T HIS SIDRAH. which derives its title from the solitary mention of "the people of Jonah" in verse 98, was almost certainly revealed in its entirety at Mecca. and probably not earlier than in the year preceding the Prophet's exodus to Medina. Some authorities are of the opinion that verses 40 and 94-95 belong to the Medina period. but there is no convincing evidence to this effect. On the other hand, there does not seem to be any doubt that, chronologically, this surah must be placed between surah 17 (AI-lsrd') and surah 11 (Had).

The central theme of Yanus is revelation - in particular, the revelation of the Qur'an to Muhammad, and the impossibility of its having been "composed" by the latter and fraudulently attributed by him to God. as the deniers of the truth assert (verses 15-17, 37-38 and 94). Woven around this theme are references to earlier prophets - all of whom were given the lie by the majority of their people-as well as a many-sided exposition of the fundamental tenets of Islam: the oneness, uniqueness and omnipotence of God. the continuity of His revelation to man, the certainty, of resurrection and of God's final judgment-culminating in the reminder (in verse 108) that "whoever chooses to follow the right path. follows it but for his own good: and whoever chooses to go astray, goes but astray to his own hurt".


(I) Alif Ldin. Rd.

THESE ARE MESSAGES of the divine writ, full of wisdom.'

(2) Do people deem it strange that We should have l r ~~io inspired a man from their own midst [with this Our

message]:' "Warn all mankind, and give unto those bix]otr;: who have attained to faith the glad tiding that in their

Sustainer's sight they surpass all others in that they lu~;J~ are completely sincere-?4

[Only] they who deny the truth say, "Behold. he is

I See Appendix II.

2 The term hakfm-which, when qualifying an animated being, may be translated as "wise"has here the connotation of a means of imparting wisdom. Some of the classical commentators (e.g., Tabari) are of the opinion that the "divine writ" (kitab) mentioned here is the Qur'an as a whole, while others (e.g., Zamakhshari) see in it a reference to this particular surah. In view of the sequence, it seems to me that the former interpretation is preferable.

3 This connects with the end of the preceding Sarah, and particularly with the sentence, "There has come unto you [O mankind] an Apostle from among yourselves" (9: 128; see also note 2 on 50: 2).

4 Lit., "they have precedence (qadam) of truthfulness (sidq)": the latter term denoting a concord between what a person actually conceives in his mind or feels and what he expresses by word, deed or attitude - in other words, complete sincerity.



clearly but a spellbinder!"'

(3) 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,b governing all that exists. There is none that could intercede with Him unless He grants leave therefor.'

Thus is God, your Sustainer: worship, therefore, Him [alone]: will you not, then, keep this in mind? (4) Unto Him you all must return: this is, in truth, God's promise-for, behold, He creates [man] in the first instance, and then brings him forth anew$ to the end that He may reward with equity all who attain to faith and do righteous deeds; whereas for those who are bent on denying the truth there is in store a draught of burning despair and grievous suffering because of their persistent refusal to acknowledge the truth.'

(5) He it is who has made the sun a [source of] radiant light and the moon a light [reflected],' and has

5 Lit., "He is indeed an obvious enchanter (sahir)" -thus implying that the "man from among yourselves" (i.e., Muhammad) did not really receive any revelation from God, but merely deluded his followers by means of his spellbinding eloquence (which is the meaning of sihr in this context): an accusation levelled by unbelievers of all times not merely against Muhammad but-as the Qur'an frequently states-against most of the earlier prophets as well. The term "those who deny the truth" refers, in this context, specifically to people who a priori reject the notion of divine revelation and, thus, of prophethood.

6 See surah 7, note 43. Since belief in divine revelation naturally presupposes a belief in the existence of God as the self-subsistent fount of all being, the reference to the revelation of the Qur'an with which this surah opens is followed by a consideration of God's creative almightiness.

7 Lit., "there is no intercessor whatever, save after His leave [has been granted]". Cf. 2 : 255 - "Who is there that could intercede with Him, unless it be by His leave?" Thus, the Qur'an rejects the popular belief in unqualified "intercession" by living or dead saints or prophets. As is shown elsewhere in the Qus'an (e.g., in 20 : 109, 21 : 28 or 34: 23), God will grant to His prophets on Judgment Day the permission to "intercede", symbolically, for such of the sinners as will have already achieved His redemptive acceptance (rids') by virtue of their repentance or basic goodness (see 19: 87 and the corresponding note 74): in other words, the right of "intercession" thus granted to the prophets will be but an expression of God's approval of the latter. Furthermore, the above denial of the possibility of unqualified intercession stresses, indirectly, not only God's omniscience - which requires no "mediator" - but also the immutability of His will: aand thus it connects with the preceding mention of His almightiness. (See also note 27 below.)

8 Le., He will resurrect him by a new act of creation. That the verb yu'Tduhu ("He brings him forth anew") refers here to the individual resurrection of human beings becomes obvious from the sequence. The noun khalq primarily denotes "creation" (i.e., the bringing into being of something that did not exist before); subsequently, it denotes the result or object of creation, i.e., a "created being" (or "beings"); finally, it is used in the sense of "man" in the generic connotation of this word, i.e., "mankind".

9 See surah 6, note 62 (for my rendering of hamim as "burning despair").

10 The nouns diya' and nur are often interchangeable, inasmuch as both denote "light"; but many philologists are of the opinion that the term diya' (or daw') has a more intensive connotation, and is used to describe "a light which subsists by itself, as that of the sun and fire" - that is, a source of light - while nur signifies "a light that subsists by some other thing"

determined for it phases so that you might know how to compute the years and to measure [time]. None of this has God created without [an inner] truth.'

Clearly does He spell out these messages unto people of [innate] knowledge: (6) for, verily, in the alternating of night and day, and in all that God has created in the heavens and on earth there are messages indeed for people who are conscious of Him!

(7) Verily, as for those who do not believe that they are destined to meet Us,'Z but content themselves with the life of this world and do not look beyond it," and are heedless of Our messages - (8) their goal is the fire in return for all [the evil] that they were wont to do.

(9) [But,] verily, as for those who have attained to faith and do righteous deeds - their Sustainer guides them aright by means of their faith. [In the life to come,] running waters will flow at their feet"' in gardens of bliss; (10) [and] in that [state of happiness] they will call out," "Limitless art Thou in Thy glory, O God!"-and will be answered with the greeting, "Peace !"16 And their call will close with [the words], "All praise is due to God, the Sustainer of all the worlds!"

(11) NOW IF GOD were to hasten for human beings the ill [which they deserve by their sinning] in the same manner as they [themselves] would hasten [the coming to them of what they consider to be] goad, their end would indeed come forthwith!" But We

(Lane V, 1809, on the authority of Tdj al= Arus ): in other words, light due to an extraneous source or - as in the case of the moon - reflected light.

11 Lit., "God has not created this otherwise than in accordance with truth" - i.e., to fulfil a definite purpose in consonance with His planning wisdom (Zamakhsharl, BaghawT, RAzl): implying that everything in the universe - whether existent or potential, concrete or abstract - is meaningful, and nothing is "accidental". Cf. 3 : 191 - "O our Sustainer! Thou has not created [aught of] this without meaning and purpose (batilan)"; and 38: 27-"We have not created heaven and earth and all that is between them without meaning and purpose, as is the surmise (;ann) of those who are bent on denying the truth".

12 Lit., "who do not hope for (i.e., expect) a meeting with Us": implying that they do not believe in a life after death or in God's ultimate judgment.

13 Lit., "are at rest with it" - i.e., regard the life in this world as the only reality, dismissing the idea of resurrection as mere wishful thinking.

14 Lit., "beneath them".

15 Lit., "their invocation (da'wa) therein [will be].. .", etc.

16 Lit., "their greeting therein [will be], 'Peace"'. For an explanation of the term salam and its fundamental connotation of inner peace, fulfilment, and security from all that is evil, see Sarah 5, note 29.

