THE SEVENTH SLJRAH

AL-A`RAF (THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT)

MECCA PERIOD

HE TITLE of this sarah is based on an expression which occurs in verses 46 and 48; its meaning is explained in note 37. According to most of the authorities (and particularly Ibn `Abbas), the whole of Al- A'rdf was revealed shortly before the preceding sarah -that is, in the last year of the Prophet's stay at Mecca; the assertion of As-Suyuti and some other scholars to the effect that verses 163-171 belong to the Medina period is the result of mere conjecture and cannot, therefore, be accepted (Mandr VIII, 294).

Although, in the chronological order of revelation, Al-A'rdf precedes the sixth sarah, it has been placed after the latter because it elaborates the theme outlined therein. After the exposition of God's oneness and uniqueness - which, as I have pointed out in the introductory note to Al-An'dm, constitutes the main theme of the sixth sarah - Al-A'rdf proceeds with a reference to revelation as a means by which God communicates His will to man: in other words, to the mission of the prophets. The need for continued prophetic guidance arises from the fact of man's weakness and his readiness to follow every temptation that appeals to his appetites, his vanity, or his mistaken sense of self-interest: and this essential aspect of the human condition is illustrated in the allegory of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace (verses 19-25), preceded by the allegory of Iblis as man's eternal tempter (verses 16-18). Without the guidance which God offers man through His prophets, the right way cannot be found; and, therefore, "unto those who give the lie to Our messages and scorn them in their pride, the gates of heaven shall not be opened" (verse 40). From verse 59 onwards, most of the sarah is devoted to the histories of some of the earlier prophets whose warnings were rejected by their people, beginning with Noah, continuing with Hud, $alih, Lot and Shu'ayb, and culminating in a lengthy account of Shu'ayb's son-in-law, Moses, and his experiences with the children of Israel. With verse 172 the discourse reverts to the complex psychology of man, his instinctive ability to perceive God's existence and oneness, and to "what happens to him to whom God vouchsafes His messages and who then discards them: Satan catches up with him, and he strays, like so many others, into grievous error" (verse 175). This brings us to God's final message, the Qur'an, and to the role of the Last Prophet, Muhammad, who is "nothing but a warner and a herald of glad tidings" (verse 188): a mortal servant of God, having no "supernatural" powers or qualities, and - like all God-conscious men - "never too proud to worship Him&quoot; (verse 206).

IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:

(1) Alif. Lam. Mim. $ad.'

A DIVINE WRIT has been bestowed from on high upon thee -and let there be no doubt about this in thy heart-in order that thou mayest warn [the erring] thereby, and [thus] admonish the believers:'

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I See Appendix II.

2 The expression haraj (lit., "straitness" or "tightness") is often used idiomatically to denote "doubt": and this is, according to Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Qatadah, the meaning of the term here (see Tabari', Zamakhshari, Baghawi, Razi, Ibn Kathir). The construction of the whole sentence

202

SURAH 7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

(10)

(3) "Follow what has been sent down unto you by your Sustainer, and follow no masters other than Him. ,3

How seldom do you keep this in mind!

(4) And how many a [rebellious] community have We destroyed, with Our punishment coming upon it by night, or while they were resting at noontide !4 (5) And when Our punishment came upon them, they had nothing to say for themselves, and could only cry,' "Verily, we were wrongdoers!"

(6) Thus, [on Judgment Day] We shall most certainly call to account all those unto whom a [divine] message was sent, and We shall most certainly call to account the message-bearers [themselves] ;6 (7) and thereupon We shall most certainly reveal unto them Our knowledge [of their doings]:' for never have We been absent [from them].

(8) And true will be the weighing on that Day; and those whose weight [of good deeds] is heavy in the balance -it is they, they who shall attain to a happy state; (9) whereas those whose weight is light in the balance - it is they who will have squandered their own selves by their wilful rejection of Our messages!

YEA, INDEED, [O men,] We have given you a [bountiful] place on earth, and appointed thereon means of livelihood for you: [yet] how seldom are you grateful!

(11) Yea, indeed, We have created you, and then formed you;9 and then We said unto the angels,

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makes it clear that the "doubt" does not relate to the origin of the divine writ but to its purpose: and thus, although ostensibly addressed to the Prophet, the above passage is meant to draw the attention of all whom the Qur'anic message may reach to the fact that it has a twofold objective - namely, to warn the rejectors of the truth and to guide those who already believe in it. Both the warning and the admonition are summarized in the sequence.

3 Some of the great Muslim thinkers, and particularly Ibn Hazm and Ibn Taymiyyah, maintain' that the expression awliyd' (here rendered as "masters") denotes, in this context, "authorities" in the religious sense of the word, implying a prohibition of attributing legal validity-side by side with Qur'anic ordinances - to the subjective opinions of any person below the Prophet. See in this connection 5 : 101, and the corresponding notes.

4 I.e., suddenly, when the people felt completely secure and at ease. This passage connects with the obligation, laid down in the preceding two verses, to follow God's revealed messages.

5 Lit., "their plea was nothing but that they said". 6 Cf. 5 : 109.

7 Lit., "relate to them with knowledge".

8 Lit., "for that they were wont to act wrongfully with regard to Our messages".

9 The sequence of these two statements -"We have created you [i.e., "brought you into being as living organisms"] and then formed you" [or "given you your shape", i.e., as human beings]-is meant to bring out the fact of man's gradual development, in the individual sense, from the embryonic stage to full-fledged existence, as well as of the evolution of the human race as such.

"Prostrate yourselves before Adam!" - whereupon they [all] prostrated themselves, save Iblis: he was not among those who prostrated themselves."

(12) [And God] said: "What has kept thee from prostrating thyself when I commanded thee?" Answered [Iblis]: "I am better than he: Thou hast created me out of fire, whereas him Thou hast created out of clay."

(13) [God] said: "Down with thee, then, from this [state] -for it is not meet for thee to show arrogance here! Go forth, then: verily, among the humiliated shalt thou be!"

(14) Said [Iblis]: "Grant me a respite till the Day when all shall be raised from the dead."

(15) [And God] replied: "Verily, thou shalt be among those who are granted a respite."

(16) [Whereupon Iblis] said: "Now that Thou hast thwarted me," 1 shall most certainly lie in ambush for them all along Thy straight way, (17) and shall most certainly fall upon them openly as well as in a manner beyond their ken," and from their right and from their left: and most of them Thou wilt find ungrateful."

(18) [And God] said: "Go forth from here, disgraced and disowned! [And] as for such of them as follow thee - I will most certainly fill hell with you all!

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10 As regards God's allegorical command to the angels to "prostrate themselves" before Adam, see 2 : 30-34, and the corresponding notes. The reference to all mankind which precedes the story of Adam in this sarah makes it clear that his name symbolizes, in this context, the whole human race.

Western scholars usually take it for granted that the name "Iblis" is a corruption of the Greek word didbolos, from which the English "devil" is derived. There is, however, not the slightest evidence that the pre-Islamic Arabs borrowed this or any other mythological term from the Greeks-while. on the other hand, it is established that the Greeks derived a good deal of their mythological concepts (including various deities and their functions) from the much earlier South-Arabian civilization (cf. Encyclopaedia of Islam I, 379 f.). One may, therefore, assume with something approaching certainty that the Greek didbolos is a Hellenized form of the Arabic name for the Fallen Angel, which, in turn, is derived from the root-verb ablasa, "he despaired" or "gave up hope" or "became broken in spirit" (see Lane I, 248). The fact that the noun didbolos ("slanderer" -derived from the verb diaballein, "to throw [something] across") is of genuinely Greek origin does not, by itself, detract anything from this hypothesis: for it is conceivable that the Greeks, with their well-known tendency to Hellenize foreign names, identified the name "Iblis" with the, to them. much more familiar term didbolos.-As regards Iblis' statement, in the next verse, that he had been created "out of fire", see sarah 38. note 60.

11 Or: "allowed me to fall into error". The term aghwahu denotes both "he caused [or "allowed"] him to err" or "he caused him to be disappointed" or "to fail in attaining his desire" (cf. Lane VI, 2304f.). Since. in this case. the saying of Iblis refers to the loss of his erstwhile position among the angels, the rendering adopted by me seems to be the most appropriate.

12 Lit., "from between their hands and from behind them". Regarding this idiomatic expression and my rendering of it, see the similar phrase in 2 : 255 ("He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them"). The subsequent phrase "from their right and from their left" signifies "from all directions and by all possible means".

7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

(19) And [as for thee], O Adam', dwell thou and thy wife in this garden, and eat, both of you, whatever you may wish; but do not approach this one tree, lest you become evildoers!""

(20) Thereupon Satan whispered unto the two with a view to making them conscious of their nakedness, of which [hitherto] they had been unaware;" and he said: "Your Sustainer has but forbidden you this tree lest you two become .[as] angels, or lest you live forever.""

(21) And he swore unto them, "Verily, I am of those who wish you well indeed!" (22) -and thus he led them on with deluding thoughts.

But as soon as the two had tasted [the fruit] of the tree, they became conscious of their nakedness; and they began to cover themselves with pieced-together leaves from the garden. And their Sustainer called unto them: "Did I not forbid that tree unto you and tell you, `Verily, Satan is your open foe'?"

(23) The two replied: "O our Sustainer! We have sinned against ourselves -and unless Thou grant us forgiveness and bestow Thy mercy upon us, we shall most certainly be lost!"

(24) Said He: "Down with you," [and be henceforth] enemies unto one another, having on earth your abode and livelihood for a while: (25) there shall

13 See 2 : 35 and 20: 120, as well as the corresponding notes.

14 Lit., "so as to make manifest to them that of their nakedness which [hitherto] had been imperceptible to them": an allegory of the state of innocence in which man lived before his fall from grace-that is, before his consciousness made him aware of himself and of the possibility of choosing between alternative courses of action, with all the attending temptations towards evil and the misery which must follow a wrong choice.

15 Lit., "or [lest] you become of those who are enduring": thus instilling in them the desire to live forever and to become. in this respect, like God. (See note 106 on 20 : 120.)

16 Sc., "from this state of blessedness and innocence". As in the parallel account of this parable of the Fall in 2:35-36, the dual form of address changes at this stage into the plural, thus connecting once again with verse 10 and the beginning of verse 11 of this surah, and making it clear that the story of Adam and Eve is, in reality, an allegory of human destiny. In his earlier state of innocence man was unaware of the existence of evil and, therefore, of the ever-present necessity of making a choice between the many possibilities of action and behaviour: in other words, he lived, like all other animals, in the light of his instincts alone. Inasmuch, however, as this innocence was only a condition of his existence and not a virtue, it gave to his life a static quality and thus precluded him from moral and intellectual development. The growth of his consciousness-symbolized by the wilful act of disobedience to God's command-changed all this. It transformed him from a purely instinctive being into a full-fledged human entity as we know it - a human being capable of discerning between right and wrong and thus of choosing his way of life. In this deeper sense, the allegory of the Fall does not describe a retrogressive happening but, rather, a new stage of human development: an opening of doors to moral considerations. By forbidding him to "approach this tree", God made it possible for man to act wrongly-and, therefore, to act rightly as well: and so man became endowed with that moral free will which distinguishes him from all other sentient beings. - Regarding the role of Satan - or Iblis - as the eternal tempter of man, see note 26 on 2 : 34 and note 31 on 15 : 41.

you live" - He added - "and there shall you die, and thence shall you be brought forth [on Resurrection Day]!

