Question and Answer: The Meaning of the Last Verse of Al-Luqman (Chapter 31 of the Holy Quran)
by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui
The Light (Pakistan), 8th January 1983 Issue (Vol. 63, No. 1, pp. 12–14)
The last verse of Chapter 31 (Luqman) of the Holy Quran deals with four quite difficult and complex points:
- Knowledge of the Final Hour
- Shape of a child in the womb
- What a man would do in the coming days, and,
- Where would one die?
These have always baffled man since the beginning of human life on this earth. Will you kindly explain these points and their significance in the daily life of a man?
The verse reads:
“Surely Allah is He with Whom is the knowledge of the Hour, and He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs. And no one knows what he will earn on the morrow. And no one knows in what land he will die. Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.” (31:34)
Reference to the previous verse (31:33), it shows that it relates to the Day of Judgment. So the opening portion of the verse under consideration, namely,
“Surely Allah is He with Whom is the knowledge of the Hour,”
means that He alone knows when the doomsday will occur. And, naturally, He alone knows what questions will be put to man standing before Him on that day, or how he will be judged, or what is expected of him to pass in the severe ordeal or test mentioned in the earlier verse. The phrase
“knowledge of the Hour”
is comprehensive enough to include all that. So if all that knowledge is known only to Allah, how has He guided man to prepare himself for the judgement? That is explained in the next part of the verse:
“And He sends down the rain.”
The metaphor of “rain coming down from the sky” is employed throughout the Holy Quran to illustrate and explain revelation coming down from heaven. Life (of any kind) in the physical world would not be possible without the rain sent down by Allah. So in the parallel spiritual world, the life of the spirit (which means the life which is going to be eternal) is not possible without revelation sent down to man by Allah. That revelation was given to man from time to time, through various prophets, to tell him of what is expected of him by his Creator and how he will be judged on the Day of Judgment of which all revealed books and all prophets forewarned their nations.
Divine revelation was perfected in the Holy Quran (5:3), a claim no other revealed book ever made. And the superiority of the Holy Quran is evident even in respect of the topic under consideration, namely, how man will be judged in the Hereafter. While other revealed books do refer to the Day of Judgment, and of the reward and punishment which awaits man, none of them give complete details of the judgment, which the Holy Quran does in full.
Now let us take up the next part of the verse:
“And He knows what is in the wombs.”
Here again the Holy Quran refers to the physical world known to man to explain to him the unknown (spiritual world). In the physical world, nobody except Allah knows how a human embryo or foetus is taking shape in its mother’s womb. As the embryo or foetus is contained in the womb, and develops therein until it is born into this world, so the human spirit is contained in the human body and grows and takes shape in it, to be born into the next world on the death of the body. That is why, to those sceptical of the life after death, the Holy Quran’s first rejoinder is, can’t the Creator Who created you once, create you again? As the first creation in the mother’s womb, its development there, and its translation into another world takes place in this life, the creation of the human soul within the human body, its development therein, and transition to another world takes place on death.
Therefore, the words,
“and He alone knows what is in the wombs”
means that Allah alone knows how the human soul is developing and taking shape in the human body. It is that soul which has to appear for judgment before its Creator. Therefore, man should in this life turn again and again to Allah to seek His forgiveness and protection in respect of his soul within his body developing according to what he does, says or even thinks. The Muslim prayer five times a day provides that frequent turning to Allah. And the main prayer therein “guide us to, and on, the straight path” seeks Divine guidance to the spiritual development of man.
Therefore, apart from the complete knowledge given to man in the Holy Quran of how he will be judged in the Hereafter, man should turn again and again to Allah to seek His guidance in the development of his soul, which is invisible to him, but which is his real self and which is to go into the next world to be judged, and to be rewarded with eternal bliss in paradise or a long punishment in hell.
The next part of the verse under consideration is:
“And no one knows what he will earn on the morrow.”
To begin with, this means that even in the world visible to man, no one knows what he will earn the next day in the shape of good or bad, profit or loss, happiness or sorrow, sickness or good health, etc. In other words, human affairs are completely in the Hands of Allah even in this world. As for the next life, man is all the more at the mercy of Allah. Hence, the need to render complete obedience to His guidance as given comprehensively in the Holy Quran. And, to seek His guidance, in each particular case of an individual, by turning frequently to Him in prayer, the main theme of which is “Guide us to, and on, the straight path” so that we do not go astray or fall under Your displeasure.
The last section of the verse under consideration is:
“and no one knows in what land he will die”.
That is truer now than ever with the need for international travel which is becoming almost wholly airborne. No man wants to die, least of all in a foreign land. Man’s attachment to his own land, which is an expression of man’s attachment to this world, will be terminated by Allah, where and when He wills. Man is, therefore, completely in the Hands of Allah in his death, as he was in his birth to which the earlier part of the verse referred.
How sublime are the closing words of the verse,
“Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.”
Because, Allah alone knows the ins and outs of man’s life in this world and his fate in the next, and as Allah is Aware (Wise), be guided by Him, obey Him. And that guidance is provided in the Holy Quran which should be obeyed and not merely recited.