The Quran mentions the greatest human genocide in human civilisation that has and will occur until the day of judgement.
Allah, Mighty and Wise says:
وَإِذَا الْمَوْءُودَةُ سُئِلَتْ بِأَيِّ ذَنبٍ قُتِلَتْ
And when الْمَوْءُودَة (the mow'ooda) is asked , for what wrongdoing was she killed? [Surat Al-Takweer 81:8-9]
The word الْمَوْءُودَةُ has been traditionally translated by the commentators of Quranic exegesis as the new born female who is buried alive. So the ayaat are speaking about female victims of infanticide being asked about this heinous crime on the day of Judgement.
The context of the ayaat
What you notice about the beginning of Surat Al-Takweer is that it speaks of universal phenomena that transcends beyond Arabia. It speaks of the sun losing its light, the stars being dispersed, the mountains moving, close relations being nullified, wild animals being gathered, the sea filled with flames, etc . All these descriptions are in total opposition to their nature which we onserve in this world.
A universal understanding of the word الْمَوْءُودَة
The word الْمَوْءُودَةُ is from the verb وأد which means to bury or cover over. The word الْمَوْءُودَةُ is feminine and a passive participle and is commonly translated as the female newborn that is buried and covered over.
Another way to look at الْمَوْءُودَةُ is to consider it an adjective (sifah) of an omitted mowsoof - the word being described.
As an example of this we have in the Quran the word الصَّالِحَات which is usually translated as good/ righteous actions, however the word for actions has been omitted and only the adjective remains. Without the omission the construction would be الأعْمَال الصَّالِحَات - righteous actions
We see that the ayah prior to mentioning الْمَوْءُودَةُ speaks of the souls النُّفُوس
وَإِذَا النُّفُوسُ زُوِّجَتْ
And when the souls are paired up [Surat Al-Takweer 81:7]
This ayah speaks of:
1. reuniting the soul with the body at the time of resurrection, and
2. The souls being paired up with their good/bad deeds.
Both interpretations have been given by the classical scholars of the Quran
So in this interpretation الْمَوْءُودَةُ is describing النُّفُوسُ. So we are talking about النُّفُوسُ الْمَوْءُودَةُ i.e the souls on the day of judgement who are the most helpless and most vulnerable. It is these souls ( both males and females) who have been murdered in cold blood leaving no trace or evidence that a crime has been committed.
Note: The greater plural is used in the ayah in contrast to the other plural الأَنْفُس - which is the lesser plural. The greater plural would indicate a larger number of souls than the lesser plural. For more information on plurals in Arabic view our course:
PLQ: Plurals in the Quran
The greatest genocide in human history
One can only speculate how many such souls have been murdered in cold blood, killed by parents or caretakers, killed to cover unwanted pregnancies and crimes, killed because of being a financial burden, disabled, killed in anger, drugs, neglected by parents, war, famine and the list goes on and on and on. And every day the numbers keep increasing!!!
Justice for the most vulnerable
The first act of justice the Quran mentioned on the day of judgment will be the empowerment of the weakest and most helpless victims of genocide in this life. The murderers will not be questioned, but rather the helpless victim will be asked: what sin had they committed to deserve this? These pure innocent souls, who had no say in this life, will reply and this would begin proceedings in the court of Allah, The Most Wise and Majestic.
Wa Allahu A'lam
By Nabeel Alkhalidy
Head teacher of the Sibaway Institute.