(26) O CHILDREN of Adam! Indeed, We have bestowed upon you from on high [the knowledge of making] garments to cover your nakedness, and as a thing of beauty:" but the garment of God-consciousness is the best of all. Herein lies a message from God, so that man'" might take it to heart.

(27) O children of Adam! Do not allow Satan to seduce you in the same way as he caused your ancestors to be driven out of the garden: he deprived them of their garment [of God-consciousness] in order to make them aware of their nakedness. Verily, he and his tribe are lying in wait for you where you cannot perceive them!'9

Verily, We have placed [all manner of] satanic forces near unto those who do not [truly] believe;' (28) and [so,] whenever they commit a shameful deed, they are wont to say, "We found our forefathers doing it," and, "God has enjoined it upon us."

Say: "Behold, never does God enjoin deeds of abomination. Would you attribute unto God something of which you have no knowledge?"

(29) Say: "My Sustainer has [but] enjoined the doing of what is right; and [He desires you to] put your whole being into every act of worship," and to call unto Him, sincere in your faith in Him alone. As it was He who brought you into being in the first instance, so also [unto Him] you will return: (30) some [of you] He will have graced with His guidance, whereas, for some a straying from the right path will have become unavoidable:" for, behold, they will

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17 Lit., "as plumage" - a metaphorical expression derived from the beauty of birds' plumage. 18 Lit., "this is [one] of God's messages, so that they.. .", etc.

19 Lit., "see you from where you do not see them".

20 The interpolated word "truly" is implied in this phrase in view of the subsequent reference to the erroneous beliefs of such people: for, although their beliefs are wrong, some of them are under the impression that the "shameful deeds" subsequently referred to have been enjoined by God. As for the "satanic forces" (shaydffn), it is to be remembered that this designation is applied in the Qur'an to all kinds of wicked impulses or propensities that are "near unto" (i.e., in the hearts of) those who do not truly believe in God (see note 31 on 14: 22): hence, the term shaydtin occurring in verse 30 below has been rendered as "evil impulses".

21 The term wajh (lit., "face") occurring here is often used, in the abstract sense, to denote a person's entire being or entire attention-as, for instance, in the phrase aslamtu wajhi li'lldhi, "I have surrendered my whole being unto God" (3: 20). The word masjid, which usually signifies the time or place of prostration in prayer (sujad), evidently stands in this context-as well as in verse 31 below-for any act of worship.

22 Lit., "will have become incumbent upon them" (hagqa `alayhim), implying that this straying was an inevitable consequence of their own doings and attitudes.

7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

have taken [their own] evil impulses for their masters in preference to God, thinking all the while that they have found the right path!"

(31) O CHILDREN of Adam! Beautify yourselves' for every act of worship, and eat and drink [freely], but do not waste: verily, He does not love the wasteful!

(32) Say: "Who is there to forbid the beauty which God has brought forth for His creatures, and the good things from among the means of sustenance?"

Say: "They are [lawful] in the life of this world unto all who have attained to faith - to be theirs alone on Resurrection Day."2

Thus clearly do We spell out these messages unto people of [innate] knowledge!

(33) Say: "Verily, my Sustainer has forbidden only shameful deeds, be they open or secret, and [every kind of] sinning, and unjustified envy, and the ascribing of divinity to aught beside Him - since He has never bestowed any warrant therefor from on highand the attributing unto God of aught of which you have no knowledge."

(34) And for all people a term has been set:" and when [the end of] their term approaches, they can neither delay it by a single moment,26 nor can they hasten it.

(35) O CHILDREN of Adam! Whenever there come unto

you apostles of your own, conveying My messages unto you, then all who are conscious of Me and live righteously - no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve; (36) but they who give the lie to Our messages and scorn them in their pride-these are

destined for the fire, therein to abide.

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23 Lit., "take to your adornment (zinah)". According to Raghib (as quoted in Lane III, 1279 f.), the proper 'meaning of zrnah is "a [beautifying] thing that does not disgrace or render unseemly ... either in the present world or in that which is to come": thus, it signifies anything of beauty in both the physical and moral connotations of the word.

24 By declaring that all good and beautiful things of life-i.e., those which are not expressly prohibited-are lawful to the believers, the Qur'an condemns, by implication, all forms of life-denying asceticism, world-renunciation and self-mortification. While, in the life of this world, those good things are shared by believers and unbelievers alike, they will be denied to the latter in the hereafter (cf. verses 5(1-51 of this surah).

25 Lit., "for every community (ummah) there is a term": i.e., all people have a life-term decreed by God, during which they are at liberty to accept or to reject the guidance offered them through revelation. The word ummah often denotes "living beings" -in this context, "people".

26 In Arabic usage, the term sd'ah (lit., "hour") signifies not merely the astronomical hour-i.e., the twenty-fourth part of a mean solar day -but also "time" in an absolute sense, or any fraction of it, whether large or small. In the above context, it has obviously been used in the sense of "a least fraction of time" or "a single moment".

AL-A'RAF

SURAH

(37) And who could be more wicked than they who attripute their own lying inventions to God or give the lie to His messages? Whatever has been decreed to be their lot [in life] will be theirs`'-till there shall come _ unto them Our messengers to cause them to die, [and] shall say, "Where, now, are those beings whom you were wont to invoke beside God?"

And [those sinners] will reply, "They have forsaken us!" -and [thus] they will bear witness against themselves that they had been denying the truth.

(38) [And God] will say: "Join those hosts of invisible beings and humans who have gone before you into the fire!"

[And] every time a host enters [the fire], it will curse its fellow-host -so much so that, when they all shall have passed into it, one after another, the last of them will speak [thus] of the first of them:' "O our Sustainer! It is they who have led us astray:. give, them, therefore, double suffering through fire!"

He, will reply: "Every one of you deserves double suffering'-but you know it not."

(39) And the first of them will say unto the last of them: "So you were in no wise superior to us!" Taste, then, this suffering for all [the evil] that you were wont to do!"

VERILY, unto those who give the lie to Our messages and scorn them in their pride, the gates of heaven shall not be opened;" and they shall not enter paradise any more than a twisted rope can pass through a needle's eye: 'z for thus do We requite such

27 Lit., "their share of the [divine] decree (al-kitdb) will reach them": i.e., they will have in their lifetime, like all other people, all the good or bad fortune envisaged for them in God's eternal decree. The "messengers" (rusul) referred to in the next clause are, apparently, the angels of death.

28 The terms "first" and "last" refer here either to a sequence in time ("those who came earlier" and "those who came later") or in status ("leaders" and "followers"); and in both cases they relate, as the next sentence indicates, to the evil influence which the former exerted on the latter during their lifetime-either directly, as leaders of thought and persons of distinction, or indirectly, as forerunners in.time, whose example was followed by later generations.

29 Lit., "to everyone a double [suffering]": i.e., for having gone astray and for having, by his example, led others astray. Cf. 16: 25 - "on Resurrection Day they shall bear the full weight of their own burdens, as well as some of the burdens of those ignorant ones whom they have led astray".

30 I.e., "You went the wrong way, as we did, out of your own free will, and you bear the same responsibility as we do." Another possible interpretation is: "You are not superior to us because you have learnt nothing from our mistakes."

31 According to Ibn `Abbas (as quoted by Razi), this metaphor signifies that God will not accept any of the good deeds of such sinners, nor their subsequent supplications.

32 Lit., "until (hattd) a twisted rope passes through a needle's eye"; since this phrase is meant to express an impossibility, the rendering of hattd as "any more than" seems to be appropriate

7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

as are lost in sin. (41) Hell will be their resting-place and their covering as well:" for thus do We requite the evildoers.

(42) But those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds - [and] We do not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear - they are destined for paradise, therein to abide, (43) after We shall have removed whatever unworthy thoughts or feelings may have been [lingering] in their bosoms. Running waters will flow at their feet;' and they will say: "All praise is due to God, who has guided us unto this; for we would certainly not have found the right path unless God had guided us! Indeed, our Sustainer's apostles have told us the truth!"

And [a voice] will call out unto them: "This is the paradise which you have inherited by virtue of your past deeds!"

(44) And the inmates of paradise will call out to the inmates of the fire: "Now we have found that what our Sustainer promised us has come true; have you. too, found that what your Sustainer promised you has come true?"

[The others] will answer, "Yes!"-whereupon from their midst a voice" will loudly proclaim: "God's rejection is the due of the evildoers (45) who turn others away from God's path and try to make it

here. As for the word jamal occurring in this sentence, there is hardly any doubt that its translation, in this context, as "camel" is erroneous. As pointed out by Zamakhshari' (and confirmed by other classical commentators, including Razi), Ibn `Abbas used to read the word in the spelling jummal, which signifies "a thick rope" or "a twisted cable"; and the same reading is attributed to 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (Tdj al= Aras). It is to be noted that there are also several other dialectical spellings of this word, namely, jumal, juml, jumul and, finally, jamal (as in the generally-accepted version of the Qur'an) - all of them signifying "a thick, twwisted rope" (Jawhari), and all of them used in this sense by some of the Prophet's Companions or their immediate successors (tdbi'un). Ibn `Abbas is also quoted by Zamakhshari as having said that God could not have coined so inappropriate a metaphor as "a camel passing through a needle's eye"-meaning that there is no relationship whatsoever between a camel and a needle's eye whereas, on the other hand, there is a definite relationship between the latter and a rope (which, after all, is but an extremely thick thread). On all accounts, therefore, the rendering of jamal as "a twisted rope" is, in this context, infinitely preferable to that of "a camel". The fact that the latter rendering occurs in a somewhat similar phrase in the Greek version of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew xix, 24, Mark x, 25 and Luke xviii, 25) does not affect this contention. One should remember that the Gospels were originally composed in Aramaic, the language of Palestine at the time of Jesus, and that those Aramaic texts are now lost. It is more than probable that, owing to the customary absence of vowel signs in Aramaic writing, the Greek translator misunderstood the consonant spelling g-m-l (corresponding to the Arabic j-m-l), and took it to mean "a camel": a mistake repeated since, with regard to the above Qur'an-verse, by many Muslims and all, non-Muslim orientalists as well.

33 Lit., "for them there will be a resting-place of [the fires of] hell and, from above them, coverings [thereof]".

34 Lit., "beneath them": i.e., all blessings will be at their command. 35 Lit., "an announcer" (mu'adhdhin).

appear crooked, and who refuse to acknowledge the truth of the life to come!"

(46) And between the two there will be a barrier.' And there will be persons who [in life] were endowed with the faculty of discernment [between right and wrong], recognizing each by its mark." And they will call out unto the inmates of paradise, "Peace be upon you!"-not having entered it themselves, but longing [for it]. (47) And whenever their eyes are turned towards the inmates of the fire, they will cry: "O our Sustainer! Place us not among the people who have been guilty of evildoing!"

(48) And they who [in life] had possessed this faculty of discernment will call out to those whom they recognize by their marks [as sinners], saying: "What has your amassing [of wealth] availed you, and all the false pride of your past? (49) Are those [blessed ones] the self-same people of whom you once solemnly declared, `Never will God bestow His grace upon them'?98 [For now they have been told,] `Enter paradise; no fear need you have, and neither shall you grieve!"'

(50) And the inmates of the fire will call out unto the inmates of paradise: "Pour some water upon us, or some of the sustenance [of paradise] which God has provided for you!"

