Reflection No. 191 on Q 44:29 – Weeping of the Heaven and the Earth
فَمَا بَكَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ السَّمَاءُ وَالْأَرْضُ
Famā bakat ‘alayhimus-samā’ wal-ardhu
And the Heaven and the Earth did not weep for them
(Sūratud Dukhān, No. 44, Āyat 29)
When a believer dies the loss is felt by creation beyond the immediate circle of family and friends. The world loses a worshipper of God, and the vacuum this creates saddens the Universe. The verse above is part of a passage where Allah talks about the rejecters of faith and the fact that they left behind all their worldly achievements when they passed on to the next world. He says in the above verse that the Heaven and the Earth did not weep for them. This means that there are times when the Heaven and earth weep for those who die. They do not weep for everyone, but they mourn the death of a believer who was loved by God.
History relates that when Imam Amīrul Mu’minīn Ali (a) was passing by the city of Madā’in and witnessed the ruins of the castles of the Sassanian Kings like Anushirwān, a companion of Imam composed poetry on how the only thing that remained of these once great Kings was the sound of the wind as it whistled through the ruins. Imam Ali (a) turned to him and said: Why do you not recite what God has said: How many of the gardens and fountains have they left behind! And cornfields and splendid places! And goodly things wherein they rejoiced; Thus (it was), and We gave them as a heritage to another people. So the heaven and the earth did not weep for them, nor were they respited. (Q 44:25-29)
The sky and the earth are in tune with what happens within them and sense the events that befall human beings. This sensitivity and reaction to the death of a believer is termed as weeping and grief. It is though all of creation is in harmony with the Will of God. The Holy Prophet (s) says: Every believer has a gate through which his action rise [towards the heaven] and a gate through which his sustenance comes down [to the earth]. When he dies, these two [gates] weep for him.
It has been narrated that this form of weeping of the Heaven and Earth is manifested through natural signs. It has been reported in a Hadith: When Husayn son Ali son of Abū Tālib (a) was killed the Heaven wept, and its weeping was the reddening of its sides. Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq (a) says: The Heaven wept for Yahya son of Zakaria (a) and Husayn son of Ali (a) for forty days and did not weep for any but them. He was asked, ‘How did it weep?’ He said: It would rise [at sunrise] red and set [at sunset] red. This was a universal (‘umūmi) weeping for them. The grief for a believer is specific to the location (mawdhū‘ī)
Source: Āyatuallāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.); Tafsīre Namūne;
Aghā Muhsin Qarā’atī Kāshānī,