Ha Mim. 4688
By the Book that makes things clear 4689
We sent it down during a blessed night: for We (ever) wish to warn (against Evil). 4690
In that (night) is made distinct every affair of wisdom 4691
By command from Our presence. For We (ever) send (revelations)
As a Mercy from thy Lord: for He hears and knows (all things); 4692
The Lord of the heavens and the earth and all between them if ye (but) have an assured faith. 4693
There is no god but He: it is He Who gives life and gives death the Lord and Cherisher to you and your earliest ancestors.
Yet they play about in doubt. 4694
Then watch thou for the Day that the sky will bring forth a kind of smoke (or mist) plainly visible. 4695 4696
Enveloping the people: this will be a Penalty Grievous.
(They will say:) "Our Lord! remove the Penalty from us for We do really believe!"
How shall the Message be (effectual) for them seeing that an Apostle explaining things clearly has (already) come to them 4697
Yet they turn away from him and say: "Tutored (by others) a man possessed!" 4698
We shall indeed remove the Penalty for a while (but) truly ye will revert (to your ways). 4699
One day We shall seize you with a mighty onslaught We will indeed (then) exact Retribution!
We did before them try the people of Pharaoh: there came to them and apostle most honorable 4700 4701
Saying: "Restore to me the servants of Allah: I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust; 4702 4703
"And be not arrogant as against Allah: for I come to you with authority manifest.
"For me I have sought Safety with my Lord and your Lord against your injuring me. 4704 4705
"If ye believe me not at least keep yourselves away from me." 4706
(But they were aggressive): then he cried to his Lord: "These are indeed a people given to sin." 4707
(The reply came): "March forth with My servants by night: for ye are sure to be pursued.
"And leave the sea as a furrow (divided). For they are a host (destined) to be drowned." 4708
How many were the gardens and springs they left behind. 4709
And corn-fields and noble buildings.
And wealth (and conveniences of life) wherein they had taken such delight!
Thus (was their end)! And We made other people inherit (those things)!
And neither heaven nor earth shed a tear over them: nor were they given a respite (again). 4710
We did deliver aforetime the Children of Israel from humiliating Punishment 4711
Inflicted by Pharaoh for he was arrogant (even) among inordinate transgressors.
And We chose them aforetime above the nations knowingly 4712
And granted them Signs in which there was a manifest trial. 4713
As to these (Quraish) they say forsooth: 4714
"There is nothing beyond our first death and we shall not be raised again.
"Then bring (back) our forefathers if what ye say is true!"
What! are they better than the people of Tubba and those who were before them? We destroyed them because they were guilty of sin. 4715 4716
We created not the heavens the earth and all between them merely in (idle) sport: 4717
We created them not except for just ends: but most of them do not understand.
Verily the Day of Sorting Out is the time appointed for all of them 4718
The Day when no protector can avail his client in aught and no help can they receive. 4719
Except such as receive Allah's Mercy: for He is exalted in Might Most Merciful. 4720
Verily the tree of Zaqqum 4721 4722
Will be the food of the Sinful
Like molten brass; it will boil in their insides
Like the boiling of scalding water.
(A voice will cry:) "Seize ye him and drag him into the midst of the Blazing Fire!
"Then pour over his head the Penalty of Boiling Water;
"Taste thou (this)! Truly wast thou Mighty full of honor! 4723
"Truly this is what ye used to doubt!" 4724
As to the Righteous (they will be) in a position of Security 4725
Among Gardens and Springs;
Dressed in fine silk and in rich brocade they will face each other; 4726 4727
So; and We shall Join them to Companions with beautiful big and lustrous eyes. 4728 4729
There can they call for every kind of fruit in peace and security; 4730
Nor will they there taste Death except the first Death; and He will preserve them from the Penalty of the Blazing Fire 4731 4732
As a Bounty from thy Lord! That will be the supreme achievement! 4733
Verily We have made this (Qur'an) easy in thy tongue in order that they may give heed. 4734
So wait thou and watch; for they (too) are waiting.
These Abbreviated Letters are discussed in the Introduction to S. xi.
