Quranic Exegesis


Mufti Muhammad Qasim Attari

Allah Almighty states:

اِنَّا نَحْنُ نُحْیِ الْمَوْتٰی وَ نَکْتُبُ مَا قَدَّمُوْا وَ اٰثَارَہُمْ ؕ

We will resurrect the dead, and We record that which they have sent forth and the traces they have left behind.[1]


The summary of this verse is that on the Day of Judgement, Allah Almighty will resurrect the dead through His power, and He is recording the good and evil acts they do in the world so that they can be recompensed accordingly. The traces and practices left behind, be they righteous or evil, are also written.[2]

Three things have been stated in the part of the verse mentioned above: (1) اِنَّا نَحْنُ نُحْیِ الْمَوْتٰی “We will resurrect the dead” (2) وَ نَکْتُبُ مَا قَدَّمُوْا “And We record that which they have sent forth” (3) وَ اٰثَارَہُمْ “and the traces they have left behind.”

The first part of the verse speaks about belief in the Day of Judgement: this is when Allah Almighty will resurrect the dead, and people will be taken to account for their deeds. Those deeds are being recorded at this very moment, as mentioned in the next part of the verse.

The second part of the verse mentions deeds being written down. The Almighty states: وَ نَکْتُبُ مَا قَدَّمُوْا “We record that which they have sent forth.” This refers to those acts which a person carries out himself, such as offering salah, fasting, performing hajj, giving zakat, reciting the Quran, performing dhikr, and reciting alawāt,.

The third part speaks about further things being recorded. Allah Almighty states, وَ اٰثَارَہُمْ “and the traces they have left behind.”

There are four interpretations of آثار, i.e. traces:

One is that the new religious practices people invent and leave behind are being recorded. These practices can be good or bad; their rulings differ respectively. New religious innovations which are good are known as “good innovations”, such as compiling the Quran in book form; adorning masjids; making mihrabs and minarets; founding the sciences of Arabic grammar, syntax, and others; forming the various methods of transmitting reward to the deceased (īāl al-thawāb), such as gathering on the 3rd day, 40th day, or on an annual basis; holding gatherings of Mawlid and events on the Prophetic biography; and establishing new ways of expressing love for the Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, be it in the form of processions or other assemblies.

Those who invent these new practices and those who act upon them will both be rewarded. In contrast, those who invent bad practices in the name of religion—i.e. evil innovations—will be sinful, and so will those who adopt these practices. Regarding both forms of innovations, the beloved Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم clearly stated:

Whosoever invented a good practice in Islam, will receive reward for inventing it and the reward of those who act upon it without any reduction in the reward of the latter. And whosoever invented a bad practice in Islam, will receive the sin of inventing that bad practice and the sin of those who act upon it without there being any reduction in the sin of those who act upon it.[3]

The second interpretation regarding the traces which are recorded in one’s book of deeds is that it refers to a person’s good and bad deeds that do not fall into the category of innovations, but remain after a person’s death. Some examples of good deeds are as follows:

1.   For a person to teach religious knowledge whose students then continue to propagate this knowledge after his death.

2.   For somebody to build a religious seminary in which students of knowledge continue to study after that person’s demise.

3.   To author an Islamic book which continues to be published after the author’s passing.

4.   To construct a masjid in which people continue offering salah even after the founder’s death.

5.   Providing water for people by having a well dug that people continue to benefit from after that person’s departure from the world.

The following are some examples of bad deeds:

1.   Making a film studio, cinema, video shop or music house, and for films and music to continue to be recorded, played and sold there after his death.

2.   For a person to make a pub or brothel in which impermissible acts take place, which continue to occur after his death.

3.   Creating a website or social media page dedicated to spreading content that is immoral, indecent and revolves around nudity, which people continue to view after his death and incur sin.

4.   Setting up a place of gambling where people continue to gamble even after that person’s death.

5.   To invent laws that oppose Islam or are oppressive in nature, which then continue to be acted upon after their inventor’s death.

The good and bad actions mentioned above are not connected to the religion whereby they can be classed as good or bad innovations. Rather, they are actions that will remain; if they are good, then they will continue to be recorded as good deeds for the one who initiated them, and if they are bad, they will be recorded as sins in the book of deeds of the one who started them. We should assess our actions and reflect on the following: will virtues be added to our book of deeds after our death, or will the burden of sins continue to increase?

The third commentary in relation to the traces which are recorded in the books of deeds, is that it is in reference to the steps worshippers take towards the masjid to offer salah in congregation. When viewing the verse in this meaning, the circumstances in which this verse was revealed are that Bani Salamah would live on the outskirts of Madinah al-Munawwarah and wished to take up residence closer to the masjid. It was on this occasion that this verse was revealed and the Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم informed them that their footsteps are recorded, and thus, they should not change their homes (meaning, the further away they are, the more steps they will take, and the more reward they will receive).[4]

We come to know from this that the one who walks towards the masjid to offer salah in congregation is rewarded for every step. The one who walks a greater distance will receive greater reward. In fact, his rank is increased by one and one of his sins is forgiven with each step. The beloved Prophet صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “When a person performs wudu in a good manner and leaves for the masjid with salah being the reason for going (towards masjid), his rank is increased by one and one of his sins is forgiven in exchange for every step he takes.”[5]

The noble Companions رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُم were very desirous of amassing good deeds. Because one is rewarded for every step taken towards the masjid, we find in their lives accounts of them deciding to live far from the masjid to maximise their good deeds. They would then ensure they offered congregational salah on time. It is unfortunate that in today’s day and age, despite having homes close to the masjid, it has become difficult for people to attend the masjid for congregational salah, even though this is necessary (wājib) for men.

May Allah Almighty grant us true guidance and the desire to gather good deeds.اٰمِیْنْ

The fourth explanation of traces being written down in the book of deeds is regarding every step that is taken for every good or bad purpose. This includes a righteous step towards, for example, a masjid, madrassa, a gathering of sacred knowledge, the company of the righteous, visiting a sick person or attending a funeral. Conversely, it could be a step towards something bad, such as going to the cinema or sitting in bad company or places of gambling and alcohol. Elaborating on this Quranic verse, Sayyidunā Qatādah رَضِىَ اللّٰهُ عَـنْهُ states, “Allah Almighty counts that footstep which was taken in obedience to Him and also that which was taken in disobedience. So, O people, whoever amongst you has the ability to have his footsteps recorded in obedience to Allah Almighty, he should do so.”[6]

May Allah Almighty grant us the ability to reflect upon our actions, perform good deeds in abundance, and carry out righteous acts that will remain after death.

اٰمِیْنْ بِجَاہِ خاتَمِ النَّبِیّٖن صلَّی اللہُ عَلَیْہ ِوَاٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّمَ

[1] [Translation of Quran (Kanz-ul-‘Irfan)] (Parah 22, Sūrah Yāsīn, Verse 12)

[2] Al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr, Sūrah Yāsīn verse 12, vol. 9, pp. 257-258

[3] aīh Muslim, p. 394, Hadith 1,017

[4] Sunan al-Tirmidhī, vol. 5, p. 154, Hadith 3,237

[5] aī al-Bukhārī, vol. 1, p. 233, Hadith 647

[6] Al-Dur al-Manthūr, Sūrah Yāsīn, verse 12, vol. 7, p. 47




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