This is post #27 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).
Allah says, in Surah Al-Burooj:
وَالسَّمَاءِ ذَاتِ الْبُرُوجِ
قُتِلَ أَصْحَابُ الْأُخْدُودِ
Translation: By the sky containing great stars. And [by] the promised Day. And [by] the witness and what is witnessed. Cursed were the companions of the trench. [Surah Al-Buruj, verses 1-4]
The story of Ashaab-ul-Burooj, the People of the Ditch, is pretty well-known; in fact, we have an entire 15-part series on this surah. Check it out insha’Allah.
Allah opens this surahs with testifications. Then he testifies: qutila ashaabul-‘uqdood. ‘uqdood is another word for ditch. Qutila, literally, means “they were killed.” But Ibn Abbaas (radiallahu anhu) said, whenever you read qutila in the Qur’an, it means lu’ina–cursed.
Allah cursed the People of the Ditch. And Allah is not in need of cursing–He can do anything, to anybody, anytime, anywhere. Lu’ina means, they were destroyed.
And they _are_destroyed.
So what great sin did they perpetrate in order to deserve this immense reward–not only being cursed and destroyed, but being documented in the Qur’an, to be recited until the end of time?
إِذْ هُمْ عَلَيْهَا قُعُودٌ
وَهُمْ عَلَى مَا يَفْعَلُونَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ شُهُودٌ
Translation: When they were sitting near it. And they, to what they were doing against the believers, were witnesses. And they resented them not except because they believed in Allah , Al-Aziz, Al-Hamid [Surah Burooj, verses 6-8]
They were burning the believers with fire. Burning with fire is bad enough. Burning believers is worse. And not only that, they were sitting around, watching this happen. Witnessing what was happening.
Imagine that. It’s like Mecca–you see someone say “Laa ilaaha illa Allah” today, and tomorrow, you see them cooking in the sun with a pile of rocks on top of them–like Bilal radiallahu ‘anhu. Or you see them cut to pieces, like Sumaya radiallahu ‘anhaa.
Or, as with the people of the ditch–you see them thrown into a big bonfire and burned alive. While everybody else sits around watching with a bag of popcorn.
How would that make you feel? Would you publicly declare your Islam, knowing your flaming, torturous death was only around the corner?
And this intensified the punishment–that the believers saw this happening, saw it would happen to them, but couldn’t do a single thing about it. Subhanallah.
And so they were destroyed.
And then, a couple verses later, Allah says:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَتَنُوا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَتُوبُوا فَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ جَهَنَّمَ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ الْحَرِيقِ
Translation: Indeed, those who have tortured the believing men and believing women and then have not repented will have the punishment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the Burning Fire. [Surah Burooj, verse 10]
The word fatanuw, translated here as tortured, means … fitnah! You can see that it’s the root word of fitnah. Fitnah, meaning to trial someone, to test them. You can also translate it as “Indeed, those who put to trial the believing men and believing women and then have not repented will have the punishment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the Burning Fire.”
And this is a lesson for all of us. Don’t put believers on trial. Don’t test them. Why? Because Allah connects this to Hellfire.
Sometimes, we see people who start learning, doing this. They ask people, “what’s your opinion on this?” or “what’s your opinion on that?” Why? Not out of seeking knowledge; but to slap a label on them and put them under a fitnah.
Don’t do it. It’s very, very dangerous.
And Allah issues another warning two verses later:
إِنَّ بَطْشَ رَبِّكَ لَشَدِيدٌ
Translation: Indeed, the vengeance (batsh) of your Lord is severe. [Surah Burooj, verse 12]
Batsh means, an extremely harsh yanking or pulling. There’s a story Muhammad Alshareef related, of a man in Egypt, who used to torture Muslims.
This man used to say, “bring your Lord, and I’ll punish Him, too.” One day, he was driving on the highway, behind a semi-truck/pickup-truck. The truck slammed on the brakes; this guy was too slow on the reflexes, and his car slammed into the back of the semi. It was totaled.
But not just that; the truck had in it long poles of steel. When the guy hit it, they flew into the car and ripped him to pieces. The police said, “we had to take him out piece by piece,”–cut a piece off, take it out; cut a piece off, take it out …
Again, whoever puts believers on trial is risking Hellfire. So don’t let that be you.
Wallahu ta’ala ‘alam.
- Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2009.