(99:7-8) A Subtle Stretch

فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًۭا يَرَهُۥ ٧
So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it.

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍۢ شَرًّۭا يَرَهُۥ ٨
And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.

There is a subtle difference between these two verses which doesn’t translate in the English. When describing an atoms weight of good, the words (ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًۭا) have no ghunnah (i.e. stretch) between them, requiring the reader to continue without elongating the word. In the following verse, Allah ﷻ repeats a similar phrase but this time describing an atoms weight of sin: (ذَرَّةٍۢ شَرًّۭا). This time, a ghunnah is found between the two words, requiring a reciter to stretch the end of the first word for 2 moments before continuing with the rest of the verse.

Why is this difference there? There is a wonderful hadith of the Prophet ﷺ which perhaps enlightens us on some of the wisdoms:

أخرج الطبراني في “المعجم الكبير” (8/185) ، وأبو نعيم في “حلية الأولياء” (6/124) ، والبيهقي في “شعب الإيمان” (6650) ، من طريق القاسم بن عبد الرحمن، عن أبي أمامة، عن رسول الله صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم، قال:
إِنَّ صَاحِبَ الشِّمَالِ لِيَرْفَعُ الْقَلَمَ سِتَّ سَاعَاتٍ عَنِ الْعَبْدِ الْمُسْلِمِ الْمُخْطِئِ أَوِ الْمُسِيءِ، فَإِنْ نَدِمَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ اللهَ مِنْهَا أَلْقَاهَا ، وَإِلَّا كُتِبَتْ وَاحِدَةً .
“Truly the Angel on the left [of a person] withholds from recording a sin committed by a Muslim servant for a period of six ‘hours’. If the servant regrets committing the sin and asks Allah for forgiveness, the Angel does not write it down. Otherwise, the angel records it as one bad deed.”
[Tabarani, Mu`jam al-Kabir]

When a servant commits a sin, Allah ﷻ commands the angel to refrain from writing the sin down for a period of 6 hours, but not for a good deed. The miracle in the subtlety of this verse is how this hesitation of the angel is captured within its recitation; a good deed is written immediately as soon as it is performed, and the verse has no stretch between the two words. A sin however is delayed, waiting to see how a servant reacts following their misdemeanour. This hesitation is symbolised in the stretch at the end of the word ذَرَّةٍۢ before stating the word شَرًّۭا.

What’s even more miraculous is how the stretch isn’t a break, but rather a lengthening of the word to facilitate a type of pause. A clean break may give the impression the nature of the act was misunderstood or unknown. To the contrary, Allah ﷻ wants to make known that He is aware of the act being done, but is deliberately holding off recording it out of mercy for His servants. It’s like when a parent is counting to three as they warn their child of a misdemeanour, gradually stretching the numbers out as they get closer to the end. One…. Twwwooooo… This is how the angel is commanded to view our sin.

What’s more profound is when we consider other hadith which describe the nature of deeds and how they are recorded, the Prophet ﷺ teaches:

وَعَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: ” إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَتَبَ الحسناتِ والسيِّئاتِ: فَمَنْ هَمَّ بِحَسَنَةٍ فَلَمْ يَعْمَلْهَا كَتَبَهَا اللَّهُ لهُ عندَهُ حَسَنَة كَامِلَة فَإِن هم بعملها كَتَبَهَا اللَّهُ لَهُ عِنْدَهُ عَشْرَ حَسَنَاتٍ إِلَى سَبْعِمِائَةِ ضِعْفٍ إِلَى أَضْعَافٍ كَثِيرَةٍ وَمَنْ هَمَّ بسيئة فَلَمْ يَعْمَلْهَا كَتَبَهَا اللَّهُ عِنْدَهُ حَسَنَةً كَامِلَةً فَإِن هُوَ هم بعملها كتبهَا الله لَهُ سَيِّئَة وَاحِدَة “
“God records good deeds and evil deeds.
1) If anyone intends to do a good deed but does not do it, God enters it for him in His record as a complete good deed.
2) and if he intends to do a good deed and does it, God enters it for him in His record as ten to seven hundred and many more times as much.
3) If anyone intends to do an evil deed and does not do it, God enters it for him in His record as a complete good deed;
4) but if he intends to do it and does it, God records it for him as one evil deed.”
[Bukhari and Muslim]

The nature of a good deed is clear; Allah ﷻ does not hesitate in writing it down the moment it is intended, hence the immediacy in stating its nature when mentioned in the verse. Furthermore, Allah ﷻ knows our thoughts before we even know them. A stretch would not be fitting for Him as it would suggest the reward was dependent on the action, not the intention – something Allah ﷻ already knows! On the other hand, the reason a stretch is there when stating the nature of a bad deed is because its nature is only determined after the sin has been committed. If a person intends a sin and does not commit it, it would be written down as a good deed! The stretch symbolises the pause between the intention and the action. Moreover, even after committing a sin, Allah ﷻ can convert them into good deeds once they have been forgiven, but good deeds would never become bad deeds. Allah states:

إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَءَامَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلًۭا صَـٰلِحًۭا فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ يُبَدِّلُ ٱللَّهُ سَيِّـَٔاتِهِمْ حَسَنَـٰتٍۢ ۗ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ غَفُورًۭا رَّحِيمًۭا ٧٠
As for those who repent, believe, and do good deeds, they are the ones whose evil deeds Allah will change into good deeds. For Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

In a beautiful hadith, the Prophet ﷺ describes how the last person to enter paradise will be questioned about their sins. Out of mercy for them, their major sins are hidden and only the minor sins are accounted for. After intense questioning, Allah ﷻ states: “For each of your sins you shall have in its place a reward.” Surprised, the man turns back to his record and protests; “I have done sins that are not found on here!”. The Prophet ﷺ laughed so much when narrating this, his beautiful molars were visible to his companions .

