Closer and closer to mankind comes their Reckoning: yet they heed not and they turn away. 2662
Never comes (aught) to them of a renewed Message from their Lord but they listen to it as in jest 2663
Their hearts toying as with trifles. The wrongdoers conceal their private counsels (saying) "Is this (one) more than a man like yourselves? Will ye go to witchcraft with your eyes open?" 2664 2665
Say: "My Lord knoweth (every) word (spoken) in the heavens and the earth: He is the One that heareth and knoweth (all things)." 2666 2667
"Nay" they say "(these are) medleys of dreams! nay he forged it!--nay he is (but) a poet! Let him then bring us a Sign like the ones that were sent to (prophets) of old!" 2668
(As to those) before them not one of the populations which We destroyed believed: will these believe? 2669
Before thee also the apostles we sent were but men to whom We granted inspiration: if ye realize this not ask of those who possess the Message. 2670
Nor did We give them bodies that ate no food nor were they exempt from death. 2671
In the end We fulfilled to them Our promise and We saved them and those whom We pleased but We destroyed those who transgressed beyond bounds. 2672
We have revealed for you (O men!) a book in which is a Message for you: will ye not then understand?
How many were the populations we utterly destroyed because of their iniquities setting up in their places other peoples!
Yet when they felt Our Punishment (coming) behold they (tried to) flee from it. 2673
Flee not but return to the good things of this life which were given you and to your homes in order that ye may be called to account. 2674
They said: "Ah! woe to us! We were indeed wrongdoers!"
And that cry of theirs ceased not till We made them as a field that is mown as ashes silent and quenched. 2675
Not for (idle) sport did We create the heavens and the earth and all that is between! 2676
If it had been Our wish to take (just) a pastime We should surely have taken it from the things nearest to Us if We would do (such a thing)! 2677
Nay We hurl the Truth against falsehood and it knocks out its brain and behold falsehood doth perish! Ah! woe be to you for the (false) things ye ascribe (to Us). 2678
To Him belong all (creatures) in the heavens and on earth: even those who are in His (very) Presence are not too proud to serve Him nor are they (ever) weary (of His service): 2679
They celebrate His praises night and day nor do they ever flag or intermit.
Or have they taken (for worship) gods from the earth who can raise (the dead)? 2680 2681
If there were in the heavens and the earth other gods besides Allah there would have been confusion in both! But glory to Allah the Lord of the Throne: (high is He) above what they attribute to Him! 2682
He cannot be questioned for His acts but they will be questioned (for theirs). 2683
Or have they taken for worship (other) gods besides Him? Say "Bring your convincing proof: this is the Message of those with me and the Message of those before me." But most of them know not the Truth and so turn away. 2684 2685
Not an apostle did We send before thee without this inspiration sent by Us to him: that there is no god but I; therefore worship and serve Me.
And they say: "(Allah) Most Gracious has begotten offspring." Glory to Him! they are (but) servants raised to honor. 2686
They speak not before He speaks and they act (in all things) by His command. 2687
He knows what is before them and what is behind them and they offer no intercession except for those who are acceptable and they stand in awe and reverence of His (glory). 2688 2689
If any of them should say "I am a god besides Him" such a god We should reward with Hell: thus do We reward those who do wrong.
Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of Creation) before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? 2690 2691
And We have set on the earth mountains standing firm lest it should shake with them and We have made therein broad highways (between mountains) for them to pass through: that they may receive guidance. 2692 2693
And We have made the heavens as a canopy well-guarded: Yet do they turn away from the Signs which these things (point to)! 2694
It is He Who created the Night and the Day and the sun and the moon: all (the celestial bodies) swim along each in its rounded course. 2695
We granted not to any man before thee permanent life (here): if then thou shouldst die would they live permanently? 2696
Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil and by good by way of trial: to Us must ye return. 2697
When the Unbelievers see thee they treat thee not except with ridicule. "Is this" (they say) "the one who talks of your gods?" And they blaspheme at the mention of (Allah) Most Gracious! 2698
Man is a creature of haste: soon (enough) will I show you My Signs: then ye will not ask Me to hasten them! 2699
They say: "When will this promise come to pass if ye are telling the truth?"
If only the Unbelievers knew (the time) when they will not be able to ward off the Fire from their faces nor yet from their backs and (when) no help can reach them! 2700
Nay it may come to them all of a sudden and confound them: no power will they have then to avert it nor will they (then) get respite.
Mocked were (many) apostles before thee; but their scoffers were hemmed in by the thing that they mocked. 2701
Say "Who can keep you safe by night and by day from (the Wrath of) (Allah) Most Gracious?" Yet they turn away from the mention of their Lord. 2702
Or have they gods that can guard them from Us? They have no power to aid themselves nor can they be defended from Us. 2703
Nay We gave the good things of this life to these men and their fathers until the period grew long for them; see they not that we gradually reduce the land (in their control) from its outlying borders? Is it then they who will win? 2704 2705
Say "I do but warn you according to revelation": but the deaf will not hear the call (even) when they are warned! 2706
If but a breath of the Wrath of thy Lord do touch them they will then say "Woe to us! we did wrong indeed!"
We shall set up scales of justice for the Day of Judgment so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least. And if there be (no more than) the weight of a mustard seed We will bring it (to account): and enough are We to take account. 2707 2708
In the past We granted to Moses and Aaron the Criterion (for judgment) and a Light and a Message for those who would do right 2709
Those who fear their Lord in their most secret thoughts and who hold the Hour (of Judgment) in awe. 2710
And this is a blessed Message which We have sent down: will ye then reject it? 2711
We bestowed aforetime on Abraham his rectitude of conduct and well were We acquainted with him. 2712 2713
Behold! he said to his father and his people "What are these images to which ye are (so assiduously) devoted?" 2714
They said "We found our father worshipping them."
He said "Indeed ye have been in manifest error-ye and your fathers."
