THE ELEVENTH SURAH
REVEALED very shortly after the tenth surah (Yanus) - that
is, during the last year of the Prophet's sojourn in
Some of the authorities are of the opinion that verses 12,
17 and 114 were revealed at a later date, in
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:
A DIVINE WRIT [is this], with messages that have been made clear in and by themselves, and have been distinctly spelled out as well'- [bestowed upon you] out of the grace of One who is wise, all-aware, (2) so that you may worship none but God.
[Say, O Prophet:] "Behold, I come unto you from Him [as] a warner and a bearer of glad tidings:' (3)
1 See Appendix II. In the somewhat strange opinion of Sibawayh (cf. Mandr XII, 3) and of Razi in his commentary on this verse, the letters Alif-Ldm-Rd represent the title of this surah, and ought therefore to be read in conjunction with the following sentence, thus: "Alif-Ldm-Rd is a divine writ...", etc. However, this opinion conflicts sharply with that of several earlier authorities of great standing, e.g., Az-Zajjaj (quoted by Razi), and is, moreover, unacceptable in view of the fact that a number of other surahs are preceded by such letter-symbols without any syntactic possibility of their being regarded as "titles".
2 According to Zamakhshari and Razi, the conjunction thumma at the beginning of the clause thumma fussilat (lit., "and then have been distinctly spelled out") does not denote a sequence in time but, rather, a co-ordination of qualities or conditions; therefore my rendering. As regards my translation of the phrase uhkimat dydtuhu as "messages that have been made clear in and by themselves", see the first sentence of 3 : 7 as well as the corresponding note 5, which explains the expression dyat muhkamat. Rashid Rida' interprets this phrase in the same sense (see Mandr XII, 3 f.).
3 The conjunction an ("that") preceding the next sentence ("that you shall. ..", etc.) is in this rendering expressed by means of a colon. The interpolation. between brackets, of the words "Say, O Prophet" is necessitated by the first-person construction of this sentence. The subsequent passage - up to the end of verse 4 - outlines both the "warning" and the "glad tidings" referred to above, and thus circumscribes elliptically the whole of the message entrusted to the Prophet.
Ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him in repentance - [whereupon] He will grant you a goodly enjoyment of life [in this world] until a term set [by Him is fulfilled];' and [in the life to come] He will bestow upon everyone possessed of merit [a full reward for] his merit.' But if you turn away, then, verily, I dread for you the suffering [which is bound to befall you] on that awesome Day !6 (4) Unto God you all must return: and He has the power to will anything."
(5) Oh, verily, they [who are bent on denying the truth of this divine writ] are enshrouding their hearts in order to hide from Him.' Oh, verily, [even] when they cover themselves with their garments [in order not to see or hear],' He knows all that they keep secret as well as all that they bring into the open - for, behold, He has full knowledge of what is in the hearts [of men].
(6) And there is no living creature on earth but depends for its sustenance on God; and He knows its time-limit [on earth] and its resting-place [after death]:' all [this] is laid down in [His] clear decree.
(7) And He it is who has created the heavens and the earth in six aeons; and [ever since He has willed to create life,] the throne of His almightiness has
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4 Le., "till the end of your lives" (for an explanation of the term ajal musamma, see note 2 on 6:2). Since God, in His unfathomable wisdom, does not always grant worldly happiness and material benefits to everyone who believes in Him and lives righteously, it is only reasonable to assume -as Rashid Rida' does in Manar XII, 7 ff. -that the "goodly enjoyment of life" (i.e., in this world) promised in the above sentence relates to the community of the believers as a whole, and not necessarily to individuals. (Cf. 3: 139-"you are bound to rise high if you are [truly] believers".)
5 The noun fadl, when used with reference to God, invariably denotes "bounty" or "favour"; in its reference to man, it' usually signifies "merit" or, occasionally, "eminence". The above verse makes it clear that, in contrast to the partial and often only moral rewards and punishments in the life of this world, God will, in the life to come, bestow the full measure of His favours upon everyone who has acquired merit by virtue of his faith and his actions. (Cf. 3 : 185 - "only on the Day of Resurrection will you be requited in full for whatever you have done".)
6 Lit., "the suffering of a great Day". See in this connection 9 : 128.
7 Since the people referred to in this verse obviously do not believe in the divine origin of Muhammad's message, their "hiding from God" can have, in this context, only one meaningnamely, that of a metaphor for their unwillingness to listen to the truth which emanates from Him: and this also explains the statement that they are "enshrouding their hearts" (lit., "bosoms", as at the end of this verse), i.e., are allowing their hearts and minds to remain wrapped-up in prejudices, thus making them impervious to spiritual perception. See in this connection 8:55 and the corresponding note 58.
8 The above interpolation corresponds to the meaning given to the preceding phrase by most of the lexicographers (cf. Lane VI, 2262).
9 For this rendering of mustaqarr and mustawda`, see note 83 on 6 : 98. The above reference to God's all-embracing knowledge connects with the end of the preceding verse ("He has full knowledge of all that is in the hearts of men").
rested upon water."
[God reminds you of your dependence on Him] in order to test you [and thus to make manifest] which of you is best in conduct. For thus it is: if" thou sayest [unto men], "Behold, you shall be raised again after death!" - they who are bent on denying the truth are sure to answer, "This is clearly nothing but an enchanting delusion r 12
(8) And thus it is: if We defer their suffering until a time-limit set [by Us],'3 they are sure to say, "What is
preventing it [from coming now]?""'
Oh, verily, on the Day when it befalls them there will be nothing to avert it from them; and they shall be overwhelmed by the very thing which they were wont to deride."
(9) And thus it is: if We let man taste some of Our
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10 As regards my rendering of ayyam (lit., "days") as "aeons" and `arsh as the "throne of [God's] almightiness", see Sarah 7, note 43. The symbolic reference to "the throne of His almightiness resting upon water" would seem to point to the God-willed evolution of all life out of water -a fact clearly brought out by the Qur'an (see 21 : 30 and the corresponding note 39) and in modern times confirmed by biological research. This tentative interpretation is strengthened by the mention, in the preceding verse, of "living creatures". My interpolation, between brackets, of the phrase "ever since He has willed to create life" is in accordance with the views advanced by Rashid Rida' in his lengthy commentary on this verse (Manor XII, 16 ff.).
11 The expression lain (lit., "indeed, if . . .") appearing here as well as in each of the next three verses is meant to stress the typical -i.e., recurrent -character of the situation to which it refers. In my opinion, it is best rendered as "thus it is: if. . .", etc.
12 The term sihr, which is often used in the sense of "sorcery" or "magic", denotes, primarily, "the turning of something from its proper [i.e., natural] condition of being into another condition" (Taj dl= Aras); hence, it signifies any act which causes something that is false or unreal to assume the appearance of reality. Since, however, the Qur'anic statement that "you shall be raised again after death" is not - as has been pointed out by Razi - an "act" in the proper connotation of this word, it would be illogical to assume that this statement could be characterized as "sorcery" even by those who do not believe in it. On the other hand, it is obvious that they dismiss it contemptuously as a mere "enchanting delusion" intended to prevent those who are able to do so from enjoying their worldly life to the full (Razi) or, alternatively, to induce the poor and unfortunate to remain passively satisfied with their miserable lot on earth: and this is the meaning of sihr in the above context. (Cf. 10 : 2, where the epithet sahir -in the sense of "spellbinder"- is applied by unbelievers to the Prophet Muhammad.)
13 Lit., "a time computed [by Us]", i.e., the Day of Judgment: a reference to the last sentence of verse 3 above, where the Prophet is made to say, "I dread for you the suffering [which is bound to befall you] on that awesome Day!" Among the several meanings which the noun ummah comprises, that of "time" or "a period of time" is the most appropriate here (Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir and other classical commentators).
14 For an explanation of this allusion to the attitude of the unbelievers, see 8 : 32 and 10 : 50, as well as the corresponding notes; cf. also 6 : 57-58. The repeated Qur'anic references to the above derisive query are evidently meant to show that the attitude of mind responsible for it is not restricted to an isolated historic incident (see Sarah 8, note 32) but is symptomatic of most, if not all, people "who are bent on denying the truth".
15 Lit., "that which they were wont to deride enfolded them (haga bihim)". According to almost all the commentators, the use of the past tense in the verb hdga, despite the fact that it refers to the future, has the syntactic value of a stress, implying the inevitability of the happening to which it relates. (See also note 9 on 6 : 10.)
grace, '6 and then take it away from him -behold, he abandons all hope," forgetting all gratitude [for Our past favours]. (10) And thus it is: if We let him taste ease and plenty" after hardship has visited him, he is sure to say, "Gone is all affliction from me!"-for, behold, he is given to vain exultation, and glories only in himself.'$
(11) [And thus it is with most men-] save those who are patient in adversity and do righteous deeds: it is they whom forgiveness of sins awaits, and a great reward.
