This is a Meccan surah which takes its title from verse 28: "You will see every community kneeling. Every community will be summoned to its record: Today you will be repaid for what you did." This is a reference to the Day of Judgment (also called the Day of Resurrection) at the end of time, when everyone will be judged for their beliefs and deeds, and sent to either heaven or hell. In context, it was spoken as a judgment against polytheistic pagans of Mecca, with whom Muhammad and his early followers clashed.
What is unique about this vision of the Final Judgment is its focus on communities, as opposed to individuals. In western Christianity, and western society in general, salvation is seen as an essentially individual affair. In seventh century Arabia, a tribal society, salvation was seen as a community affair. Communities succeeded or failed together. Pretty much all of the Qur'an is addressed to communities of faith, as opposed to individuals.
Although I don't believe in a literal heaven or hell, or a Day of Judgment for that matter, I like the idea that communities, not just individuals, will be held accountable. Rather than God judging us, however, I think it will be future generations who judge us. In my classes this week, we were talking about how the city of Fullerton, in the 1920s, had an active Ku Klux Klan. Of course, as students today, we judge the community for its racist past. But what I find equally interesting is this question: How will future generations judge our community today? How will future generations judge my community, the Fullerton community, for how we treated the homeless, or undocumented immigrants, or how we polluted the environment and over-developed the land? Taking this historical long view allows us to think more carefully about our actions and our communities.
|The word used for "community" in Islam is "Ummah"|