They said "Have you brought us the Truth or are you one of those who jest?" 2715
He said "Nay your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth He Who created them (from nothing): and I am a witness to this (truth). 2716
And by Allah I have a plan for your idols after ye go away and turn your backs"... 2717
So he broke them to pieces (all) but the biggest of them that they might turn (and address themselves) to it. 2718
They said "Who has done this to our gods? He must indeed be some man of impiety!"
They said "We heard a youth talk of them: he is called Abraham." 2719
They said "Then bring him before the eyes of the people that they may bear witness:"
They said "Art thou the one that did this with our gods O Abraham?" 2720
He said: "Nay this was done by this is their is their biggest one! Ask them if they can speak intelligently!"
So they turned to themselves and said "Surely ye are the ones in the wrong!" 2721
Then were they confounded with shame: (they said) "Thou knowest full well that these (idols) do not speak!" 2722
(Abraham) said "Do ye then worship besides Allah things that can neither be of any good to you nor do you harm?
"Fie upon you and upon the things that ye worship besides Allah! have ye no sense?"... 2723
They said "Burn him and protect your gods if ye do (anything at all)!"
We said "O fire! be thou cool and (a means of)) safety for Abraham!" 2724 2725
Then they sought a stratagem against him: but We made them the ones that lost most! 2726
But We delivered him and (his nephew) Lut (and directed them) to the land which We have blessed for the nations. 2727
And We bestowed on him Isaac and as an additional gift (a grandson) Jacob and We made righteous men of every one (of them). 2728
And We made them leaders guiding (men) by Our Command and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds to establish regular prayers and to practice regular charity; and they constantly served Us (and Us only). 2729
And to Lut too we gave Judgment and Knowledge and We saved him from the town which practiced abominations: truly they were a people given to Evil a rebellious people. 2730
And We admitted him to Our Mercy: for he was one of the Righteous.
(Remember) Noah when he cried (to Us) aforetime: We listened to his (prayer) and delivered him and his family from great distress. 2731
We helped him against people who rejected Our Signs: truly they were a people given to Evil: so We drowned them (in the Flood) all together.
And remember David and Solomon when they gave judgment in the matter of the field into which the sheep of certain people had strayed by night: We did witness their judgment.
To Solomon We inspired the (right) understanding of the matter: to each (of them) We gave Judgment and Knowledge; it was Our power that made the hills and the birds celebrate Our praises with David: it was We Who did (these things). 2732 2733
It was We Who taught him the making of coats of mail for your benefit to guard you from each others violence: will ye then be grateful? 2734 2735
(It was Our power that made) the violent (unruly) wind flow (tamely) for Solomon to his order to the land which We had blessed: for We do know all things. 2736 2737
And of the evil ones were some who dived for him and did other work besides; and lit was We Who guarded them. 2738
And (remember) Job when he cried to his Lord "Truly distress has seized me but Thou art the Most Merciful of those that are merciful." 2739
So We listened to him: We removed the distress that was on him and We restored his people to him and doubled their number as a Grace from Ourselves and a thing for commemoration for all who serve Us. 2740
And (remember) Ismail Idris and Zul-kifl all (men) of constancy and patience; 2741 2742 2743
We admitted them to Our Mercy: for they were of the Righteous ones.
And remember Zun-nun when he departed in wrath: he imagined that We had no power over him! But he cried through the depths of darkness "There is no god but Thou: Glory to Thee: I was indeed wrong!" 2744
So We listened to him: and delivered him from distress: and thus do We deliver those who have faith.
And (remember) Zakariya when he cried to his Lord: "O my Lord! leave me not without offspring though Thou art the best of inheritors. 2745 2746
So We listened to him: and We granted him Yahya: We cured his wife's (barrenness) for him. These three were ever quick in emulation in good works: they used to call on Us with love and reverence and humble themselves before Us. 2747
And (remember) her who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her of Our Spirit and We made her and her son a Sign for all peoples. 2748
Verily this Brotherhood of yours is a single Brotherhood and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore serve Me (and no other). 2749
But (later generations) cut off their affair (of unity) one from another: (yet) will they all return to Us. 2750
Whoever works any act of righteousness and has Faith his endeavor will not be rejected: We shall record it in his favor. 2751
But there is a ban on any population which We have destroyed: that they shall not return. 2752
Until the Gog and Magog (people) are let through (their barrier) and they swiftly swarm from every hill. 2753
Then will the True Promise draw nigh (of fulfillment): then behold! the eyes of the Unbelievers will fixedly stare in horror: "Ah! woe to us! we were indeed heedless of this; nay we truly did wrong!" 2754
Verily ye (Unbelievers) and the (false) gods that ye worship besides Allah are (but) fuel for Hell! To it will ye (surely) come!
If these had been gods they would not have got there! But each one will abide therein. 2755
There sobbing will be their lot nor will they there hear (aught else).
Those for whom the Good (Record) from Us has gone before will be removed far therefrom. 2756
Not the slightest sound will they hear of Hell: what their souls desired in that will they dwell.
The Great Terror will bring them no grief: but the angels will meet them (with mutual greetings): "This is your Day (the Day) that ye were promised." 2757
The Day that we roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for books (completed) even as We produced the first Creation so shall We produce a new one: a promise We have undertaken: truly shall We fulfil it. 2758
Before this We wrote in the Psalms after the Message (given to Moses): My servants the righteous shall inherit the earth." 2759 2760
Verily in the (Qur'an) is a Message for people who would (truly) worship Allah. 2761
We sent thee not but as a mercy for all creatures. 2762
Say: "What has come to me by inspiration is that your Allah is One Allah: will ye therefore bow to His Will (in Islam)?" 2763
But if they turn back say: "I have proclaimed the Message to you all alike and in truth; but I know not whether that which ye are promised is near or far. 2764
"It is He Who knows what is open in speech and what ye hide (in your hearts). 2765
"I know not but that it may be a trial for you and a grant of (worldly) livelihood (to you) for a time. 2766
Say: "O my Lord! judge Thou in truth!" "Our Lord Most Gracious is the One Whose assistance should be sought against the blasphemies ye utter!" 2767 2768 2769
Every minute sees them nearer to their doom, and yet they are sadly heedless, and even actively turn away from the Message that would save them.