(12) IS IT, then, conceivable [O Prophet] that thou couldst omit any part of what is being revealed unto thee [because the deniers of the truth dislike it,-and] because thy heart is distressed at their saying,2° "Why has not a treasure been bestowed upon him from on high?" -or, "[Why has not] an angel come [visibly:: with him ?,,21
[They fail to understand that] thou art only a warner, whereas God has everything in His care ;22 (13) and so they assert, "[Muhammad himself] has in
16 The sequence makes it clear that the generic term "man" referred to in this and the next verse applies, primarily, to the agnostics who are either unconvinced of the existence of God or are "bent upon denying the truth"; in its wider implication, however, it applies also to those who, while believing in God, are weak in faith and therefore easily swayed by external circumstances, and particularly by whatever happens to themselves.
17 Lit., "he is [or "becomes"] utterly hopeless" or "despairing" (yaws); inasmuch as he attributes his past happy state to a merely accidental chain of causes and effects-in short, to what is commonly regarded as "luck"-and not to God's grace. Hence, the term yaws, in its Qur'anic usage, is indicative of spiritual nihilism.
18 This combination of two words is necessary to bring out the full meaning of the noun na'ma' which occurs in this form in the Qur'an only once. For my rendering of lain as "thus it is: if . . .", etc., see note 11 above.
19 Lit., "he is exultant beyond all measure, excessively self-glorifying" -i.e., he usually attributes the turn of fortune to his own good qualities and his supposed "good luck".
20 Lit., "because thy bosom is constricted [for fear] lest they say". According to all available authorities, the expression la'alla (lit., "it may well be that") at the beginning of the above sentence denotes a wrong expectation on the part of the opponents of Muhammad's message; it is, therefore, best rendered in the form of a query which implies its own denial-thus: "Is it conceivable that. . .", etc. As regards the expectation that the Prophet might omit a part of what was being revealed to him, it has been reported by `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas and other Companions (see Razl's commentary on this verse) that the pagan Quraysh demanded of the Prophet, "Bring us a revelation (kitab) which does not contain a defamation of our deities, so that we could follow thee and believe in thee."
21 Explaining this verse, Ibn `Abbas mentions that some of the pagan chieftains of Mecca said, "O Muhammad, cause the mountains of Mecca to be turned into gold, if thou art truly an apostle of God", while others exclaimed derisively, "Bring before us angels who would bear witness to thy being a prophet!" - whereupon the above verse was revealed (Razl). Cf. 6 : 8 and 17: 90-93.
22 Sc., "and so it is He who will cause the truth to prevail". Regarding the Prophet's denial of any ability on his part to perform miracles, see 6 : 50 and the corresponding note 38.
vented this [Qur'an)!""
Say [unto them]: "Produce, then, ten surahs of similar merit, invented [by yourselves], and [to this end] call to your aid whomever you can, other than, God, if what you say is true!2' (14) And if they [whom you have called to your aid] are not able to help you,=` then know that [this Qur'an] has been bestowed from on high out of God's wisdom alone,-' and that there is no deity save Him. Will you, then, surrender yourselves unto Him?"
(15) AS FOR THOSE who care for [no more than] the life of this world and its bounties -We shall repay them in full for all that they did in this [life], and they, shall not be deprived of their just due therein: (16) [yet] it is they who, in the life to come, shall have nothing but the fire -for in vain shall be all that they wrought in this [world], and worthless all that they ever did !27
(17) Can, then, [he who cares for no more than the life of this world be compared with28] one who takes his stand on a clear evidence from his Sustamer, conveyed through [this] testimony from Him,2' as was the revelation vouchsafed to Moses aforetime-[a divine writ ordained by Him] to be a guidance and grace [unto man]?
They [who understand this message-it is they alone who truly] believe in it;-'o whereas for any of those who, leagued together [in common hostility],"
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23 Foamy rendering of the particle am at the beginning of this sentence as "and", see surah 10, note 61.
24 I.e., that a divine writ like the Qur'an could have been "invented" by a human being. Cf. 2 : 23, 10 :37-38 and 17 : 88, as well as the corresponding notes.
25 Lit., "if they [i.e., your poets and wise men] do not respond to your call". Cf. 2 : 24, where a similar challenge is followed by the words, "And if you cannot do it-and most certainly you cannot do it - then . . .", etc.
26 Lit., "only by God's knowledge".
27 I.e., although their good deeds will be taken fully into account on Judgment Day, they will be outweighed by their refusal to believe in resurrection and the life to come.
28 This interpolation is based on the interpretation given by Baghawi, Zamakhsharl and Razi.
29 Lit., "which a witness from Him recites", or "announces". According to Zamakhsharl, Razi and other classical commentators, this phrase refers to the Qur'an; hence my rendering of shahid as "testimony". If, as some commentators believe, this term refers to the Prophet or, alternatively, to the Angel Gabriel who transmitted the revelation to him. shahid should be translated as "witness". Whichever interpretation one adopts, the meaning remains the same, for - as Ibn Kathir points out in his commentary on this verse - "the Qur'an was revealed through Gabriel to Muhammad, and was conveyed by the latter to the world".
30 Sc., "and shall, therefore, attain to happiness in the hereafter". The rjdz (elliptic mode of expression) employed in this passage is comparable in its subtlety to that in 10: 103.
31 I.e., in hostile, a-priori opposition to the message of the Qur'an, without really understanding its purport. The "historical" identification, by some of the commentators, of the ahzdb with the
deny its truth - the fire shall be their appointed state [in the life to come].
And so,3Z be not in doubt about this [revelation]: behold, it is the truth from thy Sustainer, even though 13 most people will not believe in it.
(18) And who could be more wicked than they who attribute their own lying inventions to God?'° [On the Day of Judgment, such as] these shall be arraigned before their Sustainer, and those who are called upon to bear witness [against them]" shall say, "It is they who uttered lies about their Sustainer!"36
Oh, verily, God's rejection is the due of all evildoers 37 (19) who turn others away from the path of God and try to make it appear crooked -since it is they, they who refuse to acknowledge the truth of the life to come !38 (20) Never can they elude [their final reckoning, even if they remain unscathed] on earth :39 never will they find anyone who could protect them from God. [In the life to come] double suffering will
pagan Arabs who leagued together in their hostility to the Prophet is definitely too narrow in this context.
32 Razi suggests that the conjunction fa ("And so") preceding this sentence (which is obviously addressed to man in general) connects with verses 12-14 above: a suggestion which is most convincing in view of the sequence.
33 Lit., "but" or "nevertheless".
34 This is a refutation of the contention of the unbelievers that the Qur'an was composed by Muhammad himself (cf. verse 13 above as well as 10: 17) and thereupon blasphemously attributed
35 Lit., "the witnesses". Most of the earliest authorities take this to mean the recording angels, while others (e.g., Ibn 'Abbas, as quoted by Baghawi) relate it to the prophets, who, on the Day of Judgment, will be called upon to testify for or against the people to whom they were sent. The latter interpretation is supported by Ad-Dahhak (quoted by Tabari and Baghawi) on the basis of 16:84, where witnesses "out of every community" are mentioned-an expression which can obviously refer only to human beings.
36 Or: "against their Sustainer".
37 The term la'nah - which is usually, but inexactly, translated as "curse" - is in its primary meaning synonymous with ib'nd ("alienation", "estrangement" or "banishment") in the moral sense; hence it denotes "rejection from all that is good" (Lisdn al-'Arab) and, with reference to God, the sinner's "exclusion from His grace" (Mandr II, 50).
38 Cf. 7: 44-45, with which the above passage is almost identical, with only one difference: whereas in 7 : 45 the pronoun "they" occurs only once (and the phrase is, consequently, rendered as "and who refuse . . .", etc.), in the present verse this pronoun is repeated, to express both stress and causality ("since it is they, they who refuse ...", etc.)-thus implying that their refusal to believe in a life after death is the ultimate cause of their wrongdoing. In other words, belief in resurrection, God's judgment and life in the hereafter is here postulated as the only valid and lasting source of human morality.
39 The above interpolation is, I believe, necessary in view of the highly elliptic character of this phrase. According to Tabarl, Zamakhshari and Ibn Kathir, the meaning is that whereas God's punishment may befall the sinners referred to during their life on earth, it will certainly befall them in the hereafter. Cf. also 3 : 185-"only on the Day of Resurrection will you be requited in full for whatever you have done."
be imposed on them°° for having lost the ability to hear [the truth] and having failed to see [it].`
(21) It is they who have squandered their own selves-for [on the Day of Resurrection] all their false imagery42 will have forsaken them: (22) truly it is they, they who in the life to come shall be the losers!
(23) Behold, [only] those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds'and humble themselves before their Sustainer - [only] they are destined for paradise, and there shall they abide.
(24) These two kinds of man 43 may be likened to the blind and deaf and the seeing and hearing. Can these two be deemed alike in [their] nature?"
Will you not, then, keep this in mind?
