Fascinating Connections between Worldly Pursuit and the Hereafter in Surah 100 Al-‘Adiyat

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The color-coding connects these lines, not in the mirror pattern of a ring composition, but rather connects the upper and lower halves in order as shown by matching the colors: the upper referring to this world from the our human point of view, and the lower being from Allah the Exalted’s point of view. Here almost every element lends to an intense convergence of two very different worlds.

First 5 Verses for Human POV in this World, Last 5 Verses for Allah’s Celestial POV 

The middle aya is like a fulcrum between the two sets of ayat, upper and lower, each dramatically different from the other. 

In the upper five verses, there’s an image of men on horseback, but what is described are the horses — the riders are presumed there, caught up in the rush of an ambush, so all they are aware of are these sensations: horses panting and snorting, running to a full gallop, their hoofs striking sparks against stones on the ground at such speed, early in the morning, kicking up dust in their wake as they horses “brake” towards the center where they reach altogether. You can almost imagine them saying whoa! as they “penetrate to the midst.”

And then, suddenly, the scene is interrupted. FULL STOP. We hear the voice of Allah in aya 100:6 saying,

Truly man is ungrateful to his Lordinna l-insāna lirabbihi lakanūd

The word in aya 6 lakanud — translated “ungrateful” — carries the sense of barren dry earth – this reflects aya 4 “dust” kicked up by the horses, and aya 9’s “raise up” (b’uthiru) what is in the “graves” (quboor) also suggestive of “earth” – giving us 3 earth references: 1) dust kicked up by horses; 2) the “barren earth” of ingratitude that does not “bear the fruit” of faith and conviction in Allah; and 3) the soil of graves from which people will be resurrected. And of course, humans were created from “earth” — expressed in atomic element #6: Carbon, “an altered black mud.” (15:25). The number of this central verse being also 6.

This is a dramatic change in tone from the first half, where “chargers” are galloping towards a center, reach a crescendo and then stop in a cloud of dust and … and we might ask then what happened? But instead are met with Allah’s pointing out human ungratefulness. But what a perfect image for this in the word kanud: like dry barren land, no matter how much Allah gives us in sustenance, guidance, pleasure, beauty, and a world of stunning variety, many don’t respond to Him but deny Allah’s very existence, saying we did all this ourselves. People get so caught up in the competition and good things of this world that we forget the One without whom none of this could exist: Allah the Almighty All-Merciful. Forgetting is such a human weakness that the name for human — Al-Insan — is derived from the word “to forget,” nasyan.

The change of tone puts us in a completely different world. Instead of a battle or an ambush, whatever the horses were racing toward, we have this:

We are now in Allah’s realm, and He is speaking to us — the Quran places us at this critical moment into His own perspective, not ours. He was there all along, watching and aware of us, but because He gave us free will, we jumped at a full gallop out of the “gate” of life, so to speak, the horses symbolic of our bodily physical nature, which we, as once-celestial souls, ride, so caught up in the moment that we forgot our goal is not this world but the next. It isn’t just “ungratefulness” but rather the “barren earth” unresponsiveness that is the complaint here: what were we doing? 

We are indeed witness to our own mistakes. We were completely intent on making as much money as possible, or at least to give our families a good life, and death seemed like a faraway issue, what can we do about it — we’d better first finish this deal, this battle, conquer this enemy, land this job, win this prize, etc. And have we thought about what happens after we die? How will we answer to God? And we will know that He knows everything about us. The second half brings us, instead of to whatever worldly goals we were racing toward, to what is truly the goal, the Finality, to meet our Maker and Judgment Day. This is the reminder — that such a Day will inevitably come — reminding us now in this Quran before it’s too late, and those who refuse to read or listen now will face it later. 

Visceral Connections between Ayat – Bodies and Souls

The ayat in the first half (1-5) from the human perspective are connected to those in the lower half (7-11), which show us how it looks from Allah’s Omniscient Timeless perspective. 

1 and 7: These “paired ayat” are paired in a sense as opposites: the first, from the worldly perspective, and the second from the Divine perspective. But even then, a superficial glance would make these two ayat seem incongruous. Here the “panting chargers” — out of breath but also ‘adiyat as in racers, the root word having the sense of “going beyond” which by extension in this case implies “getting ahead of each other” in speed — are, later in verse 7, witnesses to their own ingratitude expressed in aya 6. To be a witness in the Quran is always a matter of words. Muslims bear witness to their faith in the Shahada, a statement which means “bearing witness,” and this is repeated with each salat prayer, thus one “bears witness” with the words of Al-Fatiha which is the consummate prayer in the Quran, a gift of words. Reminding us that after Adam was expelled from the Garden of Paradise, “Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance.” (2:37) We understand here that the horseback riders are aware of their own unresponsiveness to Allah and His messenger(s), but continue “driving” their horses — symbolic of their bodies in this allegorical scene — on the same path in the momentum of the chase.