Our sins, through our repentance, become our reward. The stretch symbolises the
“pending” moments between us committing them and our final breath.

What’s interesting to observe is that both verses contain a stretch before the final word of both verses (يَرَهُۥ), suggesting a delay between the deed and it being accounted. The obvious reason for this is to symbolise the wait until we meet our Lord, that our deeds and sins will be held before us when we meet Him. But the stretch also indicates a delay in determining the nature of the deed we have done even after we commit them. Our deeds, good or bad, are determined only when we meet Allah ﷻ with correct faith and sound intentions. In surah Al-Kahf, Allah ﷻ describes:

قُلْ هَلْ نُنَبِّئُكُم بِٱلْأَخْسَرِينَ أَعْمَـٰلًا ١٠٣
Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “Shall we inform you of who will lose the most deeds?
ٱلَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْعًا ١٠٤
˹They are˺ those whose efforts are in vain in this worldly life, while they think they are doing good!”
أُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ بِـَٔايَـٰتِ رَبِّهِمْ وَلِقَآئِهِۦ فَحَبِطَتْ أَعْمَـٰلُهُمْ فَلَا نُقِيمُ لَهُمْ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ وَزْنًۭا ١٠٥
It is they who reject the signs of their Lord and their meeting with Him, rendering their deeds void, so We will not give their deeds any weight on Judgment Day.

Our deeds are determined by the nature of our faith. Deny Allah ﷻ, and all your deeds will be rendered useless. Moreover, for the believer, their deeds are only established as their own if they do not commit other transgressions to lose them. The Prophet ﷺ taught :

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ أَتَدْرُونَ مَا الْمُفْلِسُ قَالُوا الْمُفْلِسُ فِينَا مَنْ لَا دِرْهَمَ لَهُ وَلَا مَتَاعَ فَقَالَ إِنَّ الْمُفْلِسَ مِنْ أُمَّتِي يَأْتِي يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِصَلَاةٍ وَصِيَامٍ وَزَكَاةٍ وَيَأْتِي قَدْ شَتَمَ هَذَا وَقَذَفَ هَذَا وَأَكَلَ مَالَ هَذَا وَسَفَكَ دَمَ هَذَا وَضَرَبَ هَذَا فَيُعْطَى هَذَا مِنْ حَسَنَاتِهِ وَهَذَا مِنْ حَسَنَاتِهِ فَإِنْ فَنِيَتْ حَسَنَاتُهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ يُقْضَى مَا عَلَيْهِ أُخِذَ مِنْ خَطَايَاهُمْ فَطُرِحَتْ عَلَيْهِ ثُمَّ طُرِحَ فِي النَّارِ
“Do you know who is bankrupt?” They replied, “The one without money or goods is bankrupt.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “Verily, the bankrupt of my nation are those who come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers, fasting, and charity, but also with insults, slander, consuming wealth, shedding blood, and beating others. The oppressed will each be given from his good deeds. If his good deeds run out before justice is fulfilled, then their sins will be cast upon him and he will be thrown into the Hellfire.”

The deeds we do are only confirmed as ours if we meet Allah ﷻ pure of the sins which would cause them to be taken away. The hesitation between the words reminds us to wait before assuming all our deeds are our own, as our reward for them is dependent on how we see through the remainder of our lives. Furthermore, even if the deed is not taken from us, its acceptance by Allah ﷻ is determined by the intention we held when performing it. The Prophet ﷺ narrated:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَخْلِصُوا أَعْمَالَكُمْ لِلَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لا يَقْبَلُ إِلا مَا أُخْلِصَ لَهُ وَلا تَقُولُوا هَذَا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّحِمِ فَإِنَّهَا لِلرَّحِمِ وَلَيْسَ لِلَّهِ مِنْهَا شَيْءٌ وَلا تَقُولُوا هَذَا لِلَّهِ وَلِوُجُوهِكُمْ فَإِنَّهَا لِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَلَيْسَ لِلَّهِ مِنْهَا شَيْءٌ
“O people, make your deeds sincere for Allah Almighty. Verily, Allah does not accept any deed unless it is sincerely for him. Do not say: This is for the sake of Allah and my relatives; verily, it was done for your relatives and none of it was for Allah. Do not say: This is for Allah’s and your sake. Verily, it was done for their sake and none of it was for Allah.”
[Sunan al-Dāraquṭnī]

It’s incredible how Allah ﷻ uses the word (“see it”) to describe the events. It’s as if to say the true nature of the deeds we do will only become apparent to us when we finally meet our Lord, and the hesitation before the word “see” symbolises that delay. Whilst the elongation is there, it’s not lengthy. This world is but a passing journey, and our meeting with Allah ﷻ is near. The time will soon come when all will be revealed to us, and the short nature of this pause epitomises the fleeting nature of this world. Moreover, both verses end with quite a definitive end, absent of any of the stretches you find earlier on. Once the judgement of Allah ﷻ has come, there is no dispute nor appeal. His justice is absolute, and the outcome is final. Once that time comes, none can save us.

The subtlety and sophistication within the Quran is truly magnificent, even in the smallest of pauses. The miracle of the Quran is that these subtle variations in length carry a metaphysical impact on the soul. We have been command to listen to the Quran aloud for this very reason: there is a medicine in hearing the words recited and its meaning embedded within it. The effect in its words is subtle, and it can only be noticed when you take a moments pause to reflect.


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