This is a Medinan surah which contrasts the eternal fates of the believers and the unbelievers. Basically, the unbelievers will go to hell, where there will be “chains, iron collars…blazing fire…and a painful torment.” The believers, by contrast, will enter a garden of paradise, where they will “sit on couches, feeling neither scorching heat nor biting cold, with shady branches spread above them and clusters of fruit close at hand.” They will be served by beautiful youths in a place of “bliss and great opulence.” Heaven, in this context, sounds like the palace of an Arabian king or tribal chief.
What makes this a Medinan (as opposed to Meccan) surah is its emphasis on not just right belief, but right practice. Those who get to go to heaven will not just believe the right things; they will also “fulfill their vows” and “give food to the poor, the orphan, the captive.” Thus, this “fleeting life” is a test which will determine each human’s eternal fate.
|Muhammad visiting Paradise.|