17 Lit., "[the end of] their term would indeed have been decreed for them": the implication being, firstly, that man is weak (cf. 4 : 28) and therefore prone to sinning; secondly, that God "has



leave them alone [for a while] -all those who do not believe that they are destined to meet Us:` [We leave them alone] in their overweening arrogance, blindly stumbling to and fro.

(12) For [thus it is:] when affliction befalls man, he cries out unto Us, whether he be lying on his side or sitting or standing;'9 but as soon as We have freed him of his affliction, he goes on as though he had never invoked Us to save him from the affliction'' that befell him! Thus do their own doings seem goodly.unto those who waste their own selves.

(13) And, indeed, We destroyed before your time [whole] generations when they [persistently] did evil although the apostles sent unto them brought them all evidence of the truth; for they refused to believe [them]. Thus do We requite people who are lost in


(14) And thereupon We made you their successors on earth, so that We might behold how you act.

(15) AND [thus it is:] whenever Our messages are conveyed unto them in all their clarity, those who do not believe that they are destined to meet Us [are wont to] say, "Bring us a discourse other than this, or alter this one.

willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy" (see 6: 12 and the corresponding note) and, consequently, does not punish sinners without taking their circumstances into consideration and giving them time to repent and to mend their ways.

18 See verse 7, with which this verse connects.

19 These three metaphorical expressions are often used in the Qur'an to describe the various situations in which man may find himself. The "calling unto God" under the stress of misfortune describes the instinctive reaction of many people who consider themselves "agnostics" and in their conscious thinking refuse to believe in God. See also verses 22-23 below, as well as 6 : 40-41.

20 Lit., "called out unto Us against (ild) an affliction".

21 The expression musrif, which often (e.g., in 5 :32 or 7: 81) denotes "one who is given to excesses" or "commits excesses" or (as in 6 : 141) "one who is wasteful", has in the above context the meaning of "one who wastes his own self" (Razi)-namely, destroys his spiritual potential by following only his base impulses and failing to submit to any moral imperative. (Cf. the very similar expression alladhfna khasira anfusahum occurring in many places and rendered by me as "those who have squandered their own selves".) In the sense in which it is used here, the term israf (lit., "wastefulness" or "lack of moderation in one's doings") is almost synonymous with the term tughydn ("overweening arrogance") occurring in the preceding verse (Manor XI, 314), and relates to the same type of man. The phrase "goodly seem [to them] their own doings" describes the unthinking complacency with which "those who waste their own selves" go through life.

22 Cf. 6 : 131-132. The phrase rendered by me as "the apostles sent unto them" reads, literally, "their apostles". The sinners' refusal to believe is expressed in the text by means of the construction wa-md kdnu li-yu'minu.

23 Sc., "to suit our own views as to what is right and what is wrong". This is an oblique reference to the highly subjective criticism of Qur'anic ethics and eschatology by many agnostics (both among the contemporaries of the Prophet and in later times), and particularly to their view that the Qur'an was "composed" by Muhammad himself and therefore expresses no more than his

Say [O Prophet]: "It is not conceivable that I should alter it of my own volition; I only follow what is revealed to me. Behold, I would dread, were I [thus] to rebel against my Sustainer, the suffering [which would befall me] on that ,awesome Day [of Judgment]!"

(16) Say: "Had God willed it [otherwise], I would not have conveyed this [divine writ] unto you, nor would He have brought it to your knowledge. Indeed. a whole lifetime have I dwelt among you ere this [revelation came unto me]: will you not, then, use your reason ?,,2,1

(17) And who could be more wicked than they who attribute their own lying inventions to God or give the lie to His messages? Verily, those who are lost in sin will never attain to a happy state 25 -08) and [neither will] they [who] worship, side by side with God, things or beings that can neither harm nor benefit them, saying [to themselves], "These are our intercessors with God!"'

Say: "Do you [think that you could] inform God of anything in the heavens or on earth that He does not know ?27 Limitless is He in His glory, and sublimely

personal convictions. - Regarding the phrase, "those who do not believe that they are destined to meet Us", see note 12 above.

24 This argument - placed in the mouth of the Prophet - has a twofold implication. Ever since his early youth, Muhammad had been renowned for his truthfulness and integrity, so much so that his Meccan compatriots applied to him the epithet Al-Amfn ("The Trustworthy"). In addition to this, he had never composed a single line of poetry (and this in contrast with a tendency which was widespread among the Arabs of his time), nor had he been distinguished by particular eloquence. "How, then," goes the argument, "can you reconcile your erstwhile conviction-based on the experience of a lifetime-that Muhammad was incapable of uttering a lie, with your present contention that he himself has composed the Qur'an and now falsely attributes it to divine revelation? And how could he who, up to the age of forty, has never displayed any poetic or philosophic gifts and is known to be entirely unlettered (ummf), have composed a work as perfect in its language, as penetrating in its psychological insight and 'as compelling in its inner logic as the Qur'an?"

25 I.e., in the life to come. In this context, the "attributing of one's own lying inventions to God" would seem to apply specifically to the wanton accusation that Muhammad himself composed the Qur'an and then attributed it to God; and the "giving the lie to God's messages" refers to the attitude of those who make such an accusation and, consequently, reject the Qur'an (Raz1)_

26 Thus the discourse returns to the problem of "intercession" touched upon in verse 3 of this surah. Literally, the beginning of the sentence reads thus: "And they worship that which neither harms them nor benefits them" -an expression alluding to both concrete representations and conceptual images. It should be noted that the "they" elliptically referred to here are not identical with the people spoken of earlier as "those who do not believe that they are destined to meet Us" (in other words, those who deny the reality of resurrection and of the Day of Judgment): for the people of whom the above verse speaks obviously do believe - albeit in a confused manner - in life after death and man's responsibility before God, as is evident from the statement that they worship imaginary "intercessors with God".

27 Thus, belief in the efficacy of anyone's unqualified intercession with God, or mediation

exalted above anything to which men may ascribe a share in His divinity!"

AND [know that] all mankind were once but one single community, and only later did they begin to hold divergent views.$ And had it not been for a decree- that had already gone forth from thy Sustainer, all their differences would indeed have been settled [from the outset].

NOW THEY [who deny the truth] are wont to ask, "Why has no miraculous sign ever been bestowed upon him from on high by his Sustainer?"'

Say, then: "God's alone is the knowledge of that which. is beyond the reach of human perception." Wait, then, [until His will becomes manifest:] verily, I shall wait with you!"

(21) And [thus it is:] whenever We let [such] people 'Z taste [some of Our] grace after hardship has

between man and Him, is here equated with a denial of God's omniscience, which takes all the circumstances of the sinner and his sinning a priori into consideration. (As regards God's symbolic grant of permission to His prophets to "intercede" for their followers on the Day of Judgment, see note 7 above.)

28 Lit., ("and then they disagreed [among themselves]". For an explanation of the term "one single community" (ummah wahidah), see Sarah 2, note 197. In the present context, this expression alludes not merely to mankind's one-time homogeneity, but also - by implication - to the fact, repeatedlyy stressed in the Qur'an (e.g., in 7: 172), that the ability to realize God's existence, oneness and omnipotence is innate in man, and that all deviation from this basic perception is a consequence of the confusion brought about by man's progressive estrangement from his inborn instincts.

29 Lit., "it would indeed have been decided between them regarding all that they were differing in": i.e., had it not been for God's decree - which is the meaning, in this context, of the term kalimah (lit., "word") - that men should differ in their intellectual approach to the problems touched upon by divine revelation, "they would not have contended with one another after having received all evidence of the truth", but would all have held from the very outset, and would continue to hold, the same views (cf. 2 : 253 and the corresponding note 245). Since, however, such a uniformity would have precluded men's intellectual, moral and social development, God has left it to their reason, aided by prophetic guidance, gradually to find their way to the truth. (See also sarah Z, note 198.) The above parenthetic passage must be read in conjunction with 2: 213.

30 I.e., on Muhammad, in order to "prove" that he is truly a bearer of God's message (a sceptical objection which resumes the theme enunciated in verses 1-2 and 15-17 above); see also 6 : 37 and 109 and the corresponding notes, especially note 94. The pronoun "they" refers to both categories of deniers of the truth spoken of in the preceding passages: the atheists or agnostics "who do not believe that they are destined to meet God", as well as those who, while believing in God, "ascribe a share in His divinity" to all manner of imaginary intercessors or mediators (see verse 18 above).

31 This answer relates not merely to the question as to why God has not bestowed on Muhammad a "miraculous sign" of his prophethood, but also to the "why" of his having been chosen for his prophetic mission. See in this connection 2 : 105 ("God singles out for His grace whom He wills") and 3 : 73-74 ("God is infinite, all-knowing, singling out for His grace whom He wills")

32 I.e., the two categories of people referred to in verses 7, 11, 12, 15, 18 and 20.



visited them-lo! they forthwith turn to devising false arguments against Our messages."

Say: "God is swifter [than you] in His deep devising!"

Behold, Our [heavenly] messengers are recording all that you may devise!

(22) He it is who enables you to travel on land and sea. And [behold what happens] when you go to sea in ships:' [they go to sea in ships,] and they sail on in them in a favourable wind, and they rejoice thereatuntil there comes upon them a tempest, and waves surge towards them from all sides, so that they believe themselves to be encompassed [by death; and then] they call unto God, [at that moment] sincere in their faith in Him alone, "If Thou wilt but save us from this, we shall most certainly be among the grateful!" (23) Yet as soon as He has saved them from this [danger], lo! they behave outrageously on earth, offending against all right !35

O men! All your outrageous deeds are bound to fall back upon your own selves! [You care only for] the enjoyment of life in this world: [but remember that] in the end unto Us you must return, whereupon We shall make you truly understand all that you were doing [in life].

(24) The parable of the life of this world is but that of rain which We send down from the sky, and which is absorbed by the plants of the earth 31 whereof men and animals draw nourishment, until -when the earth has assumed its artful adornment and has been em

33 Lit., "they have forthwith a scheme against Our messages". (The particle idha preceding this clause is meant to bring out the element of immediacy, and is best rendered as "lo! they forthwith.,. .", etc.) Since God's messages are purely conceptual, the "scheming against them" obviously connotes the devising of fallacious arguments meant to cast doubt on the divine origin of these messages or to "disprove" the statements made in them. The above discourse on the psychology of agnosticism and half-belief is continued in the parable of the seafarers set forth in the next two verses.

34 Lit., "until, when you are in the ships...", etc. As has been pointed out by Zamakhsharl, the particle "until" (hatta) which precedes this clause refers to the sudden rise of the storm described in the sequence, and not to the "going to sea in ships". It is to be noted that at this point the discourse changes abruptly from the direct address "you" to the third person plural ("they"): a construction which is evidently meant to bring out the allegorical character of the subsequent narrative and to turn it into a lesson of general validity.

35 See verse 12 (of which the above passage is a parabolic illustration) and the corresponding notes.

36 Lit., "your outrageousness (baghy) is only against your own selves". Cf. the oft-recurring Qur'anic expression, "they have sinned against themselves" (zalamu anfusahum, lit., "they have wronged themselves"), indicating the inevitability with which every evil deed damages its perpetrator spiritually.

37 Lit., "with which the plants of the earth mingle".

bellished, and they who dwell on it believe that they have gained mastery over it"-there comes down upon it Our judgment, by night or by day, and We cause it to become [like] a field mown down, as if there had been no yesterday.'9

Thus clearly do We spell out these messages unto people who think!

(25) AND [know that] God invites [man] unto the abode of peace, and guides him that wills [to be guided] onto a straight way.'

(26) Foc those who persevere in doing good there is the ultimate good in store, and more [than that]." No darkness and no ignominy will overshadow their faces [on Resurrection Day]: it is they who are destined for paradise, therein to abide.

(27) But us for those who have done evil deeds - the recompense of an evil, deed shall be the like thereof:'- and - since they will have none to defend them against God - ignominy will overshadow them as though their faces were veiled by the night's own darkness:" it is they who are destined for the fire. therein to abide.

(28) For, one Day We shall gather them all together, and then We shall say unto those who [in their lifetime] ascribed divinity to aught but God, "Stand where you are, you and those [beings and powers] to whom you were wont to ascribe a share in God's divinity!""-for by then We shall have [visibly] se

38 I.e., they come to believe that they have gained "mastery over nature", with no conceivable limits to what they may yet achieve. It is to be borne in mind that the term zukhruf bears almost invariably a connotation of artificiality -a connotation which in this case is communicated to the subsequent verb izzayyanat. Thus, the whole of the above parabolic sentence may be understood as alluding to the artificial, illusory "adornment" brought about by man's technological efforts, not in collaboration with nature but, rather, in hostile "confrontation" with it.

39 Lit., "as if it had not been in existence yesterday": a phrase used in classical Arabic to describe something that has entirely disappeared or perished (Tai al= Aras).

40 Or: "guides whom He wills onto a straight way". As regards the expression salam, rendered here and in many other places as "peace" and elsewhere as "salvation", see sarah 5, note 29. It is obvious that the term ddr as-salam ("abode of peace") denotes not only the condition of ultimate happiness in the hereafter - alluded to in the allegory of paradise - but also the spiritual condition of a true believer in this world: namely, a state of inner security, of peace with God, with one's natural environment. and within oneself.

41 I.e., more than their actual merits may warrant (cf. 6: 160-"Whoever shall come [before God] with a good deed will gain ten times the like thereof"). See also note 79 on 27 :89.

42 In contrast with the multiple "rewards" for good deeds, the recompense of evil will be only commensurate with the deed itself. (See also note 46 on the last sentence of 41 :50.)

43 Lit., "by a piece of the night, densely dark".

44 Lit., "you and those [God-]partners of yours": cf. sarah 6. note 15. The expression makanakum (lit., "your place", i.e., "keep to your place") bears a connotation- of contempt and an implied threat.

parated them from one another .4s And the beings to whom they had ascribed a share in God's divinity will say [to those who had worshipped them], "It was not us that you were wont to worship;' (29) and none can bear witness between us and you as God does: we were, for certain, unaware of your worshipping


(30) There and then will every human being clearly apprehend what he has done in the past; and all will be brought back unto God," their true Lord Supreme, and all their false imagery will have forsaken them.

(31) SAY: "Who is it that provides you with sustenance 49

out of heaven and earth, or who is it that has full power over [your] hearing and sight? And who is it that brings forth the living out of that which is dead, and brings forth the dead out of that which is alive? And who is it that governs all that exists?"

And they will [surely] answer: "[It is] God.5, Say, then: "Will you not, then, become [fully] conscious of Him-(32) seeing that He is God, your Sustainer, the Ultimate Truth?'' For, after the truth

45 I.e., separated those who ascribed divinity to beings other than God from the objects of their one-time adoration (Tabari, Baghawi): a metonymical phrase denoting a realization on the part of the former that there has never been any existential link between them and those false objects of worship (cf. 6:24, 10:30, 11 :21, 16:87 and 28:75-"and all their false imagery has [or "will have"] forsaken them"). See also the next two notes.

46 I.e., "it was only your own fancies and desires that you worshipped, clothing them in the garb of extraneous beings": in other words, the worship of idols, forces of nature, saints, prophets, angels, etc., is shown here to be nothing but a projection of the worshipper's own subconscious desires. (Cf. also 34 : 41 and the corresponding note 52.)

47 Thus the Qur'an makes it clear that the saints and prophets who, after their death, have been unwarrantably deified by their followers shall not be held accountable for the blasphemous worship accorded to them (cf. 5: 116-117); furthermore, even the inanimate objects of false worship will symbolically deny any connection between themselves and their worshippers.

48 I.e., will be brought back to the realization of God's oneness, uniqueness and almightiness - that instinctive cognition which has been implanted in human nature as such (see 7 : 172).

49 The term rizq ("provision of sustenance") is used here in both the physical and spiritual connotations of this word, which explains the reference to "heaven and earth" and, subsequently, "[man's] hearing and sight".

50 The people referred to here are those who believe, firstly, that there are beings endowed with certain divine or semi-divine qualities, thus having, as it were, a "share" in God's divinity; and, secondly, that by worshipping such beings men can come closer to God. This idea obviously presupposes belief in God's existence, as is brought out in the "answer" of the people thus addressed (cf. 7: 172 and the corresponding note 139); but inasmuch as it offends against the concept of God's oneness and uniqueness, it deprives those people's belief in God of its true meaning and spiritual value.

51 Lit., "this [or "such"], then, being God, your Sustainer, the Ultimate Truth"-i.e., "seeing that, on your own admission, He is the One who creates and governs all things and is the Ultimate Reality behind all that exists" (see sarah 20, note 99): which implies a categorical denial of the possibility that any other being could have a share, however small, in His divinity.

[has been forsaken], what is there [left] but error? How, then, can you lose sight of the truth?""

(33) Thus is thy Sustainer's word proved true with regard to such as are bent on sinful doings: they will not believes'

(34) Say: "Can any of those beings to whom you ascribe a share in God's divinity create [life] in the first instance, and then bring it forth anew ?,,14

Say: "It is God [alone] who creates [all life] in the first instance, and then brings it forth anew. How perverted, then, are your minds!"ss

(35) Say: "Does any of those beings to whom you ascribe a share in God's divinity guide unto the truth?"

Say: "It is God [alone] who guides unto the truth. Which, then, is more worthy to be followed - He who guides unto the truth, or he who cannot find the right way unless he is guided?" What, then, is amiss with you and your judgment?"57

(36) For, most of them follow nothing but conjecture: [and,] behold, conjecture can never be a substitute for truth. Verily, God has full knowledge





52 Lit., "How, then, are you turned away?"-i.e., from the truth.

53 See sarah 2, note 7, as well as 8 : 55 and the corresponding note 58. In this particular context, "the Sustainer's word" seems to be synonymous with "the way of God" (sunnat AIM) concerning deliberate sinners and deniers of the truth (Manor XI, 359). The particle anna in annahum (lit., "that they") is, thus, indicative of the purport of the divine "word" referred to, and is best expressed by a colon.

54 This rhetorical question is connected with the false belief that those idolatrously worshipped beings are no more than "intercessors" between their followers and God (see verse 18 above): and so, even their misguided votaries cannot possibly attribute to them the power to create and to resurrect. See also note 8 on verse 4 of this sarah. In its wider sense, this question (and the subsequent answer) relates to the God-willed, cyclic process of birth, death and regeneration evident in all organic nature.

55 See sarah 5, note 90.

56 Since the concept of "finding the right way" cannot apply to lifeless idols and idolatrous images, the above passage obviously relates to animate beings - whether dead or alive - to whom "a share in God's divinity" is falsely attributed: that is, to saintly personalities, prophets or angels whom popular fancy blasphemously endows with some or all of God's qualities, sometimes even to the extent that they are regarded as a manifestation or incarnation of God on earth. As for the act of God's guidance, it is displayed, primarily, in the power of conscious reasoning as well as of instinctive insight with which He has graced man, thus enabling him to follow the divine laws of right conduct (Zamakhsharl).

57 Lit., "[and] how do you judge?"

58 Lit., "conjecture can in no wise make [anyone] independent (Id yughnf) of the truth", i.e., of positive insight obtained through authentic revelation (to which the sequence relates). The people referred to here (and apparently also in the first sentence of verse 53 of this sarah) are the agnostics who waver between truth and falsehood. - Some of the great exponents of Islamic Law-foremost among them Ibn Hazm-base on this verse their rejection of giyas ("deduction by analogy") as a means of eliciting religious laws which are supposedly "implied" in the wording of the Qur'an or of the Prophet's teachings, but not clearly laid down in terms of law. In his commentary on this verse. Razi thus sums up the above view: "They say that every deduction by

of all that they do.

(37) Now this Qur'an could not possibly have been devised by anyone save God: nay indeed," it confirms the truth of whatever there still remains [of earlier revelations] and clearly spells out the revelation [which comes] -let there be no doubt about it-from the Sustainer of all the worlds 6

(38) And yet,"' they [who are bent on denying the truth] assert, "[Muhammad] has invented it!"

Say [unto them]: "Produce, then, a surah of similar merit; and [to this end] call to your aid whomever you can, other than God, if what you say is true !-62

(39) Nay, but they are bent on giving the lie to everything the wisdom whereof they do not comprehend, and ere its inner meaning has become clear to them 6' Even thus did those who lived before their time give the lie to the truth: and behold what happened in the end to those evildoers!

(40) And there are among them such as will in time come to believe in this [divine writ], just as there are among them such as will never believe in it;6` and thy Sustainer is fully aware as to who are the spreaders of corruption.

(41) And [so, O Prophet,] if they give thee the lie,

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analogy is a conjectural process and is, therefore, of necessity, inadmissible [in matters pertaining to religion]-for 'conjecture can never be a substitute for truth'." (See also 5 : 101-102, and the corresponding notes 120-123.)

59 Lit., "but" (wa-lakin)-a stress on the impossibility of any assertion to the contrary.

60 The above passage has a twofold significance: firstly, the wisdom inherent in the Qur'an precludes any possibility of its having been composed by a human being; and, secondly, the Qur'anic message is meant to confirm, and give a final formulation to, the eternal truths which have been conveyed to man through a long succession of prophets: truths which have subsequently been obscured through wrong interpretation, deliberate omissions or interpolations, or a partial or even total loss of the original texts. For an explanation of the phrase ma bayna yadayhi, rendered by me in this context as "whatever there still remains [of earlier revelations]", see surah


61 According to the great philologist Abu `Ubaydah Ma'mar ibn al-Muthanni (as quoted by Baghawi), the particle am which introduces this sentence has no interrogative connotation, but is - as in several other places in the Qur'an - synonymous with the conjunction wa ("and"), which in this case can be suitably rendered as above.

note 3.

62 Cf. 2: 23 and the corresponding note 15.

63 Lit., "the knowledge whereof they do not encompass, while its inner meaning has not yet come to them". Most of the classical commentators explain this sentence in the way rendered by me; some of them, however (e.g., Tabari and Baghawi), interpret the term ta'wTI ("final [or "inner"] meaning") in the sense in which it is used in 7 :53 (see my translation of that passage and the corresponding note 41).

64 The verb yu'minun, which occurs twice in this verse, can be understood as connoting either the present tense-"[such as] believe", resp. "[such as] do not believe"-or the future tense. The future tense (adopted by me) is the meaning unequivocally attributed to it by Tabari and Ibn Kathir; some of the other authorities, like Zamakhshari and Razi, prefer the present tense, but nevertheless regard the other interpretation as legitimate. (See also Mandr XI, 380.)



say: "To me [shall be accounted] my doings, and to you, your doings: you are not accountable for what I am doing, and I am not accountable for whatever you do."

(42) And there are among them such as (pretend to] listen to thee: but canst thou cause the deaf to hearken even though they will not use their reason? (43) And there are among them such as [pretend to] look towards thee: but canst thou show the right way to the blind even though they cannot see?

(44) Verily, God does not do the least wrong unto men, but it is men who wrong themselves.

(45) And on the Day when He shall gather them [unto Himself, it will seem to them] as if they had not tarried [on earth] longer than an hour of a day, knowing one another;" [and] lost indeed will be they who [in their lifetime] considered it a lie that they were destined to meet God, and [thus] failed to find the right' way.

(46) And whether We show thee [in this worldl something of what We hold in store for those [deniers of the truth],' or whether We cause thee to die [before that retribution takes place - know that, in the end], it is unto Us that they must return; and God is witness to all that they do.6'






(47) NOW every community has had an apostle; and only after their apostle has appeared [and delivered his message] is judgment passed on them, in all equity;"

65 Le., their past sojourn in this world, during which they were bound to one another by various ties of human relationship, will appear to them like a short moment as compared with the timeless duration of the life that awaits them after resurrection (see note 19 on 79 : 46), with all their past relationships cut asunder. See also 6 : 94, which describes the condition of the deniers of the truth on the Day of Resurrection: "And now, indeed, you have come unto Us in a lonely state, even as We created you in the first instance"; and later on, in that same verse: "Indeed, all the bonds between you [and your earthly life] are now severed. .. ."

66 Lit., "of what We promise them" or "of what We threaten them with" - i.e., the inevitable retribution, sometimes even in this world, which a deliberate denial of the truth brings in its wake.

67 The above verse is addressed, in the first instance, to the Prophet, and relates to those of his contemporaries who refused to acknowledge the truth of the Qur'anic revelation. In its wider sense, however, it is addressed to every believer who might find it incomprehensible that life-long suffering is often the lot of the righteous. while many wrongdoers and deniers of the truth apparently remain unscathed and are allowed to enjoy the good things of life. The Qur'an solves this apparent paradox by making it clear that, in comparison with the life to come, the life in this world is but a brief moment, and that it is only in the hereafter that man's destiny reveals itself in all its true aspects. Cf. 3 : 185 - "only on the Day of Resurrection will you be requited in full Ifor whatever you have donel ... for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion".

68 Lit., "and when their apostle has come, a decision is made between them in all equity". This verse stresses (a) the continuity of religious revelation in mankind's history and the fact that in the long run no community, period or civilization (which latter is one of the meanings attributable to the term ummah) has been left without prophetic guidance, and (b) the doctrine that God does not

and never are they wronged.

(48) And yet, they [who deny the truth] are wont to ask, "When is that promise [of resurrection and judgment] to be fulfilled? [Answer this, O you who believe in it,] if you are men of truth!"

(49) Say [O Prophet]: "It is not within my power to avert harm from, or bring benefit to, myself, except as God may please.69 For all people a term has been set: when the end of their term approaches, they can neither delay it by a single moment, nor hasten it."'

(50) Say: "Have you ever considered [how you would feel] if His chastisement were to befall you by night or by day? What could there be in that prospect that people lost in sin should wish to hasten?" (51) Will you, then, believe in it [only] after it has come to pass -[on the Day when you will be asked, `Do you believe in it] now ,7s after having [contemptuously] called for its speedy advent?' (52) -whereupon those who [in their lifetime] were bent on evildoing will be told, `Taste suffering abiding! Is this requital anything but the just due for what you were wont to do?"'"

(53) And some people 7" ask thee, "Is all this true?" Say: "Yea, by my Sustainer! It is most certainly true, and you cannot elude [the final reckoning]!" (54) And all human beings that have been doing evil's would surely, if they possessed all that is on earth, offer it as ransom [on Judgment Day];'6 and



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punish "a community for its wrongdoing so long as its people are still unaware [of the meaning of right and wrong]: for all shall be judged according to their [conscious] deeds" (6: 131-132).

69 Sc., "and since I do not possess any supernatural powers, I cannot predict that which is beyond the reach of human perception (al-ghayb)".

70 See 7 : 34 and the corresponding notes 25 and 26. In the above context, the "end of the term" refers, in particular, to the coming of the Last Hour and the Day of Judgment.

71 Lit., "What [part] thereof might the people lost in sin (al-muirimun) wish to hasten"meaning, according to Zamakhshari, that "all of [God's] chastisement is awful and bitter, and should inspire one with the desire to flee therefrom; ... and there is nothing in it that ought to make one wish to hasten it". This is an allusion to the incredulous inquiry of the deniers of the truth about the coming of the Last Hour (verse 48 above), as well as to their sarcastic demand that they should be immediately chastised by God in proof of Muhammad's prophetic mission (cf. 6:57-58 and 8:32, as well as the corresponding notes).-The expression "by night or by day" occurring in the preceding sentence denotes the suddenness and unexpectedness with which doom is bound to encompass the evildoers on the Day of Judgment.

72 I.e., "when it is too late" (Tabari, Zamakhshari, Razi; my interpolation at the beginning of this sentence is based on these authorities).

73 Lit., "Are you being requited for anything but for what you were wont to earn?"

74 Lit., "they"-i.e., those of the unbelievers who are wavering in their agnosticism and-as mentioned in verse 36 above-"follow nothing but conjecture" (Mandr XI, 394).

75 In this instance, by deliberately giving the lie to the Prophet and rejecting the message of the Qur'an.

76 Cf. 3 : 91 and the corresponding note 71.

when they see the suffering [that awaits them], they will be unable to express their remorse." But judgment will be passed on them in all equity; and they will not be wronged.

(55) Oh, verily, unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth! Oh, verily, God's promise always comes true-but most of them know it not! (56) He alone grants life and deals death; and unto Him you all must return.

O MANKIND! There has now come unto you an admonition from your Sustainer, and a cure for all [the ill] that may be in men's hearts ,79 and guidance and grace unto all who believe [in Him].

(58) Say: "In [this] bounty of God and in His grace-in this, then, let them rejoice: it is better than all [the worldly wealth] that they may amass!"

(59) Say: "Have you ever considered all the means of sustenance which God has bestowed upon you from on high' -and which you thereupon divide into 'things forbidden' and 'things lawful ?"81

77 The primary meaning of the verb asarrahu is "he concealed it" or "he kept it secret"; thus, the phrase asarru 'n-nadamah (expressed in the past tense but in the above context obviously denoting a future event) could be rendered as "they will conceal their remorse". In view, however, of the many statements in the Qur'an that on the Day of Judgment the sinners will not only not conceal but will, rather, stress their remorse, some of the commentators (e.g., Baghawi, on the authority of Abu `Ubaydah) are of the opinion that in this particular verse the verb asarra denotes the opposite of its primary meaning and, accordingly, interpret the phrase as "they will manifest their remorse". But the linguistic validity of this rather forced interpretation has been emphatically contested by many philologists, and particularly by Abfi Mansfir al-Azhari (cf. Lane IV, 1337); and since there is no convincing reason to disregard the original significance of the verb asarra with its implication of "concealment", the above Qur'anic phrase must be understood (as Zamakhshari understands it), in the metonymical sense of an involuntary "concealment", that is, the sinners' inability to express the full depth of their remorse.

78 Lit., "you shall be brought back" - for, "all that exists goes back to Him [as its source]" (11 : 123).

79 I.e., a remedy for all that is contrary to truth and moral good.

80 This connects with the statement, in verse 57, that the Qur'an offers to man a complete guidance towards the good life and spiritual fulfilment in this world, and happiness in the life to come. As already mentioned in surah 2, note 4, the term rizq connotes all that may be good and useful to man, be it of a physical nature (in the conventional sense of "means of sustenance") or belonging to the realm of the mind (like reason, knowledge, etc.) or of the spirit (like faith, kindness, patience, etc.). Thus, it applies exclusively to positive, beneficial means of sustenance, and never to things or phenomena which are morally reprehensible and/or physically or socially injurious.

81 Lit., "and thereupon you have made some of it forbidden (haram) and [some of it] lawful (halal)". The fact that it is God who "has bestowed upon you from on high" (anzala `alaykum)i.e., has willed that man should make use of - all that can be qualified as rizq, automatically makes all its manifestations lawful (Zamakhshari). In accordance with the doctrine that everything which has not been expressly forbidden by the Qur'an or the explicit teachings of the Prophet is eo ipso lawful, this verse takes a clear-cut stand against all arbitrary prohibitions invented by man or artificially "deduced" from the Qur'an or the Prophet's sunnah (Mandr XI, 409 f.; see also note 58

Say: "Has God given you leave [to do this] -or do you, perchance, attribute your own guesswork to God?"

(60) But what do they think-they who attribute their own lying inventions to God-[what do they think will happen to them]. on the Day of Resurrection?

Behold, God is indeed limitless in His bounty unto men -but most of them are ungrateful.

(61) AND IN whatever condition thou mayest find thyself, [O Prophet,] and whatever discourse of this [divine writ]82 thou mayest be reciting, and whatever work you [all, O men,] may do -[remember that] We are your witness83 [from the moment] when you enter upon it: for, not even an atom's weight [of whatever there is] on earth or in heaven escapes thy Sustainer's knowledge; and neither is there anything smaller than that, or larger, but is recorded in Mis] clear decree.

(62) Oh, verily, they who are close to God"- no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve: (63) they who have attained to faith and have always been conscious of Him. (64) For them there is the glad tiding [of happiness] in the life of this world" and in the life to come; [and since] nothing could ever alter [the outcome of] God's promises, this, this is the triumph supreme!

(65) And be not grieved by the sayings of those [who deny the truth]. Behold, all might and glory86

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on verse 36 of this sarah, as well as 5 : 101-102 and the corresponding notes). In its wider sense, the above verse relates to people who refuse to be guided by revelation and prefer to "follow nothing but conjecture" (verse 36).

82 Or: "Whatever discourse (qur'dn) from Him".

83 Lit., "witnesses", corresponding to the majestic plural "We". The specific reference to the Prophet and his recitation of the Qur'an (implied in the singular form of address in the first part of this sentence) is meant to stress the supreme importance of divine revelation in the context of human life.

84 The verb waliya (from which the noun waif, pl. awliyd', is derived) signifies, primarily, the nearness or closeness of one thing to another: thus, God is spoken of in the Qur'an (e.g., in 2 : 257 and 3 :68) as being "near unto (waif) those who believe". Although the term waif, when applied to God, as well as to the relationship between one created being and another, is often used in the Qur'an in the sense of "helper", "friend", "protector", "guardian", etc., none of these secondary meanings can properly - i.e., without offending against the reverence due to God - describe man's attitude to, or relationship with, Him. Consequently, the above reference to the believers as awliyd' of God is best rendered as "they who are close to God", in the sense of their being always conscious of Him. This rendering has the support of almost all the classical commentators.

85 Le., the happiness born of the feeling of closeness to God and, hence, of spiritual fulfilment.

86 The noun `izzah comprises the concepts of superior might as well as of honour and glory. Its rendering into another language depends on the context, and sometimes - as in this case - necessitates a combination of two terms.



belong to God alone: He alone is all-hearing, allknowing.

(66) OH, VERILY, unto God belongs whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on earth: hence, what is it that they follow-those who invoke, beside God. beings to whom they ascribe a share in His divinity?"' They follow but the conjectures [of others], and themselves do nothing but guess - (67) [whereas] it is He who has made the night for you, so that you might have rest therein, and the day, to make [you] seer in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who [are willing to] listen.

(68) [And yet] they assert, "God has taken unto Himself a son!" Limitless is He in His glory! Selfsufficient is He: unto Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth! No evidence whatever have you for this [assertion]! Would you ascribe unto God something which you cannot know?

(69) Say: "Verily, they who attribute their own lying inventions to God will never attain to a happy state!" (70) [A brief] enjoyment in this world-and thereafter unto Us they must return: and then We shall let them taste suffering severe as an outcome of their persistent denial of the truth.

(71) AND CONVEY unto them the story of Noah-when he said unto his people: "O my people! If my presence [among you] and my announcement of God's messages are repugnant to you9-well, in God have I placed my trust. Decide, then, upon what you are going to do [against me],9i and [call to your aid] those beings to whom you ascribe a share in God's



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87 Lit., "partners", i.e., of God (see surah 6, note 15). The substantive pronoun man ("whoever") occurring twice in the first part of this verse contains an allusion to rational beings (as distinct from inanimate objects) whom "those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God" consider to be endowed with qualities or powers which, in fact, belong to Him alone. The Qur'an argues against this idolatrous concept by pointing out that all rational beings, whether men or angels, "belong to God" (i.e., are-like everything else in the universe-wholly dependent on Him for their existence), possessing no divine qualities and, therefore, no reality as objects of worship.

88 See 14: 32-33 and the corresponding note 46; for the specific significance, in this context, of the reference to "day" and "night", see note 77 on 27: 86, which belongs to a somewhat earlier revelation than the present surah.

89 See surah 2, note 96.

90 Sc., "because they run counter to the idolatrous beliefs which you have inherited from your ancestors". The story of Noah, briefly mentioned in verses 71-73, is told at greater length in l 1 : 36-48 (see also 7 : 59-64). Here it connects with verse 47 above, and thus with the main theme of this surah: the truth of God's revelation of His will through His prophets, and the suffering which in the life to come is bound to befall those who give the lie to His messages.

91 Lit., "upon your course of action" (which is the meaning of the term amr in this context).



divinity;' and once you have chosen your course of action, let no hesitation deflect you from it;9' and then carry out against me [whatever you may have decided], and give me no respite! (72) But if you turn away [from the message which I bear, remember that] I have asked no reward whatever of you: my reward rests with none but God, for I have been bidden to be among those who have surrendered themselves unto Him."

(73) And yet they gave him the lie! And so We saved him and all who stood by him, in the ark, and made them inherit [the earth],94 the while We caused those who gave the lie to Our messages to drown:9s behold, then, what happened in the end to those people who had been warned [in vain]!

(74) AND THEN, after him, We sent forth [other] apostles-each one unto his own people96 -and they brought them all evidence of the truth; but they would not believe in anything to which they had once given the lie:9' thus it is that We seal the hearts of such as [are wont to] transgress the bounds of what is right.9'

(75) And after those [earlier prophets] We sent Moses and Aaron with Our messages unto Pharaoh and his great ones: but they gloried in their arrogance, for they were people lost in sin. (76) And so, when the truth came to them from Us, they said, "Behold, this is clearly nothing but sorcery!"99

(77) Said Moses: "Do you speak thus of the truth after it has been brought to you? Can this be sorcery? But sorcerers can never come to a happy end!"'

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92 Lit., "your [God-]partners". For an explanation of this term, see Sarah 6, note 15.

93 This is a free rendering of the elliptic phrase, "and let not your course of action (amrukum) be an uncertainty to you".

94 Le., "made them outlive [the others]" (Zamakhshari). As regards the allegorical rendering of khala'if (sing. khalif or khalrfah) adopted by me, see Sarah 2, note 22.

95 See sarah 7, note 47.

96 Lit., "We sent apostles to their [own] people"-an allusion to the fact that each of the apostles before Muhammad was sent to one particular people or community, and that the Arabian Prophet was the first and the last to bring a universal message addressed to all mankind

97 Cf. 7 : 101 and the corresponding note 82.

98 See Sarah 2, note 7.

99 Lit., "this is indeed obvious sorcery": an accusation which apparently refers to the spellbinding force of the messages conveyed to them by Moses, similar to the objections raised against the Last Prophet, Muhammad. (See verse 2 of this sarah and the corresponding note 5).

100 The implication is that what is termed "sorcery" cannot achieve more than ephemeral phenomena lacking any spiritual content, and can never prevail against the laws of nature which, in their totality, are described in the Qur'an as "the way of God". The story of Moses and the

(78) [The great ones] replied: "Hast thou come to turn us away from what we found our forefathers believing in and doing, so that the two of you might become supreme in this land? However, we do not believe in you two!"''

(79) And Pharaoh commanded: "Bring before me every sorcerer of great knowledge!"

(80) And when the sorcerers came, Moses said unto them: "Throw whatever you may [wish to] throw!" (81) And when they threw down [their staffs and cast a spell upon the people's eyes'], Moses said unto them: "What you have contrived is [but] sorcery which, verily, God will bring to nought! Verily, God does not further the works of spreaders of corruption - (82) whereas by His words God proves the truth to be true,'3 however hateful this may be to those who are lost in sin!"

(83) But none save a few of his people declared their faith in Moses,'(' [while others held back] for fear of Pharaoh and their great ones, lest they persecute them:`s for, verily, Pharaoh was mighty on earth and was, verily, of those who are given to excesses.

(84) And Moses said: "O my people! If you believe in God, place your trust in Him -if you have [truly] surrendered yourselves unto Him!"

(85) Whereupon they answered: "In God have we placed our trust! O our Sustainer, make us not a

sorcerers and the tatters' subsequent conversion is told in greater detail in Al-A'raf and Td Ha, both of which were revealed before the present surah.

101 The dual address "you two" relates to Moses and his brother Aaron.

102 The above interpolation is based on 7 : 116; see also the second paragraph of 20: 66.

103 By "God's words" is meant here His creative will, manifested in the laws of nature instituted by Him as well as in the revelations granted by Him to His prophets (Manor XI, 468). A similar phrase occurs also in 8 : 7 and 42 : 24.

104 Lit., "believed in Moses"; however, since the sequence shows that not belief as such but its open profession is referred to here, I have rendered the above phrase accordingly. As for the term dhurriyyah (lit., "offspring"), we have several authoritative statements to the effect that it often denotes "a small group [or "a few"] of one's people" (Ibn `Abbas, as quoted by Tabari, Baghawi, Razi and Ibn Kathir, as well as Ad-Dahhak and Qatadah, as quoted by Tabari and Ibn Kathir); hence my rendering. Since the Qur'an mentions (e.g., in 7 : 120-126) that some Egyptians, too, came to believe in Moses' message and openly proclaimed their belief, it is reasonable to assume that by "his people" are meant not merely the Israelites but, more generally, the people among whom Moses was living: that is, both Israelites and Egyptians. This assumption is strengthened by the reference, in the next clause of this sentence, to "their great ones" - an expression obviously relating to the Egyptian "great ones":

105 If the expression `aid khawf is taken to mean "despite [their] fear" (referring to those who did declare their faith openly), the above sentence would read thus: ". . . a few of his people declared their faith in Moses despite their fear that Pharaoh and their great ones would persecute them" -implying, as does the rendering adopted by me, that, because of their fear, the majority did not declare their faith openly.



plaything' for evildoing folk, (86) and save us, by Thy grace, from people who deny the truth!"

(87) And [thus] did We inspire Moses and his brother: "Set aside for your people some houses in the city, and [tell them], `Turn your houses into places of worship,'' and be constant in prayer!' And give thou [O Moses] the glad tiding [of God's succour] to all believers."

(88) And Moses prayed: "O our Sustainer! Verily, splendour and riches hast Thou vouchsafed, in the life of this world, unto Pharaoh and his great oneswith the result, O our Sustainer, that they are leading [others] astray from Thy path!'s O our Sustainer! Wipe out their riches, and harden their hearts, so that they may not attain to faith ere they see the grievous suffering [that awaits them]!"

(89) [God] answered: "Accepted is this your prayer!' Continue, then, both of you, steadfastly on the right way, and follow not the path of those who have no knowledge [of right and wrong]."

(90) And We brought the children of Israel across the sea; and thereupon Pharaoh and his hosts pursued them with vehement insolence and tyranny, until [they were overwhelmed by the waters of the sea. And] when he was about to drown, [Pharaoh] exclaimed:" "I have come to believe that there is no deity save Him in whom the children of Israel believe, and I am of those who surrender themselves unto Him!"

(9l) [But God said:] "Now?"'-when ever before

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106 Lit., "temptation to evil" (fitnah).

107 Lit., "a direction of prayer" (giblah)-a metaphor meant to impress upon the children of Israel that their only salvation lay in God-consciousness and unceasing devotion to Him. The primary meaning of misr - usually rendered as "Egypt" - is "city" or "metropolis".

108 According to most of the classical commentators, the particle li prefixed to the verb yuillu ("they are leading astray") represents in this context the so-called lam al= dgibah ("the [letter] lam denoting a consequence") and does not, as in many other instances, express a purpose or an intent ("in order that" or "to the end that"). My rendering of this li as "with the result that" is meant to bring out Moses' moral indignation at the perversity of Pharaoh and his great ones who, instead of being grateful to God for His bounty, are using their power to corrupt their own people.

109 Lit., "the prayer of you two", i.e., Moses and Aaron, both of whom are addressed in the next sentence as well.

110 Lit., "until, when drowning overtook him, he said". For the full story of Moses and Pharaoh, the latter's tyrannical oppression of the Israelites and their ultimate deliverance, see Exodus i-xiv, and especially (with reference to the above Qur'an-verse), ch. xiv, which narrates in great detail the miraculous escape of the Israelites and the doom of Pharaoh and his forces. It should always be remembered that all Qur'anic references to historical or legendary eventswhether described in the Bible or in the oral tradition of pre-Islamic Arabia-are invariably meant to elucidate a particular lesson in ethics and not to narrate a story as such: and this explains. the fragmentary character of these references and allusions.

111 Le., "Dost thou repent now, when it is too late?" Cf. 4 : 18 - "repentance shall not be



this thou hast been rebelling [against Us], and hast been among those who spread corruption? (92) [Nay,] but today We shall save only thy body,"Zso that thou mayest be a [warning] sign unto those who will come after thee: for, behold, a good many people are heedless of Our messages!"

(93) And [thereafter], indeed, We assigned unto the children of Israel a most goodly abode,"' and provided for them sustenance out of the good things of life. And it was not until knowledge [of God's revelation] was vouchsafed to them that they began to .hold divergent views: [but,] verily, thy Sustainer will judge between them on Resurrection Day regarding all on which they were wont to differ.' 14

(94) AND SO, [O man,] if thou art in doubt about [the truth of] what We have [now] bestowed upon thee from on high,"' ask those who read the divine writ [revealed] before thy time :116 [and thou wilt find that,]

accepted from those who do evil deeds until their dying hour, and then say, `Behold, I now repent'."

112 Lit., "We shall save thee in thy body": probably an allusion to the ancient Egyptian custom of embalming the bodies of their kings and nobles and thus preserving them for posterity. Some Egyptologists assume that the "evil Pharaoh" of the Qur'an and the Bible was Ramses II (about 1324-1258 B.C.), while others identify him with his unlucky predecessor, Tut-ankh-amen, or even with Thotmes (or Thutmosis) III, who lived in the 15th century B.C. However, all these "identifications" are purely speculative and have no definitive historical value. In this connection it should be remembered that the designation "Pharaoh" (fir'awn in Arabic) is not a proper name but a title borne by all the kings of ancient Egypt.

113 Lit., "We settled the children of Israel in an abode of excellence"- which latter term, according to almost all commentators, conveys the meaning of sidq in this context.

114 Commenting on this verse, Razi says: "The people of Moses remained of one religious persuasion (`ald millah wdhidah) and of one opinion, without any disagreement, until they began to study the Torah: whereupon they became aware of the [various] problems and obligations involved, and disagreements [regarding their interpretation] arose among them. And so God makes it clear [in the above Qur'an-verse] that this kind of disagreement is inevitable (18-budd) and will always occur in the life of this world." RazY's penetrating psychological comment is in tune with the oft-repeated Qur'anic statement that proneness to intellectual dissension is a permanent characteristic of human nature (see the last sentences of 2 : 213 and 253, respectively, as well as the corresponding notes; also 23 : 53 and note 30).

115 Some of the commentators assume that verses 94 and 95 are addressed to the Prophet Muhammad -an assumption which is highly implausible in view of the admonition (in verse 95), "Be not among those who are bent on giving the lie to God's messages": for it is obvious that God's chosen Prophet was never in danger of falling into such a sin. Consequently, Raz3 interprets these two verses as being addressed to man in general, and explains the reference to "what We have bestowed upon thee from on high" in the sense given in my rendering. This interpretation makes it clear, moreover, that the above passage is closely connected with verses 57-58, which speak of the guidance vouchsafed to mankind through the ultimate divine writ, the Qur'an.

116 I.e., the Jews and the Christians. The "reading" is here a metonym for belief, namely, in the Bible, which-notwithstanding the fact that its text has been corrupted in the course of time-still contains clear references to the advent of the Prophet Muhammad and thus, by implication, to the truth of the divine message revealed through him. In its wider sense, the above verse alludes to the unbroken continuity of man's religious experience and to the fact, frequently stressed in the

surely, the truth has now come unto thee from thy Sustainer. Be not, then, among the doubters - (95) and neither be among those who are bent on giving the lie to God's messages, lest thou find thyself among the lost.

