Having mentioned Allah’s great favours to man by providing conveyances on land and at sea, verses 43 and 44 go further to explain to man that he is totally dependent on Allah, and even though he may wish to use Allah favours to his advantage and forget about Him, He (Allah) still has full control over him and can destroy him at any time. The verses state:
- And if We will, We shall drown them, and there will be no shout (or helper) for them (to hear their cry for help) nor will they be saved.
- Unless it be a mercy from Us, and as an enjoyment for a while.
The verse explains that if Allah wishes to drown people when they are at the sea, then He can do so whenever He wishes. No one can stop Him or overturn His decree. At that time, if they shout and cry for help, no one will be able to help them, come to their rescue or save them. In that state, the only One who can help them is Allah. Only if Allah showers His mercy on those who are on the verge of destruction, can they be saved from Him. Besides this, there is no other way of being saved. In this case, if they are saved, then it will be for a while until death overtakes them at its fixed time.
Having presented evidences of His divine power and ability, and shown His kindness to man, Allah goes further in verses 45 and 46 to highlight the state of the unbelievers where they were blind to the truth and were opposed to guidance and faith (Imaan). He says:
- And when it is said to them: “Beware of that which is before you and that which is behind you, in order that you may receive Mercy.
- And never came an Ayah from among the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of their Lord to them, but they did turn away from it.
The verses explain that when the unbelievers were told to beware and be afraid of the punishment and wrath of Allah that was before them and that which was behind them, and take a lesson from what came to the nations of the past (on account of their denial of the truth), so that mercy can be shown to them, they turned away from such warnings and became arrogant. It means that if they had taken the warnings given, and had believed in Allah and His Messenger, then Allah would have accepted their repentance and belief, and would have protected them from the punishment of this world and the Hereafter. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.5 pg. 285)
However, instead of paying heed to the warnings, the unbelievers turned a ‘blind-eye’ to what was said and remained deep-rooted in their disbelief. In fact, their conduct was such that whenever a warning was given to them, and a sign came to them which had sufficient evidence upon the truth, they turned away in opposition, denial and rejection. (Tafseer At Tabari vol.23 pg. 17)
While explaining this verse, some commentators of the Holy Quran have stated that the statement, ‘Beware of that which is before you’ means ‘fear those punishments and incidents that came to the nations of the past’ and ‘that which is behind you’ means to fear the Hereafter. This explanation has been given by Qatada and Maqatil (A.R).
Other great exegetes like Abdullah bin Abbas (R.A), Ibn Jubair and Mujahid have stated that ‘Beware of that which is before you’ means ‘fear the sins which you have done in the past’, and ‘Beware of that which is behind you’ means ‘fear the consequences of the sins which may be committed in the future’. Hasan Basri (A.R) has stated, ‘that which is in front of you’ means ‘the sins which occurred on one’s account’ and ‘that which is behind you’ means ‘that which still remain of one’s sins’.
Some commentators have stated, ‘that which is in front of you’ means ‘that punishment which comes in the world’ and ‘that which is behind you’ means ‘that which is in the Hereafter’. Some have also stated ‘that which is before you’ means ‘the matter of the hereafter and what they (the unbelievers) have done for it’, and ‘that which is behind you’ means ‘the matters of this world which they were supposed to be careful of and should not have been deceived by it’. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.15 pg. 35 Maktaba Rasheediya Queta Pakistan; Tafseer At Tabari vol.23 pg. 17 Dar Ihya At Turath; Tafseer Al Bahr Al Muheet vol.9 pg. 72 Dar Al Fikr Beirut 1992)
All the above explanations are well accepted since the unbelievers were all warned and told to beware of the punishment of this world which may come to them, and that of the Hereafter which they will suffer on account of their kufr (disbelief). They were warned repeatedly about committing sins, and were told that they must not be deceived by the beauties and joy of the worldly life. They were constantly reminded to look at the nations of the past who were punished severely for their disbelief in Allah and His Messengers, and were requested to take lessons from such occurrences. However, notwithstanding the many warnings and reminders which were given, the unbelievers never paid heed to the teachings of Islam, and so they had to suffer the punishment for their deeds.