Surah Zalzalah

Surah Zalzalah

Surah al-Zalzalah appears as the 99th surah of the noble Quran in Juz’ 30 with 8 verses. It is most probably revealed in Medina based on its subject matter.

Facts about Surah Zalzalah

Surah al-Zalzalah also called surah Zilzal means the earthquake. It is the 99th surah of the Quran with 8 verses and 36 words. There is a dispute as to whether it was revealed in Mecca or Medina; however it is believed to be revealed late Meccan or early Medinan period based on the style of its verses. The subject matter of surah al-Zalzalah is divided into three parts: 1) Signs of the Hereafter; 2)The earth being a witness to the deeds of man; 3) People being divided into good and evil, receiving the fruit of their action.

99 Surah no.

Juz’ 30 Place

Madani Makki/Madani

93 Order of revelation

8 No. of verses

36 No. of words

158 No. of letters


Arabic Text and Translation of Surah Zalzalah


بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيم

In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, most merciful

إِذا زُلْزِلَتِ الْأَرْضُ زِلْزالَها ﴿1﴾

When the earth is shaken with its [final] earthquake

وَ أَخْرَجَتِ الْأَرْضُ أَثْقالَها ﴿2﴾

and the earth discharges its burdens,

وَ قالَ الْإِنْسانُ ما لَها ﴿3﴾

and man says, “What is [wrong] with it?”

يَوْمَئِذٍ تُحَدِّثُ أَخْبارَها ﴿4﴾

That Day, it will report its news

بِأَنَّ رَبَّكَ أَوْحى‏ لَها ﴿5﴾

Because your Lord has commanded it.

يَوْمَئِذٍ يَصْدُرُ النَّاسُ أَشْتاتاً لِيُرَوْا أَعْمالَهُم ﴿6﴾

That Day, the people will depart separated [into categories] to be shown [the result of] their deeds.

فَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْراً يَرَهُ ﴿7﴾

So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it,

وَ مَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ ﴿8﴾

and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it. 1

In this article you will read the following:

Themes of verses of Surah Zalzalah

Verse(s) Theme
1-3 How the second life will initiate and how bewildering it will be for humans.
4-5 The seemingly lifeless and mute earth which the humans have lived on, thoughtlessly doing all kinds of acts, will speak by God’s command.
6-8 Humans will rise from their graves in different groups to see a complete presentation of their deeds.

Benefits of Reciting Surah al-Zalzalah

  • In a narration from Imam Sadiq (AS) we read,

Do not become tired of reciting surah al-Zalzalah for one who recites this surah in one’s recommended prayers, will not be touched by the harms of an earthquake; moreover he will not die of an earthquake, lightening or other worldly harms. Once he passes away, he is taken to heaven and God says to him, ‘my servant! Choose whatever place you desire’. 2

  • Imam Ridha (AS) quotes the noble prophet (S) saying,

The recitation of surah al-Zalzalah has been considered equal to reciting one fourth of the Quran and reciting it four times is equivalent to reciting the entire Quran. 3

  • The noble prophet (S) is quoted saying,

He who recites two units of prayers on Friday eve and in each unit, after reciting Fatihatul Kitab, recites surah al-Zalzalah fifteen times, God will immune him from the punishment of the grave and the frightful hardships of the hereafter. 4

Note that the recitation of surah al-Zalzalah has to be accompanied with deep contemplation. When a person recites this surah and acknowledges the fact that all the deeds and even his/her thoughts on this planet are recorded and would at a later time be manifested, he/she would be extra cautious as to what he/she does.

Is surah al-Zalzalah Makki or Madani?

There is a dispute as to whether surah al-Zalzalah was revealed in Mecca or Medina. Surah al-Zalzalah is the 99th surah of the Quran and the 93rd surah in the order of revelation. It is the 7th surah revealed in the city of Medina. Some exegetes of the Quran, consider surah al-Zilzal to have been revealed in the year eight after Hijra.

A number of commentators generally refer to surah al-Zilzal as being of the early Medinan period, while others believe that it can be of the late Meccan period.

