Could you explain the Quranic verse “Verily We shall give life to the dead, and We record that which they send before and that which they leave behind, and of all things have We taken account in a clear Book (of evidence).” (Ya Seen, 36:12)

Details of the Question
Could you explain the Quranic verse “Verily We shall give life to the dead, and We record that which they send before and that which they leave behind, and of all things have We taken account in a clear Book (of evidence).” (Ya Seen, 36:12)
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Related verses of the chapter Ya Seen, which are a source of consolation and high spirits for the Prophet and believers who suffered severely from the oppression by unbelievers and idolaters, are finished by especially emphasizing the unique might and knowledge of Allah the Supreme and that He is the only one to resurrect the dead and to know what everybody does. Some early commentators of the Quran stated that the expression of “resurrecting the dead” meant guiding people to the right way after idolatry. (Zamakhshari, the interpretation of the related verse).

While it is stated that whatever one does is recorded, it is stated, on the other hand, that Allah already knows what everyone will do due to His pre-eternal knowledge. It means: Allah does not need everything to be recorded. It is necessary for human beings to keep this fact always in mind so that they can give meaning to their existence in the worldly life and do everything in accordance with the consciousness of the reason of their existence. Thus, one does not have to deal with an abstract moral duty all alone; he is supported by a concrete imagination which is as alive as the life, which exists in every moment of his life and leads all of his actions. Moreover, this belief earns one the awareness that human beings’ relationship with the metaphysical world cannot be restricted to periods of time during which one supplicates to God and performs some certain religious duties and makes it easier for them to comprehend the close relationship between what happens in the physical world and the realities of the metaphysical world. While explaining the part of the verse which is translated as “which they send before and that which they leave behind”, it is stated that whatever one does, whether evil or good, is recorded. On the other hand, it is emphasized that one’s book of deeds is not closed when he dies but either good deeds or evil deeds continue to be recorded in it on condition that he left good works behind such as a service building, mosque, guesthouse, bridge, etc which people can benefit from or on condition that he left behind evil works such as, some cruel and unfair governors that establish laws which cause people to suffer or stray away from the way of Allah, as long as these works (both good and evil) continue to exist. (Zamakhshari, Shawkani, the interpretation of the related verse). In this sense, it is also possible to translate this verse as “their all deeds which they accomplish before they die and which continue to influence people even after death”. The following hadith of the Prophet
has been very effective on people to incline towards charity activities which continue to earn them thawabs as long as people continue to benefit from them and it was especially effective on the development and improvement of charitable funds: “After one dies, his book of deeds is closed. Yet, rewards for these three things continues: freeing a slave, a useful knowledge that is permanent and a good son/daughter who prays for the good of the dead person.” (Muslim, “Last Will”, 14; Tirmidhi, “Judgments”, 36). However, what is meant by closing of the book of deeds in the hadith is in terms of thawabs. As many commentators of the Quran stated while interpreting the verse in question, those who paved the way for an evil which will lead other people to wrong are included in the scope of this verse and their punishment increases because of their evil works and deeds the influence and effects of which continue to exist after they die. As a matter of fact, the Prophet stated the two ways of pioneering which will continue to influence and affect others separately: “Whoever pioneers a good practice is given thawab both for that work and for people who will take it as an example for themselves till the end of time. And whoever pioneers an evil practice is given the sin of both for that work and for people who will take it as an example for themselves till the end of time.” (Muslim, “Knowledge”, 15, “Alms-Giving”, 69; 44; Musnad, IV, 362).

The word “imam” which is translated as “the main book” is explained with meanings such as “the book which has evidence and which is followed”, “Lawh al-Mahfooz” and “the books of deeds”. (Ibn Atiyya, the interpretation of the related verse). The reason why Allah the Supreme defined His knowledge with this word which means “leader, the one who is followed” is to state that everything is related to Divine will and happens in accordance with them. (Ibn Ashur, the interpretation of the related verse).

When the sons of Salama from Ansar wanted to leave their homeland and settle down around Masjid-i Nabawi, the Messenger of Allah did not approve it and said to them: “Your deeds are recorded also in the place where you are.” Some scholars claimed that this verse was sent down in Madinah, putting forward that event as evidence. However, the fact that the Prophet used the expression in the verse in an event happened in Madinah does not necessarily mean that it was sent down in Madinah. (see Ibn Atiyya; The Way of the Quran, Committee, the interpretation of the related verse).

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