Surat Al-Qari’a 101: the Ultimate Warning

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Surat Al-Qari’a 101, analyzed in details below, has a close relationship with Surat Al-Zalzala 99. Both tell us something about the Day of Resurrection, and both feature descriptions of the Balance Scale, showing the weighing of good and bad deeds. What’s especially impressive is the close relationship between the word and letter counts in the two “scale” sections, despite their differences. In fact, the two suras’ “scale pairs” have identical features relating to how they are precisely equitable. 

Also a difference here between suras 101 and 99 is that the scale-ayat in Al-Qari’a (unlike in Al-Zalzala) are paired with matching “consequences” ayat. The weighing of good deeds is followed by a description of the resulting final  “abode” according to if the scales are heavy (for good deeds) or light (for bad deeds). 

So we have in Al-Qari’a scale of good deeds in aya 101:6 exactly 4 words and 16 letters for a total of 20 words+letters. In the scale of bad deeds for this sura we have in 101:8 exactly 5 words and 15 letters, which also add to a total of 20 words+letters. Notice that there is one less word and one more letter in the “good deeds” scale than in the “bad deeds” scale, exactly as it was in Surat Al-Alzalzala for ayat 99:7 and 8. And as explained in my analysis of sura 99, the addition of the single-letter word waw meaning “and” is what adds another “point”-value of “weight” to the scale for bad deeds as a mercy from Allah: the scale was short one letter/atom so Allah added his mercy (“decreed upon Himself mercy”) as a word to even out or “balance” the scales. 

In sura 99, the total words+letters for each “side” of the scale is 28; in sura 101 here the total words+letters for each side is 20. The difference in each case is the same waw و  counted twice, once as a word and once as a letter. What balances the scale is nothing but Allah’s mercy. Because the consequences are so extreme. Below is the analysis including both basic explanation and word/letter counts, showing where these elements relate. 

Al-Qari’ah 101:1

ٱلۡقَارِعَةُ

The Striking Calamity 

1 word – 7 letters, total 8

Unusual feature: this sura begins in aya 1 with a single 7-letter word (meaning “the striking calamity”) which is repeated 3 times, once in each of the first 3 ayat. These 3 ayat thus form an introductory “set.” This repetition gives emphasis to the sura title (which would make it 4 repetitions), setting up what follows. 

Al-Qari’ah 101:2

مَا ٱلۡقَارِعَةُ

What is the Striking Calamity?

2 words – 9 letters, total 11 (prime)

Note these are same counts as aya 101:9 below,  the destiny of those whose scale is in a negative balance due to evil/bad deeds. Which emphasizes this is a “striking calamity” for whom. 

Al-Qari’ah 101:3

وَمَآ أَدۡرَىٰكَ مَا ٱلۡقَارِعَةُ

And what can make you know what is the Striking Calamity?

5 words – 17 letters, total 22 (2•11)

Total word/letter counts for ayat 1-3: 8 words, 33 letters, total 41

Note the 11, 22, 33 sequence in 3 ayat. All multiples of 11 in this sura of 11 ayat/verses. Also, when the first 3 ayat are described as 1-3, it’s reminiscent of the number 13, which is repeated in aya 10 (as the letter count) and aya 11 (as total count), and in mirror form 31 in the next aya 4 (as total count), and in the total count of ayat 8 and 9 combined (scales+consequences). What the significance of 13 is would be a matter of speculation (for example, 7 is the chiastic center of 13, making this the result of a “test”). 

Also, the expression wa ma adraka ma translated “and what can make you know what is…” is used in aya 10 “and what can make you know what it is?” This construction forms a stylistic “parallelism” where the repeating line, in this case a question, further emphasizes the significance of the word “Al-Qari’a” in the first 3 ayat, and at the end. This is an unusual and “striking” way at the end to connect the concept of an “abyss” with the “fire” associated with hell. It also connects these details to Judgment Day, a Day of powerful consequences

Here we can feel more viscerally the sense of falling irretrievably into an abyss first, followed by the extreme fire that’s in it. The matching counts ties the final section describing the abyss of fire with the first section warning of Al-Qari’a — the very horror of these warnings is to forcibly wake people out of their oblivion and denial to a real and present danger. 