(96) Verily, they against whom thy Sustainer's word [of judgment] has come true' 17 will not attain to faith - (97) even though every sign [of the truth] should come within their ken - until they behold the grievous suffering [that awaits them in the life to come]. 118

(98) For, alas,"9 there has never yet been any community that attained to faith [in its entirety,] and thereupon benefited by its faith, except the people of Jonah.`2 When they came to believe, We removed from them the suffering of disgrace [which otherwise would have befallen them even] in the life of this world, and allowed them to enjoy their life during the





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Qur'an, that every one of God's apostles preached one and the same basic truth. (See in this connection the second paragraph of 5 : 48 and the corresponding notes 66 and 67.)

117 See verse 33 and note 53 above; also note 4 on 14: 4.

118 Sc., "when belief will be of no avail'to them": an allusion to verses 90-91, which speak of Pharaoh's "conversion" at the point of death. Cf. also 4: 17-18.

119 The particle law-Id ("were it not that" or "were it not for") is sometimes synonymous with

hal-ld, and could therefore be translated as "why not" ("why was there not... ?", etc.). However,

neither the interrogative nor the above-mentioned literal rendering would bring out the purport of this passage. Its meaning becomes obvious only if we remember that law-ld is-apart from its primary significance-one of the so-called hunuf at-tahdid ("particles denoting insistence"). Whenever it is followed by a verb in the future tense, it expresses an urgent exhortation to do a thing; if followed by a verb in the past tense, as in the above case, it implies reproof for one's not having done something that should have been done. There is no idiomatic equivalent in modern English to convey this meaning. The nearest approach to it would be, I believe, the archaic exclamation "alack", expressive of deep sorrow or reproach; but the use of this expression (probably a compound of "ah! lack!"-i.e., loss or misfortune) is ruled out by its obsoleteness. Consequently, I am constrained to employ the more current interjection "alas", despite the fact that it does not possess the intensity of the ancient "alack". At any rate, the reader must bear in mind that the passage under consideration, although seemingly phrased in a conditional or an interrogatory form, implies a positive statement: namely-as has been stressed by several classical commentators, and most explicitly by Tabarl-the statement that "there has never yet been...", etc.

120 The Qur'an points out in many places that no prophet has ever been immediately accepted as such and followed by all of his people, and that many a community perished in result of the stubborn refusal, by the majority of its members, to listen to the divine message. The only exception in this respect is said to have been the people of Nineveh, who-after having at first rejected their prophet Jonah, so that "he went off in wrath" (cf. 21 : 87) - later responded to his call in unison, and were saved. For the story of Jonah, see 21 : 87-88 and 37 : 139-148, as well as the corresponding notes; a fuller narrative, which does not conflict with the Qur'anic references, is forthcoming from the Bible (The Book of Jonah). In the context of the passage which we are now considering, the mention of Jonah's people - who alone among the communities of the past heeded their prophet before it was too late - is meant to warn the hearers and readers of the Qur'an that a deliberate rejection of its message by "those against whom God's word [of judgment] has come true" (see verse 96) is bound to result in their spiritual doom and, consequently, in grievous suffering in the life to come.

time allotted to them.'2'

(99) And [thus it is:] had thy Sustainer so willed, all those who live on earth would surely have attained to faith, all of them: 122 dost thou, then, think that thou couldst compel people to believe, (100) notwithstanding that no human being can ever attain to faith otherwise than by God's leave, '23 and [that] it is He who lays the loathsome evil [of disbelief] upon those who will not use -their reason?"

(101) Say: "Consider whatever there is in the heavens and on earth!"

But of what avail could all the messages and all the warnings be to people who will not believe? (102) Can such, then, expect anything else [to befall them] but the like of the days of [calamity which befell] those [deniers of the truth] who passed away before them?

Say: "Wait, then, [for what will happen) verily, I shall wait with you!"

(103) [For thus it always happens: We seal the doom of all who deny the truth and give the lie to Our messages;] and thereupon We save Our apostles and those who have attained to faith. '25 Thus have We willed it upon Ourselves: We save all who believe [in


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121 Lit., "for a time", i.e., their natural life-span (Manor XI, 483).

122 The Qur'an stresses repeatedly the fact that, "had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright" (6: 149) - the obvious implication being that He has willed it otherwise: namely, that He has given man the freedom to choose between right and wrong, thus raising him to the status of a moral being (in distinction from other animals, which can only follow their instincts). See, in this context, sarah 6, note 143, as well as - in connection with the allegory of the Fall - sarah 7, note 16.

123 I.e., by virtue of God's guidance and within the compass of what He has decreed to be man's nature, comprising the ability to discriminate between right and wrong. Since man's freedom of moral choice expresses itself in his willingness or unwillingness to conform to his true, God-willed nature, it can be said to depend, in the last resort, on God's grace. (Cf. in this respect surah Z, note 19, as well as sarah 14, note 4.)

124 Cf. 8 : 22 and 55, as well as the corresponding note 58. As in those verses, unbelief is here shown to be the result of a person's a-priori unwillingness to use his reason with a view to understanding God's messages, be they directly expressed in the revelations granted to His prophets, or - as the Qur'an once again stresses in the next verse - open to man's perception in the observable phenomena of His creation.

125 My long interpolation at the beginning of this verse is based, in the main, on Zamakhshari's interpretation of it. It is necessitated by the fact that the adverbial conjunction thumma ("thereupon" or "thereafter") does not relate here to the immediately preceding passage but to a theme repeatedly occurring in the Qur'dn and only indirectly alluded to in verse 102 above: namely, the experiences of the earlier prophets with their recalcitrant communities, the doom of those who gave the lie to their messages and, in every case, a divine deliverance of the prophet concerned and of those who followed him. Rashid Rida' describes this passage, rightly, as "one of the most outstanding examples of the elliptic mode of expression (ijdz) to be found in the Qur'an" (Manor XI, 487).

126 Razi explains the phrase haqqan `alaynd (lit., "as is incumbent upon Us") as denoting no more than a logical necessity, i.e., the unavoidable fulfilment of God's "willing it upon Himself",



(104) SAY [O Prophet]: "O mankind! If you are in doubt as to what my faith is, then [know that] I do not worship those beings whom you worship beside God,'n but [that] I worship God alone, who shall cause you [all] to die:'2' for I have been bidden to be among those who believe [in Him alone]."

(105) Hence, [O man,] set thy face steadfastly towards the [true] faith, turning away from all that is false,'29 and be not among those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God. (106) Thus, do not invoke, side by side with God, anything that can neither benefit thee nor harm thee: for, behold, if thou do it, thou wilt surely be among the evildoers!

(107) And [know that] if God should touch thee with misfortune, there is none who could remove it save Him; and if He intends good for thee, there is none who could turn away His bounty: He causes it to alight upon whomsoever He wills of His servants. And He alone is truly forgiving, truly a dispenser of grace.

(108) SAY [O Prophet]: "O mankind! The truth from your Sustainer has now come unto you. Whoever, therefore, chooses to follow the right path, follows it but for his own good; and whoever chooses to go astray, goes but astray to his own hurt. And I am not responsible for your conduct."

(109) And [as for thyself, O Muhammad,] follow but what is being revealed unto thee, and be patient in adversity, until God shall give His judgment: for He is the best of all judges.

and not a "duty" on His part: for, neither is anything "incumbent" upon Him who has the power to will anything, nor-as Razi points out-has man any "right" with regard to his Creator.

127 Sc., "and call you to account on Judgment Day". The use of the pronoun alladhfna in the phrase "those whom you worship" shows that it relates here to rational beings-like saints, etc. - and not to inanimate representations. As regards the term din (rendered here as "faith", see the first half of note 249 on 2 : 256.

128 The specific reference, in this context, to God as the One who causes all living beings to die is meant to impress upon "those who deny the truth" the fact that after their death they will be placed before Him for judgment.

129 In classical Arabic usage, and particularly in the Qur'an, the word "face" is often employed as a metonym for one's whole being because it is the face, more than any other part of the human body, that expresses man's personality (cf. surah 2, note 91).- For an explanation of the term hanff, see surah 2, note 110.




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