In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
On the day when God’s enemies will be gathered together before the fire, they will be driven onwards until, when they reach it, their ears, their eyes and their very skins will bear witness against them, speaking of what they used to do [on earth]. They will ask their skins: Why did you bear witness against us? To which they will reply: God, who gave speech to all things, has made us speak. It is He who created you in the first instance, and to Him you now return. You did not try to hide yourselves so that your ears, eyes and skins could not be made to testify against you. Yet you thought that God did not know much of what you were doing. And it is this thought of yours which you entertained about your Lord that brought you to perdition, so that you are now among the lost. If they resign themselves to patience, the fire will be their home; and if they pray to be allowed to make amends, they will not be allowed to do so.
(Clearly Expounded: Surah : Fussilat: 41: 19-24)
The unbelievers have been told of God’s power over the universe and mankind. Now the surah tells them of His power over their own selves. They have no authority over themselves, and no part of them is beyond the reach of His power. Even their ears, eyes and skins obey Him. Their organs too disobey them so as to be witnesses against them on the Day of Judgment.
There is a great surprise in this very difficult situation in which they see their own senses and faculties obeying God and doing as they are bid. In this situation they are branded as enemies of God! What fate will God’s enemies suffer? They are herded together, from all generations, like a flock of sheep, and driven to the fire. When they stand close to it and the reckoning begins, they find themselves facing witnesses whom they did not reckon with. Their tongues, long used to lie, fabricate falsehood and engage in ridicule are now tied, while their ears, eyes and skins rebel against them obeying their Lord. They report on what they used to consider secret. They used to hide themselves, thinking that God would not see them conceal their intentions and crimes. But they did not try to hide themselves from their own ears, eyes or skins. How could they, when these faculties are part of them? Now, these publicize what the unbelievers thought to be concealed from all creatures and from God Almighty as well.
As God so commands their own organs, they are overwhelmed and respond in complete obedience: They will ask their skins: Why did you bear witness against us? They will put the facts clearly before them, attempting to hide nothing: To which they will reply: God, who gave speech to all things, has made us speak. It is He who made tongues the organs of speech. He can easily give speech to other organs. He gave speech to all things, making them speak and explain things as they are. It is He who created you in the first instance, and to Him you now return. From Him all originate, and to Him all shall return. There is no escape from His authority, neither at the beginning, nor at the end. Their minds used to deny this; now their skins state it to them in an undeniable way.
The remainder of the comments may be a continuation of what their own organs say to them, or equally it may be a comment on this amazing situation: You did not try to hide yourselves so that your ears, eyes and skins could not be made to testify against you. It never occurred to you that these, your organs, could rebel against you. In fact, you could not have hidden yourselves from your organs even if you had tried. Yet you thought that God did not know much of what you were doing. Your foolish and ignorant thoughts deceived you, leading you to hell: And it is this thought of yours which you entertained about your Lord that brought you to perdition, so that you are now among the lost.
We then have the final comment: If they resign themselves to patience, the fire will be their home. What an absurd situation. Patience now entails enduring the fire. It is no longer the patience that withstands adversity in order to achieve a cherished goal and earn reward from God. It is a sort of patience that incurs the penalty of hell where they abide: And if they pray to be allowed to make amends, they will not be allowed to do so.
There is no way back, no remonstration or acknowledgement of error will suffice. It is customary for admissions of error to be coupled with a request for forgiveness, after removing the causes of strained relations. Now, no admission of error is allowed, let alone forgiveness and improved relations.