(25) AND INDEED, [it was with the same message that] We sent forth Noah unto his people :4s "Behold, I come unto you with the plain warning (26) that you may worship none but God-for, verily, I fear lest suffering befall you on a grievous Day!"'6
(27) But the great ones among his people, who refused to acknowledge the truth, answered: "We do not see in thee anything but a mortal man like ourselves; and we do not see that any follow thee save those who are quite obviously the most abject among us; ' and we do not see that you could be in any way
40 For an explanation of the "double suffering", see surah 7, note 29.
41 Lit., "they were unable to hear and they did not see": cf. 2 : 7 and the corresponding note 7, as well as 7 : 179.
42 Lit., "all that they were wont to invent": a phrase which implies not merely false imaginings regarding the existence of any real "power" apart from God (i.e., the existence of supposedly divine or semi-divine beings) but also deceptive ideas and "glittering half-truths meant to delude the mind" (see 6 : 112 and the corresponding note) - such as "luck", wealth, personal power, nationalism, deterministic materialism, etc. - all of which cause men to lose sight of spiritual values and thus to "squander their own selves".
43 Lit., "two groups" - i.e., the believers and those who reject the divine writ.
44 For my rendering, in this context, of mathal (lit., "likeness") as "nature", see the first part of note 47 on 3 :59.
45 The conjunction "and" at the beginning of this sentence apparently connects with the opening verses of this surah, and stresses the fact that the fundamental message of the Qur'an is the same as that conveyed to man by the earlier prophets (Manor X11, 59 f.); hence my interpolation. See also surah 7, note 45.
46 As in 7 :59, this may refer either to the imminent deluge or the Day of Judgment.
47 As is evidenced by the histories of all the prophets - and particularly that of Jesus and, after him, of Muhammad - most of their early followers belonged to the lowest classes of society - the slaves, the poor and the oppressed-to whom the divine message gave the promise of an equitable social order on earth and the hope of happiness in the hereafter: and it is precisely this revolutionary character of every prophet's mission that has always made it so distasteful to the upholders of the established order and the privileged classes of the society concerned.
superior to us:' on the ,contrary, we think that you are liars!"
(28) Said [Noah]: "Oj my people! What do you think? If [it be true that I am taking my stand on a clear evidence from my~ Sustainer, who has vouchsafed unto me grace from Himself - [a revelation] to which you have remained blind-: [if this be true,] can we force it on you even though it be hateful to you?49
(29) "And, O my people, no benefit do I ask of you for this [message]: my reward rests with none but God. And I shall not repulse [any of] those who have attained to faith." Verily, they [know that they] are destined to meet their Sustainer, whereas in you I see people without any awareness [of right and wrong]! (30) And, O my people, who would shield me from God were I to repulse them? Will you not, then, keep this in mind?
(3l) "And I do not say unto you, `God's treasures are with me'; nor [do I say], `I know the reality which is beyond the rea~h of human perception'; nor do I say, 'Behold, I am fan angel';" nor do I say of those whom your eyes hold in contempt," `Never will God grant them any good'- for God is fully aware of what is in their hearts." [Were I to speak thus,] verily, I would indeed be among the evildoers."
(32) [But the great ones] said: "O Noah! Thou hast contended with us in argument, and hast [needlessly] prolonged our controversy :5` bring upon us, therefore, that with which thou dost threaten us," if thou art a man of truth!"
48 Lit., "We do not see in you any superiority [or "merit"] over us."
49 A reference to the cardinal Qur'anic doctrine that "there shall be no coercion in, matters of faith" (2: 256), as well as to the oft-repeated statement that a prophet is no more than "a warner and a bearer of glad tidings", implying that his duty consists only in delivering the message entrusted to him. The plural "we" in this sentence relates to Noah and his followers.
50 This is an allusion to the contemptuous statement of the unbelievers (in verse 27 above) that the followers of Noah were to be found only among- the lowest classes of their society-thus indirectly implying that they might perhaps lend ear to Noah if he would but rid himself of those people (cf. 26: 111). The Prophet Muhammad had, during the early years of his mission, a similar experience with the leaders of the pagan Quraysh; several Traditions to this effect are quoted by Ibn Kathir in his commentary on 6 : 52.
51 See 6 :50 and 7 : 188.
52 I.e., the poor and "abject" followers of Noah spoken of in verse 27 (see also note 47 above).
53 Lit., "all that is within themselves".
54 Sc., "without convincing us" (as is brought out fully in 71 :5-6). The mounting annoyance with Noah on the part of his unbelieving compatriots has already been alluded to in his saying, "If my presence [among you] and my announcement of God's messages are repugnant to you...", etc. (see 10: 71).
55 See the end of verse 26 above.
(33) He answered: "Only God can bring it upon you, if He so wills, and you shall not elude it: (34) for, my advice will not benefit you -much as I desire to give you good advice - if it be God's will that you shall remain lost in grievous error. 16 He is your Sustainer, and unto Him you must return."
(35) DO SOME, perchance, assert, "[Muhammad] has invented this [story]"?57
Say [O Prophet]: "If I have invented it, upon me be this sin; but far be it from me to commit the sin of which you are guilty.""'
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(36) AND THIS was revealed unto Noah: "Never will any of thy people believe except those who have already attained to faith. Be not, then, distressed by anything that they may do, (37) but build, under Our eyes59 and according to Our inspiration, the ark [that shall .save thee and those who follow thee];6° and do not appeal to Me in behalf of those who are bent on evildoingfor, behold, they are destined to be drowned!"
(38) And [so Noah] set himself to building the ark; and every time the great ones of his people passed by
56 According to some commentators, the expression an yughwiyakum -which literally means "that He shall cause you to err" - is to be understood as "that He shall punish you for your sins" (Al-Hasan al-Basri, as quoted by Razi), or "that He shall destroy you" (Tabari), or "that He shall deprive you of all good" (Al-Jubba` i, as quoted by Razi); this last interpretation is similar to the one adopted in my rendering of aghwaytani ("Thou hast thwarted me") in 7 : 16 and explained in the corresponding note 11. However, in the present context I prefer the rendering "if it be God's will that you shall remain lost in grievous error", inasmuch as it is in conformity with the Qur'anic doctrine of "God's way" with regard to those who persistently refuse to acknowledge the truth (see surah 2, note 7). This interpretation is, moreover, supported by Zamakhshari in his commentary on the above verse: "When God, knowing the persistence [in sinning] on the part of one who denies the truth (al-kafir), leaves him in this condition and does not compel him [to repent], this [act of God] is described [in the Qur'an] as `causing [one] to err' (ighwa') and `causing [one] to go astray' (idlal); similarly, when He, knowing that a person will repent, protects him and is kind to him, this [act of God] is described as `showing the right direction' (irshad) or '[offering] guidance' (hidayah)." (See also surah 14,;note 4.)
57 Some of the classical commentators assume that this verse forms part of the story of Noah and his people. This, however, is improbable in view of the sudden change from the past tense employed in the preceding and subsequent verses ("he said", "they said") to the present tense ("do they say"). The only plausible explanation is that given by Tabari and Ibn Kathir (and mentioned also by Baghawi on the authority of Mugatil): namely, that the whole of verse 35 is a parenthetic passage addressed to the Prophet Muhammad, relating in the first instance to the story of Noah as narrated in the Qur'an and, by implication, to the Qur'an as such -in other words, a reiteration of the argument mentioned in verse 13 of this surah and in other places as well. This eminently convincing interpretation has also been adopted by Rashid Rida' (Manor XII, 71).
58 Or: "I have nothing to do with the sin of which you are guilty" - i.e., the sin of giving the lie to God's messages (cf. 10: 41) or of inventing lies about God.
59 Le., "under Our protection".
60 This interpolation is necessitated by the definite article preceding the noun fulk (lit., "ship", but rendered by me as "ark" owing to its familiar connotation in European languages).
him, they scoffed at him. [Thereupon] he said: "If you are scoffing at us-behold, we are scoffing at you [and your ignorance], just as you are scoffing at us." (39) But in time you will come to know who it is that [in this world] shall be visited by suffering which will cover him with ignominy, and upon whom longlasting suffering shall alight [in the life to come]!"
(40) [And so it went on] till, when Our judgment came to pass, and waters gushed forth in torrents over the face of the earth," We said [unto Noah]: "Place on board of this [ark] one pair of each [kind of animal] of either sex," as well as thy family -except those on whom [Our] sentence has already been passed` -and all [others] who have attained to faith!"-for, only a few [of Noah's people] shared his faith.
(41) So he said [unto his followers]: "Embark in this [ship]! In the name of God be its run and its riding at anchor! Behold, my. Sustainer is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!"
(42) And it moved on with them into waves that were like mountains.
