Sūrah al-Muddaththir

Observations on the structure, organization and cohesion of Sūrah al-Muddaththir

Sūrah al-Muddaththir (The Cloaked One) is one of the oldest revealed suwar and is 74th in the Quran’s canonical order. The sūrah encourages the Messenger ﷺ to begin preaching to his people and condemns those who would boldly reject him.

When the entire contents of this relatively short sūrah are laid out, it appears that it forms one large ring structure. The original Arabic has been omitted for brevity sake, so please consult the full sūrah and translation if you are not already familiar with it.

Connections:

[A]/[A’] - The sūrah opens with the Messenger ﷺ being implored to “arise and warn,” and to “declare your Master’s greatness.”1 In contrast, the sūrah concludes with the description of one who turned away from the warning and failed to fear the Afterlife. They rejected the “reminder,” and thus “will not benefit from the intercession” of the believers on Judgment Day.

[B]/[B’] - The Messenger ﷺ being commanded to “purify” and “avoid filth” is paired with the undesirable traits of one who has failed to purify their inner self.

[C]/[C’] - We’re told that we should not “do a favor seeking more,” which pairs nicely with the disbelievers confessing that they “did not feed the poor.” Feeding the poor is a unique favor which typically does not have a worldly return, thus why someone materialistic would shun it.

[D]/[D’] - “Persevere for the sake of your Master,” pairs with the disbelievers saying that they “were not of those who prayed.”

[E]/[E’] - The Day of Judgment is described as a “difficult day, far from easy on the disbelievers.” In contrast to this is the description of the believers which shows them “in Gardens, asking one another about the criminals, ‘What has landed you in Hell?’”

[F]/[F’] - Allah ﷻ then changes subject and focuses on one particular disbeliever2, who would act as an archetype for future deniers of the truth. Allah ﷻ makes special mention of all the blessings He bestowed upon this disbeliever. In the latter half of the sūrah, Allah ﷻ warns us all that, “every soul will be detained for what it has done.” Everything will be accounted for, and thus, a materially blessed disbeliever will have even more to answer for.

[G]/[G’] - The next āyāt outline the process through which this disbeliever arrived at his decision to reject faith, even after it had become clear that it was the Truth. The paired āyah reminds us that we may choose to “take the lead” and accept faith, or “lag behind” and reject belief. The choice is ultimately ours.

[H]/[H’] - In one of what is a few cases in the Quran, Allah ﷻ condemns a disbeliever to Hell while they are still alive. In the condemnation Allah ﷻ says that the Fire will scorch his “bashar (skin).” In a seemingly play on words, Allah ﷻ says in the connected āyāt that the Quran is nothing but a reminder for “al-bashar (humanity)” and that Hell is a warning for “al-bashar (humanity).”

[I]/[I’] - Allah ﷻ informs us of nineteen angels that oversee Hell, a detail we could never have known without Him revealing it. In the related section, Allah ﷻ appropriately says, “No one knows the soldiers of your Master, except Him.”

[J']/[J’] - Allah ﷻ only told us their number to act as a trial for those who disbelieved. The corresponding section explains that those with the disease of hypocrisy in their heart, as well as the disbelievers, will say, “What did Allah intend by this example?” In this way Allah leaves whoever He wills to stray and guides whoever He wills.

[K]/[[K’] - After all the surrounding text focused on the disbelievers and their doubts, Allah ﷻ appears to center the sūrah on the characteristics of the people of faith. They will be certain, increased in faith by way of this revelation, and will have no doubts in it whatsoever.


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As-Salām ʿalāykum all, I’m creating the outline for the book, but would like some feedback before I get too far into writing. Below is how I tentatively plan to organize this book. Does what you read below make sense to you? Keep in mind an audience who may have never heard of anything pertaining to Quran structures…
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Sources

Thank you again, Faris3, for sharing your thoughts on this sūrah and allowing us to build off the research you had emailed us.

1

This āyah is said to be a palindrome; spelled the same forwards and back. The Arabic (excluding the و which simply denotes the beginning of a sentence) is, “ربك فكبر”

2

The reference is to al-Walīd bin al-Mughīrah, who after inclining toward the Quran, denied it publicly in order to win the approval of the Quraysh.

3

Who we accidentally called “Farid” in the Sūrah Qalam post! Sorry, we fixed it!