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What is the meaning of Dābat al-Ardh in Surah Naml?

What is the meaning of Dābat al-Ardh in Surah Naml?

What is the meaning of verse 82 of Surah Naml? In addition, what is the meaning of Dābat al-Ardh (moving creature) in this verse?
Concise answer

The word Dābat pertains to a moving animal and it can be applied to both human beings, as well as other creatures. Now, the question remains as to what kind of animal has been mentioned in the Quranic verse, as well as its purpose. The Quran has explained this in a general manner in the following words: 'And when the word [of judgement] falls upon them, We shall bring out for them an Animal from the earth who shall speak to them that the people had no faith in Our signs.' It is evident that due to the conditions prevalent during that time and the words of the Dābat al-Ardh, the rejecters of faith will begin to regret their past, but it will be too late, for the ways of return will have been closed by that time. For the exact details and particularities of the Dābat al-Ardh, please refer to the detailed answer provided below.
Detailed Answer

The verse before verse 82 in Surah Naml speaks of the disbelievers who impatiently asked in regards to the coming of the Day of Judgment and they would ask the Prophet (s): Why are we not taken by the punishments which you have promised us? Why doesn't the Day of Judgment come? God answered them by several verses such as verse 82 in Surah Naml and spoke of several events which would take place during the end of time; the dark and painful end of the rejecters was also detailed.[1] In the following verse, God has said: 'And when the word [of judgement] falls upon them, We shall bring out for them an Animal from the earth who shall speak to them that the people had no faith in Our signs.'[2]

The meaning of the words: وَقَعَ الْقَوْلُ عَلَیْهِمْ in this verse refers to the Day of Judgment and the manifestation of its signs; additionally, these are signs which will cause all those who see them to submit before them and to find certainty that the words of God are true and the Day of Judgment is near.[3]

The word Dābat means a moving animal and it can be applied to both human beings, as well as other animals.[4] Now, the question remains as to what kind of animal has been mentioned in the Quranic verse, as well as its purpose. The Quran has explained this in a general manner in the following words: 'And when the word [of judgement] falls upon them, We shall bring out for them an Animal from the earth who shall speak to them that the people had no faith in Our signs.' It is evident that due to the conditions prevalent during that time and the words of the Dābat al-Ardh, the rejecters of faith will begin to regret their past, but it will be too late, for the ways of return will have been closed by that time. Certain details and particularities have been mentioned in the books of tradition in regards to the Dābat al-Ardh and we will mention some of these below:

1- It is the opinion of one group that this creature is something that is not human, nor is it something ordinary that the people are used to.[5] Some traditions have mentioned this creature as having a strange form and they have also mentioned some of its particularities.[6]

2- It is the opinion of a second group (based on various traditions) that this creature is a human being. They also believe that it will be an extraordinary individual who will appear and be moving around much and is very active during the end of time and one of his main works will be separating the Muslims from the hypocrites and marking them.[7]

A number of the commentators have accepted this second opinion in light of various traditions which have been expressed on this verse, and, relying on certain traditions that mention it, have identified Dābat al-Ardh with Imam Ali (as).[8]

It is worth mentioning that other traditions exist on this subject and they allude to a more general meaning of the Dābat al-Ardh. In accordance to this interpretation, the Dābat al-Ardh refers to the great leaders who will rise during the end of time and separate truth from falsehood and the pious believers from the disbelievers.[9]

 

[1] Makarim Shirazi, Nasir, Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 15, p. 547, Daar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah, Tehran, 1374 (shamsi).

[2] Surah Naml, Verse 82: «إِذا وَقَعَ الْقَوْلُ عَلَیْهِمْ أَخْرَجْنا لَهُمْ دَابَّةً مِنَ الْأَرْضِ تُکَلِّمُهُمْ أَنَّ النَّاسَ کانُوا بِآیاتِنا لا یُوقِنُونَ»

[3] Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 15, p. 547.

[4] Qurashi, Sayid Ali Akbar, Ahsan al-Hadith, vol. 1, p. 29, Bi'that Foundation, Tehran, 1377 (shamsi).

[5] Sadiqi Tehrani, Muhammad, Al-Balaagh fi Tafsir al-Quran bil-Quran, p. 384, Mu'allif Press, Qum, first edition, 1419 AH.

[6] Abu al-Futuh al-Raazi, Husayn ibn Ali, Ruwad al-Jinaan wa Rawh al-Jinan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol. 15, p. 73, researched by: Muhammad Ja'far, Naasih, Muhammad Mahdi, The Islamic Research Foundation of the Astane Qudse Razavi, Mashad, 1408 AH.

[7] Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 15, p. 552.

[8] Husayni Astarabadi, Sayid Sharafuddin Ali, Ta'wil al-Ayaat al-Dhaahirah, pp. 399-400, The Office of Islamic Publications of Jame'eye Modarresin, Qum, first edition, 1409 AH; Majlisi, Muhamamad Baqir, Bihaar al-Anwaar, vol. 39, p. 243, Daar Ihyaa' al-Turaath al-Arabi, Beirut, second edition, 1403 Ah.

[9] Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 15, p. 554.

 


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