Al-Qari’ah 101:4

يَوۡمَ يَكُونُ ٱلنَّاسُ كَٱلۡفَرَاشِ ٱلۡمَبۡثُوثِ

It is the Day when people will be like moths, dispersed,

5 words – 26 letters, total 31 (prime – note that if you add the digits 5+2+6 separately the result is 13, the mirror of 31, both numbers used in the final 2 ayat of this sura). 

Al-Qari’ah 101:5

وَتَكُونُ ٱلۡجِبَالُ كَٱلۡعِهۡنِ ٱلۡمَنفُوشِ

And the mountains will be like wool, fluffed up.

5 words – 24 letters, total 29 (prime)

Total ayat 4-5: 10 words, 50 letters, total 60

Total ayat 1-5: 18 words, 83 letters, total 101 same as sura number.

Note the imagery in ayat 4 and 5 describes “weightlessness” – the people are “souls” without weight (moths more wings than body), and the mountains lost their gravity/weight. This is especially striking since the other half of the sura is about “weights” and people being “weighed” on the scales which determines their fate. Also there’s nothing of weight here from which to add to one’s lack of it. This further emphasizes that on Judgment Day, deeds are all that counts. Positive deeds have positive value, negative deeds have negative value.  

So up to this point, the sura title Al-Qari’a is described in ayat 1-5  whose total count of words+letters thus far is 101, matching the sura number. That palindrome 101 has two 1’s with a zero in center. The aya that follow concern the scales and judgment. One could say the number 101 expresses the central theme of “emptiness” or weightlessness in this sura, both of the things of “this worldly life” — our bodies, and the “heavyweights” of the earth itself, the mountains — and of those whose time and efforts were spent in “the things of this world” and did not work while in this world toward the true eternal values of Allah — justice, compassion, faith in God, gratitude, kindness. The lost “weight” of the people “like moths” in aya 4 above is equal to the lost “weight” of the “light” scales (aya 8) plus their consequences (aya 9): total 31

Note: the next ayat show the balance scales, continuing from sura 99, but here emphasizing their consequences of reward or punishment. 

Al-Qari’ah 101:6

فَأَمَّا مَن ثَقُلَتۡ مَوَٰزِينُهُۥ

Then as for one whose scales are heavy [with good deeds],

4 words – 16 letters, total 20 QIs* 10

Here the scales serve as an introduction to their consequences whereas in sura 99 the scales were the “point” of emphasis. Nonetheless, as with sura 99, here the words are one less and the letters are one more on the “good deeds” scale than the “bad deeds” scale, and thus they “balance out” to the same total of words and letters, in this case 20. 

And as mentioned above, the difference lies in the word added to the “bad deeds” to give them more “weight” by Allah’s mercy. That word is the single-letter word waw meaning “and,” which many do not even count as a word! In fact, the standard word-counts in many apps and other resources actually do not to count it as a word. But Dr. Abdeldaem Al-Kaheel studied its usage in Arabic and it is not attached to words the way prepositional letters are (called harf garr) but as a conjunction which acts independently like a separate word, and his studies have produced results many others could not. This word-letter is used in the Quran to convey certain meanings in a special way such as in the example of the scales in suras 99 and 101. 

Note also the prevalence of “8” with the good deeds: 16 (8•2), 4+4=8 words in ayat 6 & 7 as a “good” pair, the final digit in 18, the 4 of 14+ 4 words=8, final digit 8 in pair total w+l (38). The number 8 is associated with Paradise/Jannah, the result of having done good deeds in this life as shown in the very next aya. It is also the atomic number for Oxygen, essential for life. 

Also note: the Quranic Initials* QI (letters that appear at the beginning of specific suras, now believed to be part of a code or mathematical system) count in this aya 6 is 10 (out of 16 letters) and 8 in the next aya 7, a total of 18 for the “good” pair, which number (18) in both suras 99 and 101 (this one), represents “weight” (as 2•9, 9 being the highest/heaviest single digit in base-10). I counted the Quranic Initials (QIs) to see if their prevalence in these particular ayat had any significance.

