Observations on how Sūrah an-Naba' is organized in the Quran
Sūrah an-Naba’ (The Momentous News) is a short surah most known for beginning Juz ʿAmma, the last section the Quran was divided into for the ease of memorization. Many start their formal memorization of the Quran from this sūrah.
It appears that the contents of the sūrah can be summarized in the following ring structure below, with the relevant āyah numbers shown in parenthesis:
When the details of each section are laid out, the relationships between sections become more clear (click on the image to zoom in).
The sūrah begins [A] with the disbelievers facetiously asking one another about the Day of Judgment. They speak of it arrogantly as though the Day will never occur. Allah ﷻ censures them here and then brings up the topic of Judgment Day again in the conclusion of the sūrah [A’] where He contrasts their arrogance with the total humility shown by all on the Day of Judgment.
On that Day, all will be standing in order, without a word being shared between them except by Allah’s permission. While the disbelievers were joking about the Day of Judgment in this life, they’ll be standing before their inevitable punishment in the next life saying “If I only I were dust!”
These are two distinct sections where Allah ﷻ pairs items together. Section [B] juxtaposes the Earth with mountains, the sky with the sun, the night with the day and the rain with vegetation. In [B’], Allah ﷻ compares the despair and punishment of Hell with the delights and rewards of Paradise.
The sūrah centers on the inevitability of Judgment Day; a summary of all things preceding and proceeding this section. The Day is coming, and it will be momentous.
In addition to the above breakdown, within Section [B], it appears that there is a mini-ring structure as follows:
Section [D] asks us to take a vast view of the Earth, in which we’ll find the largest structures there to be mountains. In Section [D’] we’re asked to take an expansive view of the sky, in which we’ll find the largest structure to be the sun.
In Section [E], Allah ﷻ says He created us in pairs; males and females. In [E’] He pairs the night and day together. This is echoed in Sūrah al-Layl (The Night) when Allah ﷻ directly compares the night and day with females and males:
(3) وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَىٰ ﴿1﴾ وَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا تَجَلَّىٰ ﴿2﴾ وَمَا خَلَقَ الذَّكَرَ وَالْأُنثَىٰ
By the night when it covers (1) And [by] the day when it appears (2) And [by] He who created the male and female (3)
Of note, sleep is the only subject being excluded from its pair. One might assume that sleep should be paired with “waking up”. Interestingly, the central theme of this surah is about the Day of Judgment where humanity will truly “wake up” to reality.
It’s as if this pairing is not mentioned explicitly to suggest that just as we may find it obvious that after sleep comes waking up, it should also be obvious that after death (i.e., ‘sleep’ in the grave) comes resurrection (i.e., ‘waking up’).
وَاللّهُ أَعلَمُ - And Allah knows best
Khan, Nouman. “Surah An-Naba - Day 1 - Ramadan with the Quran - Nouman Ali Khan” YouTube, uploaded by Bayyinah Institute, May 27, 2017, https://youtu.be/eWDyvCiMIAc