At that [moment] Noah cried out to a son of his, who had kept himself aloof [from the others]: "O my
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61 Since it is obviously impossible to attribute to a prophet the levity of scoffing (Baghawi), the meaning of the above phrase seems to be this: "If you consider us ignorant because of what we believe and are doing, we consider you ignorant because of your refusal to acknowledge the truth and your readiness to expose yourselves to God's punishment" (Zamakhshari and, in a shorter form, BaghawT). Hence my interpolation of the words "and your ignorance".
62 Lit., "the face of the earth boiled over" (fdra 't-tannur). This phrase has been subject to several conflicting interpretations, some of which are based on no more than Talmudic legends (Mandr XII, 75 f.). The most convincing explanation is that given - among others - by Tabari, Baghawi and Ibn Kathir on the authority of Ibn `Abbas and `Ikrimah: "At-tannur [lit., "oven"] denotes the face of the earth." Raz1, too, mentions that "the Arabs call the face of the earth tannur", while the Qdmas gives as one of the meanings of tannur "any place from which water gushes forth". The verb fara-which literally means "it boiled over"-describes the raging torrents of water which "turned the earth into springs" (Ibn Kathir; see also 54: 12). This "gushing forth of water over the face of the earth" seems to point to the inundation of the huge valley now covered by the Mediterranean Sea (see sarah 7, note 47) - an inundation which, augmented by continuous, torrential rains (cf. 54: l1), rapidly spread over the land-mass of present-day Syria and northern `Iraq and grew into the immense deluge described in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and also referred to in the myths of ancient Greece (e.g., in the story of Deukalion and Pyrrhea), as well as in Sumerian and Babylonian legends.
63 The term zawj signifies, primarily, each of the,two parts of a pair, and is also used in the sense of "a pair".'In the present context it obviously has the former meaning; consequently, the expression min kullin zawjayn ithnayn is best rendered as above. -As regards the animals which Noah was commanded to take with him in the ark, it is reasonable to assume that this referred to the domesticated animals already in his possession, and not to all animals, as the Biblical narrative would have it.
64 I.e., those who stand condemned in the sight of God because of their persistent refusal to acknowledge the truth. See also verses 42-43 and 45-47.
dear son!65 Embark with us, and remain not with those who deny the truth!"
(43) [But the son] answered: "I shall betake myself to a mountain that will protect me from the waters." Said [Noah]: "Today there is no protection [for anyone] from God's judgment, save [for] those who have earned [His] mercy!"
And a wave rose up between them, and [the son] was among those who were drowned.
(44) And the word was spoken: "O earth, swallow up thy waters! And, O sky, cease [thy rain]!" And the waters sank into the earth, and the will [of God] was done, and the ark came to rest on Mount Judl `6
And the word was spoken: "Away with these evildoing folk!"
(45) And Noah called out to his Sustainer, and said: "O my Sustainer! Verily, my son was of my family; e7 and, verily, Thy promise always comes true, and Thou art the most just of all judges!"
(46) [God] answered: "O Noah, behold, he was not of thy family, for, verily, he was unrighteous in his conduct. And thou shalt not ask of Me anything
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65 The diminutive in yd bunayya (lit., "O my little son") is an expression of endearment irrespective of a son's age: for instance, Noah's son appears in the above story as a grown man, while Joseph, similarly addressed by his father in 12: 5, was a child orb at the most, an adolescent.
66 This mountain, known in ancient Syriac as Qardu, is situated n the region of Lake Van, almost twenty-five miles north-east of the town JazTrat Ibn `Umar, capital of .the modern Syrian district of Al-Jazirah. It "owes its fame to the Mesopotamian tradition which identifies it, and not Mount Ararat, with the mountain on which Noah's ark rested .... T is localization of the ark's resting-place ... is certainly based on Babylonian tradition" (Encyclopaedia of Islam I, 1059). We should, however, remember that the designation Ararat (the Assyrian Prartu) at one time included the whole area to the south of Lake Van, in which Jabal Rid! is situated: this might explain the Biblical statement that "the ark rested. .. upon the mountains of Ararat" (Genesis viii, 4).
67 A reference to the divine command, mentioned in verse 40 - "Place on board this [ark] ... thhy family" - which Noah apparently understood as meaning that the whole of his family would be saved, thus overlooking the qualifying clause, "except those on whom sentence has already been passed". -Some of the commentators suppose that verses 45-47 connect with verse 43, and thus precede, in point of time, the events narrated in verse 44-a supposition which has caused the modern translators of the Qur'an to render Noah's prayer, erroneously, in the present tense (i.e., in the form of a prayer for his son's rescue from drowning). It is, however, much more plausible to assume - as is done by Tabari and Ibn Kathir - that Noah's words were spoken after the ark had come to rest on Mount Rid! (i.e., long after his son's death) and that they represented "an endeavour on the part of Noah to find out what would be the condition of his drowned son [in the hereafter]" (Ibn Kathir). Consequently, the sentence relating to this son, both in Noah's prayer and in God's answer, must be rendered in the past tense.
68 According to some commentators (e.g., Tabari and RazI), the phrase innahu `amal ghayr salih relates to Noah's prayer for his son, and constitutes a divine reproach-in which case it should be rendered as "verily, this [prayer] is unrighteous conduct [on thy part]". Others, however (e.g., Zamakhshari), reject this interpretation and relate the above phrase to the son, in the manner rendered by me. This, I believe, is more in tune with the statement, "he was not of thy family" - i.e., spiritually, inasmuch as he was of, or preferred to remain with, "those who deny the truth".
whereof thou canst not have any knowledge:69 thus, behold, do I admonish thee lest thou become one of those who are unaware [of what is right]."'°
(47) Said [Noah]: "O my Sustainer! Verily, I seek refuge with Thee from [ever again] asking of Thee anything whereof I cannot have any knowledge! For unless Thou grant me forgiveness and bestow Thy mercy upon me, I shall be among the lost!"
(48) [Thereupon] the word was spoken: "O Noah! Disembark in peace from Us," and with [Our] blessings upon thee as well as upon the people [who are with thee, and the righteous ones that will spring from thee and] from those who are with thee.'Z But [as for the unrighteous] folk [that will spring from you] - We shall allow them to enjoy life [for a little while], and then there will befall them grievous suffering from Us."
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(49) THESE ACCOUNTS of something that was beyond the reach of thy perception We [now] reveal unto thee, [O Muhammad: for] neither thou nor thy people knew them [fully] ere this." Be, then, [like Noah,] patient in adversity - for, behold, the future belongs to the Godconscious!
69 Le., knowledge of the innermost reasons of God's decrees and of the ultimate destiny of any human being in the hereafter: for, the answers to this "why" and this "how" lie in the realm of things which are beyond the reach of human perception (al-ghayb).
70 Le., "lest thou prove to be one of those ignorant who ask God that He change His decrees in response to their own desires" (Manor XII, 85 f.).
71 The term saldm - here translated as "peace" - comprises the notions of both external and internal security from all that is evil. For a fuller explanation of the term, see surah 5, note 29.
72 The above interpolation is based on the consensus of most of the classical commentators. The phrase "the people [or "generations"] from those who are with thee" points to generations as yet unborn; but since God's blessing extends to all believers, it eo ipso comprises the believers of Noah's generation as well; and since "those who deny the truth" (al-kdfirun) are excluded from God's blessing, only the righteous from among the offspring of these early believers are promised a share in His grace (cf. a similar allusion, relating to Abraham's descendants, in 2:124): hence my interpolation of the words "as for the unrighteous that will spring from you" in the next sentence.
73 See verse 35 above. Although the story of Noah had been vaguely known to the Arabs even before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad, they - and the Prophet with them - were entirrely unaware of the details as narrated in the preceding Qur'anic account (Raz!). The use of the plural at the beginning of this parenthetic passage ("These accounts") - in contrast with the singular form employed in a similar phrase occurring in 3:44, 11 : 100 and 12: 102 ("This account") -seems, in my opinion, to indicate that it refers not only to the preceding story of Noah but also to the subsequent stories of other prophets. In this connection it should be remembered-and it cannot be stressed too often-that "narrative" as such is never the purpose of the Qur'an. Whenever it relates the stories of earlier prophets, or alludes to ancient legends or to historical events that took place before the advent of Islam or during the lifetime of the Prophet, the aim is, invariably, a moral lesson; and since one and the same event, or even legend, has usually many facets revealing as many moral implications, the Qur'an reverts again and again to the same stories, but every time with a slight variation of stress on this or that aspect of the fundamental truths underlying the Qur'anic revelation as a whole.
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. [As it is,] you are but inventors of falsehood!"
(51) "O my people! No reward do I ask of you for this [message]: my reward rests with none but Him who brought me into being. Will you not, then, use your reason?
(52) "Hence, O my people, ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him in repentance-[whereupon] He will shower upon you heavenly blessings abundant, and will add strength to your strength: only do not turn away [from me] as people lost in sin!"
(53) Said they: "O Mud! Thou hast brought us no clear evidence [that thou art a prophet]; and we are not going to forsake our gods on thy mere word, the more so as we do not believe thee. (54) We can say no more than that one of our gods may have smitten thee with something evil!""