The Qur-an is its own evidence. In the last Sura (xliii. 3) stress was laid on the fact that everyone could understand it. Here the stress is on the fact that it is a Message of Mercy from Allah in that it warns mankind against evil.
Usually taken to be a night in the month of Ramadhan, say the 23rd, 25th, or 27th night of that month. It is referred to as the Night of Power in xcvii. 1-2. See also ii. 185. But perhaps we need not fix it literally by the calendar. The night that a Message descends from Allah is indeed a blessed night like a day of rain for a parched land.
Such an occasion is one on which divine Wisdom places before us through Revelation the solution of spiritual problems of the highest import to mankind.
It is because Allah is the friend of the friendless and the help of the helpless that He hears all sincere prayers, and as His knowledge embraces all things, He grants to us whatever is best for us, not as we see it, but as He knows it in His perfect knowledge.
Cf. ii. 4. They cannot fully realise what a tremendous thing it is that Allah is their own Lord and Cherisher (nex verse), as He is the Lord and Cherisher of the whole Universe, until they firmly believe,-until their Faith amounts to a certainty, secure and unshakable.
The story is mainly about the Quraish. But there is a wider meaning behind it, applicable to men generally, and at all times. As a body the Quraish, especially in the earlier stages of the preaching of Islam, before they started persecution, received the Message with more amusement than hatred. They played about with it, and expressed doubts about it, whereas the Preacher was most earnest about it, with all his heart and soul in it, as he loved his people and wished to save them from their wickedness and folly.
What Day is this? It obviously refers to great calamity, and from the wording it is to be a great calamity in the future, seen with the prophetic eye. The word yagsha in verse 11 may be compared to gashiya in lxxxviii. 1, which obviously refers to the final Day of Judgment. But verse 15 below ("We shall remove the Penalty for a while") shows that it is not the final Judgment referred to here, but some calamity that was to happen soon afterwards. Perhaps it was a famine, about which see the next note.
The "smoke" or "mist" is interpreted on good authority to refer to a severe famine in Makkah, in which men were so pinched with hunger that they saw mist before their eyes when they looked at the sky. Ibn Kathir in his Tarikh mentions two famines in Makkah, one in the 8th year of the Mission, say the fourth year before the Hijra, and another about the 8th year after the Hijra. But as either or both of these famines lasted as many as seven years, the dates are to be taken very roughly. It is even possible that the two famines were continuous, of varying severity from year to year. Bukhari mentions only the post-Hijrat famine, which was apparently so severe that men began to eat bones and carrion. Abu Sufyan (about 8 A.H.) approached the holy Prophet to intercede and pray for the removal of the famine, as the Pagans attributed it to the curse of the Prophet. Sura xxiii., which is also Makkan, but of later date than the present Sura, also refers to a famine: see xxiii. 75, and n. 2921. As Suras were not all revealed entire, but many came piecemeal, it is possible that particular verses in a given Sura may be of different dates from the Sura as a whole.
The Quraish had before them a prophet whose purity of life was openly known to them; they themselves called him al-Amin (worthy of all trust); he preached in their own language in words of burning eloquence and transparent clearness; yet they turned away from him and called him a madman, or one whose Message was not inspired by Allah, but written by some hidden hand (see next note)! How will the teaching of spiritual Truth make way among such unreasonable people?
Tutored: see xvi. 103, and n. 2143. Possessed: see xv. 6, and n. 1940.
Allah gives every chance to all His creatures, however rebellious. He gives them a little trial, perhaps personal, perhaps economic, to see if that would bring them to their bearings, and train their will in the right direction. Some are thus reclaimed, and some do not learn. Perhaps, for the latter, he gives them a chance by removing the trial; some are reclaimed, and some still remain obdurate. And so, in His wisdom, He allows His grace to work, again and again, until, at the last, Judgment must seize the last and irreclaimable remnant "with a mighty onslaught". Such working of Allah's Providence is clearly visible in the story of the Quraish. It is a pity that the economic conditions of Makkah have not been studied in detail in any of the standard biographies of the Prophet. The so-called biographies by non-Muslims, e.g. , Muir's Life, do not even mention any Makkan famine or its reactions on the Quraish mind!