In each age, when the Message of Allah is renewed, the very people who should have known better and welcomed the renewal and the sweeping away of human cobwebs, either receive it with amused self-superiority, which later tums to active hostility, or with careless indifference.
Allah's Message is free and open, in the full light of day. His enemies plot against it in secrecy, lest their own false motives be exposed. Their jealousy prevents them from accepting a "man like themselves" as a teacher or warner or guide.
Literally, "in a state in which you (actually) see (that it is witchcraft)". When Allah's Messenger is proved to be above them in moral worth, in true insight, in earnestness and power of eloquence, they accuse him of witchcraft, a word which may mean nothing, or perhaps some mysterious deceitful arts.
Notice that in the usual Arabic texts (that is, according to the Qiraat of Hafs) the word qala is here and in xxi. 112 below, as well as in xxiii. 112, spelt differently from the usual spelling of the word in other places (e.g. in xx. 125-126). Qul is the reading of the Basra Qiraat, meaning, "Say thou" in the imperative. If we construe "he says", the pronoun refers to "this (one)" in the preceding verse, viz.: the Prophet. But more than one Commentator understands the meaning in the imperative, and I agree with them. The point is merely one of verbal construction. The meaning is the same in either case. See n. 2948 to xxiii. 112.
Every word, whether whispered in secret (as in xxi. 3 above) or spoken openly, is known to Allah. Let not the wrong-doers imagine that their secret plots are secret to the Knower of all things.
The charges against Allah's inspired Messenger are heaped up, "Magic!" says one: that means, "We don't understand it!" Says another, "Oh! but we know! he is a mere dreamer of confused dreams!" If the "dreams" fit in with real things and vital experiences, another will suggest, "Oh yes! why drag in supernatural agencies? he is clever enough to forge it himself!" Or another suggests, "He is a poet! Poets can invent things and say them in beautiful words!" Another interposes, "What we should like to see is miracles, like those we read of in stories of the Prophets of old!"
'If such miracles as you read of failed to convince Unbelievers of old, what chance is there that these Unbelievers will believe? Miracles may come, but they are no cures for Unbelief.
See xvi. 43 and n. 2069. This answers the Unbelievers' taunt, "he is just a man like ourselves!" True, but all messengers sent by Allah were men, not angels or another kind of beings, who could not understand men or whom men could not understand.
As men they were subject to all the laws governing the physical bodies of men. They ate and drank, and their bodies perished in death.
But, however difficult (or impossible) their mission may have appeared to them, or to the world at first, they won through eventually, even those who seemed to have been defeated. Examples are given in the latter part of this Sura, especially in xxi. 51-93. They were delivered from the Wrath which overtook the Unbelievers, as were those with them who accepted Allah's Message and placed themselves in conformity with His Will and Plan. That is the meaning of "whom We willed."
When they had every chance of repentance and reform, they rejected Allah's Message, and perhaps even put up an open defiance. When they actually began to feel the Wrath coming, they began to flee, but it was too late! Besides, where could they flee to from the Wrath of Allah? Hence the ironical appeal to them in the next verse: better go back to your luxuries and what you thought were your permanent homes! Cf. Christ's saying in the present Gospel of St. Matthew (iii. 7): "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the Wrath to come?"
See last note. 'You thought your homes so comfortable: why don't you go back to them? You will be called to account. Perhaps there may be rewards to be given you, who knows?' This irony is itself the beginning of the Punishment. But the ungodly now see how wrong they had been. But their signs and regrets now avail them nothing. It is too late. They are lost, and nothing can save them.
The two similes present two different aspects of the lamentation of the ungodly. When they really see the Wrath to come, there is a stampede, but where can they go to? Their lamentation is now the only mark of their life. But it dies away, as corn vanishes from a field that is being mown, or as a dying fire is slowly extinguished! They do not die. They wish they were dead! (lxxviii. 40).
The Hindu doctrine of Lila, that all things were created for sport, is here negatived. But more: with Allah we must not associate any ideas but those of Truth, Righteousness, Mercy, Justice, and the other attributes implied in His Beautiful Names. He does not jest nor play with His creatures.
If such an idea as that of play or pastime had been possible with regard to Allah, and if He had wished really to indulge in pastime, He would have done it with creatures of Light nearest to Him, not with the lowly material creation that we see around us.
Such as that (1) Allah has partners (xxi.22), or (2) that He has begotten a son (xxi. 26), or (3) has daughters (xvi. 57), or any other superstitions derogatory to the dignity and glory of Allah.
The pure angelic hosts, whom we imagine to be glorious creatures of light, high in Heavens, near the Throne of Allah Himself, are yet His creatures, and serve Him without ceasing, and are proud to do so. Such is the majesty of Allah Most High.
The different kinds of false gods whom people raise from their imagination are now referred to. In verses 21-23, the reference is to the gods of the earth, whether idols or local godlings, or deified heroes, or animals or trees or forces of the nature around us, which men have from time to time worshipped. These, as deities, have no life except what their worshippers give to them.
The answer of course is "no". No one but Allah can raise the dead to life. The miracle in the story of Jesus (iii. 49 and v. 113) was "by Allah's leave". It was a miracle of Allah, not one of Jesus by his own power or will.
After the false gods of the earth (verse 21), are mentioned the false gods in the heavens and the earth, like those in the Greek Pantheon (verse 22), who quarrelled and fought and slandered each other and made their Olympus a perfect bear-garden!
Allah is Self-Subsisting. All His creatures are responsible to Him and dependent on Him there is no other being to whom He can be responsible or on whom He can be dependent.