Answered [Hud]: "Behold, I call God to witness - and you, too, be [my] witnesses - that, verily, it is not in me to ascribe divinity, as you do,78 to aught (55) beside Him! Contrive, then, [anything that you may wish] against me, all of you, and give me no respite!'9 (56) Behold, I have placed my trust in God, [who is] my Sustainer as well as your Sustainer: for there is no living creature which He does not hold by its forelock.'° Verily, straight is my Sustainer's way!"
74 For particulars relating to the name Mid as well as the tribe of `Ad, see sarah 7, note 48. 75 I.e., inventors of alleged deities that have no reality in themselves (cf. 7: 71, which also relates to the story of Hild). Regarding the term muftaran, see sarah 7, note 119.
76 Lit., "He will let loose the sky over you with abundance". The term samd'-lit., "sky"-is often used in classical Arabic as a metonym for "rain", and scarcity of rains is a characteristic of the desert country called Al-Ahgaf ("The Sand-Dunes"), the one-time habitat of the - since vanished-tribe of `Ad. As would appear from 46: 24, the time to which the above passage alludes was a period of severe drought, and so it is possible that the "abundant blessings" here denote rains.
77 I.e., with madness.
78 Or: "that, verily, I am guiltless of your ascribing a share in [God's] divinity (mimmd tushrikan)...... etc.-thus rejecting the sardonic suggestion of his compatriots that one of their imaginary deities might have stricken him with madness.
79 Cf. a very similar challenge in the last sentence of 7 : 195.
80 I.e., there is no living being over which He has not complete control and which is not entirely dependent on Him (cf. verse 6 of this sarah). When describing a person's humility and subjection to another person, the ancient Arabs used to say, "The forelock of so-and-so is in the hand of so-and-so". See in this connection 96 : 15-16, where this idiomatic expression occurs for the first time in the chronological order of Qur'anic revelation.
81 Lit., "my Sustainer is on a straight way" - implying that He governs all that exists in accordance with a system of truth and justice in the ultimate, absolute sense of these terms, never 322
(57) "But if you choose to turn away, then [know that] I have delivered to you the message with which I was sent unto you, and [that] my Sustainer may cause another people to take your place, whereas you will in no wise harm Him. Verily, my Sustainer watches over all things!"
(58) And so, when Our judgment came to pass," by Our grace We saved Hud and those who shared his faith; and We saved them [too] from suffering severe [in the life to come]."
(59) And that was [the end of the tribe of] `Ad, [who] had rejected their Sustainer's messages, and rebelled against His apostles, and followed the bidding of every arrogant enemy of the truth." (60) And they were pursued in this world by [God's] rejection, and [shall finally be overtaken by it] on the Day of Resurrection."
Oh, verily, [the tribe of] `Ad denied their Sustainer! Oh, away with the `Ad, the people of Hud!
(61) AND UNTO [the tribe of] Thamud [We sent] their brother Salih.e' He said: "O my people! Worship God [alone]: you have no deity other than Him. He brought you into being out of the earth," and made you thrive thereon." Ask Him, therefore, to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him in repentance-for, verily, my Sustainer is ever-near, responding [to the call of whoever calls unto Him]!"'
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allowing the conscious evildoer to escape the consequence of his deeds, and never letting righteousness go unrewarded, either in this world or in the hereafter (since it is only in the combination of these two phases that human life can be considered in its entirety).
82 Lit., "to succeed you".
83 For the story of the destruction of the tribe of `Ad through violent storm-winds, see 54: 19 and, more particularly, 69: 6=8.
84 I.e., the suffering which was yet to befall the rest of the tribe of `Ad. My addition, between brackets, of the words "in the life to come" is based on the interpretation advanced by Tabari, Zamakhsharl and Razi, according to whom the first mention of the saving of Hud and his followers refers to the destruction of the people of `Ad in this world, and the second, to the latters' chastisement in the hereafter.
85 An allusion to "the great ones among them, who refused to acknowledge the truth" (7 : 66). Regarding the above interpretation of the term jabbdr, see note 58 on 26 : 130.
86 For my rendering of the term la'nah as "[God's] rejection", see note 37 above.
87 A short account of the tribe of Thamud (the "Second `Ad" of pre-Islamic poetry) is found in
surah 7, note 56. Salih is believed to have been the second prophet, after Hud, sent to the Arabs.
88 I.e., out of organic substances which derive their nourishment-and hence their capability of development, proliferation and evolution-either directly or indirectly from the earth (Razi). This is evidently also the meaning of the Qur'anic references to man as "created out of dust" (cf. 3 : 59, 18 : 37, 22 : 5 and 30 : 20).
89 See 7 : 74 and the corresponding notes.
90 See 2 : 186.
(62) They answered: "O Salih! Great hopes did we place in thee ere this!" Wouldst thou forbid us to worship what our forefathers were wont to worship? Because [of this], behold, we are in grave doubt, amounting to suspicion, about [the meaning of] thy call to us!"'Z
(63) He retorted: "O my people! What do you think? If [it be true that] I am taking my stand on a cleat evidence from my Sustainer, who has vouchsafed unto me grace from Himself -[if this be true,] who would shield me from God were I to rebel against Him?"' Hence, what you are offering me is no more than perdition!"'
91 Lit., "Thou wert among us one in whom hope was placed ere this": an allusion to Hud's outstanding intellect and strength of character, which had probably caused his tribe to see in him their future leader -until.he startled them by his passionate demand that they should abandon their traditional beliefs and devote themselves to the worship of the One God.
92 Lit., "we are indeed in disquieting doubt as to that to which thou invitest us". It is to be borne in mind that the pre-Islamic Arabs regarded their gods, as well as the angels (whom they believed to be "God's daughters"), as legitimate mediators between man and God, whose existence as such they did not deny; consequently, they were greatly disturbed by their prophet's demand that they should abandon the worship of those allegedly divine or semi-divine beings. The above answer of the Thamud seems to imply that they might consider Salih's claim to be a prophet more favourably if he would but refrain from insisting that "you have no deity other than Him": a suggestion that fully explains Salih's retort in the next verse.
93 I.e., "if I were to suppress - in spite of all the evidence obtained through divine revelation - the fundamental truth that there is no deity save God, and that the ascribing of divinity or divine powers to anyone or anything beside Him is an unforgivable sin" (cf. 4 : 48 and the corresponding note 65).
94 Lit., "you do not add [anything] to me but perdition". Although this dialogue is related in the context of the story of Salih and the leaders of the Thamud, its implications have -as is always the case with Qur'anic stories and parables -a universal, timeless import. The stress here is on the intrinsic impossibility of reconciling belief in the One God, whose omniscience and omnipotence, embraces all that exists, with an attribution of divine or semi-divine qualities and functions to anyone or anything else. The subtly-veiled suggestion of the Thamud (see note 92) and its rejection by $alih has a bearing on all religious attitudes based on a desire to "bring God closer to man" through the interposition of alleged "mediators" between Him and man. In primitive religions, this interposition led to the deification of various forces of nature and, subsequently, to the invention of imaginary deities which were thought to act against the background of an undefined, dimly-perceived Supreme Power (for instance. the Moira of the ancient Greeks). In higher religious concepts, this need for mediation assumes the form of personified manifestations of God through subordinate deities (as is the case, in Hinduism, with the personifications of the Absolute Brahma of the Upanishads and the Vedanta in the forms of Vishnu or Shiva), or in His supposed incarnation in human form (as represented in the Christian idea of Jesus as "God's son" and the Second Person of the Trinity). And, lastly, God is supposedly "brought closer to man" by the interposition of a hierarchy of saints, living or dead, whose intercession is sought even by people who consider themselves to be "monotheists" -and this includes many misguided Muslimms who do not realize that their belief in saints as "mediators" between men and God conflicts with the very essence of Islam. The ever-recurring Qur'anic stress on the oneness and uniqueness of God, and the categorical denial of the idea that anyone or anything - whether it be a concrete being or an abstract force - could have the least share in God's qualities or the least influence on the manner in which He governs the universe aims at freeing man from the self-imposed servitude to an imaginary hierarchy of "mediating powers", and at making him realize that "wherever you turn, there is God's countenance" (2: 115), and that God is "[always] near, responding [to the call of whoever calls unto Him]" (2: 186; also, in a condensed form. in verse 61 of this surah ).
(64) And [then he said]: "O my people! This shecamel 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 speedy chastisement befall you!""
(65) But they cruelly slaughtered her.% And thereupon [$alih] said: "[Only] for three days [more] shall you enjoy life in your homes: this is a judgment' which will not be belied!"
(66) And so, when Our judgment came to pass, by Our grace We saved Salih and those who shared his faith; and [We saved them, too,] from the ignominy of [Our rejection on] that Day [of Resurrection].