This reference is to the pride of Pharaoh and his Egyptians, and their fall, rather than to the story of Moses himself; just as in xliv. 30-33 the reference is to the blessings bestowed on Israel, contrasted with their pride, unbelief, and fall; and in xliv. 37, to the ancient Himyar kingdom in Yaman, which similarly fell for its sins.
Most honourable: this epithet is specially applied to Moses here, as expressing the truth, in contrast to the Pharaoh's false characterisation of him as "a contemptible wretch". (xliii. 52).
The argument of Moses and his "authority manifest" will be found at vii. 104-108, 120-126, 130-137. Notice how fully he assumes the authority of his office here. He claims all "servants of Allah", i.e., true worshippers, as under his protection, for his mission was both to the Egyptians and the Israelites; he asks that they should be restored to him; and he boldly denounces the Pharaoh's arrogance "as against Allah".
"Worthy of all trust": Amin, a title applied to prophets in S. xxvi.:e.g., see xxvi. 107. As the holy Prophet had historically earned that title among his own people, the reminiscences of the story of Moses apply to him in his relations with the arrogant Quraish.
It is no use their plotting his death or his vilification; for his safety is in Allah. As he truly says, "Allah is not only my Lord, but your Lord also; your responsibility arises apart from my preaching, but I preach in order to remind you of it."
"Injuring me": literally "stoning me". "Stoning" may be here symbolical of any injury or vilification.
If you do not believe me, at least go your ways: do not add to your sins by trying to suppress me and the Message of Truth which I bring: keep out of my way.
They would not even leave him alone to do his duty. So he cried to Allah, not indeed to destroy them, for a Prophet does not judge, but only Allah judges; he justified himself in prayer, that he had done his best, but they were obdurate in sin, and they were trying to oppress and injure the believers. Then came the order to march. They were to march under the cover of night, because the enemy was sure to pursue. They were to march with all believers, presumably believing Egyptians (such as were not martyred) as well as Israelites, for some Egyptians had believed: vii. 121.
For the passage of Moses and his following, the sea had divided: they were to pass through the gap or furrow and leave it alone, to lure on the Egyptian host, on which the sea afterwards closed in, totally destroying them.
There follows a word-picture of all the fine and enjoyable things which the ruling caste had monopolised. Now these proud monopolists were drowned in the sea, and the inheritance went to other hands.
They died, "unwept, unhonoured, and unsung". They were too inordinate to be given another chance. Pharaoh had claimed to be their supreme god; and they had followed him!
The Israelites were held in bondage prior to the Exodus. Their hard taskmaster placed every indignity on them, and by Pharaoh's decree their male children were to be killed, and their females were to be kept alive for the Egyptians.
From degrading servitude, Israel was delivered, and taken, in spite of many rebellions and backslidings on the way, to "a land flowing with milk and honey", where later they established the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon. This was not merely fortuitous. In Allah's decree it was to be a link in furthering His Plan. But their being chosen did not mean that they could do what they liked. In that sense there is no "chosen race" before Allah. But Allah gives every race and every individual a chance, and when the race or individual fails to live up to it, he or it must fall and give place to others.
Among the "Signs" given to Israel were their own Revelation under Moses, their prosperous land of Canaan, their flourishing Kingdom under David and Solomon, their prophets and teachers of Truth, and the advent of Jesus to reclaim the lost ones among them. All these were trials. When they failed in the trials, they were left to wander desolate and suffer.
The cases of the Egyptians and the Israelites having been cited as great nations which fell through inordinate vanity and wrong-doing, the case is now pressed home against the Quraish leaders in their arrogance to the holy Prophet himself. They deny Revelation; they deny a future life, as the Sadducees did among the Jews before them; they persecute the prophet of Allah, and those who believe in him: and they mockingly demand that their ancestors should be brought back to life, if it is true that there is a future life. They are reminded that better men than they lived in their own country of Arabia, men who had knowledge of Allah's revelation under the earliest Dispensation. See next note. They perished because of their unbelief and wrong-doing. What chance have they unless they turn and repent?