See above. n. 2682, where two kinds of false worship are noted. Now we are warned against a third danger, the worship of false gods of any sort. Pagan man is prolific of creating abstract images for worship, including Self or abstract Intelligence or Power. In verse 26 below is mentioned a fourth kind of false worship, which imagines that Allah begets sons or daughters.
This verse should be read with the next. All reason revolts against the idea of conflicting gods, and points to Unity in Creation and Unity in Godhead. This is not only the Message of Islam ("those with me") but the message of all prophets who came before the holy Prophet Muhammad ("those before me"), and the line of prophets was closed with him. The Message given to every prophet in all ages was that of Unity as the fundamental basis of Order and Design in the world, material, moral, and spiritual.
This refers both to the Trinitarian superstition that Allah has begotten a son, and to the Arab superstition that the angels were daughters of Allah. All such superstitions are derogatory to the glory of Allah. The prophets and the angels are no more than servants of Allah: they are raised high in honour, and therefore they deserve our highest respect, but not our worship.
They never say anything before they receive Allah's command to say it, and their acts are similarly conditioned. This is also the teaching of Jesus as reported in the Gospel of St. John (xii. 49-50): "For I have not spoken of myself: but the Father which sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak." If rightly understood, "Father" has the same meaning as our "Rabb", Sustainer and Cherisher, not Begetter or Progenitor.
Cf. xx. 109. Those who have conformed to the Will of Allah and obeyed His Law, thus winning the stamp of His approval.
They: the usual interpretation refers the pronoun to the servants of Allah who intercede: it may also refer to those on whose behalf intercession is made: they do not take it as a matter of course, but stand in due awe and reverence of Allah's great glory and mercy.
The evolution of the ordered worlds as we see them is hinted at. As man's intellectual gaze over the physical world expands, he sees more and more how Unity is the dominating note in Allah's wonderful Universe. Taking the solar system alone, we know that the maximum intensity of sun-spots corresponds with the maximum intensity of magnetic storms on this earth. The universal law of gravitation seems to bind all mass together. Physical facts point to the throwing off of planets from vast quantities of diffused nebular matter, of which the central condensed core is a sun.
About 72 per cent, of the surface of our Globe is still covered with water, and it has been estimated that if the inequalities on the surface were all levelled, the whole surface would be under water, as the mean elevation of land sphere-level would be 7,000- 10,000 feet below the surface of the ocean. This shows the predominance of water on our Globe. That all life began in the water is also a conclusion to which our latest knowledge in biological science points. Apart from the fact that protoplasm, the original basis of living matter, is liquid or semi-liquid and in a state of constant flux and instability, there is the fact that land animals, like the higher vertebrates, including man, show, in their embryological history, organs like those of fishes, indicating the watery origin of their original habitat. The constitution of protoplasm is about 80 to 85 per cent of water.
Cf. xvi. 15 and n. 2038. Lest it should shake with them: here "them" refers back to "they" at the end of the preceding verse, meaning "Unbelievers". It might be mankind in general, but the pointed address to those who do not realise and understand Allah's mercies is appropriate, to drive home to them the fact that it is Allah's well-ordered providence that protects them normally from cataclysms like earthquakes, but that they could for their iniquities be destroyed in an instant, as the 'Ad and the Thamfid were destroyed before them. As pointed out in n. 2691 above, if the surface of the earth were levelled up, it would all be under water, and therefore the firm mountains are a further source of security of life which has evolved in terrestrial forms. Though the mountains may seem impassable barriers, yet Allah's providence has provided broad passes between them to afford highways for human communications.
In both the literal and the figurative sense. Literally these natural mountain highways direct men in the way they should go. Figuratively, these wonderful instances of Allah's providence should turn men's thoughts to the true guidance of Allah in life.
Canopy well guarded: the heavens form a canopy that is secure from falling down: they also form a sublime spectacle and a Mystery that man can only faintly reach. Cf. also xv. 17.
I have indicated, unlike most translators, the metaphor of swimming implied in the original words: how beautiful it is to contemplate the heavenly bodies swimming through space (or ether) in their rounded courses before our gaze!
Life on this planet without death has not been granted to any man. The taunt of the Unbelievers at the holy Prophet was therefore futile. Could any of them live without death at some time or other? Could they name any one who did?
Cf. iii. 185. and n. 491. The soul does not die, but when it separates from the body at the death of the body, the soul gets a taste of death. In our life of probation on this earth, our virtue and faith are tested by many things: some are tested by calamities, and some by the good things of this life. If we prove our true mettle, we pass our probation with success. In any case all must return to Allah, and then will our life be appraised at its true value.
To the godly man the issue between false worship and true worship is a very serious matter. To the sceptics and unbelievers it is only a joke. They take it lightly, and laugh at the godly man. They not only laugh at him, but they blaspheme when the name of the One True God is mentioned. The reply to this is in the next verse.
Haste is in the very bone and marrow of man. If he is granted respite for his own sake, in order that he may have a further chance of repentance and coming back to Allah, he says impatiently and incredulously: "Bring on the Punishment quickly, that I may see if what you say is true!" Alas, it is too true! When the Punishment actually comes near and he sees it, he will not want it hastened. He will want more time and further delay! Poor creature of haste!
They would not be so unreasonable if they only realised the terrible future for them! The Fire will envelop them on all sides, and no help will then be possible. Is it not best for them now to turn and repent? The Punishment may come too suddenly, as is said in the next verse.
The same verse occurs at vi. 10, where see n. 843. 'What they are mocking at now will be in a position to mock them in due time.'
'Allah is most Gracious: if, in spite of His great mercy, you are so rebellious and depraved as to incur His Wrath, who is there who can save you? His Wrath can descend on you at any time, by night or by day.'
Ashhaba: to join as companion: with 'an or min it has also the meaning of to defend or remove from someone. The full signification can only be got by a long paraphrase: 'they are not fit to be mentioned in the same breath with Us, nor can they be defended from Us.'