Verily, thy Sustainer alone is powerful, almighty! (67) And the blast [of God's punishment] overtook those who had been bent on evildoing: and then they lay lifeless, in their very homes, on the ground," (68) as though they had never lived there.
Oh, verily, [the tribe of] Thamud denied their $ustainer! Oh, away with the Thamud!
(69) AND, INDEED, there came unto Abraham Our [heavenly] messengers, bearing a glad tiding. They bade him peace; [and] he answered, "[And upon you be] peace!"-and made haste to place before them'°° a roasted calf.
(70) But when he saw that their hands did not reach out towards it, he deemed their conduct strange and
95 For an explanation of this passage, see saran 7, note 57. 96 See saran 7, note 61.
97 Lit., "promise".
98 Lit., "they became, in their homes, prostrate on the ground". Ibn `Abbas - as quoted by Razi-explains the term sayhah (lit., "vehement cry" or "sound") occurring in this verse as a synonym of ;d'igah, a "thunderbolt" or the "sound of thunder". Since the same event is described in 7 . 78 as "violent trembling" (rajfah), which in that context apparently denotes an earthquake, it is possible that the "vehement sound" mentioned here and in several other places describes the subterranean rumbling which often precedes and accompanies an earthquake and/or the thunderlike noise of a volcanic eruption (see sarah 7, note 62). However, in view of the repeated use of this expression in varying contexts, we may assume that it has the more general meaning of "blast of punishment" or - as in 50: 42, where it indicates the Last Hour - of "final blast".
99 The Qur'an does not state in so many words that these guests of Abraham were angels; but since the term rusuluna ("Our messengers") is often used in the sense of heavenly messengers, all the classical commentators interpret it thus in the above context. For the contents of the "glad tiding" referred to here, see verse 71 below.-The reason for prefacing the story of Lot with an episode from Abraham's life lies in the-latter's subsequent pleading in behalf of the sinful people of Sodom (verses 74-76) and also, possibly, in God's earlier promise to him, "Behold, I shall make thee a leader of men" (see 2 : 124), which must have imbued him with an enhanced sense of moral responsibility not only for his own family but also for the people with whom he was indirectly connected through his nephew Lot (Lilt in Arabic).
100 Lit., "and did not delay in bringing". Regarding the deeper implications of the word "peace" (saldrn) as used in this passage, see sarah 5, note 29.
became apprehensive of them."' [But] they said: "Fear not! Behold, we are sent to the people of Lot."'
(71) And his wife, standing [nearby], laughed [with happiness]"'; whereupon We gave her the glad tiding of [the birth of] Isaac and, after Isaac, of [his son] Jacob.
(72) Said she: "Oh, woe is me!'°° Shall I bear a child, now that I am an old woman and this husband of mine is an old man? Verily, that would be a strange thing indeed!"
(73) Answered [the messengers]: "Dost thou deem it strange that God should decree what He wills?'O' The grace of God and His blessings be upon you, O people of this house! Verily, ever to be praised, sublime is He!"
(74) And when the fear had left Abraham, and the glad tiding had been conveyed to him, he began to plead with Us for Lot's people:'° (75) for, behold, Abraham was most clement, most tender-hearted, intent upon turning to God again and again.
(76) [But God's messengers replied:] "O Abraham! Desist from this [pleading]! Behold, thy Sustainer's
101 Lit., "he did not know [what to make of] them and conceived fear of them". Since they were angels, they did not eat (contrary to the Biblical statement in Genesis xviii, 8); and since, in the Arabian tradition of hospitality, a stranger's refusal to partake of the food offered him is an indication of unfriendly intent, Abraham - who until then had not realized that his guests were angels-became apprehensive of possible hostility on their part.
102 According to the Biblical account (not contradicted by the Qur'an), Lot, a son of Abraham's brother, lived to the east of the Jordan, in the vicinity of what is today the Dead Sea (called in Arabic Bahr Lut, "Lot's Sea"). The "people of Lot" were not actually the latter's community, for he-like Abraham-was a native'of Ur in southern Babylonia, and had migrated thence with his uncle: hence, throughout the Qur'an, the expression "Lot's people" designates the inhabitants of the town (or country) of Sodom, among whom he had chosen to live, and with regard to whom he was entrusted with a prophetic mission.
103 I.e., on realizing that the strangers were God's messengers, and that she and Abraham had nothing to fear from them (Zamakhshari): hence the interpolation of the words "with happiness". This differs from the Biblical statement (Genesis xviii, 12-15), according to which Sarah "laughed within herself" at the announcement that she, an old woman, would give birth to a son: for in the above Qur'anic passage this announcement comes after the statement that she laughed, and is introduced by the conjunctive particle fa, which in this context denotes "and thereupon" or "whereupon".
104 This expression of grief obviously relates to her past barrenness as well as to her fear that this astonishing announcement might prove illusory.
105 Lit., "Art thou astonished at God's decree''" -or: "post thou find God's decree sstrange?" However, the real meaning of this rhetorical question can only be brought out by paraphrasing it in the manner attempted by me: namely, as an echo of the statement, repeated several times in the Qur'an: "When God wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, 'Be'-and it is."
106 According to all commentators, this means "he pleaded [lit., "argued"] with Our messengers" (who, as is evident from 29: 31, had announced to him the impending doom of Sodom and Gomorrah), and not with God Himself.
judgment has already gone forth: and, verily, there shall fall upon them a chastisement which none can avert!"
(77) AND WHEN Our messengers came unto Lot, he was sorely grieved on their account, seeing that it was beyond his power to shield them;` and he exclaimed: "This is a woeful day!"
(78) And his people came running to him, impelled towards his house [by their desire]:'°s for they had ever been wont,to commit [such], abominations.
Said [Lot]: "O my people! [Take instead] these daughters of mine: they are purer for you [than men]!'°9 Be, then, conscious of God, and disgrace me not by [assaulting] my guests. Is there not among you even one right-minded man?"
(79) They answered: "Thou hast always known that we have no use whatever for thy daughters;"' and, verily, well dost thou know what we want!"
(80) Exclaimed .[Lot]: "Would that I had the strength to defeat you, or that I could lean upon some mightier support!""'
(81) [Whereupon the angels] said: "O Lot! Behold, we are messengers from thy Sustainer! Never shall [thy enemies] attain to thee! Depart, then, with thy household while it is yet night, and let none of you look back;"' [and take with thee all thy family] with
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107 Lit., "he was straitened as regards the reach of his arm in their behalf" -an idiomatic phrase often used in classical Arabic, denoting here Lot's utter inability to afford his guests protection from the people of Sodom, whose homosexual propensities have ever since been commemorated in the term "sodomy". Since Lot thought that the strangers were no more than handsome young men, he felt certain that they would be sexually assaulted by his sinful countrymen.
108 Lit., "towards him" -but since their desire was obviously directed at Lot's guests, and not at himself, my rendering would seem appropriate. It is to be noted that in its passive form, as used here, the verb yuhra'un does not merely mean "they came running" but, rather, "running as if driven onward by some force" (Zamakhshari)-in this case, the force of their perverse desire.
109 Most of the commentators are of the opinion that the phrase "these daughters of mine" signifies here "the daughters of my community" (since a prophet is the spiritual father of his people). But whether this is the case, or whether - as is more probable - Lot's words refer to his actual daughters, there is no doubt that in their wider implication they point to the natural relationship between man and woman as contrasted with the perverse desires of the men of Sodom.
110 Lit., "no claim whatever to thy daughters".
111 Lit., "or that I could betake myself to some mighty support". Although some of the commentators are of the opinion that this expression denotes "tribal support" (which was, however, unavailable to Lot inasmuch as he was a stranger in Sodom), we have a number of authentic Traditions (extensively quoted by Tabari) to the effect that what Lot meant was God's support: for the Prophet Muhammad, referring to this Qur'anic passage, is reported to have said, "God bestowed His grace upon Lot, for he betook himself indeed unto a mighty support!"
112 I.e., in an abstract sense, "to what you are leaving behind" (Razi)-evidently meaning the severing of all associations with the sinful city, and not a physical looking-back.
the exception of thy wife: for, behold, that which is to befall these [people of Sodom] shall befall her [as well]."' Verily, their appointed time is the morning[and] is not the morning nigh?"
(82) And so, when Our judgment came to pass, We turned those [sinful towns] upside down, and rained down upon them stone-hard blows of chastisement pre-ordained."' one upon another, (83) marked out in thy Sustainer's sight [for the punishment of such as are lost in sin].
And these [blows of God-willed doom] are never far from evildoers!
(84) AND UNTO [the people of] Madyan [We sent] their brother Shu'ayb."e He said: "O my people! Worship God [alone]: you have no deity other than Him; and do not give short measure and weight [in any of your dealings with men]."' Behold, I see you [now] in a happy state; but, verily, I dread lest suffering befall you on a Day that will encompass [you with doom]! (85) Hence, O my people, [always] give full measure and weight, with equity, and do not deprive people of what
113 Cf. 7 : 83 and the corresponding note, as well as 66: 10, where it is mentioned that Lot's wife, who was apparently a native of Sodom, had acted faithlessly towards her husband, i.e., had refused to believe in his prophetic mission; and her story was thereupon "propounded as a parable of those who are bent on denying the truth".