The first section is dominated by bodies, whereas the second section is dominated by souls. The human is so caught up in the desire to go beyond others in material gains, like the modern obsession with continuous “profit” in an unlimited upward trajectory, and the rush of life urges him forward into “where the action is.” People are aware but at the same time thinking “well the horse is out of the gate—“ so they push thoughts of eternity and Judgment Day aside…until one can do nothing but, on that Day, admit the truth, testifying against himself. But on that Day, he will not be allowed to speak except as permitted by the Almighty (78:37-8). His only “shahada” may well be spoken by his own body, like the “hearing, sight and skins” testifying against the soul who perceived through them (41:20). Thus the very “panting of the horses” (sound of their faster breathing) bears witness as to how they were driven forward at full speed ahead. The horses, then, symbolize the riders’ own bodies.

The issue of being in a rush from the root ‘ajil is referred to extensively in the Quran, as here:

Man was created of haste [i.e., impatience]. I will show you My signs, so do not impatiently urge Me. (Al-Anbiya 21:37)

And they urge you to hasten the punishment. But Allah will never fail in His promise. And indeed, a day with your Lord is like a thousand years of those which you count. (Al-Hajj 22:47)

And in fact, an important word for “this worldly life” used in the Quran is al-‘ajila (“that which goes fast” or the “immediate”). 

No! But you [mankind] love the immediate (75:20)  And neglect the Hereafter (Al-Akhira). ( 75:21)

Which summarizes the message conveyed here. 

2, 3 and 8 — The striking of sparks as the hooves strike rocks, for example, is expressive of fire; this is reflected in aya 8, the “ferocity” of the human’s love of wealth, the “good stuff” here expressed in the word khair which simply means “good,” but in this context is used ironically to highlight that his estimate of “good” is a lowly one — the fleeting wealth and success of this world. The “raiders at dawn” reflects the meaning of mughirati, which has the association “other than/without,” which in this case applies to a “raid” to get what one doesn’t have, an ambush. Implied is “why is he not as fierce in his love of Allah as he is for wealth?” And “why not compete with khairat (“good deeds”) which are lasting — instead of over temporary worldly goods?

And anything good we get is not solely our own doing, but it is our effort plus Allah’s will. We think of this as luck, but in fact nothing we work on will succeed except as Allah wills. So when we achieve a goal, or even if we survive a difficult situation (battles being an example), will we turn our backs on Allah, and ignore Him and be ungrateful?

4 and 9: Here the two references to earth connect these ayat together. The horses charging ahead have to slow down when they come to the line of battle, and this kicks up a cloud of dust. In the Hereafter, from Allah’s perspective, when we come to the moment of Resurrection, we’re close to the center — Judgment Day — when every grave will be turned inside out. Akin to the contrail of “dust” (the “dryness” and scattered energy of old age) when toward the end of our lives we have to slow down, but also the “dry dust” raised up when we meet our fate and are buried. In a sense the aya “raiders at dawn” ties to both aya 8 (love of wealth for which the “raid” is undertaken) and 9 (the “raiders” being replaced by angels now opening and removing those from their graves, hence “inside out”) — noting that just as an ambush is often done at the break of dawn, the angels come to remove people from their graves at the “dawn” of Resurrection, the first “step” of Judgment Day. 

5 and 10 — Now the horses have arrived at the center — which in the war horse scenario is the place where the opponents meet each other for battle — but here is not a battle scene, rather it is the ultimate “Going Beyond” of the Hereafter. What was “gathered together” in the midst of battle or life (in this case, the scene is allegorical so could refer to multiple scenarios, in “the thick of life”) now is the “gathering” of physical bodies AND “collection” of souls — what is “in the chests,” also understood as the heart wherein resides the soul, and the “record” of one’s deeds — carried out by angels, Allah’s “agents, soldiers, messengers” performing many tasks according to Allah’s directives. And this leads us to the final closing aya 11 which refers us back to aya 6, ingratitude being essentially “closed-heartedness”:

11 and 6 — This shows us not only Allah’s assessment and awareness of each human’s faults, intentions and plans, and how self-serving they are, but also that each person will fully realize this, that they were never actually successfully hiding anything from the Omniscient. He saw those who rarely helped others or bothered to thank their Creator, putting their energy into this world and ignoring the Hereafter, even doubting its value or existence. At resurrection, all denial stops, just as the nonstop “progress” and “profit” and its dust-clouds will stop, and every soul will have nothing but his deeds which he cannot undo.