The subject matter of its verses, which are about Resurrection and the primary signs of this incidence, appears to be like the Meccan surahs, nevertheless, there is a hadith which says that when this Surah was revealed, Abu-Sa’id-Khudri asked the holy Prophet (S) a question about the following verse:

“So, whoever has done an atom’s weight of good shall behold it”,

Based on historical records, Abu-Sa’id joined the Muslims in Medina.

A brief commentary of surah al-Zalzalah

Surah Zalzalah is one of the short chapters of the Quran with profound meanings and verses to contemplate upon, reminding mankind of what path in life to take and keep his goal constantly vibrant.

Three main topics are dealt with in this part:

  1. Events at the end of time concerning planet earth such as an earthquake which throws out its burdens and bears as witness to the acts of man;
  2. People getting divided into two groups based on that which they have done in the material world and
  3. A very precise accounting on the Last Day.

The greatest earthquake

Based on Tafsir Noor of surah al-Zalzalah, the structure of the core of the earth is in a way which has made planet earth susceptible to frequent earthquakes; however, because of the existence of mountains, the earth has turned into a cradle for the life of human beings.

خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ بِغَيْرِ عَمَدٍ تَرَوْنَهَا ۖ وَأَلْقَىٰ فِي الْأَرْضِ رَوَاسِيَ أَن تَمِيدَ بِكُمْ وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ دَابَّةٍ ۚ

He created the heavens without any pillars that you may see, and cast firm mountains in the earth lest it should shake with you, and He has scattered in it every kind of animal. 5

However, many verses of the noble Quran describe the dreadful events prior to the advent of the hereafter, one of which is the greatest earthquake which could possibly happen.

إِذا زُلْزِلَتِ الْأَرْضُ زِلْزالَها ﴿1﴾

When the earth is shaken with its [final] earthquake

The earth throws out that which is inside it

وَ أَخْرَجَتِ الْأَرْضُ أَثْقالَها ﴿2﴾

and the earth discharges its burdens,

وَ قالَ الْإِنْسانُ ما لَها ﴿3﴾

and man says, “What is [wrong] with it?”

Elsewhere in the Quran we read,

وَ أَلْقَتْ مَا فِيهَا وَ تخَلَّتْ ﴿4﴾

and throws out what is in it, emptying itself, 6

Commentators of the Quran have interpreted the burdens of the earth as:

  1. The corpses of people which have been buried inside the earth and will be thrown out by the great earthquake,
  2. The minerals and the treasures of the earth.

Earth, a witness of man’s deeds

يَوْمَئِذٍ تُحَدِّثُ أَخْبارَها ﴿4﴾

That Day, it will report its news

بِأَنَّ رَبَّكَ أَوْحى‏ لَها ﴿5﴾

Because your Lord has commanded it.

One of the beauties in man‘s creation is the justice of the creator. Humans have been given free will yet at the same time, there are a number of sources which serve as witnesses and reporters of man’s deeds:

  1. The seemingly lifeless earth: It is witnessing all that is happening upon it and recording it.

On the Last Day, as it is stated in surah al-Zalzalah, the earth shall narrate that which it has witnesses by the command of the Lord of the world. This means that the earth and what grows from it and all creatures living on it too have a certain level of understanding.

تُسَبِّحُ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَالْأَرْضُ وَمَن فِيهِنَّ ۚ وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلَّا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حَلِيمًا غَفُورًا ﴿44﴾

The seven heavens glorify Him, and the earth [too], and whoever is in them. There is not a thing but celebrates His praise, but you do not understand their glorification. Indeed, He is all-forbearing, all-forgiving. 7

2. Man’s limbs: They too shall testify to what he has done in the material world.
3. Man’s book of deeds: The two angels of Raqib and Atid are constantly busy recording man’s actions in his book of deeds.

وَإِنَّ عَلَيْكُمْ لَحَافِظِينَ ﴿10﴾

Indeed, there are over you watchers,

كِرَامًا كَاتِبِينَ ﴿11﴾

noble writers,

يَعْلَمُونَ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ ﴿12﴾

who know whatever you do 8

Grab every opportunity

Based on the narrations, it is recommended to pray in different parts of the earth as it will testify in favor of you in the other world.