114 Lit., "stones of sijjil", which latter noun is regarded by some philologists as the Arabicized form of the Persian sang-i-gil ("clay-stone" or "petrified clay"): cf. Qdmus and Tdj al= Arus. If this supposition is correct, the "stones of petrified clay" would be more or less synonymous with "brimstones", which in its turn would point to a volcanic eruption, probably in conjunction with a severe earthquake (alluded to in the preceding phrase, "We turned those [sinful towns] upside down"). But there is also a strong probability, pointed out by Zamakhshari and Razi, that the term sijjil is of purely Arabic origin - namely, a synonym of sijjil, which primarily signifies "a writing", and secondarily, "something that has been decreed": in which case the expression hijdrah min sijjil can be understood in a metaphorical sense, namely, as "stones of all the chastisement laid down in God's decree" (Zamakhshari and Razi, both in conjunction with the above verse and in their commentaries on 105: 4). It is, I believe, this metaphorical meaning of "stone-hard blows of chastisement pre-ordained", i.e., of God-willed doom, that the concluding sentence of the next verse alludes to.
115 According to some of the earliest Qur'an-commentators (e.g., Qatadah and `Ikrimah, as quoted by Tabari), this threat of ultimate doom applies to evildoers of all times-which further supports the assumption that the expression hijdrah min sijjil has a metaphorical connotation.
116 See surah 7, note 67.
117 Thus, belief in the One God and justice in all dealings between man and man (see surah 6, note 150) are here placed together as the twin postulates of all righteousness. Some commentators assume that the people of Madyan were of a particularly commercial bent of mind, and given to fraudulent dealings. It is obvious, however, that the purport of this passage and of its sequence goes far beyond anything that might be construed by a purely "historical" interpretation. What this version of Shu'ayb's story aims at is-as always in the Qur'an-the enunciation of a generally applicable principle of ethics: namely, the impossibility of one's being righteous with regard to God unless one is righteous - in both the moral and social senses of this word - in the realm of human relationships as well. This explains the insistence with which the above prohibition is re-stated in a positive form, as an injunction, in the next verse.
is rightfully theirs,'"' and do not act wickedly on earth by spreading corruption. (86) That which rests with God"9 is best for you, if you but believe [in Him]! However, I am not your keeper."
(87) Said they: "O Shu'ayb! Does thy [habit of] praying compel thee to demand of us"° that we give up all that our forefathers were wont to worship, or that we refrain from doing whatever we please with our possessions ?12' Behold, [thou wouldst have us believe that] thou art indeed the only clement, the only right-minded man!"
(88) He answered: "O my people! What do you think? If [it be true that] I am taking my stand on a clear evidence from my Sustainer, who has vouchsafed me goodly sustenance [as a gift] from Himself - [how could I speak to you otherwise than I do]?" And yet, I have no desire to do, out of opposition to you, what I am asking you not to do: `2' I desire no more than to set things to rights in so far as it lies within my power; but the achievement of my aim depends on God alone. In Him have I placed my trust, and unto Him do I always turn!
(89) "And, O my people, let not [your] dissent from me drive you into sin, lest there befall you the like of what befell the people of Noah, or the people of Hud. or the people of Salih: and [remember that] the people of Lot lived not very far from you!"-4 (90) Hence, ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards Him in repentance - for, verily, my Sustainer is a dispenser of grace, a fount of love!"
(91) [But his people] said: "O Shu'ayb! We cannot grasp the purport of much of what thou sagest; on
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118 See surah 7, note 68.
119 I.e., the lasting merit achieved by virtue of good deeds and fair dealings with one's fellow-men (cf. the expression al-bagiyat as-salihat in 18: 46 and 19: 76).
120 Lit., "Do thy prayers command thee. . .", etc.
121 I.e., without regard to the rights and needs of others, especially the poor: hence their sarcastic reference, in the next sentence, to Shu'ayb's clemency and right-mindedness.
122 According to Zamakhshari, RazT and several other commentators, the clause interpolated here between brackets is elliptically implied in Shu'ayb's answer. His stress on the fact that God has graced him amply with worldly goods is meant to remind his countrymen that it is not self-interest that causes him to ask them to be fair in their dealings with their fellow-men.
123 I.e., "I do not aim at depriving you of what is rightfully yours" - a reference to verse 85 above.
124 As pointed out in surah 7, note 67, the region inhabited by Shu'ayb's people extended from what is known today as the Gulf of `Agabah to the mountains of Moab, east of the Dead Sea, in the vicinity of which Sodom and Gomorrah were situated.
125 Cf. 6 : 25. In the present instance. however, the self-confessed lack of understanding on the part of the people of Madyan may have a more subjective meaning, similar to the half-indignant, half-embarrassed retort. "I don't know what you are talking about."
the other hand, behold, we do see clearly how- weak thou art in our midst:"" and were it not for thy family, we would have most certainly stoned thee to death, considering that thou hast no power over us!"
(92) Said he: "O my people! Do you hold my family in greater esteem than God? -for, Him you regard as something that may be cast behind you and be forgotten!"7 Verily, my Sustainer encompasses [with His might] all that you do! (93) Hence, O my people, do [to me] anything that may be within your power, [while] I, behold, shall labour [in God's way]; in time you will come to know which [of us] shall be visited by suffering that will cover him with ignominy, and which [of us] is a liar. Watch, then, [for what is coming:] behold, I shall watch with you!"
(94) And so, when Our judgment came to pass, by Our grace We saved Shu'ayb and those who shared his faith, whereas the blast [of Our punishment] overtook those who had been bent on evildoing: and then they lay lifeless, in their very homes, on the ground,"' (95) as though they had never lived there.
Oh, away with [the people of] Madyan, even as the Thamud have been done away with!
(96) AND, INDEED, We sent Moses with Our messages and a manifest authority [from Us] (97) unto Pharaoh and his great ones: but these followed [only] Pharaoh's bidding - and Pharaoh's bidding led by no means to what is right.'29
(98) [And so] he shall go before his people on the Day of Resurrection, having led them [in this world] towards the fire [of the life to come]; and vile was the destination towards which they were led - (99) seeing
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126 Lit., "we regard thee indeed as a weak one among us" -i.e., without any appreciable tribal support.
127 In classical Arabic usage, as well as in the speech of certain bedouin tribes to this day, the phrase ittakhadhahu (or ja'lahu) zihriyyan (lit., "he put him behind his back") has the meaning of "he held him in contempt", or "he forgot him", or "regarded him as something that may be forgotten". This last rendering seems to be the most appropriate in the above context.
128 See verse 67 of this sarah and the corresponding note 98; also sarah 7, note 73.
129 Lit., "was not right-guided (rashid)". The short passage dealing with Pharaoh and his followers. (verses 96-99) connects with, and amplifies, the reference to the tribe of `Ad, who "followed the bidding of every arrogant enemy of the truth" (verse 59 of this sarah). Thus, the main point of this passage is the problem of immoral leadership and, arising from it, the problem of man's individual, moral responsibility for wrongs committed in obedience to a "higher authority". The Qur'an answers this question emphatically in the affirmative: the leader and the led are equally guilty, and none can be absolved of responsibility on the plea that he was but blindly following orders given by those above him. This indirect allusion to man's relative free will - i.e., his freedom of choice between right and wrong-fittingly concludes the stories of the earlier prophets and their wrongdoing communities as narrated in this sarah.
that they were pursued by [God's] rejection in this [world], and [shall be finally overtaken by it] on the Day of Resurrection;"' [and] vile was the gift which they were given!
(100) THIS ACCOUNT"' of the [fate of those ancient] communities - some of them still remaining, and somee [extinct like] a field mown-down - We convey unto thee [as a lesson for mankind]: 112 (101) for, no wrong did We do to them, but it was they who wronged themselves. And when thy Sustainer's judgment came to pass, those deities of theirs which they had been wont to invoke instead of God proved of no avail whatever to them, and brought them no more than utter perdition.
(102) And such is thy Sustainer's punishing grasp whenever He takes to task any community that is given to evildoing: verily, His punishing grasp is grievous, severe!
(103) Herein, behold, lies a message indeed for all who fear the suffering [which may befall them] in the life to come, (and are conscious of the coming of] that Day on which all mankind shall be gathered together-that Day [of Judgment] which shall be witnessed [by all that ever lived], (104) and which We shall not delay beyond a term set [by Us].133
(105) When that Day comes, not a soul will speak. unless it be by His leave; and of those [that are gathered together], some will be wretched and some, happy.