Also notable is the relationship of these numbers to promoting life: there are 20 amino acids in the genetic code, but the numbers 4 and 16 as even numbers (“pairs”) are a “pro-life” combination as are the numbers 4, 14, and 18 from aya 7. The combined counts for this pair of good deeds plus their consequences are also even numbers. 

Al-Qari’ah 101:7

فَهُوَ فِى عِيشَةٍ رَّاضِيَةٍ

He will be in a pleasant life.

4 words – 14 letters, total 18 QIs 8 

Ayat 6 & 7 stats: 8 words, 30 letters, total 38 (2•19) total QIs 18, same as total for reward in aya 7

Number 18 (2•9) indicates “weight.” Also 18 is total Quranic Initials* (QIs) for the “good” pair ayat 6 and 7. Note that for ayat 6 and 7, this is the finish line, paradise, the ultimate success, and so the Judgment ends here, sealed with an equal number of QI’s and total words and deeds/letters. Both Allah’s input (words) of mercy and wisdom/judgment, sealing their fate, end here in this sura. For these, the calamity is over and they are spared. Whereas ayat 8-11, four ayat, those whose scales are light with insufficient weight, Al-Qari’a continues.

The words aisha-tan raadiya means a life that fills one with satisfaction and fulfillment, so the translation “pleasant” is a weaker expression, lacking the power and sense of the Arabic raadiya, whose root also forms the word that means Allah’s “acceptance” or being “pleased with” but on a higher plane of understanding. Here the difference of a few good deeds is also striking: the difference between utter and final success and fulfillment and victory, or utter and final failure and eternal non-fulfillment and loss. Elsewhere Allah the Exalted describes it as losing one’s own self in the most irretrievable way possible. And all we have is our selves, so to sacrifice that for worldly gain, out of arrogance, of all things, one loses the very thing one most valued. Whereas to “get the message” in Allah’s books that this worldly life is only a proving ground for the next everlasting one, and then act on it by sacrificing the temporary pleasures of this world for the next, the reward is unfathomably fulfilling and results in keeping one’s own self by being willing to sacrifice it. 

Al-Qari’ah 101:8

وَأَمَّا مَنۡ خَفَّتۡ مَوَٰزِينُهُۥ

But as for one whose scales are light,

5 words – 15 letters, total 20 QIs 8

Note here scales are equal in total as with sura 99 by extra word counted twice. Heavy is 1 more than light also as with sura 99. So the scales are fair+merciful, but consequences are where the difference lies. 

Al-Qari’ah 101:9

فَأُمُّهُۥ هَاوِيَةٌ

His refuge will be an abyss.

2 words9 letters, total 11 prime QIs 6

Note that although the scales of Allah themselves are equal/equitable, this is not the case with the consequences. Here the total of words and letters in this single aya about the consequences of evil deeds (note, evil intentions not acted upon are not evil deeds). 

Interestingly, the entire count for this aya 101:9 of 2 words 9 letters matches aya 101:2, “what is Al-Qari’a?” So there are two calamities: the Day itself, and the punishment of those with “light” scales who will be then “weightless” (worthless in the sight of Allah) and “lose themselves” or the hope to become someone, have neither life nor death, hopeless like Iblees. Also, the word فَأُمُّهُۥ translated “refuge” derives from om or “mother” as in “mother of the book” and in that sense “refuge” or “foundation.” The word هَاوِيَةٌ derives from “desire” in the sense of “vain desire” often used to refer to what “guides” the deniers/kafireen as nothing more than the whim/desire of the moment/ego. Thus in a truly just consequence, those who chose to be guided by this vain desire find in it their only refuge: a life of eternally vain or unfulfilled desire, for relief, comfort, hope. All this, because they rejected the only Source of those things.

Comparing Scale/Consequences as Ayat Pairs

The ayat 6 and 7 —  (6) scales heavy with good deeds + (7) reward in paradise/fulfilling life, go together as a pair, as do their “opposite” or counter-ayat 8 and 9 — (8) scales light in weight, lacking good deeds plus excess bad deeds + (9) punishment in the abyss of torment. 