Tubba' is understood to be a title or family name of Himyuar kings in Yaman, of the tribe of Hamdan. The Himyar were an ancient race. At one time they seem to have extended their hegemony over all Arabia and perhaps beyond, to the East African Coast. Their earliest religion seems to have been Sabianism, or the worship of the heavenly bodies. They seem at different times, later on, to have professed the Jewish and the Christian religion. Among the Embassies sent by the holy Prophet in A.H. 9-10 was one to the Himyar of Yaman, which led to their coming into Islam. This was of course much later than the date of this Sura.
In prehistoric times the Himyar and Yaman seem to have played a large part in Arabia and even beyond: see last note. But when they were intoxicated with power, they fell into sin, and gradually they ceased to count, not only in Arabia but even in Yaman.
Cf. xxi. 16, and n. 2676. All creation is for a wise and just purpose. But men usually do not realise or understand it, because they are steeped in their own ignorance, folly, or passions.
Day of Sorting Out, or the Day of Decision. Cf. xxxvii. 21, and n. 4047. Ignorance, prejudice, passion, spite, and selfishness, seem sometimes to flourish in this probationary life. In any case they are mixed up with knowledge, justice, commonsense, love and regard for others. But the good and the evil will be sorted out and separated at the Day of Judgment. There is a time appointed for it. In Allah's good time all will come right.
When that Day comes, the strictest justice will prevail. No man, however prominently he may have walked on the world's stage, can help another. He himself will need help, not the sort of log-rolling help which high and low render to each other in this life, but which in the conditions of reality will be of no avail. The only things which will help will be the Mercy of Allah.
Allah's Mercy will be the only thing of any efficacy, for He is both able to help ("Exalted in Might") and willing to forgive ("Most Merciful").
Now follows a word-picture of the horrors to which Evil must lead us. What human language and what figures of speech can adequately describe them?
The opposite of "delicious Fruits" is the terrible tree of Zaqqam, which is further described in xxxvii. 62-68, where see n. 4073. Also see xvii. 60, n. 2250.
In this particular Sura the besetting sin we are considering is the arrogance born of place or power, wealth or honour, as understood in this world. The punishment of ignominy looks back to the kind of sin which is to be punished.
When the Punishment becomes a realised fact, how foolish will those look who doubted whether there would be a Hereafter?
There will be no uncertainty, as on this earth; no danger of discontinuance: no possibility of their satisfaction being terminated.
Cf. xvifi: 31, and n. 2373.
Everything will be open and in social companionship: for all the petty feelings of jealousy or exclusiveness will have passed away.
The Maidens, like the scene, the dress, the outlook, and the fruit, will be beautiful. There will be life, but free from all earthly grossness. The women as well as the men of this life will attain to this indescribable bliss.
Hur implies the following ideas: (1) purity, (2) beauty, especially of eyes, where the intense white of the eye-balls stands out against the intense black of the pupil, thus giving the appearance of lustre, and intense feeling, as opposed to dullness or want of expression; and (3) truth and goodwill.
The signification is explained in n. 4671 to xliii. 73.
First Death: the ordinary natural death from this life, which brought them to the Garden of Felicity: there will be no further death after that. Cf. xxxvii. 59, and n. 4071.
In Islam we are taught that salvation is not possible by our unaided efforts. Certainly, striving on our part is an indispensable condition: but it is the Mercy of Allah which comes to our help and keeps us from the Fire of final Punishment. This is mentioned last as the foundation on which is built our etemal felicity and our positive spiritual joys.
This is our idea of Salvation; the negative avoidance of all the consequences of evil, and the positive attainment of all-and more than all-that our hearts could possibly desire. For Allah's Bounty outstrips anything that our eyes have seen, or our ears have heard of, or our imagination can conceive.
Easy: not only to understand, being in the Arabic tongue; but mellifluous, whose rhythm carries off our spirits to a higher spiritual plane. In another sense, it is difficult; for to get to its deepest meaning, we shall have to strive hard, as the contents of this Sura alone will show.