
لاَ يَنفَعُ نَفْسًا إِيمَانُهَا لَمْ تَكُنْ ءَامَنَتْ مِن قَبْلُ
“…no good will it do to a person to believe then, if he believed not before…” [6:158] This was also recorded by Muslim in his Saheeh, and Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah in their Sunans.
لاَ يَنفَعُ نَفْسًا إِيمَانُهَا لَمْ تَكُنْ ءَامَنَتْ مِن قَبْلُ
means, when the disbeliever believes then, it will not be accepted from him. As for those who were believers before, if they earned righteous deeds, they will have earned a great deal of good. If they had not done good nor repented before then, it will not be accepted from them, according to the ahadeeth that we mentioned. This is also the meaning of Allah’s statement,
أَوْ كَسَبَتْ فِى إِيمَـنِهَا خَيْرًا
Meaning, one’s good deeds will not be accepted from him unless he performed good deeds before.
Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani writes that the warning given here is that, as soon as some of these signs of Allah appear, the doors of Tawbah (repentance) will be closed. Anyone who had not come to believe before this happens will find his or her declaration of faith after that as unacceptable. As for a person who had believed before but had done nothing by way of good deeds will find that his or her act of Tawbah and the resolve to be good in future deeds – after these signs – are not acceptable. In short, that will be ominous time when the Tawbah of a disbeliever from his disbelief and the Tawbah of a sinner from his sin and disobedience, even if offered, will not be accepted. Emaan and Tawbah can be accepted only up to the time it remains within the choice of a person. Faith under duress and repentance under threat are not acceptable.
There are many Ayaat which mention how the people condemned to Hell will start wailing on arrival there. They will make big promises that should they be returned back to the mortal world, they would do nothing but believe and be good in deeds. But, the answer given to them will be: The time for belief and deed is over. What you are saying now is because you have no other choice. This is not valid. [Maarif-ul-Qur’an]
Allah said next, “Say: Wait. Indeed, we [also] are waiting.’” This is a stern threat to the disbelievers and a sure promise for those who delay embracing the faith and repenting until a time when faith or repentance shall not avail. This will occur when the sun rises from the west because the Last Hour will then be imminent and its major signs will have begun to appear.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala said in other Ayaat,
“Do they then await (anything) other than the Hour, that it should come upon them suddenly But some of its portents have already come; and when it is upon them, how can they benefit then by their reminder?” [Surah Muhammad : 18] and,
“So when they saw Our punishment, they said: ‘We believe in Allah alone and reject (all) that we used to associate with Him as partners.’ Then their faith could not avail them when they saw Our punishment.” [Surah Ghafir : 84-85]
– Sometimes we delay doing good for unjustified reasons. This Ayah tells us don’t wait. Whatever good that you want to do, do it ‘now’. Don’t wait for the Angel of Death to appear when you would say, “O please give me some time and I promise I will start doing good. I will be regular in my prayers, I will give charity, I will read and act according to the Qur’an,” and so on.
After this Surah was revealed the Prophet salAllahu `alayhi wa sallam left Makkah and migrated to Madina. It was then that the Battle of Badr took place and the top leaders of Muhsrikeen all got killed. Soon after Shirk completely evaporated from the Arabian Peninsula.
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