'Umr or 'Umur: age, generation, period, time, life. Here "period" is most appropriate, as it covers many generations, "these men and their fathers."
The particular signification is that Islam spread from the outer borders, social and geographical, gradually inwards. The social fringe was the humbler people, such as slaves and poor men. The geographical reference is to Madinah and tribes away from the Makkah centre. The proud and unbelieving Quraish were the last to come in when the circle was gradually drawn tighter and tighter around them. The general signification applies to all times. Allah's Truth makes its way first among the poor and the lowly, those whose minds are unsoiled by prejudices of false pride or false knowledge, but it gradually hems in the obstinate, until it prevails in the end.
According to the English saying: "none is so deaf as those who will not hear". When they deliberately shut their ears to warning from the Merciful Allah, meant for their own good, the responsibility is their own. But their cowardice is shown in the next verse by their behaviour when the first breath of the Wrath reaches them.
Not the smallest action, word, thought, motive, or predilection but must come into the account of Allah. Cf. Browning (in Rabbi Ben Ezra): "But all, the world's coarse thumb And finger failed to plumb, So passed in making up the main account; All instincts immature. All purposes unsure. That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's account; Thoughts hardly to be packed Into a narrow act. Fancies that broke through language and escaped; All I could never be, All, men ignored in me, This, I was worth to God, Whose wheel the pitcher shaped."
The literalism of Sale has here excelled itself: he translates, "and there will be sufficient accountants with us"! What is meant is that when Allah takes account, His accounting will be perfect: there will be no flaw in it, as there may be in earthly accountants, who require other people's help in some matters of account which they do not understand for want of knowledge of that particular department they are dealing with. Allah's knowledge is perfect, and therefore His justice will be perfect also; for He will not fail to take into account all the most intangible things that determine conduct and character. See last note. There is no contradiction between this and xviii. 104-105, where it is said that men of vain works, i.e., shallow hypocritical deeds, will have no weight attached to their deeds, In fact the two correspond.
Cf- ii. 53 and n. 68, where the meaning of Furqan is discussed. Here three things are mentioned as given to Moses and Aaron: (1) The Criterion for judgment: this might well be the wonderful Proofs they saw of Allah's goodness and glory from which they could have no doubt as to Allah's will and command; (2) the Light; this was the inner enlightenment of their soul, such as comes from inspiration: and (3) the Message, the Book, the original Book of Moses, which Aaron as his lieutenant would also use as a guide for his people.
Note the three kinds of fear mentioned in xxi. 48-49. Taqwa is the fear of running counter to the will of Allah; it is akin to the love of Him; for we fear to offend those we love; it results in right conduct, and those who entertain it are "those who would do right". Then there is Khayat, the fear of Allah, lest the person who entertains it may be found, in his inmost thoughts, to be short of the standard which Allah wishes for him; this is also righteous but in a less high degree than Taqwa which is akin to love. And thirdly, there is the fear of consequences on the Day of Judgment (ishfaq); this also may lead to righteousness, but is on a still lower plane. Perhaps the three correspond to the Criterion, the Light, and the Message (or Warning) of the last verse.
Here is a Prophet and a Book, greater than Moses and his Book. Are you going to reject him and it?
Rushd: right conduct, corresponding in action to the quality expressed in the epithet Hanif (sound or true in Faith) applied to Abraham in ii. 135 and elsewhere.
Hence Abraham's title "Friend of Allah" (Khalil-ullah): iv. 125.
Reference is made to Abraham in many places. In xix. 42-49 it was with reference to his relations to his father: the problem was how a righteous man should deal with his father, when his duty to his father conflicts with his duty to Allah. Here the problem is: how a righteous man should deal with evil and overcome it; how he should fight against evil, and if he is subjected to the fire of persecution, how his firmness draws Allah's Mercy, and the very troubles he is placed in become his comfort and joy.
Abraham looked at life with a serious eye, and his people took it light-heartedly. He was devoted to Truth, and they cared more for ancestral custom. In the conflict he seemed to be in their power. But he was fearless, and he triumphed by Allah's Grace.
For the various words for "creation" see n. 120 to ii. 117, where fatara is explained and differentiated from other words of similar meaning.
He wants to convince them of the powerlessness of their idols. But he does not do it underhand. He tells them that he is going to do something when once they are gone and their backs are turned to the idols,-as much as to say that the idols are dependent on their care and attention. Apparently the people are amused and want to see what he does. So they leave him to his own devices.
He was enacting a scene, to make the people ashamed of worshipping senseless stocks and stones. He left the biggest idol untouched and broke the others to pieces, as if a fight had taken place between the idols, and the biggest had smashed the others. Would they turn to the surviving idol and ask him how it all happened?
Different groups of people are speaking. Those who were not present at Abraham's speech in verse 57 ask, "who has done this?" Those who were, at once name him, whereupon a formal council of the people was held, and Abraham was arraigned.
They asked him the formal question. There was no mystery about it. He had already openly threatened to do something to the idols, and people who had heard his threats were there. He now continues his ironic taunt to the idol-worshippers. 'You ask me! Why don't you ask the idols? Doesn't it look as if this big fellow has smashed the smaller ones in a quarrel?' If they do not ask the idols, they confess that the idols have not intelligence enough to answer! This argument is developed in verses 64-67. Note that while the false worshippers laughed at his earnestness, he pays them out by a grim practical joke, which at the same time advances the cause of Truth.
Abraham's biting irony cut them to the quick. What could they say? They turned to each other. Some among them thought he had the best of the argument. They were not keen on idolatry, and they told their fellows that it was useless arguing with Abraham. They all hung their heads in shame. But presently they thought they would face out Abraham, and take his words literally. They said, "You know quite well that idols do not speak!" This was precisely what Abraham wanted them to say, and he delivered his final blow! See n. 2723 below.
Literally, "they were turned down on their heads" which may suggest a metaphorical somersault, i.e., they recovered from their dawning shame for idolatry and were prepared to argue it out with the youth Abraham. But I think there is better authority for the interpretation I have adopted.
As soon as they admitted in so many words that the idols could not speak, Abraham delivered his final attack: 'Then why do you worship useless impotent creatures?' After that, there remains nothing but the argument of violence, which they proceed to exercise, being the party in power. 'Burn him at the stake' is an easy cry! But it was not Abraham that suffered: it was his persecutors (xxi. 70).
The nature of fire, by all the physical laws of matter, is to be hot. The fire became cool, and a means of safety for Abraham.
Can we form any idea of the place where he passed through the furnace, and the stage in his career at which this happened? He was born in Ur of the Chaldees, a place on the lower reaches of the Euphrates, not a hundred miles from the Persian Gulf. This was the cradle, or one of the cradles, of human civilisation. Astronomy was studied here in very ancient times, and the worship of the sun, moon, and stars was the prevailing form of religion. Abraham revolted against this quite early in life, and his argument is referred to in vi. 74-82. They also had idols in their temples, probably idols representing heavenly bodies and celestial winged creatures. He was still a youth (xxi. 60) when he broke the idols. This was stage No. 2. After this he was marked down as a rebel and persecuted. Perhaps some years passed before the incident of his being thrown into the Fire (xxi. 68-69) took place. Traditionally the Fire incident is referred to a king called Nimrud, about whom see n. 1565 to xi. 69. If Nimrud's capital was in Assyria, near Nineveh (site near modern Mosul), we may suppose either that the king's rule extended over the whole of Mesopotamia, or that Abraham wandered north through Babylonia to Assyria. Various stratagems were devised to get rid of him (xxi. 70), but he was saved by the mercy of Allah. The final break came when he was probably a man of mature age and could speak to his father with some authority. This incident is referred to in xix. 41-48. He now left his ancestral lands, and avoiding the Syrian desert, came to the fertile lands of Aram or Syria, and so south to Canaan, when the incident of xi. 69-76 took place. It is some years after this that we may suppose he built the Ka'ba with Isma'il (ii, 124-29), and his prayer in xiv. 35-41 may be referred to the same time. His visit to Egypt (Gen. xii. 10) is not referred to in the Qur-an.
As they could not get rid of him by open punishment, they tried secret plans, but were foiled throughout. It was not he that lost, but they. On the contrary he left them and prospered and became the progenitor of great peoples.
The land of Aram or Syria, which in its widest connotation includes Canaan or Palestine. Syria is a well-watered fertile land, with a Mediterranean sea-coast, on which the famous commercial cities of Tyre and Sidon were situated. Its population is very mixed, as it has been a bone of contention between all the great kingdoms and empires of Western Asia and Egypt, and European interest in it dates from the most ancient times.
Nafilat has many meanings: (1) booty; (2) extra work or prayer; (3) extra or additional gift; (4) grandson. The two last significations are implied here. Not only was Abraham given a son in his old age; he was given not only Isaac, but several sons, the chief being Isma'il and Isaac, who both joined in burying him (Gen. xxv. 9); and he also saw grandsons. Isma'il is specially mentioned later (xxi. 85) apart from Isaac's line, on account of his special importance for Islam.
The spiritual lesson from this passage may be recapitulated. The righteous man makes no compromise with evil. If the votaries of evil laugh at him he pays them in their own coin, but he stands firmly by his principles. His firmness causes some confusion among the followers of evil, and he openly declares the faith that is in him. They try, openly and secretly, to injure or kill him, but Allah protects him, while evil perishes from its own excesses.
Lot's people were given to unspeakable abominations. His mission was to preach to them. He withstood Evil, but they rejected him. They were punished, but he and his followers were saved. See xv. 61-74; xi. 77-82; and vii. 80-84. A) The date of Noah was many centuries before that of Abraham.
The contemporaries of Noah were given to Unbelief, oppression of the poor, and vain disputations. He carried Allah's Message to them, and standing fast in faith, built the Ark, in which he was saved with his followers from the Flood, while the wicked were drowned. See xi. 25-48.
The sheep, on account of the negligence of the shepherd, got into a cultivated field (or vineyard) by night and ate up the young plants or their tender shoots, causing damage, to the extent of perhaps a whole year's crop. David was king, and in his seat of judgment he considered the matter so serious that he awarded the owner of the field the sheep themselves in compensation for his damage. The Roman law of the Twelve Tables might have approved of this decision, and on the same principle was built up the Deodand doctrine of English Law, now obsolete. His son Solomon, a mere boy of eleven, thought of a better decision, where the penalty would better fit the offence. The loss was the loss of the fruits or produce of the field of vineyard: the corpus of the property was not lost. Solomon's suggestion was that the owner of the field or vineyard should not take the sheep altogether but only detain them long enough to recoup his actual damage, from the milk, wool, and possibly young of the sheep, and then retum the sheep to the shepherd. David's merit was that he accepted the suggestion, even though it came from a little boy: Solomon's merit was that he distinguished between corpus and income, and though a boy, was not ashamed to put his case before his father. But in either case it was Allah Who inspired the true realisation of justice. He was present and witnessed the affair, as He is present all the time.
Whatever is in the heavens and the earth celebrates the praises of Allah: xvii. 44; Ivii. 1; xvi. 48-50. Even the "thunder repeateth His praises": xiii. 13. All nature ever sings the praises of Allah. David sang in his Psalms, cxlviii. 7-10: "Praise the Lord from the earth, ye ... mountains and all hills; ... creeping things and flying fowl!" All nature sings to Allah's glory, in unison with David, and angels, and men of God. Cf. xxxiv. 10 and xxxviii. 18-19.
The making of coats of mails is attributed to David. It is defensive armour, and therefore its discovery and supply is associated with deeds of righteousness in xxxiv. 10-11, in contrast with the deadly weapons which man invents for offensive purposes. Indeed, all fighting, unless in defence of righteousness, is mere "violence."
