Quranic Reflection No 686. Āyat 70: 1 – 2, Immediate Punishment


Most of the Quran reminds us of the mercy of Allah, subhānahu wata‘ālā It is repeated 113 times at the beginning of each sūrah, and twice within Sūrat al-Naml. Indeed the raison d’être of the Messenger of Allah is a mercy not just for all creation (Q 21:107), but so powerful is his blessed existence that Allah discontinued the practice of collective punishment because of it (Q 8:33).

However, there are instances where someone directly challenges the authority of Allah ‘azza wajall, especially when it concerns His chosen ones. On two instances in the Quran – where directly challenged – Allah refers to His authority and responds decisively. Some commentators have suggested that both these instances (Q 8:32 and the above verses) were revealed one after the other about the same person – Nadr ibn Hārith, who mockingly addressed the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam in Masjid al-Harām and said, “O God! If Muhammad [s] is truthful and what he says is from you, strike us with a heavenly stone or afflict us with a painful punishment”(Rūh al-maʿānī, 15:63) His request was fulfilled, and a stone struck him from heaven and killed him, and then this verse was revealed. (Tafsīr Ibn Kathir 8:235; Tafsīr Qurtubi 19:278).

Nevertheless, the most famous tafsīr and explanation for the above verses are that they were revealed after the announcement of the wilāyah of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib ‘alayhis-salām on the day of Ghadīr. ‘Allāmah Amīnī in his magnum opus Al-Ghadīr (1:239) has mentioned 30 references from the commentators of Ahlul Sunnah regarding this event:

On the day of Ghadīr Khumm, Prophet Muhammad (s) summoned the people and said: Ali is the mawla of whom I am mawla. The news quickly spread over all urban and rural areas. When Hārith ibn Nu‘mān al-Fahrī came to know of it he rode his she-camel and came to Madina to see Prophet Muhammad (s). When he reached his destination, he made she-camel sit, alighted from it, approached Prophet Muhammad (s) and said:

You commanded us to testify that there is no god but Allah and that you are the messenger of Allah. We obeyed you. You ordered us to say prayers five times a day and we obeyed. You directed us to pay zakāt and we obeyed. You ordered us to observe fasts during Ramadan and we obeyed. Then you commanded us to perform the pilgrimage to Ka‘bah and we obeyed. But you are not satisfied with all this, and you raised your cousin by the hand and imposed him upon us as our master by saying: Ali is the mawlā of whom I am mawla. Is this imposition from you or from Allah?

Prophet Muhammad (s) replied: By Allah who is the only God, this is from Allah, the Mighty, the Glorious. On hearing this Hārith turned back and proceeded towards his she-camel saying, “O Allah, if what Muhammad says is true then fling on us a stone from the sky and make us suffer severe pain and torture”. He had not yet reached his she-camel when a stone came at him and struck him on his head, penetrated his body and passed out through his back leaving him dead. (Tafsīr al-Tha‘labī, 1:35, Majma’ al-Bayān 10:529)

The disbelievers, as stated in the commentary of 8:32, and a hypocrite as stated in these verses, demanded to experience torment from Allah, which on both occasions seized them. According to the Quran punishment for the unjust during the progress of the worldly material life to spiritual hereafter is inevitable. In this case it was immediate due to the seriousness of the allegation on Allah himself, as well as the denial of both the authority of his Messenger and as well as his successors.

Let this story be a reminder that mercy does not mean that there will never be any kind of punishment. It is also a reminder of the importance of Imam Ali’s wilāyah in our life as we approach the days of Ghadīr. We pray for the embodiment of this wilayāh in our lives and for it to intercede for us in the hereafter. We also continue to pray for the oppressed all over the world, especially the people of Palestine.

Sources: Mahmūd b. ʿAbd Allāh al-Ālūsī, Rūh al-maʿānī fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿazīm; ‘Abd al-Husayn Amini, Al-Ghadir; Ismāʿīl b. ‘Umar Ibn Kathīr al-Dimashqī, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-ʿAzīm; Muhammad b. Ahmad al-. Qurtubī, Al-Jāmiʿ li-ahkām al-Qurʾān; Fadl b. al-Hasan al- Tabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān.