The ‘early’ and ‘late’ people mentioned in Surah Al-Waaqi‘ah
Fatwa No: 366370

  • Fatwa Date:3-1-2018 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 16, 1439
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Question

Assalaamu alaykum. I was just wondering; in chapter 56 of the Quran, it talks about the foremost and right hand, and my question is about the foremost; it says that there are more in the early generation than in the late, so does that mean that there will not be more than one hundred thousand people in that category because that was the population back then? So does that mean that we do not stand a chance to get in that category? What about the amount of Muslim martyrs that died in the later times? Surely there are more than the early generation only. I do not understand that verse. May Allah reward you.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

The number of people in the early nations is unknown and cannot be determined by a hundred thousand; there are many Prophets whose stories were not related to us, and there are many nations that only Allah knows. 

The evidence about this is the saying of Allah (which means):

·    {And [We sent] messengers about whom We have related [their stories] to you before and messengers about whom We have not related to you...} [Quran 4:164]

·    {And We have already sent messengers before you. Among them are those [whose stories] We have related to you, and among them are those [whose stories] We have not related to you.} [Quran 40:78]

·    {Has there not reached you the news of those before you - the people of Noah and ‘Aad and Thamud and those after them? No one knows them but Allah.} [Quran 14:9]

·    {And [We destroyed] ‘Aad and Thamud and the companions of the well and many generations between them.} [Quran 25:38]

Ibn Abul-‘Izz said in Sharh At-Tahaawiyyah:

As for the Prophets and Messengers, we have to believe in those of them whom were all named in the Quran and believe that Allah has sent Messengers and Prophets other than them of whom no one knows their names and number except Allah, Who sent them. We have to believe in them in their totality, as there is no text about their number. Allah says (what means): {And We have already sent messengers before you. Among them are those [whose stories] We have related to you, and among them are those [whose stories] We have not related to you.} [Quran 40:78] [End of quote]

As regards the two verses in Surah Al-Waaqi‘ah [Quran 56] about the foremost and the companions of the right, then the scholars differed in opinion as to what is meant by the early and the late in them. Tafseer At-Tabari reads, ‘It was narrated that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said in an authentic hadith, 'Both groups altogether are from my Ummah (nation).'’

As-Suyooti said in Mu'tarak Al-Aqraan fee I'Jaaz Al-Quran‘{A group of the early peoples} means a group from this nation, and a group from the last of this nation, as the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said, 'The two groups are from my nation.'

This is a response to those who said, ‘They are not from this nation.’

Now, ponder on how Allah made the people of the right to be a group from the early generation and a group from the late; unlike the foremost, who are a group from the early and only a few from the late, because the foremost in the first of this nation are more than in its last due to the virtue of the righteous predecessors, but the companions of the right are many in the first of this nation and in the last of it.

Ibn Al-Jawzi said:

There are three opinions about the early people and the late people, as follows:

1-   The early were the people from the time of Adam to the time of our Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) and the late are this nation (the Muslims).

2-   The early are the Companions of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) and the late are the Taabi'is (the generation that followed the Companions).

3-  The early and the late are from the Companions of our Prophet Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ).” 

In Adhwaa’ Al-Bayaan, Shaykh Ash-Shanqeeti favored the view that the early in both contexts are from the previous nations and that the late are from this nation.

Allah knows best.

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