This surah’s theme is also expressed in Surat 102 At-Takathur (“Competition”) which focuses on essentially the same thing but in a different way. “Competition (in worldly increase) diverts you (102:1)/ Until you visit the graves. (102:2)” By “visit” here is meant to be buried in the grave, not to visit the graves of others (as it usually means in English), but the word “visit” in Arabic is used to show that one’s time in the grave is temporary as was one’s time in life. 

“Fully cognizant” is translated from khabeer which expresses a more intimate and thorough knowledge than ‘aleem (knowing) which is general. In English it feels closer to “expertise” but is usually translated “competent” which in English can also imply merely “adequate.” Whereas in Arabic it implies knowledge and capability that extends down to the details, because of its association with “news,” which in turn suggests a network of communications. We now know the body is such a network, and arguably the universe is an immensely complex network of interrelationships, so the Omniscient Al-Khabeer certainly has knowledge over that and over all things. Khabeer emphasizes the knowledge of what is in your heart, your innermost thoughts, beyond even your own access to what you may have forgotten. 

The Quran is a reminder, here reminding us not to forget our Creator and Sustainer, even in the heat of battle — or one could say especially in the heat of battle, in the midst of life itself and all its distractions. 

Stunning Word Counts Also Nail the Meaning

Having counted the words and letters of this surah, we find the following astounding results:

Total words 41 (prime), letters 164 (4•41)

Total words+letters = 205 (5•41)

41 is the 13th prime, whose median is 21 – (matches aya 6 total). The median of 13 is 7, a factor in verses 1-6 total as well as the total of adding verses 1-5’s totals as shown below.

This is highly unusual; in fact, it’s the only surah I’ve seen thus far (but I have many more surahs to analyze) where the basic totals — words, letters, and the total of those — align with their factors in this way, the unusual prime word count 41 being the main factor in the letter count and consequently the total.

Here are the 11 ayat word counts representing the following — Words, Letters, Total words + letters:

  1. 3, 11, 14
  2. 2, 12, 14
  3. 2, 12, 14
  4. 3, 11, 14
  5. 3, 11, 14
  6. 4, 17, 21
  7. 5, 15, 20
  8. 5, 17, 22
  9. 6, 25, 31
  10. 5, 14, 19
  11. 5, 19, 24

Unusual features: 

  • the first 5 verses have the same total, 14
  • And 14 x 5 = 70, a very significant number in the Quran. 
  • 14 is also the reverse digits of 41, the word count total and main factor in both total letter and total counts shown above. 
  • And the sum of the next two verses’ (6 and 7) totals is also 41
  • Verses 1, 4, and 5 are identical in their counts of “3, 11, 14.” Likewise, verses 2 and 4 are identical in their counts of “2, 12, 14.”
  • The longest verse, 9, is also the central aya in the final 5 ayat from Allah’s perspective, and it introduces a question as well as the first “disturbing” of the graves.
  • Verses 7, 8, 10 and 11 have the same word count of 5. (Words indicate Allah’s “input,” emphasized here.)
  • Verses 6-11 (from Allah’s point of view) are all longer than any verse in the first half, reinforcing the “rush” of the “worldly” verses 1-5 contrasted with the more deliberate tone of verses 6-11.

Such outstandingly connected word/letter counts indicate these words and even letters were not randomly placed. In fact, they relate to the meaning of the text. The word count, 41, which is a factor in the other two major counts (the letters by 4, and the total by 5), leads us to see what is Surah 41, and, since the number 5 also figures significantly into the counts (4 out of the last 5 verses each have 5 words, and the first 5 verses have the matching total 14 each), we find in Surah 41:5  the following words:

And they said, “Our hearts are sealed from what you invite us to, and in our ears is a deafness, and there is a veil between us and you. So do what you will, and so will we.” (Fussilat 41:5)

This exactly describes and even elucidates the first 5 ayat, as they are perfectly described in this aya. Thus by these counts, we confirm that this surah specifically describes the sorts of people who are mustajileen – impatient, always in a rush or going beyond their limits, the primary attribute discussed above regarding ayat 1 and 7. 

