The Prophetic mission called the idolaters to believe in Divine Unity in Lordship (tawḥīd al-rubūbiyyah): that God was their Lord (rabb) and the Lord of all things. The Prophet called them to this belief with a mixture of glad tidings and warnings, warning especially those who denied that God could punish them in this world by destroying them and in the Hereafter with everlasting punishment on the Day of Judgement. This is essential for the success of the Prophet’s mission as, were there no accounting or recompense on the Day of Resurrection, then there would be no point or benefit for believing in monotheism or prophethood.
By taking up deities other than God, the polytheists had grievously rejected the doctrines of Divine Unity (tawḥīd), Prophethood (nubuwwah), and the Resurrection (maʿād). They were especially obstinate in their rejection of the Resurrection and would persistently deny it and mock it in any way they could. This was because in the falsity of the Resurrection they saw the falsity of the other two doctrines.
This chapter discusses the Resurrection and their denial of it; it begins with this discussion and concludes with it. However, it does not discuss the Resurrection in of itself but insofar as it is a Day of recompense (jazāʾ) and that it is God, their Lord, who has promised them this day, and there is no doubt in God’s promise.
Therefore, when the discussion turns to arguments for the Resurrection, God employs evidence for Divine Unity in the heavens, the earth, and souls, as well as the punishments God inflicted on previous nations after inviting them to believe in Divine Unity and their rejection of His messengers. This is done only in order to establish Divine Unity to establish thereby the Day of Recompense which God has promised, and that God does not break His promises which He has given to His messengers. In this way, He undercuts their rejection of the Recompense, which they had relied on in their efforts to nullify the doctrine of divine unity and the prophetic mission because, without the Resurrection, belief in these two doctrines is meaningless, as we have already said.
The chapter is of Meccan provenance, as shown by the tone of its verses, and there is no disagreement about this. One of its finest verses is:
- I did not create the jinn and the humans except that they may worship Me (51:56).
The first group of verses we will discuss represent the opening of the discussion, which declare that the recompense they have been promised is real and that their rejection of it is a falsehood. Then it describes the Day of Recompense and the condition of the godwary and the deniers on it.