In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Ha. Mim. The revelation of this book is from God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing, who forgives sins, accepts repentance, is severe in retribution and limitless in bounty. There is no deity other than Him. To Him is the ultimate return. “
(The Forgiving, Ghafir; 40: 1-3)
This surah deals with the major issues of truth and falsehood, faith and unfaith, the message and those who reject it, as well as unjustifiable tyranny and how God smites tyrants who seek to impose their will on others. It also refers to the position of believers who follow divine guidance and obey God’s commandments. It mentions how the angels pray that they may be forgiven their sins, and how God answers their prayers. It also speaks about the reward awaiting them in the life to come.
Such being its subject matter, the whole atmosphere of the surah is one of a battle, the battle between truth and falsehood, faith and tyranny. This is interspersed with an air of grace and mercy whenever the believers are mentioned.
The general atmosphere is generated through a description of how earlier communities were destroyed as a result of their opposition to divine faith, as well as several images of the Day of Judgment.
Fittingly, the opening of the surah uses short phrases that carry a distinctive beat: “Who forgives sins; accepts repentance; is severe in retribution; limitless in bounty; there is no deity other than Him; to Him is the ultimate return.” These phrases sound like hammers striking in unison, with harmony between meaning and rhythm. Note also that words like “might” and “power” are frequently used in the surah.
As a whole, the surah has a powerful effect on us, portraying as it does, scenes of the Day of Judgment and images of the fate of earlier communities. At times, it softens its rhythm so as to gently touch our hearts, showing us images of the angels who carry God’s throne, as well as those around it, praying to God to bestow His grace on His devoted servants.
The same may be said regarding the verses that refer to universal scenes or to the finer elements of the human soul, as both provide evidence in support of the truth of faith. In all such images, there is evident harmony and consistency, the whole ambience perfectly fitting the surah’s subject matter.
The surah may be divided into four parts. The first begins with two separate letters: “Ha. Mim. The revelation of this book is from God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing.” This is followed by the short phrases with their distinctive beat, to which we referred earlier.
The surah then states that the whole universe submits to God and obeys Him. Only the unbelievers dispute God’s revelations, thus they separate themselves from the rest of the universe. Therefore, the Prophet should pay no attention to them, no matter how affluent and well pleased they appear to be. They will inevitably face the same fate suffered by earlier communities of unbelievers. God smote them with a stern punishment. Nevertheless, more suffering awaits them in the life to come. By contrast, the angels carrying God’s throne, as well as those surrounding it, declare their belief in their Lord, address their worship to Him alone, and pray for the forgiveness of the believers among the dwellers of the earth, as well as for their success and
At the same time, the surah gives an image of the unbelievers when the entire universe, which believes in God, calls out to them on the Day of Resurrection, saying: “Indeed, greater than your present loathing of yourselves is God’s loathing of you when you were called to the faith and you rejected it.” (Verse 10).
In their position of humiliation, which contrasts with their arrogance in this present life, they admit their faults and acknowledge their Lord, but such realization is now of no use to them. They are only reminded of what they used to do when they associated partners with God and arrogantly turned away from His guidance.
This image of the hereafter is followed by one presenting people’s situation in this present life: “He it is who shows you His signs and sends down sustenance from the sky for you.” (Verse 13) They are so reminded in order that they may turn to their Lord and declare their belief in Him as the only God: “Pray to God, then, sincere in your faith in Him alone, however hateful this may be to the unbelievers.” (Verse 14).
The surah then adds a strong warning of that fearful day, and follows this with an image of how they stand on that day: “The Day when they shall come forth, with nothing about them concealed from God.” (Verse 16) Those who are arrogant, tyrannical or disputant will all disappear into insignificance: “With whom does sovereignty rest today? With God, the One who holds absolute sway over all that exists.” (Verse 16) The surah goes on to give further images of that day when judgment over all belongs to God alone. All those worshipped instead or alongside Him are nowhere to be seen.