And if we use the same method to refer the counts to surah numbers, we examine the ayat totals of 14 and find in Surat Ibrahim 14:1-2 the following:

Alif, Lam, Ra. [This is] a Book which We have revealed to you, that you might bring humankind out of darknesses into the light by permission of their Lord – to the path of the Exalted in Might, the Praiseworthy (14:1) Allah , to whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And woe to the disbelievers from a severe punishment (14:2)

Here the concept of a path is illuminated: the path these racers are taking in this world vs the path leading to Allah the Exalted. All paths indeed lead to Allah the Exalted, but the path of this world leads to His punishment, whereas the path towards His light (the path of compassion and gratitude, also of the patient) leads to His reward, each destiny being in the Hereafter, in which we have no free will or control.

Furthermore, the amazing count of 70 obtained by the first 5 counts added together relates to Surah 70:1-2, 

 A questioner asked for a punishment bound to befall (70:1) the deniers; there is no one to prevent it. (70:2)

This directly relates to the quotes above concerning human impatience, where the Meccans and others mockingly challenged prophet Mohammad to “bring it on now” when he warned them of Allah’s punishment in the Hereafter. This is allegorically expressed in the first five verses describing horsemen (half-horse or “body” and half-man or “soul”) urging their horses to the “finish line” or the “front lines of battle” as if to show how their rhetorical questioning would play out in actuality – they would find themselves battling…themselves!

Rhymes and Appearance of the Text

Anyone can see from the appearance of the Arabic text some important details even without knowing the meaning:

  • Verses 1-5 look very similar in length and in how they begin and end — each line looks like two words or two halves with similar beginnings and endings for each line. Short lines often convey urgency.
  • Verses 7-11 are longer than the orange upper section but verse 9 looks longer than the others, and indeed introduces the weightiest event: Resurrection. The endings of each line also looks similar, and each line clearly has more words and letters than in the first half. Longer lines often relate something more complex or thoughtful.

Details re the appearance and sound in Arabic:

  • Verses 1-5 all end in alif with a preceding connecting letter, the first 3 like this — حا — and the second 2 like this — عا — so they rhyme on a strongly accented “ah” sound. 
  • Verses 6-8 all end on a dal د  pronounced like “d” preceded by a vowel letter: و  “ooh” at aya 6 and ي  “ee” at ayat 7 and 8, giving a new rhyme scheme with a consonant “d” ending
  • Verses 9-11 all end on ra ر pronounced like “r” preceded by vowel letters (prolonging the vowel sound) as above except the “ooh” on 9-10 and the “ee” on last line (aya11).
  • Verses 1-5 all connected as an oath to aya 1 beginning with beh ب pronounced like “b” acting as a single-letter pronoun attached to the word meaning “by” as in swearing by something, and all the others 2-5 begin with the single-letter pronoun-prefix fa ف  pronounced like “f” which means “then” — as “and then [this happened] so it creates a continuous series 

So the sound effect is 

  • 1-5 are very short ending on an “ah” sound/ rhyme — like horses panting and running
  • The middle verse 6 ends like the 2 verses following it on a “d” sound and like 7-11 is longer — a sudden change in tone and a stop. Allah admonishes the human being. 

. What this means is:

  • the rush of horses conjures the excitement of an ambush — this was the Arabs’ equivalent of a total action film, and we can hardly wait to see what happens now that they’ve reached the “heart” in aya 6. And that’s significant because 6 is the atomic number of carbon, the “stuff of earth” from which we are created, described as “black altered mud” which sounds very carboniferous. 
  • Suddenly at the moment of truth, the climax of the narrative when we want to know what happened — we switch tone and point of view to Allah the Exalted, who declares “truly man is to His Lord ungrateful (like barren land).” 
  • This image suggests infertile, unproductive, unresponsive — like a place where Allah planted a seed of His guidance/ message and we, the “ground” where it was planted, harden against it as if it was never planted, refusing to accept the rain and fertilizer and compost and nitrogen sent by Allah, “tightening the molecules” to refuse germination of the seed so it could grow in us to live eternally in paradise. 
  • Instead we sent up sparks/fire and dust clouds and didn’t water the soil with our love/ concern/ appreciation  — this surah being in the house of justice, associated with motherhood and hence the fertility of emotion and nurturing. 

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