This surah contrasts the actions and fates of believers vs. unbelievers. Basically, believers will prosper and go to heaven, while unbelievers will suffer and go to hell. The title of the surah comes from a reference to the Day of Resurrection at the end of time, when God will separate the believers from the unbelievers, and send them to their eternal fates (heaven or hell). Here, the “Day of Resurrection,” is also called “The Day of Mutual Neglect,” presumably because everyone will be so preoccupied with their own fate that they will neglect everyone else.
I want to elaborate a bit on a couple points of theology raised by this surah. First, the idea of the Day of Resurrection—a concept shared by Christians. The popular/contemporary view of many Christians today is that, when you die, you immediately go to heaven. But this is not necessarily the view espoused in the Qur’an, or even according to some interpretations of the Bible. The Muslim view, also held by some Christians throughout history (including Martin Luther) seems to be that , when you die, your physical body waits in the ground until the Day of Resurrection, when it is bodily raised. The implications of this are strange. Presumably, everyone who has died so far is not in heaven, but still dead in the ground, awaiting a future resurrection.
The second theological point has to do with salvation—that is, who gets to go to heaven. A popular notion is that Christians are saved by “grace through faith” in Christ, while Muslims are saved by good deeds. However, this surah says, “He will cancel the sins of those who believed in Him and acted righteously.” Thus, the Muslim idea of salvation also rests upon faith and God’s forgiving grace. I suppose my point here is that, while Christians and Muslims usually focus on the differences between their faiths, they actually share some striking similarities.
|Qur'an fragment, circa 911 C.E.|