[The inmates of paradise] will reply: "Verily, God

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36 The word hijab denotes anything that intervenes as an obstacle between things or conceals one thing from another; it is used in both an abstract and a concrete sense.

37 The term al-a'raf (which gave to this sarah its title) occurs in the Qur'An only twicenamely, in the above verse and in verse 48. It is the plural of `urf, which primarily denotes "acknowledgement" or "discernment", and is also used to denote the highest, or most elevated, part of anything (because it is most easily discerned): for instance, the `urf of a cock is the coxcomb, that of a horse its mane, and so forth. On the basis of this idiomatic usage, many commentators assume that the a'raf referred to here are "elevated places", like the heights of a wall or its ramparts, and identify it with the "barrier" (hijab) mentioned at the end of the preceding sentence. A far more likely interpretation, however, is forthcoming from the primary significance of the word `urf and its plural a'raf: namely, "discernment" and "the faculty of discernment", respectively. This interpretation has been adopted by some of the great, early commentators of the Qur'An, like Al-Hasan al-Bagff and Az-Zajjfij, whose views Rfizi quotes with evident approval. They state emphatically that the expression `ala 'l-a'raf is synonymous with `ala ma'rifah, that is, "possessing knowledge" or "endowed with the faculty of discernment" (i.e., between right and wrong); and that the persons thus described are those who in their lifetime were able to discern between right and wrong ("recognizing each by its mark"), but did not definitely incline to either: in brief, the indifferent ones. Their lukewarm attitude has prevented them from doing either much good or much wrong-with the result that, as the next sentence shows, they deserve neither paradise nor hell. (Several Traditions to this effect are quoted by 'f abarl as well as by Ibn KathTr in their commentaries on this verse.) -The noun rijal (lit., "men") at the beginning of the next sentence as well as in verse 48 obviously denotes "persons" of both sexes.

38 Implying either that the believers did not deserve God's grace or, alternatively, that God does not exist. The expression "you solemnly declared" (lit., "you said under oath") is a metaphor for the unbelievers' utter conviction in this respect.

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

has denied both to those who have denied the truth - (51) those who, beguiled by the life of this world, have made play and passing delights their religion!""

[And God will say:] "And so We shall be oblivious of them today as they were oblivious of the coming of this their Day [of Judgment], and as Our messages they did deny: (52) for, indeed, We did convey unto them a divine writ which We clearly, and wisely," spelled out - a guidance and a grace unto people who will believe."

(53) Are [the unbelievers] but waiting for the final meaning of that [Day of Judgment] to unfold?"' [But] on the Day when its final meaning is unfolded, those who aforetime had been oblivious thereof will say: "Our Sustainer's apostles have indeed told us the truth! Have we, then, any intercessors who could intercede in our behalf? Or could we be brought back [to life] so that we might act otherwise than we were wont to act?""'

Indeed, they will have squandered their own selves, and all their false imagery will have forsaken them.

VERILY, your Sustainer is God, who has created the heavens and the earth in six aeons, and is established on the throne of His almightiness.' He covers the day with the night in swift pursuit, with the sun and the moon and the stars subservient to His command: oh, verily, His is all creation and all command. Hallowed is God, the Sustainer of all the worlds!

(55) Call unto your Sustainer humbly, and in the secrecy of your hearts. Verily, He loves not those who transgress the bounds of what is right: (56)

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39 See 6 : 70 and the corresponding note 60.

40 Lit., "with knowledge".

41 In this context, the term ta'wrl (which literally means "an endeavour to arrive at the final meaning [of a saying or occurrence]"-cf. 3 : 7) signifies the fulfilment of the warnings contained in the Qur'an: and in this sense it connotes the "unfolding of its final meaning"

42 Cf. 6 : 27-28.

43 The conjunctive particle thumma which precedes this clause does not always denote order in time ("then" or "thereupon"). In cases where it is used to link parallel statements it has often the function of the simple conjunction wa ("and") - as, for instance, in 2 : 29 ("and has applied His design. . .", etc.) As regards the term `arsh (lit., "throne" or "seat of power"), all Muslim commentators, classical and modern, are unanimously of the opinion that its metaphorical use in the Qur'An is meant to express God's absolute sway over all His creation. It is noteworthy that in all the seven instances where God is spoken of in the Qur'an as "established on the throne of His almightiness" (7 :54, 10: 3, 13: 2, 20: 5, 25 :59, 32: 4 and 57: 4), this expression is connected with a declaration of His having created the universe.-The word yawm, commonly translated as "day" - but rendered above as "aeon" - is used in Arabic to denote any period, whether extremely long ("aeon") or extremely short ("moment"): its application to an earthly "day" of twenty-four hours is only one of its many connotations. (Cf. in this respect note 26 above, where the meaning of sa'ah - lit., "hour" - is explained.)

AL-A'RAF

SiJRAH

hence, do not spread corruption on earth after it has been so well ordered. And call unto Him with fear and longing: verily, God's grace is ever near unto the doers of good!

(57) And He it is who sends forth the winds as a glad tiding of,His coming grace-so that, when they have brought heavy clouds, We may drive them towards dead land and cause thereby water to descend; and by this means do We cause all manner of fruit to come forth. Even thus shall We cause the \dead to come forth: [and this] you ought to keep in mind." (58) As for the good land, its vegetation comes forth [in abundance] by its Sustainer's leave, whereas from the bad it comes forth but poorly.

Thus do We give many facets to Our messages for [the benefit of] people who are grateful!

(59) INDEED, We sent forth Noah unto his people, 4' and he said: "O my people! Worship God alone: you have no deity other than Him. Verily, I fear lest suffering befall you on an awesome Day!"'6-'

(60) The great ones among his people replied: "Verily, we see that thou art obviously lost in error!" (61) Said [Noah]: "O my people! There is no error in me, but I am an apostle from the Sustainer of all the worlds. (62) I am delivering unto you my Sustainer's messages and giving you good advice: for I know [through revelation] from God what you do not know. (63) Why, do you deem it strange that a tiding from your Sustainer should have come unto you through a man from among yourselves, so that he might warn you, and that you might become conscious of God, and that you might be graced with His mercy?"

(64) And yet they gave him the lie! And so We saved him and those who stood by him, in the ark, the while We caused those who had given the lie to Our messages to drown: verily, they were blind folk!'

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44 This is the key-sentence of the parable set forth in verses 57-58: by the exercise of the same life-giving power by which God causes plants to grow, He will resurrect the dead at the end of time. The next sentence continues the parable by likening those whose hearts are open to the voice of truth to fertile earth, and those who are bent on denying it, to barren earth.

45 In continuation of the stress, in the preceding passages, on God's omnipotence and transcendental oneness, verses 59-93 refer to several of the earlier prophets, who preached the same truth, and whose names were familiar to the Arabs before the revelation of the Qur'an. Their stories - beginning with that of Noah, who is considered the first apostle ever sent to mankind - are reduced here to the warnings with which they unsuccessfully tried to persuade their people to worship God alone and to live righteously.

46 This refers either to the Day of Judgment or to the approaching deluge.

47 Explaining this verse in his translation of the Qur'an, Muhammad Ali rightly points out that 212

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

(65) AND UNTO [the tribe of] `Ad [We sent] their brother Hud.* He said: "O my people! Worship God alone: you have no deity other than Him. Will you not, then, be conscious of Him?"

(66) Said the great ones among his people, who refused to acknowledge the truth: "Verily, we see that thou art weak-minded; and, verily, we think that thou art a liar!"49

(67) Said [Hud]: "O my people! There is no weakmindedness in me, but I am an apostle from the Sustainer of all the worlds. (68) 1 am delivering unto you my Sustainer's messages and advising you truly and wells (69) Why, do you deem it strange that a tiding from your Sustainer should have come unto you through a man from among yourselves, so that he might warn you? Do but remember how He made you heirs to Noah's people, and endowed you abundantly with power:` remember, then, God's blessings, so that you might attain to a happy state!"

(70) They answered: "Hast thou come to us [with the demand] that we worship God alone, and give up all that our forefathers were wont to worship? Bring about, then, that [punishment] with which thou hast threatened us, if thou art a man of truth!"

(71) Said [Hud]: "You are already beset by loath

the latter "does not support the theory of a world deluge, for it plainly states ... that only people to whom Noah had delivered his message called him a liar, and ... were drowned .... Hence the deluge affected the territory of Noah's people, not the whole world, as the Bible would have us believe." To this may be added that the deluge spoken of in the Bible, in the myths of Sumeria and Babylonia, and, finally, in the Qur'an, most probably represents the inundation, during the Ice Age, of the huge basin which today is covered by the Mediterranean: an inundation which was due to the break-in of the Atlantic through the land-barrier at the modern Gibraltar, and of the Black Sea through what is now the Dardanelles.

48 Hud is said to have been the first Arabian prophet. He may be identical with the Biblical `Eber, the ancestor of the Hebrews (`Ibrlm) who - like most of the Semitic tribes - had probably originated in South Arabia. (References to `2b& are found in Genesis x, 24-25 and xi, 14 ff.) The ancient Arabian name Hud is still reflected in that of Jacob's son Judah (Yahudah in Hebrew), which provided the subsequent designation of the Jews. The name `Eber - both in Hebrew and in its Arabic form `Abir -signifies "one who crosses over" (i.e., from one territory to another), and may be a Biblical echo of the fact that this tribe "crossed over" from Arabia to Mesopotamia in pre-Abrahamic times.-The tribe of `Ad, to which Hud belonged ("their brother Hud"), inhabited the vast desert region known as AI-Ahgaf, between `Uman and Hadramawt, and was noted for its great power and influence (see 89: 8 - "the like of whom has never been reared in all the land"). It disappeared from history many centuries before the advent of Islam, but its memory always remained alive in Arabian tradition.

49 They considered him "weak-minded" because he expected them to give up their traditional beliefs and deities; and a "liar", because he claimed to be a prophet of God.

50 Lit., "I am a trustworthy adviser to you".

51 Lit., "successors after Noah's people"-i.e., the most numerous and powerful of all the tribes that descended from Noah - "and increased you abundantly in respect of [your] natural endowment (khalq)". The latter term also signifies "power" (Razi).

some evils' and by your Sustainer's condemnation! Do you argue with me about the [empty] names which you have invented 13 - you and your forefathers - for which God has bestowed no warrant from on high? Wait, then, [for what will happen:] verily, I shall wait with you!""'

(72) And so, by Our grace, We saved him and those who stood by him, the while We wiped out the last remnant of those who gave the lie to Our messages and would not believe."

(73) AND UNTO [the tribe of] Thamild [We sent] their brother $alih se He said: "O my people! Worship God alone: you have no deity other than Him. Clear evidence of the truth has now come unto you from your Sustainer.

"This she-camel belonging to God shall be a token for you: so leave her alone to pasture on God's earth, and do her no harm, lest grievous chastisement befall

57

you.

(74) "And remember how He made you heirs to [the tribe of] `Ad" and settled you firmly on earth, so

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52 A reference to their idolatry and obstinacy.

53 Lit., "names which you have named"-i.e., the false deities, which have no real existence. 54 Lit., "I shall be, together with you, among those who wait."

55 As is shown in 69 :6-8, this destruction came about through a violent sandstorm raging

without a break for seven nights and eight days.