Abu-Sa’id-Khudri has narrated that when they were in the desert they would call to prayer in a loud voice, because he had heard from the Messenger of Allah (S) say:

“There is no Jinn or human or stone that hears it, but does not bear witness to it (on the Last Day).” 9

Elsewhere we read that whenever the commander of the faithful, Imam Ali (AS) distributed the Muslim treasury, he would recite two units of prayers and address the earth as such,

“O’ earth! testify that I filled you with the Muslim treasury based on justice and emptied you of it based on justice.” 10

Scattered people form two groups

In the hereafter, people will appear as scattered locusts 11 so that they will be able to view the fruit of their deeds.

يَوْمَئِذٍ يَصْدُرُ النَّاسُ أَشْتاتاً لِيُرَوْا أَعْمالَهُم ﴿6﴾

That Day, the people will depart separated [into categories] to be shown [the result of] their deeds.

People will depart separated

Different explanations have been provided for verse 6 of surah al-Zalzalah. According to al-Mizan commentary of the Quran,

  1. Every individual will appear with the leader or role model he/she followed in the material world. Hence, the doers of good and evil shall become separated from one another;
  2. Upon returning from the accounting stop, people move towards their eternal abode: hell or heaven.
  3. People will leave their graves and move towards the accounting stop; however, based on the types of acts they have done in the material world, they are distinguished by their appearance. Some have a white shiny face and walk with confidence, while others a dark black face who walk with fear and uncertainty.

Very precise accounting

Based on surah al-Zalzalah, the accounting on Qiyamah is very accurate.

فَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْراً يَرَهُ ﴿7﴾

So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it,

وَ مَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ ﴿8﴾

and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.

In surah Luqman, Luqman tells his son,

يَا بُنَيَّ إِنَّهَا إِن تَكُ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِّنْ خَرْدَلٍ فَتَكُن فِي صَخْرَةٍ أَوْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ أَوْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَأْتِ بِهَا اللَّـهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَطِيفٌ خَبِيرٌ ﴿16﴾

‘O my son! Even if it should be the weight of a mustard seed, and [even though] it should be in a rock, or in the heavens, or in the earth, Allah will produce it. Indeed Allah is all-attentive, all-aware. 12

Defining two important terms

The term mithqal (مثقال) means:

  1. Weight or heaviness;
  2. A scale by means of which things are weighed.

The first meaning is used in these verses.

Commentators have provided different definitions for the word tharrah (ذره):

  1. A small ant,
  2. The dust which sticks onto one’s hand when one puts it on the ground or;
  3. Dust particles floating in the air, seen when a beam of sunlight shines through an opening;
  4. It could also mean as small as an atom.

Some commentators believe that these verses were revealed when a number of the followers of the messenger of God (S) were neglectful of small acts of charity and said that we will be given reward for the things which we like and we do not like small things.

Moreover, they were heedless of small sins. These verses were revealed to encourage them to do even the small acts of charity and to rebuke them about small vices.


References

  1. Saheeh international translation.
  2. Thawabul ‘Amal, p. 124.
  3. ‘Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha, vol. 1, p. 41.
  4. Al-Misbah Kaf’ami, p. 407.
  5. [31:10] Qarai translation.
  6. [84:4]
  7. [17:44] Qarai translation.
  8. [82:10-12] Qarai translation.
  9. Majma’-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 526.
  10. Li’a1-il-Akhbar, vol. 5, p 79 (New edition).
  11. [54:7]
  12. [31:16] Qarai translation.

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Radiyah Shameli
Radiyah Shameli
I am Radiyah Shameil. I write for the blog and am a team member in providing content for courses on “Family in the Quran”. I have a Ph.D. in Islamic studies and am a researcher in the field of women and family in Islam. I teach and research mostly in this area. Currently, I am working on the course “Family in the Quran” and “Parenting”

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