It means that by choosing to bear the responsibility of that great ‘trust’, man was unjust to himself. He did not consider the huge burden he was taking upon himself, and was totally ignorant of the results of bearing that responsibility. Regarding how man was unjust to himself, Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A) says, ‘He took the responsibility of fulfilling the trust with its rights, and he was unjust to himself. He was ignorant of that in which he entered’. Ibn Abbas (R.A), along with his companions, and Dhahak have also stated, ‘In the verse, the word ‘man’ refers to Adam (A.S). It means that he (Adam) took the responsibility to bear the ‘trust’ but was not able to fulfill it. He fell into a mistake which caused him to be taken out of Paradise’. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 229 Maktaba Rasheediya Queta Pakistan)
Abdullah bin Masood (R.A), as well as Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A), (in another opinion) stated, ‘It was the son of Adam, Qaabeel (Cain) (who was unjust to himself) when he killed his brother Habeel (Abel). He had taken the ‘trust’ from his father to protect the family after he (Adam) journeyed to Makka. (He however, betrayed the trust and killed his brother). (Tafseer Al Bahrul Muheet vol.8 pg. 511 Darul Fikr Beirut 1992)
Some scholars have stated that ‘man’ in the verse refers to the whole mankind. That is, when Allah said, ‘but man bore it. Verily he was unjust and ignorant’, it refers to the whole mankind. However, this does not mean that each and every human being is unjust and ignorant. It indicates to mankind in general, and considers only those who do not fulfill the injunctions of the Shariah, and fail to fulfill the rights of the ‘trust’ with respect to belief in Allah and obedience to Him, to be unjust and ignorant. Hence, based on this explanation, it is seen that blame has not been placed upon any specific individual like Adam (A.S), nor has it been laid on mankind as a whole. Instead, it has been placed upon those individuals who fail to fulfill the rights of the ‘trust’ which has been placed upon them. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 229 Maktaba Rasheediya Queta Pakistan; Ma’ariful Quran vol.7 pg. 255)
Having mentioned about the ‘trust’ placed upon mankind and the importance of fulfilling it, Sura Al Ahzab goes further in verse 73 and states:
73. So that Allah will punish the hypocrites, men and women, and the men and women who are Al-Mushrikun (the polytheists, idolaters, pagans etc). And Allah will pardon the true believers of the Islamic Monotheism, men and women. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Here, it shows that some people will be punished by Allah and others will be rewarded. This retribution and reward are all connected to the trust which man has taken upon him to bear. As for those who fail to establish the trust and disobey Allah, they will be punished for doing so. For those who fulfill the trust and are fully obedient to Allah, they will be rewarded for their good deeds, and will be forgiven for their sins. Thus, punishment will be the result for failing to fulfill the trust, and rewards will be the result of fulfilling it. While explaining this verse, Imam Qurtubi says, ‘It has been said that this reward and punishment are connected to the responsibility which has been placed upon man. Thus, it means that the trust was offered to all the creations, and then the responsibility of bearing it was placed upon man. This occurred so that the Shirk (idolatry) of the Mushrik (polytheist), and the Nifaq (hypocrisy) of the Munafiq (hypocrites) would be manifest, and they will then be punished for these. In a like manner, the Imaan (belief) of the Mu’min (believer) will become apparent, and he will then be rewarded for his beliefs. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 229)
The verse explains that those who made their Imaan apparent, but hid their kufr from the people, would be punished severely for their hypocrisy. Similarly, those whose hearts and actions were filled with idolatry, and joined partners with Allah while opposing the Messengers of Allah, they will also be severely punished for their actions. As for those who believed in Allah and did good deeds, from the males and females, they will be granted mercy and forgiveness from Allah and will be given entry into Paradise. The verse states that ‘Allah is Ever Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful’. It means that Allah’s forgiveness is All Encompassing for the believers, and so, He forgives their past sins and mistakes. He is extremely Merciful, Compassionate and Kind to them, and so, He rewards and honors them in many ways.
SYNOPSIS OF SURA SABA
Sura Saba is from among the Suras which were revealed in Makka, and like other Makkan Suras, it discusses the topic of Islamic beliefs. In this regard, it deals with the fundamentals of Islam and establishes the Oneness of Allah, prophethood and the resurrection.
The Sura begins with the praises and glorification of Allah, who has created all the creations of the heavens and earth. He is the One who administrates the affairs of the world and governs the Universe with His wisdom. He is thus, the Creator, Innovator and the Wise. He is the All Knower who is fully aware of everything in His kingdom and nothing escapes His Knowledge, not even a thing that is to the size of a mustard seed in the heavens and earth. All these great attributes of Allah are proofs that establish the Oneness of the Lord of the worlds.
The Sura then discusses the disbelief of the polytheists with respect to their denial of the hereafter and life after death. On this, the Prophet (S.A) was made to swear by Allah that the hour of Judgment will surely come, and there is no doubt about this.
The Sura also highlights the incidents of some of the prophets of Allah. In this regard, it makes mention of Dawood (A.S) and his son, Sulaiman (A.S), and the great favors, blessings and miracles they were given by Allah. Mention is also made of the doubts of the polytheists which they held regarding the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (S.A). These doubts were cleared up and disproved with irrefutable evidences and unequivocal proofs, just as the existence and Oneness were proven. The Sura then concludes with an invitation to the polytheists to believe in one God, Allah, in whose hand is the governance of His entire creation.
The Sura has been named ‘Saba’ since the incident regarding this nation has been discussed in the chapter. According to many scholars, Saba was a nation who lived in Yemen. They were a people who enjoyed great favors and blessings from Allah. They lived in comfort and happiness and their dwellings were situated in beautiful gardens. However, when they began to disobey Allah, these favors were seized from them, and they were punished by Allah.
COMMENTARY OF SURA SABA
1. All the praises and thanks are to Allah, to Whom belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. His is all the praises and thanks in the Hereafter, and He is the All-Wise, the All-Aware.
The verse explains that perfect and complete praises are for Allah alone, the Great, the Mighty. To Him belongs everything in the Universe with respect to their creation, possession and governance. It is He who has created everything, He possesses everything, and He governs everything. All things therefore, are in His dominion and are owned by Him. All are His slaves and servants, and are under His subjugation and control, and are beneath the power of His decision and choice. All praises are for Him in this world on account of His complete and perfect power and control, and all praises are for Him in the hereafter for His all-encompassing and embracing mercy.
To Him belong praises in all their forms and no one deserves these except Him, for He is the Giver of favors and the grantor of kindness upon the people of this world and those of the hereafter. He is the Most Wise in all that He does, and is fully informed and knowledgeable of His entire creation. Therefore, no objection can be made against Him with respect to His actions.