56 The Nabataean tribe of Thamtld descended from the tribe of 'Ad mentioned in the preceding passage, and is, therefore, often referred to in pre-Islamic poetry as the "Second `Ad". Apart from Arabian sources, "a series of older references, not of Arabian origin, confirm the historical existence of the name and people of Thamtld. Thus the inscription of Sargon of the year 715 B.C. mentions the Thamad among the people of eastern and central Arabia subjected by the Assyrians. We also find the Thamudaei, Thamudenes mentioned in Aristo, Ptolemy, and Pliny" (Encyclopaedia of Islam IV, 736). At the time of which the Qur'fin speaks, the Thamad were settled in the northernmost Uijiiz, near the confines of Syria. Rock-inscriptions attributed to them are still extant in the region of Al-Hijr.-As in the case of the `Adite prophet Had-and the prophet Shu'ayb spoken of in verses 85-93 of this surah - $glib is called the "brother" of the tribe because he belonged to it.

57 The commentators cite various legends to the effect that this she-camel was of miraculous origin. Since neither the Qur'an nor any authentic Tradition provides the least support for these legends, we must assume that they are based on the expression ndgat Allah ("God's she-camel"), which has led some pious Muslims to fantastic conjectures. However, as Rashfd Ri4a' points out (Mandr VIII, 502), this expression denotes merely the fact that the animal in question was not owned by any one person, and was therefore to be protected by the whole tribe; a further, analogous expression is found in the words "God's earth" in the same verse: an illustration of the fact that everything belongs to God. The particular stress placed by $glib on good treatment of this ownerless animal - referred to in several places in the Qur'dn - was obviously due to the cruel high-handedness displayed by the tribe, who, as the next two verses show, were wont to "act wickedly on earth by spreading corruption" and "gloried in their arrogance towards all who were deemed weak": in other words, their treatment of the defenceless animal was to be a "token" of their change of heart or (as is made clear in 54: 27) "a test for them".

58 Cf. the parallel expression in verse 69 above - "heirs to Noah's people" - and the cor-

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

that you [are able to] build for yourselves castles on its plains and hew out mountains [to serve you] as dwellings:s9 remember, then, God's blessings, and do not act wickedly on earth by spreading corruption."

(75) The great ones among his people, who gloried in their arrogance towards all who were deemed weak, said unto the believers among them: "Do you [really] know that $alih has been sent by his Sustainer?"

They answered: "Verily, we believe in the message which he bears."6

(76) [But] the arrogant ones said: "Behold, what you have come to believe in we refuse to regard as true!"

(77) And then they cruelly slaughtered the shecamel '61 and turned with disdain from their Sustainer's commandment, and said: "O $alih! Bring about that [punishment] with which thou hast threatened us, if thou art truly one of God's messagebearers!"

(78) Thereupon an earthquake overtook them: and then they lay lifeless, in their very homes, on the ground.62

(79) And [$alih] turned away from them, and said: "O my people! Indeed, I delivered unto you my Sustainer's message and gave you good advice: but you did not love those who gave [you] good advice."

responding note. From all the historical references to the Thamud it is apparent that they were one of the greatest and most powerful Arab tribes of their time.

59 A reference to the elaborate rock-dwellings or tombs-to be seen to this day-which the Thamud carved out of the cliffs west of Al-Hijr, in northern Hijaz, and embellished with sculptures of animals as well as many inscriptions attesting to the comparatively high degree of their civilization and power. In popular Arabian parlance, these rock-dwellings are nowadays called Madd'in $alih ("The Towns of Salih").

60 The contents of his message (lit., "that with which he has been sent") appeared to them justification enough to accept it on its merits, without the need of any esoteric "proof" of Salih's mission. In a subtle way, this statement of faith has a meaning which goes far beyond the story of the Thamud. It is an invitation to the sceptic who is unable to believe in the divine origin of a religious message, to judge it on its intrinsic merits and not to make his acceptance dependent on extraneous, and objectively impossible, proofs of its origin: for only through the contents of a message can its truth and validity be established.

61 The verb `agara primarily denotes "he hamstrung [an animal]"-i.e., before slaughtering it, so that it might not run away. This barbarous custom was widely practiced in pre-Islamic Arabia, so that `agr ("hamstringing") gradually became synonymous with slaughtering in a cruel manner (Razi; see also Lane V, 2107 f.).

62 Lit., "they became, in their homes, prostrate on the ground'". The term rajfah which occurs at the beginning of this sentence signifies any violent commotion or trembling, and is often, though not always, applied to an earthquake (rajfat al-ard). It is possible that the earthquake mentioned here was accompanied by the volcanic eruption which at some time overtook the historical dwelling-places of the Thamud tribe, and to which the extensive black lava-fields (harrah) of northern Hijaz, and particularly near Mada'in Salih (see note 59 above), bear eloquent witness to this day.

AL-A'RAF

SURAH

(80)

AND [remember] Lot,63 when he said unto his people: "Will you commit abominations such as none in all the world has ever done before you? (81) Verily, with lust you approach men instead of women: nay, but you are people given to excesses!"

(82) But his people's only answer was this:6` "Expel them from your land! Verily, they are folk who make themselves out to be pure !,,61

(83) Thereupon We saved him and his householdexcept his wife, who was among those that stayed behind6b - (84) the while We rained a rain [of destruction] upon the others: and behold what happened in the end to those people lost in sin!

(85) AND UNTO [the people of] Madyan [We sent] their brother Shu'ayb.67 He said: "O my people! Worship God alone: you have no deity other than Him. Clear evidence of the truth has now come unto you,from your Sustainer. Give, therefore, full measure and weight [in all your dealings], and do not deprive people of what is rightfully theirs;6e and do not spread corruption on earth after it has be, en so well ordered: [all] this is for your own good, 'if you would but believe. (86) And do not lie in ambush by every road [that leads to the truth 69], threatening and trying to turn away from God's path all who believe in Him, and trying to make it appear crooked. And remember [the time] when you were few, and,[how] He made you many: and behold what happened in the end to the spreaders of corruption!

(87) "And if there be some among you who have come to believe in the message which I bear, the

 

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63 The story of Lot, Abraham's nephew (Lut in Arabic), is given in greater detail in 11:69-83.

64 Lit., "their answer was nothing but that they said".

65 Lit., "who purify themselves"; also, "who keep aloof from unclean things": here obviously used ironically. The plural relates to Lot, his family and his followers (cf. 27: 56).

66 Contrary to the Biblical account; according to which Lot's wife only "looked back" inadvertently (Genesis xix, 26), the Qur'an makes it clear in 11 : 81 and 66 : 10 that she remained behind deliberately, being at heart one with the sinning people of Sodom and having no faith in her husband.

67 Shu'ayb is said to be identical with Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, also called in the Bible Red-61 (Exodus ii, 18), meaning "Faithful to God". The region of Madyan - the Midian of the Bible-extended from the present-day Gulf of Aqabah westwards deep into the Sinai Peninsula and to the mountains of Moab east of the Dead Sea; its inhabitants were Arabs of the Amorite group of tribes.

68 Lit., "do not diminish to people their things" - an expression which applies to physical possessions as well as to moral and social rights. Regarding my interpolation of "in all your dealings", see surah 6, note 150.

69 Thus Zamakhshari and Razl, stressing the metaphorical meaning of the above phrase. Cf. a similar expression, attributed to Satan, in verse 16 of this surah.

7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

while the others do not believe, then have patience in adversity till God shall judge between us [and them]: for He is the best of all judges!"

(88) Said the great ones among his people, who gloried in their arrogance: "Most certainly, O Shu'ayb, we shall expel thee and thy fellow-believers from our land, unless you indeed return to our ways!"

Said [Shu'ayb]: "Why, even though we abhor [them]? (89) We should be guilty of blaspheming against God 70 were we to return to your ways after God has saved us from them! It is not conceivable that we should return to them-unless God, our Sustainer, so wills." All things does our Sustainer embrace within His knowledge; in God do we place our trust. O our Sustainer! Lay Thou open the truth between us and our people -for Thou art the best of all to lay open the truth !-72

(90) But the great ones among his people, who were bent on denying the truth, said [to his followers]: "Indeed, if you follow Shu'ayb, you will, verily, be the losers!"

(91) Thereupon an earthquake overtook them: and then they lay lifeless, in their very homes, on the ground"-(92) they who had given the lie to Shu'ayb - as though they had never lived there: they who had given the lie to Shu'ayb -it was they who were the losers!

(93) And he turned away from them, and said: "O my people! Indeed, I delivered unto you my Sustainer's message and gave you good advice: how, then, could I mourn for people who have denied the truth?"

 

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(94) AND NEVER YET have We sent a prophet unto any community without trying its people with misfortune and hardship, so that they might humble themselves; (95) then We transformed the affliction into ease of life,"' so that they throve and said [to themselves], "Misfortune and hardship befell our forefathers as

70 Lit., "inventing a lie about God".

71 An expression of humility, and not of the idea that God might "will" them to blaspheme.

72 Or: "Thou art the best of all deciders" - since the verb fataha can also be rendered as "he decided". However, Shu'ayb's prayer could not have implied a request for God's "decision" (for there was no doubt in his mind as to who was right), and therefore the primary significance of iftah ("lay open") and fatih ("one who lays open", i.e., the truth) is preferable.

73 See note 62 above. Like the harrah once inhabited by the Thamud tribe, the adjoining region of Madyan (the Biblical Midian) shows ample evidence of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

74 Lit., "then We put good [things] in place of the bad".

AL-A'RAF

SCRAH

well"" -whereupon We took them to task, all of a sudden, without their being aware [of what was coming]. 76

(96) Yet if the people of those communities had but attained to faith and been conscious of Us, We would indeed have opened up for them blessings out of heaven and earth: but they gave the lie to the truth - and so We took them to task through what they [themselves] had been doing."

(97) Can, then, the people of any community ever feel secure that Our punishment will not come upon them by night, while they are asleep? (98) Why, can the people of any community ever feel secure that Our punishment will not come upon them in broad daylight, while they are engaged in (worldly] play ?71 (99) Can they, then, ever feel secure from God's deep devising? But none feels secure from God's deep devising save people who are [already] lost.'

(100) Has it, then, not become obvious unto those who have inherited the earth in the wake of former generations' that, if We so willed, We could smite them [too] by means of their sins, sealing their hearts so that they cannot hear [the truth]?"

(101) Unto those [earlier] communities - some of whose stories We [now] relate unto thee -there had indeed come apostles of their own with all evidence of the truth; but they would not believe in anything to which they had once given the lie:" thus it is that God seals the hearts of those who deny the truth; (102)

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75 Le., they regarded it as a normal course of events and did not draw any lesson from it.

76 Cf. 6:42-45.

77 Thus the discourse returns to its starting-point at the beginning of this surah (verses 4-5): namely, that the destruction which is bound to overtake any community (the proper significance of the term qaryah in this context) which lives in opposition to the eternal moral verities amounts, in the last resort, to self-annihilation: for this is the real meaning of God's "taking them to task through what (bi-ma) they themselves were doing".

78 I.e., while they enjoy ease and a sense of security, and are unaware of any danger that may threaten them (cf. verse 4 of this surah).

79 I.e., morally lost and, therefore, destined to perish. The term makr Allah ("God's deep devising") denotes here His unfathomable planning, which is alluded to elsewhere in the Qur'an by the expression sunnat Allah ("God's [unchangeable] way"-cf., in particular, 33 :62, 35 :43 and

48

23).

80 Lit., "after its [former] people". The people "who have inherited the earth" are those now living.

81 See surah 2, note 7. Here, again, we have an affirmation that what the Qur'an describes as "God's punishment" (as well as "God's reward") is, in reality, a consequence of man's own doings, and not an arbitrary act of God: it is "by means of their sins" (bi-dhunubihim) that God "sets a seal" upon the hearts of men. This statement is further elucidated at the end of verse 101.

82 Lit., "to which they had given the lie aforetime": an allusion to the instinctive unwillingness of most people to give up the notions - positive or negative - to which they are accustomed.

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

and in most of them We found no [inner] bond with anything that is right$' -and most of them We found to be iniquitous indeed.

(103)

AND AFTER those [early people] We sent Moses with Our messages unto Pharaoh and his great ones, and they wilfully rejected them:" and behold what happened in the end to those spreaders of corruption!

(104) And Moses said: "O Pharaoh! Verily, I am an apostle from the Sustainer of all the worlds, (105) *o constituted that I cannot say anything about God but the truth. I have now come unto you with a clear evidence from your Sustainer: let, then, the children of Israel go with me!"

(106) Said [Pharaoh]: "If thou hast come with a sign, produce it-if thou art a man of truth!"

(107) Thereupon [Moses] threw down his staff, and lo! it was a serpent, plainly visible; (108) and he drew forth his hand, and lo! it appeared [shining] white to the beholders."

(109) The great ones among Pharaoh's people said: "Verily, this is indeed a sorcerer of great knowledge, (110) who wants to drive you out of your land!"86

[Said Pharaoh:] "What, then, do you advise?" (111) They answered: "Let him and his brother 17 wait awhile, and send unto all cities heralds (112) who shall bring before thee every sorcerer of great knowledge."

(113) And the sorcerers came unto Pharaoh [and] said: "Verily, we ought to have a great reward" if it is we who prevail."

(114) Answered [Pharaoh]: "Yes; and, verily, you shall be among those who are near unto me."

(115) They said: "O Moses! Either thou shalt throw [thy staff first], or we shall [be the first to] throw."

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83 Thus Raghib explains the term `ahd occurring in this sentence. Its usual rendering as "covenant" or "loyalty to their covenant" is entirely meaningless in this context. Rashid Rida' widens Raghib's interpretation and includes in the above term man's instinctive ability to discern between right and wrong and, thus, to follow the dictates of his own conscience (Manar IX, 33 ff.). Regarding the deeper implications of this expression, see surah 2, note 19.

84 Lit., "they did wrong to them".

85 As is evident from 20:22, 27: 12 and 28:32, the hand of Moses was "[shining] white, without blemish", i.e., endowed with transcendent luminosity in token of his prophethood-and not, as stated in the Bible (Exodus iv, 6), "leprous as snow". Regarding the possible mystic significance of the miracle of the staff, see note 14 on 20: 21.

86 I.e., "deprive you of your rule". The plural "you" relates to Pharaoh and the ruling class. 87 I.e., Aaron, who-as is mentioned in several other places in the Qur'an-accompanied Moses on his mission.

88 The particle la preceding the noun ajr ("reward'') indicates an emphasis which gives to this combination the meaning of "great reward".

AL-A'Rt1F

SURAH

(116) He answered: "You throw [first]."

And when they threw down [their staffs], they cast a spell upon the people's eyes, and struck them with awe, and produced mighty sorcery.

(117) And [then] We inspired Moses, "Throw down thy staff!" -and lo! it swallowed up all their deceptions:" (118) whereupon the truth was established, and vain was proved all that they had been doing. (119) And thus were they vanquished there and then, and became utterly humiliated.

(120) And down fell the sorcerers, prostrating themselves (121) [and] exclaiming: "We have come to believe in the Sustainer of all the worlds, (122) the Sustainer of Moses and Aaron!"

(123) Said Pharaoh: "Have you come to believe in him' ere I have given you permission? Behold, this is indeed a plot which you have cunningly devised in this [my] city in order to drive out its people hence! But in time you shall come to know, [my revenge]: (124) most certainly shall I cut off your hands and your feet in great numbers, because of [your] perverseness, and then I shall most certainly crucify you, in great numbers, all together!"92

(125) They answered: "Verily, unto our Sustainer do we turn-(126) for thou takest vengeance on us only because we have come to believe in our Sustainer's messages as soon as they came to us. O our Sustainer! Shower us with patience in adversity, and make us die as men who have surrendered themselves unto Thee!"

(127) And the great ones among Pharaoh's people said: "Wilt thou allow Moses and his people to spread corruption on earth, and to [cause thy people to] forsake thee and thy gods?"

[Pharaoh] replied: "We shall slay their sons in

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89 Implying that the act of Moses was a genuine miracle, whereas that of the sorcerers was a feat of make-believe (cf. 20: 66).

90 Lit., "the sorcerers were thrown down" -i.e., they fell to the ground as if thrown by a superior force (Zamakhshari).

91 This personal pronoun may refer either to God or to Moses; but a similar expression in 20 : 71 and 26: 49 makes it obvious that it refers here to Moses.

92 The grammatical forms la-ugatti'anna and la-usallibannakum must be rendered as "most certainly shall I cut off [your hands and feet] in great numbers" and "crucify you in great numbers": and this indicates that either the repentant sorcerers thus addressed were many or, alternatively, that they had a large following among the people of Egypt. The latter assumption seems to be corroborated by the Biblical reference to the fact that many Egyptians joined the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt: "And a mixed multitude went up also with them" (Exodus xii, 38). As regards my rendering of min khildf as "because of [your] perverseness", see surah 5, note 44 (last sentence).

7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

great numbers and shall spare [only] their women: for, verily, we hold sway over them!"

(128) [And] Moses said unto his people: "Turn unto God for aid, and have patience in adversity. Verily, all the earth belongs to God: He gives it as a heritage

- to such as He wills of His servants; and the future belongs to the God-conscious!"

(129) [But the children of Israel] said: "We have suffered hurt ere thou camest to us and since thou hast come to us!93

[Moses] replied: "It may well be that your Sustainer will destroy your foe and make you inherit the earth: and thereupon he will behold how you act."9

(130) And most certainly did We overwhelm Pharaoh's people with drought and scarcity of fruits, so that they might take it to heart. (131) But whenever good fortune alighted upon them, they would say, "This is [but] our due"; and whenever affliction befell them, they would blame their evil fortune on Moses and those who followed him.95 Oh, verily, their [evil] fortune had been decreed by God-but most of them knew it not.

(132) And they said [unto Moses]: "Whatever sign thou mayest produce before us in order to cast a spell upon us thereby, we shall not believe thee!"

(133) Thereupon We let loose upon them floods, and [plagues of] locusts, and lice, and frogs, and [water turning into] blood' -distinct signs [all]: but they gloried in their arrogance, for they were people lost in sin.

(134) And whenever a plague struck them, they would cry: "O Moses, pray for us to thy Sustainer on the strength of the covenant [of prophethood] which

93 This is, in the above context, the first hint of the inconstancy and weakness of faith for which the Qur'dn so often blames the children of Israel: and this, together with what follows in verses 138-140 and 148 ff., is the reason why the story of Moses has been included here among the stories of the earlier prophets whose warnings were neglected by their communities.

94 I.e., "He will judge you by your actions". As is evident from the reference, in verse 137 below, to the "patience in adversity" which the children of Israel subsequently displayed, it would seem that the hope held out to them by Moses helped them, once again, to overcome their moral weakness; but, at the same time, his words "God will behold how you act" imply a distinct warning.

95 The phrase tatayyara bihi signifies "he attributed an evil omen to him" or "he augured evil, from him". It is based on the pre-Islamic Arab custom of divining the future or establishing an omen from the flight of birds. Thus, the noun td'ir (lit., "a flying creature" or "a bird") is often used in classical Arabic to denote "destiny" or "fortune", both good and evil, as in the next sentence of the above verse ("their [evil] fortune had been decreed by [lit., "was with"] God"). Instances of this tropical employment of the expressions td'ir and tayr and their verbal derivations are also found in 3 : 49, 5 : 110, 17 : 13, 27 : 47, 36: 18-19.

96 For a description of these plagues, see Exodus vii-x.

He has made with thee! If thou remove this plague from us, we will truly believe in thee. and will let the children of Israel go with thee!"

(135) But whenever We removed the plague from them, giving them time to make good their promise,' lo, they would break their word. (136) And so We inflicted Our retribution on them, and caused them to drown in the sea, because they had given the lie to Our messages and had been heedless of them; (137) whereas unto the people who [in the past] had been deemed utterly low, We gave as their heritage the eastern and western parts of the land that We had blessed.98

And [thus] thy Sustainer's good promise unto the children of Israel was fulfilled in result of their patience in adversity; whereas We utterly destroyed all that Pharaoh and his people had wrought, and all that they had built.'

(138) AND WE BROUGHT the children of Israel across the sea; and thereupon they came upon people who were devoted to the worship of some idols of theirs.'' Said [the children of Israel]: "O Moses, set up for us a god even as they have gods!"

He replied: "Verily, you are people without any awareness [of right and wrong]! (139) As for these here -verily, their way of life is bound to lead to destruction; and worthless is all that they have ever done!"

(140) [And] he said: "Am I to seek for you a deity other than God, although it is He who has favoured you above all other people?"'

(141) And [he reminded them of this word of God]: "Lo, We saved you from Pharaoh's people who

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97 Lit., "until a term which they should reach".

 

98 Palestine is spoken of as "blessed" because it was the land in which Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had lived, and because so many other prophets were to appear there.

99 The promise of God referred to here is the one given to the children of Israel through Moses (see verses 128 and 129).

100 The story of the suffering of the Israelites during their bondage in Egypt, their deliverance through Moses, their crossing of the Red Sea (or, more probably, of what today is known as the Gulf of Suez) and the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts is narrated in considerable detail in the Bible (Exodus i-xiv). The Qur'an, on the other hand, does not give us a consecutive narrative: for historical narrative as such is never its purpose. Whenever the Qur'an refers to past eventswhether recorded in the Bible or alive in Arabian tradition-it does so exclusively with a view to bringing out elements that are relevant to the ethical, teachings which it propounds.

101 The Qur'an does not say who those people were. It is, however, probable that they belonged to the group of Arabian tribes described in the Bible as "Amalekites", who inhabited southernmost Palestine, the adjoining regions of the Hijaz, and parts of the Sinai Peninsula.

102 I.e., by having raised so many prophets out of their midst.

7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

afflicted you with cruel suffering, slaying your sons in great numbers and sparing [only] your women - which was an awesome trial from your Sustainer."'3

(142) AND [then] We appointed for Moses thirty nights [on Mount Sinai]; and We added to them ten, whereby the term of forty nights set bye, his Sustainer was fulfilled.'" And Moses said unto his brother Aaron: "Take thou my place among my people; and act righteously, and follow not the path of the spreaders of corruption."

(143) And when Moses came [to Mount Sinai] at the time set by Us, and his Sustainer spoke unto him, he said: "O my Sustainer! Show [Thyself] unto me, so that I might behold Thee!"

Said [God]: "Never canst thou see Me. However, behold this mountain: if it remains firm in its place, then - only then - wilt thou see Me.""'

