The unbelievers say: “What! After we have become dust, we and our forefathers, shall we be brought back (to life)” We have been promised this before, we and our forefathers! This is nothing but fables of the ancients.” Say: “Go all over the earth and see what happened in the end to the guilty.”
Do not grieve over them, nor be distressed by what they scheme. They ask: “When will this promise be fulfilled, if what you say be true?” Say: “It may well be that something of that which you so hastily demand has already drawn close to you.” Your Lord is indeed most bountiful to people, but most of them are ungrateful. And indeed your Lord knows all that their hearts conceal and all that they bring into the open. There is nothing that is hidden in the heavens or the earth but is recorded in a clear book. (The Ants; Al-Naml: 27: 67-75).
Resurrection and the life to come make up the most difficult point to accept by the unbelievers. They reject this argument completely, claiming that since their forefathers were similarly warned and nothing happened to bring them back to life, then all claims about the hereafter are baseless. In order to emphasize their rejection of this concept, they hasten the coming of the punishment unbelievers are threatened with.
In a short verse, the surah gives an impression of the forthcoming horror, imparting a touch of ridicule of their attitude: “Say: It may well be that something of that which you so hastily demand has already drawn close to you.” Thus the surah strikes fear in their hearts and makes them worry about the impending punishment. It could easily be close coming from behind, like someone riding behind another. Yet they cannot perceive it. Thus, they are hastening it when it is closely overtaking them. What a frightening surprise to fit their ridicule.
But who can tell? What God has kept for Himself will remain hidden behind a curtain that reveals nothing whatsoever. Something very serious, extremely terrible could be moments away. It is wise, then, to be warned and to be ready at all times to what may lie behind the thick curtains.
“Your Lord is indeed most bountiful to people, but most of them are ungrateful.” Perhaps one of the most important aspects of God’s bounty is that He allows people respite when they do wrong or fail to do what is required of them. He does not hasten His punishment, giving them chance after chance to reflect on their position, repent of their mistakes, and turn back to the right path. Nevertheless, most of them are ungrateful for the grace God bestows on them. Rather, they ridicule the whole idea and hasten their own punishment, or continue in their erring ways, refusing to reflect and take heed. “And indeed your Lord knows all that their hearts conceal and all that they bring into the open.” He gives them this respite although He is fully aware of the feelings they harbor in their hearts as also what they declare by word and deed. This means that the respite is given them in the full knowledge of their actions and feelings. But they will inevitably have to face the reckoning of all this.
This round concludes with a statement emphasizing God’s perfect knowledge that overlooks nothing anywhere in the universe: “There is nothing that is hidden in the heavens or the earth but is recorded in a clear book.” Let imagination travel anywhere in the universe, thinking of any hidden thing: A secret, object, piece of news or information, force or power; it is all recorded and included in God’s knowledge. Nothing is lost or overlooked. God’s knowledge is emphasized throughout the surah, and this reference to it here is just one of many.
Having emphasized the point on God’s perfect knowledge, the surah moves on to speak about the differences among the Children of Israel on fundamental issues. What the Qur’an states concerning these differences is part of God’s knowledge, and it provides the final, indisputable word on these issues. It is an example of how God judges between people in dispute. This is stated so that it provides some comfort to the Prophet so that he would leave them to God to judge between them as He pleases.
“This Qur’an explains to the Children of Israel most of that over which they disagree.”
The Christians have long been in dispute concerning Jesus Christ and Mary, his mother. Some said that the Christ was purely human, while others maintained that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three different forms in which God reveals Himself to mankind. They allege that God is made of these three elements, making Jesus the Son. Thus, God the Father came down in the form of the Holy Spirit and took human form inside Mary and was born in the form of Jesus. Others still said that the Son is not eternal like the Father, but created in this world. As such, he is of a lower status than the Father and subject to Him. A different group denied that the Holy Spirit was one of the three elements. The Council of Nicaea held in 325 AD and the Council of Constantinople held in 381 decided that the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal to the Father in divinity. It further decided that the Son was born from the Father in eternity and that the Holy Spirit emanates from the Father. Likewise, the Council of Toledo, held in 589, also made the same decision concerning the Holy Spirit. The Eastern and Western Churches split over this point, and continued to differ. The Qur’an gives the final word to end all such disputes. It describes the Christ as God’s ‘Word that He gave to Mary and a soul from Him.’ (4: 171) He is certainly a human being, no more: ‘He was nothing but a servant of Ours whom We had graced and whom We had made an example for the Children of Israel.’ (43: 59)