The Qur’ān speaks of an inexhaustible truth that is timeless and relates to the future as much as the past. The Qur’ān pays a great deal of attention to the attitude the ancient Quraysh had towards resurrection and the concept of an afterlife. Are these numerous passages now redundant? Consider modern day attitudes people have towards the same idea of the end of times and life after death. Has anything really changed? A cursory glance at the movie industry will reveal that for many people the subject of the end of times, resurrection and life after death makes a great recipe for popcorn blockbuster films; nothing more. In fact, the genre of Apocalypse has been trending in Hollywood for the past few years.
With this in mind we should reflect upon the story which the Prophet (pbuh) was told to relate to the polytheists of Quraysh, the story of Asḥābul Qaryah. A story that was focusing on the parallels between them, in terms of their rejection and abuse of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), their corrupted theology and denial of Resurrection. Thereafter Sūrah Yā Sīn moves to refute that corrupted ideology by bringing verses that critique their denial of resurrection and ascription to polytheism.
وَآيَةٌ لَهُمُ الأَرضُ المَيتَةُ أَحيَيناها وَأَخرَجنا مِنها حَبًّا فَمِنهُ يَأكُلونَ
(33) A Sign for them is the dead land which We bring to life and from which We bring forth grain of which they eat.
The previous verse spoke of life being given to the dead: ‘Each and every one will be summoned to Our presence’. Directly after mentioning the bringing back to life of bodies, Allāh then relates the very familiar phenomenon that we know of and can see, and that is the giving of life to a once barren earth.
Yā Sīn Series
Part 15: A Timeless Sign: The Dead Land brought to Life
The Quraysh who denied resurrection and subsequently the existence of an afterlife are being shown a clear evidence of God’s power to do as He wills in how He brings back to life that which was dead from His creation. How He creates it all in the way that it was before it expired. He gives life to the barren earth which had no sprout of vegetation nor planting seed by sending down fertile rain from the sky until a green shoot begins to appear which then develops into a plant with fruit and vegetables.
‘Of which they eat’, the verse ends. People can then harvest this, store it and eat from the rest of it. So not only is it a visible evidence, it is one you intimately benefit from every day of your life. A poignant image; the evidence that proves God’s ability to resurrect is itself giving you life as we speak.
وَجَعَلنا فيها جَنّاتٍ مِن نَخيلٍ وَأَعنابٍ وَفَجَّرنا فيها مِنَ العُيونِ
(34) We place in it gardens of dates and grapes, and cause springs to gush out in it,
We have made in this earth, which we brought to life after death, gardens of palm trees and grapevines wa fajjarna feehamina al’uyoon, and we caused springs of water to gush forth from them. Qurtubi mentions that gardens of date-palms and grapes are mentioned here as they represent the finer fruits for the ancient Arabs. The usage of the plural nakheel (nakl) and a’naab (‘inab) as opposed to the singular points to the multitude of fruit trees that there are in existence.
One may analyse the above verses and say to himself; ‘If the more significant resources such as grain are mentioned first and then the lesser kinds of resources such as date-palm are mentioned after, why then is water mentioned last, while it is the resource that is needed most and there would be no life without it?’ The response would be to say that this is because it is the easiest to acquire; you simply have to go to the nearest stream or well and collect water or wait for it to fall from the sky. There is no farming, cultivating or harvesting required. What is amazing is that what man needs most is what has been made easiest for him to acquire! We receive it from above in the form of rain, it is forms into rivers and wells making access easy.
لِيَأكُلوا مِن ثَمَرِهِ وَما عَمِلَتهُ أَيديهِم ۖ أَفَلا يَشكُرونَ
(35) So they may eat its fruits – they did not do it themselves. So will they not be thankful?
We created and brought to life these gardens on this earth so that My slaves may eat of its fruits, they did not do it themselves; i.e., they cannot produce them from nothing by themselves. Another interpretation reads the particle mā as meaning ‘which’ and not ‘did not’. This would mean, as al-Qurtubi explains, you eat of fruits and that which you make with your hands by using the raw ingredients to prepare food and even medicines.
Afala yashkuroon – Will not this nation to whom We have given an earth that is full of provision through a perpetual resurrecting after it becomes barren not be thankful? It is Allāh who has blessed us with all of this! How can you people continue to associate partners with Allāh in the face of all His blessings?! How can you people continue to transgress the limits of Allāh in the face of all His blessings?!
In these verses Allāh mentions four sources of human sustenance but began the list with grain (habb) as grain is the staple food of people and brings people immense benefit in its various forms. It can be easily stored and one who cannot afford it is most probably starving. In the next verse He, the Almighty, then mentions more lavish foods such as date-palm and grapes; but what man is most in need of is habb; i.e. barley, corn, rice, cereals and so on.
Pearl of Wisdom
Notice how after mentioning all the four sources of sustenance Allāh did not end the passage by saying “so will they not believe” but rather “so will they not be thankful”, even though the passage is a reasoned call to believe in Him. This highlights a crucial point that true acknowledgment of the blessings of Allāh upon human beings should make them thankful to Him thereafter moving to express that thanks in the form of devotion and worship.
 Tafsīr Al-Tahrīr wa Al-Tanwīr, Ibn ‘Āshūr Vol23 pg 12
 Jāmi’ al-Bayān fi Ta’wīl al- Qur’ān, Imām Tabari, vol 19 pg 432
 Tafsīr Qurtubi, Vol 17 pg 440
 Tafsīr Al-Tahrīr wa Al-Tanwīr, Ibn ‘Āshūr Vol23 pg 13-14
 Tafsīr Qurtubi, Vol 17 pg 440-441
Ustadh Asim Khan is a published author of 3 books, including the Simple Seerah & the best-selling “The Heart of the Qur’an”, a commentary on Surah Yasin. He is a Hafiz of Qur’an, has gained a Masters in Pharmacy from the University College London UK, and studied Arabic and Quranic Sciences in Cairo, Egypt. His true passion lies in Tafsir studies where you can find numerous online lectures of his on Qur’ān related topics.