And as soon as his Sustainer revealed His glory to the mountain, He caused it to crumble to dust; and Moses fell down in a swoon. And when he came to himself, he said: "Limitless art Thou in Thy glory! Unto Thee do I turn in repentance; and I shall [always] be the first to believe in Thee!"'6

(144) Said [God]: "O Moses! Behold, I have raised thee above all people by virtue of the messages which I have entrusted to thee,'' and by virtue of My speaking [unto thee]: hold fast, therefore, unto what I have vouchsafed thee, and be among the grateful!"

(145) And We ordained for him in the tablets [of the Law] all manner of admonition, clearly spelling out everything." And [We said:] "Hold fast unto them with [all thy] strength, and bid thy people to hold fast to their most goodly rules."

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103 Cf. 2 : 49. It appears that this passage is part of Moses' reminder to his people (Manor IX, 115 ff.); I have brought this out by interpolating "he reminded them of this word of God" between brackets.

104 According to several of the Prophet's Companions, and particularly Ibn `Abbas, the first thirty nights were to be spent by Moses in spiritual preparation, including fasting, whereupon the Law would be revealed to him in the remaining ten (Zamakhsharl and Razi); see also Manar IX, 119 ff.). In Arabic usage, a period of time designated as "nights" comprises the days as well.

105 Lit., "then, in time (sawfa) wilt thou see Me". As these words express the impossibility of man's seeing God-which is clearly implied in the Arabic construction -a literal rendering would not do justice to it.

106 Since Moses was already a believer, his words do not merely allude to belief in God's existence but, rather, belief in the impossibility of man's seeing God (Ibn Kathir, on the authority of Ibn `Abbas).

107 Lit., "by virtue of My messages".

108 See surah 6, note 156.

AL-A'RAF

SURAH

I will show you the way the iniquitous shall go.'ov (146) From My messages shall I cause to turn away all those who, without any right, behave haughtily on earth: for, though they may see every sign [of the truth], they do not believe in it, and though they may see the path of rectitude, they do not choose fo follow it-whereas, if they see a path of error, they take it for their own: this, because they have given the lie to Our messages, and have remained heedless of them,"'

(147) Hence, all who give the lie to Our messages, and [thus] to the truth"' of the life to come -in vain shall be all their doings: [for] are they to be rewarded for aught but what they were wont to do?"'

(148) AND IN his absence the people of Moses took to worshipping the effigy of a calf [made] of their ornaments, which gave forth a lowing sound." 3 Did they not see that it could neither speak unto them nor guide them in any way? [And yet] they took to worshipping it, for they were evildoers: (149) although [later,] when they would smite their hands in remorse,"' having perceived that they had gone astray, they would say, "Indeed, unless our Sustainer have mercy on us and grant us forgiveness, we shall

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109 Lit., "I will show you the abode of the iniquitous". The rendering adopted by me corresponds to the interpretations given by Tabari' (on the authority of Mujahid and Al-Hasan al-Basri) and by Ibn Kathir; regarding the meaning of ddr ("abode") in this context, see surah 6, note 118. Some of the commentators are of the opinion that the above sentence concludes God's admonition to Moses, but the plural form of address in "I will show you" makes it more probable that it is the beginning of a parenthetic passage connected, no doubt, with the preceding one, but having a general import not confined to Moses.

110 As so often in the Qur'an, God's "causing" the sinners to sin is shown to be a consequence of their own behaviour and the result of their free choice. By "those who, without any right, behave haughtily on earth". are obviously meant people who think that their own judgment as to what constitutes right and wrong is the only valid one, and who therefore refuse to submit their personal concerns to the criterion of absolute (i.e., revealed) moral standards; cf. 96: 6-7 - "man becomes grossly overweening whenever he believes himself to be self-sufficient".

111 Lit., "to the meeting (liqd')" - in the sense of its being a pre-ordained fact.

112 This is the end of the parenthetic passage beginning with the words, "I will show you the way the iniquitous shall go".

113 The golden calf of the Israelites was obviously a result of centuries-old Egyptian influences. The Egyptians worshipped at Memphis the sacred bull, Apis, which they believed to be an incarnation of the god Ptah. A new Apis was supposed always to be born at the moment when the old one died, while the soul of the latter was believed to pass into Osiris in the Realm of the Dead, to be henceforth worshipped as Osiris-Apis (the "Serapis" of the Greco-Egyptian period). The "lowing sound" (khuwdr) which the golden calf emitted was probably produced by wind effects, as was the case with some of the hollow Egyptian temple effigies.

114 Lit., "when it was made to fall upon their hands"-an idiomatic phrase denoting intense remorse, probably derived from the striking ("falling") of hand upon hand as an expression of grief or regret.

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

most certainly be among the lost!""'

(150) And when Moses returned to his people, full of wrath and sorrow, he exclaimed: "Vile is the course which you have followed in my absence! Have you forsaken"' your Sustainer's commandment?"

And he threw down the tablets [of the Law], and seized his brother's head, dragging him towards himself. Cried Aaron: "O my mother's son! Behold, the people brought me low"' and almost slew me: so let not mine enemies rejoice at my affliction, and count me not among the evildoing folk!"

(151) Said [Moses]: "O my Sustainer! Grant Thou forgiveness unto me' 18 and my brother, and admit us unto Thy grace: for Thou art the most merciful of the merciful!"

(152) [And to Aaron he said:] "Verily, as for those who have taken to worshipping the [golden] - calf - their Sustainer's condemnation will overtake them, and ignominy [will be their lot] in the -life of this world!"

For thus do We requite all who invent [such] falsehood."9 (153) But as for those who do bad deeds and afterwards repent and [truly] believe-verily, after such repentance'' thy Sustainer is indeed much

forgiving, a dispenser of grace!

(154) And when Moses' wrath as stilled, he took up the tablets, in the writing whereof there was guidance and grace for all who stood in awe of their Sustainer.'Z' (155) And Moses chose out of his people seventy men to come [and pray for forgiveness] at a time set by Us. Then, when violent trembling seized them, 112 he prayed:

9

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115 The whole of verse 149 is a parenthetic clause (jumlah mu'taridah) referring to a later time-for the repentance of the Israelites came after Moses' return from Mount Sinai, of which the next verse speaks.

116 Lit., "outrun". The expression "one has outrun a forsaken it" or "left it undone" (Zamakhshari).

117 Lit., "made me [or "deemed me"] utterly weak". Contrary. to the Biblical account (Exodus xxxii, 1-5), the Qur'an does not accuse Aaron of having actually participated in making or worshipping the golden calf; his guilt consisted in having remained passive in the face of his ,people's idolatry for fear of causing a split among them (cf. 20:92-94).

 

118 Sc., "for my anger and my harshness" (Razi).

119 Throughout the Qur'an, this expression is used to describe (a) the attribution of divine qualities to any concrete or imaginary object. or person, and"(b) the making of false statements about God, His attributes, or the contents of His messages. In the above context it refers to any false imagery which deflects man from the worship of the One God.

120 Lit., "after'it".

121 According to the Bible (Exodus xxxii, 19), Moses broke the tablets when he threw them down in anger; the Qur'anic narrative, however, shows them as having remained intact.

122 Most of the commentators take rajfah to mean here "earthquake", as it evidently does in

matter" is synonymous with "he has

AL-A'RAF

SCRAH

"O my Sustainer! Hadst Thou so willed, Thou wouldst have destroyed them ere this, and me [with them]. Wilt Thou destroy us for what the weakminded among us have done? (All] this is but a trial from Thee, whereby Thou allowest to go astray whom Thou willest, and guidest aright whom Thou willest. Thou art near unto us: grant us, then, forgiveness and have mercy on us - for Thou art the best of all forgivers! (156) And ordain Thou for us what is good in this world as well as in the life to come: behold, unto Thee have we turned in repentance!"

[God] answered: "With My chastisement do I afflict whom I will - but My grace overspreads everything: 12' and so I shall confer it on those who are conscious of Me and spend in charity, and who believe in Our messages-(157) those who shall follow the [last] Apostle, the unlettered Prophet whom they shall find described in the Torah that is with them, and [later on] in the Gospel:'Z [the Prophet] who will enjoin upon them the doing of what is right and forbid them the doing of what is wrong, and make lawful to them the good things of life and forbid them the bad things, and lift from them their burdens and the shackles that were upon them [aforetime]."' Those, therefore, who shall believe in him, and honour him, and succour him, and follow the light that has been bestowed from on high through him-it is they that shall attain to a happy state."

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other places in the Qur'an (e.g., in verses 78 and 91 of this surah). However, it should be remembered that this noun denotes any "violent commotion" or "trembling", from whatever cause; and since there is no reason to suppose that in this context an earthquake is meant, we may assume that the violent trembling which seized the seventy elders was caused by their intense regret and fear of God's punishment.

123 Cf. 6 : 12 (and the corresponding note 10), as well as 6 : 54.

124 The interpolation of the words "later on" before the reference to the Gospel is necessitated by the fact that the whole of this passage is addressed to Moses and the children of Israel, that is, long before the Gospel (in the Qur'anic sense of this term -cf. surah 3, note 4) was revealed to Jesus. The stories of some of the earlier prophets given in this surah -beginning with the story of Noah and ending with that of Moses and the children of Israel - constitute a kind of introduction to this command to follow the "unlettered Prophet", Muhammad. The stress on his having been "unlettered" (ummf), i.e., unable to read and write, serves to bring out the fact that all his knowledge of the earlier prophets and of the messages transmitted by them was due to divine inspiration alone, and not to a familiarity with the Bible as such. For the Old Testament predictions of the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (especially in Deuteronomy xviii, 15 and 18), see surah 2, note 33; for the New Testament prophecies to the same effect, see 61 : 6 and the corresponding note 6.

125 A reference to the many severe rituals and obligations laid down in Mosaic Law, as well as to the tendency towards asceticism evident in the teachings of the Gospels. Thus the Qur'an implies that those "burdens and shackles", intended as means of spiritual discipline for particular communities and particular stages of man's development, will become unnecessary as soon as God's message to man shall have achieved its final, universal character in the teachings of the Last Prophet, Muhammad.

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

(158) Say [O Muhammad]: "O mankind! Verily, I am an apostle of God to all of you,"' [sent by Him] unto whom the dominion over the heavens and the earth belongs! There is no deity save Him; He [alone] grants life and deals death!"

Believe, then, in God and His Apostle-the unlettered Prophet who believes in God and His words-and follow him, so that you might find guidance!

AND AMONG the folk of Moses there have been people who would guide [others] in the way of the

truth and act justly in its light.`n

(160) And We divided them into twelve tribes, [or] communities. And when his people asked Moses for water, We inspired him, "Strike the rock with thy staff!" -whereupon twelve springs gushed forth from it, so that all the people knew whence to drink.,

And We caused the clouds to comfort them with their shade, and We sent down unto them manna and quails, [saying:] "Partake of the good things which We have provided for you as sustenance."

And [by all their sinning] they did no harm unto Us-but [only] against their own selves did they sin. (161) And [remember] when you were told: "Dwell in this land and eat of its food as you may desire; but say, `Remove Thou from us the burden of our sins,' and enter the gate humbly - [whereupon] We shall forgive you your sins [and] shall amply reward the doers of good."

