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Then watch thou for the Day that the sky will bring forth a kind of smoke (or mist) plainly visible,

Manifest smoke is understood as one of the signs that the Hour—that
is, the end of the world—is at hand (Q). The smoke is said to afflict believers
like a harsh cold wind (zukkām), but to penetrate into disbelievers and cause
great affliction (Mw, Q). Others understand this verse as a reference to a time
when the Prophet prayed for a famine to come upon the disbelievers, and the
famine besieged them to such a degree that their eyes were clouded over from
the severity of hunger and they saw what appeared to be smoke rising between
heaven and earth (IK, JJ, Q, Ṭ), in which case covering the people would refer to
the manner in which the smoke overwhelmed them (IK); see also 16:112–13c. A
few commentators propose that the day when the sky brings forth manifest smoke
refers to the conquest of Makkah (Q), in which case it would refer to the dust
stirred up by the Muslim armies as they entered Makkah. This is a painful
punishment describes the affliction to which the disbelievers will be subject or
reports their own words upon receiving the punishment (Q) or what is said to
them by way of rebuke (IK), similar to 52:14

References:

Nasr, Hossein (2015). Study Quran. http://www.islamicweblibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/TheStudyQuran.pdf

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