David's good work then was: (1) he was open to learn wisdom wherever it came from; (2) he sang the praises of Allah, in unison with all nature; (3) he made defensive armour. But all these things he did, because of the faculties which Allah had given him, and we must be grateful for this and for all things to Allah.
Cf. xxxiv. 12, and xxxviii. 36-38, This has been interpreted to mean that Solomon had miraculous power over the winds, and he could make them obey his order. In any case the power behind was, and is, from Allah, Who has granted man intelligence and the faculties by which he can tame the more unruly forces of nature.
Evidently Palestine, in which was Solomon's capital, though his influence extended for north in Syria.
It was Allah's power ultimately, Who granted him wisdom. Solomon tamed the jinns with Wisdom.
Job (Ayub) was a prosperous man, with faith in Allah, living somewhere in the north-east comer of Arabia. He suffers from a number of calamities: his cattle are destroyed, his servants slain by the sword, and his family crushed under his roof. But he holds fast to his faith in Allah. As a further calamity he is covered with loathsome sores from head to foot. He loses his peace of mind, and he curses the day he was born. His false friends come and attribute his afflictions to sin. These "Job's comforters" are no comforters at all, and he further loses his balance of mind, but Allah recalls to him all His mercies, and he resumes his humility and gives up self-justification. He is restored to prosperity, with twice as much as he had before; his brethren and friends come back to him; he had a new family of seven sons and three fair daughters. He lived to a good old age, and saw four generations of descendants. All this is recorded in the Book of Job in the Old Testament. Of all the Hebrew writings, the Hebrew of this Book comes nearest to Arabic. The account given in the Biblical sources and the image that it projects of Prophet Job is decidedly different from that found in the Qur-an and the Hadith, which present him as a prophet and brilliant example of dignified patience becoming of a great Prophet of Allah ever trustful in Him and His promises. Nothing could be farther from truth than saying that he lost his peace of mind or resorted to curses during the period of his trial.
Job is the pattern of humility, patience, and faith in Allah. It was with these weapons that he fought and conquered evil.
Isma'il is mentioned specially, apart from the line which descended through Isaac (xxi. 72), as he was the founder of a separate and greater Ummat. His sufferings began in infancy (see n. 160 to ii. 158); but his steady constancy and submission to the will of Allah were specially shown when he earned the title of "Sacrifice to Allah" (see n. 2506 to xix. 54). That was the particular quality of his constancy and patience.
For Idris see n. 2508 to xix. 56. He was in a high station in life, but that did not spoil him. He was sincere and true, and that was the particular quality of his constancy and patience.
Zul-kifl would literally mean "possessor of, or giving, a double requital or portion"; or else, "one who used a cloak of double thickness," that being one of the meanings of Kifl. The Commentators differ in opinion as to who is meant, why the title is applied to him, and the point of his being grouped with Isma'il and Idris for constancy and patience. I think the best suggestion is that afforded by Karsten Niebuhr in his Reisebeschreibung nach Arabian, Copenhagen, 1778, ii. 264-266, as quoted in the Encyclopaedia of Islam under "Dhul-Kifl". He visited Meshad 'All in 'Iraq, and also the little town called Kefil, midway between Najaf and Hilla (Babylon). Kefil, he says, is the Arabic form of Ezekiel. The shrine of Ezekiel was there, and the Jews came to it on pilgrimage. If we accept "Zul-kifl" to be not an epithet, but an Arabicised form of "Ezekiel", it fits the context. Ezekiel was a prophet in Israel who was carried away to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar after his second attack on Jerusalem (about B.C. 599). His Book is included in the English Bible (Old Testament). He was chained and bound, and put into prison, and for a time he was dumb (Ezekiel, iii. 25-26). He bore all with patience and constancy, and continued to reprove boldly the evils in Israel. In a burning passage he denounces false leaders in words which are eternally true: "Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken ...... etc. (Ezekiel, xxxiv. 2-4). Zul-kifl is again mentioned in xxxviii. 48 along with Isma'il and Elisha.
Zun-nun. "the man of the Fish or the Whale", is the title of Jonah (Yunus), because he was swallowed by a large Fish or Whale. He was the prophet raised to warn the Assyrian capital Nineveh. For Nineveh see n. 1478 to x. 98. His story is told in xxxvii. 139-149. When his first warning was unheeded by the people, he denounced Allah's wrath on them. But they repented and Allah forgave them for the time being. Jonah, meanwhile, departed in wrath, discouraged at the apparent failure of his mission. He should have remained in the most discouraging circumstances, and relied on the power of Allah; for Allah had power both over Nineveh and over the Messenger He had sent to Nineveh. He went away to the sea and took a ship, but apparently the sailors threw him out as a man of bad omen in a storm. He was swallowed by a big Fish (or Whale), but in the depth of the darkness, he cried to Allah and confessed his weakness. The "darkness" may be interpreted both physically and spiritually; physically, as the darkness of the night and the storm and the Fish's body; spiritually as the darkness in his soul, his extreme distress in the situation which he had brought on himself. Allah Most Gracious forgave him. He was cast out ashore; he was given the shelter of a plant in his state of mental and physical lassitude. He was refreshed and strengthened, and the work of his mission prospered. Thus he overcame all his disappointment by repentance and Faith, and Allah accepted him.
See xix. 2-15, and iii. 38-41. Zakariya was a priest; both he and his wife were devout and punctilious in their duties. They were old, and they had no son. He was troubled in mind, not so much by the vulgar desire to have a son to carry on his line, but because he felt that his people were not unselfishly devout, and there would be no sincere work for Allah unless he could train up someone himself. He was given a son Yahya (John the Baptist), who added to the devout reputation of the family, for he is called "noble, chaste, and a prophet," (iii. 39). All three, father, mother, and son, were made worthy of each other, and they repelled evil by their devout emulation in virtue.
'It is not that I crave a personal heir to myself: all things go back to Thee, and Thou art the best of inheritors: but I see no one around me sincere enough to carry on my work for Thee; wilt Thou give me one whom I can train?'
