English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Chapter 99: Al-Zilzal — The Shaking (Revealed at Makkah: 8 verses)
The title of this chapter, Shaking, occurs in the first verse which hints at the severe shaking destined to bring about a transformation first in Arabia and later on in the whole world. It is one of the earliest revelations.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
99:1 When the earth is shaken with her shaking,
99:2 and the earth brings forth her burdens,
99:3 and man says: What has happened to her?
99:4 On that day she will tell her news,
99:5 as if your Lord had revealed to her.1
99:6 On that day people will come forth, in diverse bodies, that they may be shown their works.
99:7 So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it.
99:8 And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.2
- The first verse speaks of a violent shaking of the earth. That such a shaking would take place at the Resurrection cannot be denied. That it took place in the Holy Prophet’s lifetime is a fact. This was the shaking which brought about that wonderful transformation in Arabia, and then in the whole world, which is spoken of in the last chapter. The second verse speaks of the earth as bringing forth her burdens. This has been taken as signifying both the bringing forth of the dead and the yielding of her hidden treasures. How the earth is bringing forth her hidden treasures of mineral wealth shows the wonderful knowledge of the future disclosed in the Quran. That these are the preliminaries of a great transformation is the one theme of these early revelations. The transformation brought about in the Prophet’s lifetime was in fact the first stage in the greater transformation to be brought about in the whole world later on. Verses 3–5 indicate that, at the happenings referred to in the first two verses, man will wonder and cry out, what has happened to the earth? This shows that extraordinary happenings will be witnessed by man in this very life. The earth will tell her news, that is to say, great secrets hitherto unknown will be revealed. This is further stressed in v. 5, as if your Lord had revealed to her. In other words, as revelation discloses things which are unknown to man, so will great secrets hitherto unknown be revealed. Maybe there is a deeper reference here that in the wake of these extraordinary happenings will come a general spiritual awakening, as if God had revealed to the earth itself. ↩
- People will be shown their works in the Resurrection by being made to taste of their fruits, but they can also see the good or evil of their works in this life. Good and evil, when practised on a large scale, bring their reward or requital in this life as well. Note that the words here are whoever does, and thus include both the Muslim and the non-Muslim. Even a non-Muslim who does an atom’s weight of good will have its reward, and a Muslim who does an atom’s weight of evil will be requited for it. ↩