Ayat 6 + 7 stats: 8 words, 30 letters, total 38 (19•2) total QIs* 18

Ayat 8 + 9 stats: 7 words, 24 letters, total 31 (prime), total QIs* 14

The difference between paradise (ayat 6 & 7) 38 totaland the abyss (ayat 8 & 9) 31 total,  is 7 (1 word+6 letters). Seven is a number that represents a “test,” and these then are those who failed the test of worldly life and hence lost these “seven.”  Comparing QI* counts, the difference is 4, the number of ayat in this sura devoted to those of the abyss and their consequences (8-11). The total of these two differences is 7+4=11, the number of ayat in this sura.

Al-Qari’ah 101:10

وَمَآ أَدۡرَىٰكَ مَا هِيَهۡ

And what can make you know what that is?

5 words – 13 letters, total 18

This aya uses the same verbal technique as aya 3 above, connecting the abyss with the fire as a way to emphasize the horror of it, and thus possibly deter people from ending up in it, to inspire fear in its possibility. That is from Allah’s mercy; this is something already decreed and unavoidable, the Hour and Judgment. But while in this life, reading this Quran, we can take steps to avoid it, which would be well worth it in the end. 

Here again one more word and one less letter for the same 18 result from aya 7; 7 was weight uplifted; here in aya 10 the weight is pulling down to the abyss. But here it is not on the result of the “scale-result” pair (9 of 8/9) but the aya following it, asking us what can make us know what the abyss is. So this in a way addresses those working for the “good” scale to “look and see what could happen if you don’t keep trying”. The scale’s deed count could be one less, and Allah’s command is ever enacted: a warning to believers as well. 

Al-Qari’ah 101:11

نَارٌ حَامِيَةٌۢ

It is a Fire, intensely hot.

5 words – 8 letters, total 13 (prime)

Taken as a pair, ayat 10 & 11 combine to these counts: 10 words, 21 letters, total 31 (prime), the mirror of total 13 for words ans letters in the final aya.

Note the ayat 8 and 9 concerning the “bad deeds” scale and consequences (abyss) pair total words plus letters is 31, the same as total for the final pair of ayat 10 and 11 describing the abyss, also 31.

And the final aya 11 has a total count of 13, matching the letter count 13 of aya 10 of the final pair, and mirroring the digits of pair total 31. A possible interpretation of number 31 could relate to its chiastic center 16, a number associated in aya 6 with scales “heavy” with good deeds and therefore paradise — but here “surrounded” by the remaining 15-count to make it 31, associated above with the scales of aya 8 made “light” by bad deeds, hence the “potential” of “16” is prohibited by the actual outcome. One could say the torment of hell is not simply the punishment itself but also the prohibition of paradise – analogous to the country song lyrics from Folsom Prison Blues,  “I knew I had it comin’ — I know I can’t be free; but those people keep on ridin’, and that’s what tortures me.” In other words, the deprivation of what one most desires is (at least) an equal part of the punishment. It’s the hopelessness, the word for hopeless being a root of the name Iblees (another name for Satan). 

The warning of Judgment Day in this sura and in the Quran overall focuses on the worst that could happen — perhaps then some of us will take heed and avoid it! So the sura ends on this powerful image of fire to be the last thing we remember, and hopefully don’t forget. 

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*NOTE: The term “Quranic Initials” refers to the letters that do not form words at the beginning of some suras whose meaning and significance have been studied but are thus far inconclusive. Sometimes they are referred to as “light letters.” A study of their frequency and occurrence in the Quran was done by Dr. Rashad Khalifa of “Code 19” fame, and although some of his “findings” were later proved inaccurate (and there are other issues), but his study of these Quranic Initials showed significant and interesting mathematical interrelationships. Here I have used them with the word and letter counts to see if their appearance or use in the text has any bearing on the meaning. Since there was a plethora of “8’s” relating to the “good scale”, I found it interesting that the QI count for the Paradise-reference aya 7 (the “pleasant life”) was also 8. The number eight is associated with paradise in a number of hadiths and also by subtle inference in the Quran. 

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