Aslaha = to improve, to mend, to reform, to make better. Here, with reference to Zakariya's wife, the signification is twofold: (1) that her barrenness would be removed, so that she could become a mother; and (2) her spiritual dignity should be raised in becoming the mother of John the Baptist; and by implication his also, in becoming the father of John.
Mary the mother of Jesus. Chastity was her special virtue: with a son of virgin birth, she and Jesus became a miracle to all nations. That was the virtue with which they (both Mary and Jesus) resisted evil.
Ummat: this is best translated by Brotherhood here. "Community", "race", and "nation," and "people" are words which import other ideas and do not quite correspond to "Ummat". "Religion" and "Way of Life" are derived meanings, which could be used in other passages, but are less appropriate here. Our attention has been drawn to people of very different temperaments and virtues, widely different in time, race, language, surroundings, history, and work to be performed, but forming the closest brotherhood as being men and women united in the highest service of Allah. They prefigure the final and perfected Brotherhood of Islam.
Allah's Message was and ever is one; and His Messengers treated it as one. It is people of narrower views who come later and trade on the earlier names, that break up the Message and the Brotherhood into jarring camps and sects.
Allah gives credit for every act of righteousness, however small: when combined with sincere Faith in Allah, it becomes the stepping stone to higher and higher things. It is never lost.
But when wickedness comes to such a pass that the Wrath of Allah descends, as it did on Sodom, the case becomes hopeless. The righteous were warned and delivered before the Wrath descended. But those destroyed will not get another chance, as they flouted all previous chances. They will only be raised at the approach of the Day of Judgment.
For Gog and Magog see n. 2439 to xviii. 92. The name stands for wild and lawless tribes who will break their barriers and swarm through the earth. This will be one of the prognostications of the approaching Judgment.
Cf. xiv. 42.
The ultimate proof of Truth and Falsehood will be that Truth will endure and come to its own, while Falsehood will be destroyed. And so the men who worshipped Truth will come to their own, while those who worshipped Falsehood will be in a Fire of Punishment they could scarcely have imagined before. In that state there will be nothing but regrets and sighs and groans, and these evil sounds will drown everything else.
In contrast to the misery of those who rejected Truth and Right, will be the happiness of those who accepted it. The good will not hear the least sound of the groans of evil. Their true soul's desires will be fulfilled-not temporarily as in this world, but in a permanent form.
The Judgment and balancing of accounts will be a mighty Terror to the evil-doers. But it will cause, to the righteous, not grief or anxiety, but hope and happiness, for now they will be in a congenial atmosphere, and will see the fulfilment of their ideals in the meeting and greeting of the angels, preparatory to their enjoyment of the supreme Bliss-seeing the Face of Allah.
The world-the universe-as we know it, will be folded up like a scroll of parchment, for it will have done its work. If Allah created all this world out of nothing, He can create an entirely new heaven and a new earth, on a plane of which we can form no conception in our present life. And He will do so, for that is His promise.
Zabur: the Book of the Psalms of David. The name of David is expressly mentioned in connection with the Zabur in iv. 163 and xvii. 55, although there the indefinite article is applied to the word as meaning a Book of Scripture. See Psalms xxv. 13, "his seed shall inherit the earth"; xxxvii. 11, "the meek shall inherit the earth" (quoted by Jesus in Matt. v.3); and xxxvii. 29, "the righteous shall inherit the land."
The same promise occurs in the Pentateuch, Exod. xxxii. 13.
The culmination of Allah's Revelation is in the Qur-an, which confirms previous scriptures, corrects the errors which men introduced into them, and explains many points in detail for all who seek for right worship and service to Allah-whether they inherit the previous Books ("People of the Book") or not. It is a universal Message.
There is no question now of race or nation, of a "chosen people" or the "seed of Abraham"; or the "seed of David"; or of Hindu Arya-varta; of Jew or Gentile, Arab or 'Ajam (non-Arab), Turk or Tajik, European or Asiatic, White or Coloured; Aryan, Semitic, Mongolian, or African; or American, Australian, or Polynesian. To all men and creatures other than men who have any spiritual responsibility, the principles universally apply.
'Not my God only, but also your God; for there is but One God, the Universal Lord, Who made and loves and cherishes all.'
'If you do not realise the significance of the Message, I at least have done my duty. I have given the Good News for the Righteous and the Warning for the Unjust, without favour or partiality, and without abating one jot of the truth, openly and squarely for all. Do not ask me when the Good News and the Warning will be fulfilled. That is for Allah to decide, not for me or for you to know.'
The Messenger of Allah freely and impartially teaches all how to carry out Allah's Will and live a good life. If some of them are hypocrites and come into the Ummat (Brotherhood) from baser motives and not the pure motives of the love of Allah, their motives and conduct will be judged by Allah and not by men.
In the same way if men who come into the Brotherhood from pure motives and yet feel aggrieved that those outside are better off from a worldly point of view, they are wrong. It may be that the fleeting enjoyment of this world's goods is but a trial, and they should be grateful for being saved from temptation.
See above, n. 2666 to xxi. 4. The better reading is "Say" in the imperative, rather than "He (the Prophet) said (or says)" in the indicative mood. Note that, on that construction, there are three distinct things which the Prophet is asked to say: viz.: (1) the statement in verses 109-11, addressed to those who turn away from the Message; (2) the prayer addressed to Allah in the first part of verse 112; and (3) the advice given indirectly to the Believers, in the second part of verse 112. I have marked these divisions by means of inverted commas.
That is, Allah's judgment as between the Teacher and those who refuse his Message, or between the righteous and those who taunt them for their poverty, will be the true one, and both the Teacher and the Ummat must leave the judgment to Allah.
Blasphemy is a dreadful sin. We must guard ourselves from it. But as regards others, if we cannot prevent it, we must pray to Allah for assistance and not rely upon carnal weapons.