(162) But those among them who were bent on wrongdoing substituted another saying for that which they had been given: and so We let loose against

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126 This verse, placed parenthetically in the midst of the story of Moses and the children of Israel, is meant to elucidate the preceding passage. Each of the earlier prophets was sent to his, and only his, community: thus, the Old Testament addresses itself only to the children of Israel, and even Jesus, whose message had a wider bearing, speaks of himself as "sent only unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew xv. 24). In contrast, the message of the Qur'an is universal-that is, addressed to mankind as a whole-and is neither time-bound nor confined to any particular cultural environment. It is for this reason that Muhammad, through whom this message was revealed, is described in the Qur'an (21 : 107) as an evidence of "[God's] grace towards all the worlds" (i.e. towards all mankind), and as "the Seal of all Prophets" (33 : 40) - in other words, the last of them.

127 I.e., people like those spoken of in 3 : 113-115. With this verse, the discourse returns to the moral history of the children of Israel. The stress on the fact that there have always been righteous people among them is meant to contrast this righteousness with the rebellious sinfulness which most of them displayed throughout their Biblical history. It provides. at the same time, an indication that. although the wrongdoing of some of its members may sometimes plunge whole communities into suffering, God judges men individually, and not in groups.

AL-A'RAF

SURAH

them a plague from heaven in requital of all their evil doings.

(163) And ask them about that town which stood by the sea: how its people would profane the Sabbath whenever their fish came to them, breaking the water's surface, on a day on which they ought to have kept Sabbath -because they would not come to them on otther than Sabbath-days!' Thus did We try them by means of their [own] iniquitous doings. (164) And whenever some people' among them asked [those who tried to restrain the Sabbath-breakers], "Why do you preach to people whom God is about to destroy or [at least] to chastise with suffering severe?" -the pious ones" would answer, "In order to be free from blame before your Sustainer, and that these [transgressors, too,] might become conscious of Him."

(165) And thereupon, when those [sinners] had forgotten all that they had been told to take to.heart, We saved those who had tried to prevent the doing of evil,"' and overwhelmed those who had been bent on evildoing with dreadful suffering for all their iniquity; (166) and then, when they disdainfully persisted in doing what they had been forbidden to do, We said unto them: "Be as apes despicable!""'

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128 For an explanation of this and the preceding verse, see 2:58-59, and the corresponding notes.

129 Lit., "on a day when they did not keep Sabbath". Under Mosaic Law, they were obliged to refrain from all work-and, therefore, also from fishing-on Sabbath-days, with the result that the fish were more plentiful and would come closer to the shore on those days: and the inhabitants of the town took this as an excuse to break the Sabbath-law. Since the Qur'an does not mention the name of the town nor give any indication as to the historical period in which those offences were committed, it may be assumed that the story of the Sabbath-breakers (alluded to in several places in the Qur'an) is a general illustration of the tendency, so often manifested by the children of Israel, to offend against their religious laws in pursuit of their passions or for the sake of worldly gain. Although, according to the teachings of Islam, the Mosaic dispensation has since been abrogated, the Qur'an frequently points out its great role in the history of man's monotheistic beliefs, and stresses again and again its (time-bound) importance as a means of enforcing spiritual discipline on the children of Israel. Their repeated, deliberate breaches of the Mosaic Law are shown as evidence of their rebellious attitude towards that discipline and, thus, towards God's commandments in general.

130 Lit., "a community" - obviously people who, while not actively protesting against the impiety of their environment, did not themselves participate in this profanation of the Sabbath.

131 Lit., "they" - an allusion to the really pious among them, such as are described in verse 159 above.

132 Lit., "who were forbidding the evil".

133 According to Zamakhshari and Razf, the expression "We said unto them" is here synonymous with "We decreed with' regard to them" - God's "saying" being in this case a metonym for a manifestation of His will. As for the substance of God's decree, "Be as apes despicable", the famous tabi'i Mujahid explain it thus: "[Only] their hearts were transformed, that is, they were not [really] transformed into apes: this is but a metaphor (mathai) coined by God with regard to them, similar to the metaphor of `the ass carrying books' [62: 5]" (Tabari, in his commentary on 2 : 65; also Mandr I, 343; VI, 448; and IX, 379). A similar explanation is given by Raghib. It should

7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

(167) And lo! Thy Sustainer made it known that most certainly He would rouse against them, unto Resurrection Day, people who would afflict them with cruel suffering: verily, thy Sustainer is swift in retribution - yet, verily, He is [also] much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

(168) And We dispersed them as [separate] communities all over the earth; some of them were righteous, and some of them less than that: and the latter We tried with blessings as well as with afflictions, so that they might mend their ways. "4

(169) And they have been succeeded by [new] generations who - [in spite of] having inherited the divinne writ-clutch but at the fleeting good of this lower world and say, "We shall be forgiven,""' the while they are ready, if another such fleeting good should come their way, to clutch at it [and sin again]. Have they not been solemnly pledged through the divine writ not to attribute unto God aught but what is true,' and [have they not] read again and again all that is therein?

Since the life in the hereafter is the better [of the two] for all who are conscious of God -will you not, then, use your reason? (170) For [We shall requite] all those who hold fast to the divine writ and are constant in prayer: verily, We shall not fail to requite those who enjoin the doing of what is right!

(171) And [did We not say,] when We caused Mount Sinai to quake above the children of Israel"' as though it were a [mere] shadow, and they thought that it would fall upon them, "Hold fast with [all your] strength unto what We have vouchsafed you, and bear in mind all that is therein, so that you might remain conscious of God"?"'

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(172) AND WHENEVER thy Sustainer brings forth their

be borne in mind that the expression "like an ape" is often used in classical Arabic to describe a person who is unable to restrain his gross appetites or passions.

134 Lit., "so that they might return [to righteousness]".

135 I.e., for breaking God's commandments in their pursuit of worldly gain: an allusion to their persistent belief that they are "God's chosen people" and that, no matter what they do, His forgiveness and grace are assured to them by virtue of their being Abraham's descendants.

136 A reference to their erroneous idea that God's forgiveness could be obtained without

sincere repentance. The divine writ mentioned twice in this passage is obviously the Bible.

137 Lit., "when We shook the mountain over the,,~,: possibly a reference to an earthquake

which took place at the time of the revelation of the L xw (the "tablets") to Moses.

138 This is the end, so far as this surah is concerned, of the story of the children of Israel. In accordance with the method of the Qur'an, their story is made an object-lesson for all believers in God, of whatever community or time: and, therefore, the next passage speaks of the "children of Adam", that is, of the whole human race.

AL-A'RAF

SURAH

offspring from the loins of the children of Adam, He [thus] calls upon them to bear witness about themselves: "Am I not your Sustainer?" - to which they answer: "Yea, indeed, we do bear witness thereto!" '39

[Of this We remind you,] lest you say on the Day of Resurrection, "Verily, we were unaware of this"; (173) or lest you say, "Verily, it was but our forefathers who, in times gone by, began to ascribe divinity to other beings beside God; and we were but their late offspring: wilt Thou, then, destroy us for the doings of those inventors of falsehoods?"

(174) And thus clearly do We spell out these messages; and [We do it] so that they [who have sinned] might return [unto Us].

(175) And tell them what happens to him" to whom We vouchsafe Our messages and who then discards them: Satan catches up with him, and he strays, like so many others, into grievous error. 141 (176) Now had We so willed, We could indeed have exalted him by means of those [messages]: but he always clung to the earth and followed but his own desires.

Thus, his parable is that of an [excited] dog: if thou approach him threateningly, he will pant with his tongue lolling; and. if thou leave him alone, he will pant with his tongue lolling. 142 Such is the parable of those who are bent on giving the lie to Our messages. Tell [them], then, this story, so that they might take thought.

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139 In the original, this passage is in the past tense ("He brought forth", "He asked them", etc.), thus stressing the continuous recurrence of the above metaphorical "question" and "answer": a continuity which is more clearly brought out in translation by the use of the present tense. According to the Qur'an, the ability to perceive the existence of the Supreme Power is inborn in human nature (fitrah); and it is this instinctive cognition-which may or may not be subsequently blurred by self-indulgence or adverse environmental influences - that makes every sane human being "bear witness about himself" before God. As so often in the Qur'an, God's "speaking" and man's "answering" is a metonym for the creative act of God and of man's existential response to it.

140 Lit., "convey to them the tiding of him".

141 Lit., "he became one of those who have strayed into grievous error". In the original, this whole verse is in the past tense; but since its obvious purport is the statement of a general truth (cf. Raz3, on the authority of Qatadah, `Ikrimah and AN Muslim) and not, as some commentators assume, a reference to a particular person, it is best rendered in the present tense. The kind of man spoken of here is one who has understood the divine message but, nevertheless, refuses to admit its truth because - as is pointed out in the next verse - he "clings to the earth", i.e., is dominated by a materialistic, "earthly" outlook on life. (Cf. the allegory of "a creature out of the earth" in 27: 82.)

142 Because his attitudes are influenced only by what his earth-bound desires represent to him as his immediate "advantages" or "disadvantages", the type of man alluded to in this passage is always - whatever the outward circumstances - a pprey to a conflict between his reason and his base urges and, thus, to inner disquiet and imaginary fears. and cannot attain to that peace of mind which a believer achieves through his faith.

7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

(177) Evil is the example of people who are bent on giving the lie to Our messages: for it is against their own selves that they are sinning!

(178) He whom God guides, he alone is truly guided; whereas those whom He lets go astray-it is they, they who are the losers!

(179) And most certainly have We destined for hell many of the invisible beings '43 and men who have hearts with which they fail to grasp the truth, and eyes with which they fail to see, and ears with which they fail to hear. They are like cattle -nay, they are even less conscious of the right way:' it is they, they who are the [truly] heedless!

(180) AND GOD'S [alone] are the attributes of perfection;"" invoke Him, then, by these, and stand aloof from all who distort the meaning of His attributes:` they shall be requited for all that they were wont to do!

(181) Now, among those whom We have created there are people who guide [others] in the way of the truth and act justly in its light. 141 (182) But as for those who are bent on giving the lie to Our messages-We shall bring them low, step by step, without their perceiving how it came about:"' (183) for, behold, though I may give them rein for a while. My subtle scheme is exceedingly firm!

(184) Has it, then, never occurred to them'49 that

143 See Appendix 111.

144 Lit.; "they are farther astray"-inasmuch as animals follow only their instincts and natural needs and are not conscious of the possibility or necessity of a moral choice.

145 This passage connects with the mention, at the end of the preceding verse, of "the heedless ones" who do not use their faculty of discernment in the way intended for it by God, and remain heedless of Him who comprises within Himself all the attributes of perfection and represents, therefore, the Ultimate Reality. As regards the expression al-asma' al-husnd (lit., "the most perfect [or "most goodly"] names"), which occurs in the Qur'an four times-i.e., in the above verse as well as in 17: 110, 20:8 and 59:24-it is to be borne in mind that the term ism is, primarily, a word applied to denote the substance or the intrinsic attributes of an object under consideration, while the term al-husnd is the plural form of al-ahsan ("that which is best" or "most goodly"). Thus, the combination al-asma' al-husnd may be appropriately rendered as "the attributes of perfection" -a term reserved in the Qur'an for God alone.

146 Le., by applying them to other beings or objects or, alternatively, by trying to "define" God in anthropomorphic terms and relationships, like "father" or "son" (Ruzi).

147 Sc., "and they will be rewarded accordingly". See verse 159 above, where the righteous "among the folk of Moses" are thus described. In this verse, the reference is broadened to include the righteous of all times and communities - that is, all those who are receptive to God's messages and live up to them by virtue of their conviction that God is the Ultimate Reality.

