Ayaat 1-12 ― Punishment is according to the Sin
The word al-Haqqah is from the word haq which means truth. Haq is something that is firmly established. The ta marboota [ة] at the end signifies it is an event or incident. Therefore al-Haqqah is an event which will definitely, for sure or inevitably occur. There is no doubt or suspicion about its occurrence. Repeating the word thrice indicates its importance and warning to the deniers of Resurrection. They are being told that: That which you are denying is ‘inevitable’. Your denial will not prevent it from happening. Therefore listen attentively.
What follows is a description of destruction of the past nations who similar to the unbelievers of Makkah denied the coming of the Truth. They believed this worldly life was the only one to be lived in and there was no accountability or justice in the Hereafter.
“Thamud and ‘Ad people denied the Qari’ah!” (69: 4), the word qari’ah [قَارِع] is derived from the root qaf-ra-ayn (qar) which means ‘to hammer, to beat, to knock and to strike one thing upon the other’. This other word for Resurrection has been used to give an idea of its terror and dread.
[Read the tafseer of Surah al-Qari’ah]
“As for Thamud, they were destroyed by the awful cry!” (69: 5) Taghiyah [طَّاغِيَ] is from the root tay-ghayn-ya which means ‘to exceed a limit, to transgress, wander from its orbit or exceed the bound’. People of Thamud demanded a miracle of witnessing a ten month pregnant she-camel emerge from a certain rock. Their Prophet ‘alayhi salaam made them promise that if their request is responded to they would believe in him and follow him. They agreed to do so. But when the she-camel emerged they wanted to get rid of it because they still disbelieved in their Messenger despite benefiting from the camel and plotted to kill it. As result, they were punished by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala by a strong earthquake and overwhelming cry. They were overtaken by this and were left dead in their homes.
[Read the details of destruction of the People of the Thamud]
The punishment of the people of Thamud has been described differently in the Qur’an. In Surah al-A’raf ayah 78 it has been called ar-rafjah [الرَّجْفَة] meaning a terrible earthquake; in Surah Hud ayah 67 it has been termed as-sayhah [الصَّيْحَة] meaning a violent blast; in Surah Fussilat ayah 17 it has been said that were overtaken by saaiqatu al-aathab [صَاعِقَةُ الْعَذَاب], a humiliating scourge. These words describe different aspects of the same calamity.
Their punishment was a violent one. It passed many limits. The loud sound was beyond their ability to bear and hence their heads and bodies blew up and exploded. One point worth mentioning here is that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala uses similar word for their punishment as their sins. They were rebellious and transgressed their limits and so was their punishment. The sound (or the punishment) transgressed its limits.
“And as for ‘Ad, they were destroyed by a furious violent wind,” (69: 6). Sarsar [صَرْصَر] is a harsh, cold and bitter wind which chills down to the bones. Sarsar is a repeated word which means it is a wind which continuously repeats itself. The word aatiyah [عَاتِيَةٍ] is from the root ayn-ta-wau [utuw] and it is used for someone who harms others and deals with them in a harsh manner out of arrogance.
The People of ‘Ad were destroyed by a harsh and arrogant wind because they were arrogant people themselves, as it appears in Surah Fussilat. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “As for ‘Ad, they were arrogant in the land without right, and they said, ‘Who is mightier than us in strength?’ See they not that Allah, Who created them was mightier in strength than them. And they used to deny Our Signs,” (41: 15).
The winds continued to blow fiercely for seven nights and eight days without any mercy or blessing. They would cause the palm tree to hit the ground, and fall down on a person’s head. That man’s head would shatter and the trunk would remain a lifeless corpse. “Do you see any remnants of them?” (69: 8) meaning do you find any one of them left or anyone who even attributes himself to being from them. Rather they are all gone, right down to the last of them, and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala did not make for them any successors.
Then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala mentions the destruction of Fir’awn [Pharaoh] and the cities overthrown. Mu’tafikatu is from the root hamza-fa-kaf [i’tafaka] which means ‘to take something, lift it, turn it over, change its position and then slam it down’.
The ahadeeth discuss the destruction of the people. Angel Jibreel [Gabriel] was ordered by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to lift the cities of Sodom and Gamorah and slam them upside down. They were then pelted with stones upon stones. This was their punishment in this life and in the Hereafter much worse and everlasting awaits them. We seek refuge with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala from punishment in this life and the Hereafter.
All of these nations were destroyed because of khaati’ah. Khaati’ah [خَاطِئَ] is from the word khata’a which means ‘error or sin’. Their sin was transgression and rejection or denial of the Messengers (peace be upon them all) and the Message that they had brought.
“Verily! When the water rose beyond its limits, We carried you…” (69: 11) now begins the description of what happened with Prophet Nuh ‘alayhi salaam and his people. The water rose up over its shores by the leave of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and it overcame all that existed. This happened due to the supplication of Nuh ‘alayhi salaam against his people when they denied him, opposed him and worshipped other than Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala answered his supplication and the people of the earth were covered with the flood except for those who were with Nuh ‘alayhi salaam in the ship. Thus, are humans all from the loins of Nuh and his progeny.
Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said, “That We might make it a remembrance for you, and the keen ear may (hear and) understand it,” (69: 12). A keen ear is such which is receptive of the content, hearing it consciously and taking in the message. It understands the message and reflects upon it. Describing it Qatadah said, “An ear that Allah gives intelligence, so it benefits by what it hears from Allah’s Book.” It implies any ear that hears the stories of past nations and takes heed. It does not forget the dreadful fate that the unbelievers met and what waits for them in the Hereafter.
The entire Qur’an and its narrative of previous nations is a reminder which needs to be listened to attentively and memorized so that we do not face a similar fate. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala protect us from transgression, arrogance and disobedience, aameen.