 

148 Lit., "without their knowing whence [it comes]". For an explanation of the term kayd ("subtle scheme") occurring in the next verse, see note 25 on 68 : 45, where this term appears for the first time in Qur'anic revelation.

149 Lit., "Have they, then, not reflected".

AL-A'RAF

SORAH

there is no madness whatever in [this] their fellowman? He is only a plain warner.'5

(185) Have they, then, never considered [God's] mighty dominion over the heavens and the earth, and all the things that God has created, and [asked themselves] whether, perchance, the end of their own term might already have drawn nigh? In what other tiding, then, will they, after this, believe?"'

(186) For those whom God lets go astray, there is no guide; and He shall leave them in their overweening arrogance, blindly stumbling to and fro."'

(187) THEY WILL ASK thee [O Prophet] about the Last Hour: "When will it come to pass?"

Say: "Verily, knowledge thereof rests with my Sustainer alone. None but He will reveal it in its time. Heavily will it weigh on the heavens and the earth; [and] it will not fall upon you otherwise than of a sudden."

They will ask thee - as if thou couldst gain insight into this [mystery] by dint of persistent inquiry!"' Say: "Knowledge thereof rests with my Sustainer alone; but [of this] most people are unaware."

(188) Say [O Prophet]: "It is not within my power to bring benefit to, or avert harm from, myself, except as God may please. And if I knew that which is

150 Because he enunciated a message that differed radically from anything to which- the Meccans had been accustomed, the Prophet was considered mad by many of his unbelieving contemporaries. The stress on his being "their fellow-man" (sahibuhum - lit., "their companion") is meant to emphasize the fact that he is human, and thus to counteract any possible tendency on the part of his followers to invest him with superhuman qualities: an argument which is more fully developed in verse 188.

151 Apart from a reminder of man's utter dependence on God, the implication of the above passage is this: Since everything in the observable or intellectually conceivable universe is obviously caused, it must have had a beginning and, therefore, must also have an end. Furthermore, since the universe is not eternal in the sense of having had no beginning, and since it cannot possibly have evolved "by itself" out of nothing, and since "nothingness" is a concept devoid of all reality, we are forced to predicate the existence of a Primary Cause which is beyond the limits of our experience and, hence, beyond the categories of our thought-that is, the existence of God: and this is the meaning of the "tiding" to which this verse refers.

152 As in verse 178 above - and in many other places in the Qur'an - the expression "he whom God lets [or "causes to"] go astray" indicates the natural law instituted by God (sunnat Allah), whereby a wilful neglect of one's inborn, cognitive faculties unavoidably results in the, loss of all ethical orientation: that is, not an act of "predestination" but a result of one's own choice. See also surah 2, note 7, and surah 14, note 4.

153 The verb ahfa means "he did [a thing] in an excessive measure" or "he exceeded the usual bounds in doing [something]". In connection with an inquiry, and especially when followed by `anhu or `anha ("about it"), it signifies "he tried hard to gain insight [into something] by persistently inquiring about it". Thus, used as a participle, it means "one who has gained insight [into something] through persistent inquiry". In the above context, the implication is that no amount of inquiry or speculation can reveal to man-the prophets included-the coming of the Last Hour before its actual manifestation.

7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

beyond the reach of human perception, abundant good fortune-would surely have fallen to my lot, and no evil would ever have touched me. I am nothing but a warner, and a herald of glad tidings unto people who will believe." 154

(189) IT IS HE who has created you [all] out of one living entity, and out of it brought into being its mate, so that man might incline [with love] towards woman. 'S5 And so, when he has embraced her, she conceives [what at first is] a light burden, and continues to bear it. Then, when she grows heavy [with child], they both call unto God, their Sustainer, "If Thou indeed grant us a sound [child], we shall most certainly be among the grateful!"

(190) And yet, as soon as He has granted them sound [offspring], they begin to ascribe to other powers beside Him a share in bringing about what He has granted them !116 Sublimely exalted, however, is God- above anything to which men may ascribe a share in His divinity!

(191) Will they, then,- ascribe divinity, side by side with Him, unto beings that cannot create anything"'since they themselves are created - (192) and neither are able to give them succour nor can succour themselves, (193) and, if you pray to them for guidance, do not respond to you?'sa As far as you are concerned, it is all one whether you invoke them or keep silent. (194) Verily, all those whom you invoke beside God

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154 See 6 : 50, as well as the corresponding note. The repeated insistence in the Qur'an on the humanness of the Prophet is in tune with the doctrine that no created being has or could have any share, however small, in any of the Creator's qualities or powers. In logical continuation of this argument, the next passage (verses 189-198) stresses the uniqueness and exclusiveness of God's creative powers.

155 Lit., "so that he might incline towards her". For an explanation of the terms "one living entity" and "its mate", see 4: l, and the corresponding note.

156 Lit., "they attribute to Him partners with regard to that which He has granted them": i.e., many of them look upon the contributing factors of sound childbirth (like personal care during pregnancy, medical assistance, eugenics, etc.) as something independent of God, forgetting that all these contributing factors are - like the birth of the child itself - but an outcome of God's will and grace: a manifestation of what the Qur'an calls "the way of God" (sunnat Alldh). Since this kind of mental association of "other" factors with God is not really intentional, it does not amount to the unforgivable sin of shirk ("the ascribing of divine qualities to powers other than God"); but it is close enough to it to warrant the subsequent discourse on shirk in the real meaning of this term.

157 Lit., "that which does not create anything": a phrase expressed in the singular, but having the plural meaning of "beings" - that is, either animate beings (like saints or supposedly "divine" personalities) or their inanimate representations.

158 Lit., "do not follow you". As regards my translation of in tad'ahum ila 'l-hudd as "if you pray to them for guidance" (instead of the erroneous -but common -translation "if you invite [or "call") them to guidance"), see Zamakhshari, Razi and Ibn Kathir. Cf. also verse 198 below.

are but created beings'" like yourselves: invoke them, then, and let them answer your prayer - if what you claim is true!

(195) Have these [images], perchance, feet on which they could walk? Or have they hands with which they could grasp? Or have they eyes with which they could see? Or have they ears with which they could hear?

Say [O Prophet]: "Summon to your aid all those to whom you ascribe a share in God's divinity," and thereupon contrive [anything you may wish] against me, and give me no respite! (196) Verily, my protector is God, who has bestowed this divine writ from on high: for it is He who protects the righteous, (197) whereas all those whom you invoke in His stead are neither able to give you succour nor can succour themselves; (198) and if you pray unto them for guidance, they do not hear; and though thou mayest imagine that they behold thee,'6' they do not see."

(199) MAKE due allowance for man's nature, '6' and enjoin the doing of what is right; and leave alone all those who choose to remain ignorant."' (200) And if it should happen that a prompting from Satan stirs thee up [to blind anger]," seek refuge with God: behold,

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159 Lit., "servants" (`ibdd)-i.e., created beings subservient to God's will. This refers to saints. living or dead, as well as to inanimate objects of every description, including idols, fetishes and representational images-physical or mental-of saints or deified persons.

160 Lit., "summon your [God-]partners" (see sarah 6, note 15).

161 Lit., "though thou seest them looking at thee" -but since the pronoun "them" inn laralhum ("thou seest them") refers to mental images no less than to physical representations, the verb must be understood in its abstract sense of "seeing with the mind", i.e., "considering" or "imagining". In contrast with the preceding passages, which are addressed to those who actually invoke false deities or images, the last sentence is addressed to man in general, sinner and believer alike: and this generalization is brought out by changing the form of address from "you" to "thou".

162 Lit., "accept what is easily forthcoming [from man's nature]". According to Zamakhsharf, khudh al-afw means: "Accept what comes easily to thee [or "what is willingly accorded to thee"] of the doings and the nature of men, and make things easy [for them], without causing them undue hardship (kulfah); and do not demand of them efforts that may be too difficult for them." This interpretation - which has been adopted by many other classical commentators as well - is based on the identical explanation of the phrase khudh al=afw by `Abd Allah ibn az-Zubayr and his brother `Urwah (Bukhari), as well as by `A'ishah and, in the next generation, by Hisham ibn `Urwah and Mujahid (see Tabari, Baghawi and Ibn Kathir). Thus, in accordance with the Qur'anic statements that "man has been created weak" (4: 28) and that "God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear" (2:286. 6: 152, 7:42, 23:62), the believer is admonished to make due allowance for human nature and not to be too harsh with those who err. This admonition is the more remarkable as it follows immediately upon a discourse on the most unforgivable of all sins - the ascribing of divine powers or qualities to anyone or anything but God.'

163 Lit., "the ignorant ones*'- i.e., those who wilfully remain deaf to moral truths. and not' those who are simply unaware of them.

164 Le., anger at the rejection of the truth by "those who choose to remain ignorant". The words "to blind anger" interpolated between brackets are based on a Tradition according to which

7

THE FACULTY OF DISCERNMENT

He is all-hearing, all-knowing.

(201) Verily, they who are conscious of God bethink themselves [of Him] whenever any dark suggestion from Satan touches them'6S - whereupon, lo! they begin to see [things] clearly, (202) even though their [godless] brethren would [like to] draw them into error:"' and then they cannot fail [to do what is right].

(203) And yet, when thou [O Prophet] dost not produce any miracle for them, some [people] say, "Why dost thou not seek to obtain it [from God]?'""

Say: "I only follow whatever is being revealed to me by my Sustainer: this [revelation] is a means of insight from your Sustainer, and a guidance and grace unto people who will believe. (204) Hence, when the Qur'an is voiced, hearken unto it, and listen in silence, so that you might be graced with [G6d's] mercy."

(205) And bethink thyself of thy Sustainer humbly and with awe, and without raising thy voice, at morn and at evening; and do not allow thyself to be heedless.

(206) Behold, those who are near unto thy Sustainer'" are never too proud to worship Him; and they extol His limitless glory, and prostrate themselves before Him [alone].

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the Prophet, after the revelation of the preceding verse calling for forbearance, exclaimed, "And what about [justified] anger, O my Sustainer?"-whereupon the above verse was revealed to him (Tabarl, Zamakhshari, Razi, Ibn Kathir).

165 The noun td'if (also forthcoming in the forms tayf and tayyif denotes any ungraspable phantom, image or suggestion, as in a dream, or "an imperceptible obsession which obscures the mind" (Tdj al= Arus). Since, in the above context, it is described as coming from Satan, "a dark suggestion" seems to be an appropriate rendering.

166 I.e., by goading them to anger or trying to engage them in futile argument. "Their brethren" are those who wilfully remain ignorant of the truth (with the pronoun referring to the Godconscious). The conjunctive particle wa preceding this clause has here the meaning of "although" or "even though".

167 Sc., "if thou art really His apostle" (cf. 6 :37 and 109, and the corresponding notes). Some of the commentators assume that the term dyah - translated by me as "miracle" - denotes here a verbal "message" which would answer the objections of those who did not believe in the Prophet. Since, however, the continuous revelation of the Qur'dn was full of such messages, the demand of the unbelievers must have related to some particular manifestation or "proof" of his divinelyinspired mission: namely, to a concrete miracle which would establish the truth of his claim in a supposedly "objective" manner. In its wider implication, the above verse relates to the primitive mentality of all who regard miracles, and not the message itself, as the only valid "proof" of prophethood.

168 Lit., "those who are with thy Sustainer": a metaphorical description of utter Godconsciousness.

 

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