(106) Now as for those who [by their deeds] will have brought wretchedness upon themselves, [they shall live] in the fire, where they will have [nothing but] moans and sobs [to relieve their pain], (107) therein to abide as long as the heavens and the earth endure-unless thy Sustainer wills it otherwise: `34 for,
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130 See note 37 on the last clause of verse 18 of this surah, as well as verse 60, which refers in identical terms to the destiny of the tribe of °Ad.
131 Lit., "This of the accounts" (a construction identical with that employed in 3 : 44, 11 : 49 and 12: 102), alluding to the fact that only certain aspects of the relevant stories, and not the complete stories as such, are presented here (cf. verse 120 below): the purpose being, as always in the Qur'an, the illustration of an ethical principle or principles, and of men's varying reactions to the guidance which God offers them directly through His prophets and indirectly through the observable phenomena of His creation. (See in this connection the second part of note 73 on verse '`> of this sarah.)
132 See preceding note.
133 Lit., "except till a term computed [by Us]".
134 I.e., unless God wills to reprieve them (cf. the last paragraph of 6: 128 and the corresponding note 114, as well as note 10 on 40: 12). The phrase "as long as the heavens and the
verily, thy Sustainer is a sovereign doer of whatever He wills.
(108) But as for those who [by virtue of their past deeds] will have been blest with happiness, [they shall live] in paradise, therein to abide as long as the heavens and the earth endure -unless thy Sustainer wills it otherwise"' -as a gift unceasing.
(109) AND SO, [O Prophet,] be not in doubt about anything that those [misguided people] worship:' they but [thoughtlessly] worship as their forefathers worshipped aforetime; and, behold, We shall most certainly give them their full due [for whatever good or evil they have earned], without diminishing aught thereof."
(110) And, indeed, [similar was the case when] We vouchsafed the divine writ unto Moses, and some of his people set their own views against it;"' and had it not been for a decree that had already gone forth from thy Sustainer, judgment would indeed have been passed on them [then and there]: '39: for, behold, they were in grave doubt, amounting to suspicion, about him [who called them unto God]."
(111) And, verily, unto each and all will thy Sus
earth endure" has caused some perplexity to most of the classical commentators in view of the many Qur'anic statements to the effect that the world as we know it will come to an end on the Last Day, which is synonymous with the Day of Resurrection. This difficulty, however, can be resolved if we remember - as Tabari points out in his commentary on the above verse - that in ancient Arabic usage the expressions "as long as the heavens and the earth endure", or "as long as night and day alternate", etc., were used metonymically in the sense of "time beyond count" (abad). See also 20: 105-107 and the corresponding note 90, as well as note 63 on 14: 48.
135 Le., unless God wills to bestow on them a yet greater reward (Razl; also Mandr XII, 161); or - which to my mind is more probable - unless He opens up to man a new, yet higher stage of evolution.
136 I.e., "do not think that their beliefs are based on reason": a reference, primarily, to the pagan Arabs who - like the wrongdoers spoken of in the preceding passages - rejected God's message on the plea that it conflicted with their ancestral beliefs; and, more generally, to all people who are accustomed to worship.(in the widest sense of this word) false values handed down from their ancestors and who, consequently, observe false standards of morality: an attitude which must unavoidably - as the last sentence of this verse shows - result in future suffering, be it in this world or in the hereafter, or in both.
137 Lit., "We shall repay them their portion in full, undiminished". For an explanation of this sentence, see note 27 on verses 15-16 of this sarah.
138 Lit., "and it was disagreed upon", or "discordant views came to be held about it": meaning that, like Muhammad's early contemporaries, some of Moses' people accepted the divine writ, whereas others refused to submit to its guidance.
139 Lit., "it would indeed have been decided between them" - i.e., they would have been punished, like those communities of old, by utter destruction, had it not been for God's decree (kalimah, lit., "word") that their punishment should be deferred until the Day of Resurrection (cf. the last sentence of 10: 93 and the corresponding note 114).
140 Cf. 2 : 55 - "O Moses, indeed we shall not believe thee until we see God face to face!"
tainer give their full due for whatever [good or evil] they may have done: behold, He is aware of all that they do!
(112) Pursue, then, the right course, as thou hast been bidden [by God], together with all who, with thee, have turned unto Him; and let none of you behave in an overweening manner:'" for, verily, He sees all that you do.
(113) And do not incline towards, nor rely upon, those who are bent on evildoing 'd2 lest the fire [of the hereafter] touch you: for [then] you would have none to protect you from God, nor would you ever be succoured [by Him]. 1,13
(114) And be constant in praying at the beginning and the end"` of the day, as well as during the early watches of the night: 141 for, verily, good deeds drive away evil deeds: this is a reminder to all who bear [God] in mind.
(115) And be patient in adversity: for, verily,. God does not fail to requite the doers of good!
(116) BUT, ALAS, among those generations [whom We destroyed] before your time there were no people endowed with any virtue'" - [people] who would
141 Explaining this injunction, expressed in the second person plural, Ibn Kathir points out that it is addressed to all believers, and that it refers to their behaviour towards everyone, be he believer or unbeliever; in this he obviously relies on the interpretation advanced by Ibn 'Abbas (and quoted by Razi): "It means, `Be humble before God and do not behave with false pride towards anyone'." According to some later commentators (e.g., Tabari, Zamakhshari, Baghawi, Razi), the meaning is wider, namely, "do not overstep the bounds of what God has ordained", or "do not exceed the limits of equity".
142 The verb rakana comprises the concepts of inclining (in one's feelings or opinions) towards, as well as of relying on, someone or something, and cannot be translated by a single word; hence my composite rendering of the phrase la tarkanu. The use of the past tense in alladhina zalamu indicates-as is often the case in the Qur'an-deliberate and persistent evildoing; this term is, therefore, suitably rendered as "those who are bent on evildoing".
143 According to Zamakhshari, the particle thumma at the beginning of this last clause does not signify a sequence in time ("and then" or "afterwards") but, rather, a stress on the impossibility (istib'lid) of their ever being succoured by God.
144 Lit., "at the two ends".
145 This injunction circumscribes all the obligatory prayers without specifying either their form or the exact times of their performance, both of which are clearly laid down in the sunnah (i.e., the authenticated sayings and the practice) of the Prophet: namely, at dawn (fajr), shortly after mid-day (zuhr), in the afternoon (`asr), immediately after sunset (maghrib), and in the first part of the night (`ishn'). Inasmuch as the above verse stresses the paramount importance of prayer in general, it is safe to assume that it refers not merely to the five obligatory prayers but to a remembrance of God at all times of one's wakeful life.
146 For my rendering of the particle law-ld, at the beginning of this sentence, as "alas", see surah 10, note 119. The present passage connects with the statement in the preceding verse, "God does not fail to requite the doers of good", as well as with verse 111 above, "unto each and all will thy Sustainer give their due for whatever [good or evil] they may have done". - For the wider implications of the term garn ("generation"), see surah 6, note 5.
speak out against the [spread of] corruption on earth -except the few of them whom We saved [because of their righteousness], whereas those who were bent on evildoing only pursued pleasures which corrupted their whole being,"' and so lost themselves in sinning.
(117) For, never would thy Sustainer destroy a community'"' for wrong [beliefs alone] so long as its people behave righteously [towards one another]. 149 (118) And had thy Sustainer so willed, He could surely have made all mankind one single community: but [He willed it otherwise, and so] they continue to hold divergent views'° - (119) [all of them,] save those upon whom thy Sustainer has bestowed His grace. 151
And to this end has He created them [alll."2
147 The verb tarifa means "he enjoyed a life of ease and plenty", while the participle mutraf denotes "one who enjoys a life of ease and plenty" or "indulges in the pleasures of life", i.e., to the exclusion of moral considerations. The form mutarraf has an additional significance, namely, "one whom a life of softness and ease has caused to behave insolently", or "one whom the [exclusive] pursuit of the pleasures of life has corrupted" (Mughnf ). Hence my above rendering of the phrase and utrifu fihi.
148 See surah 6, note 116.
149 This passage connects with the concluding clause of the preceding verse, "and lost themselves in sinning". According to most of the classical commentators, the term zulm (lit., "wrong" or "evildoing") is in this context synonymous with "wrong beliefs" amounting to a denial of the truths revealed by God through His prophets, a refusal to acknowledge His existence, or the ascribing of divine powers or qualities to anyone or anything beside Him. Explaining the above verse in this sense, Razi says: "God's chastisement does not afflict any people merely on -account of their holding beliefs amounting to shirk and kufr, but afflicts them only if they persistently commit evil in their mutual dealings, and deliberately hurt (other human beings] and act tyranically [towards them]. Hence, those who are learned in Islamic Law (al-fugahd') hold that men's obligations towards God rest on the principle of [His] forgiveness and liberality, whereas the rights of man are of a stringent nature and must always be strictly observed" - the obvious reason being that God is almighty and needs no defender, whereas man is weak and needs protection. (Cf. the last sentence of 28: 59 and the corresponding note 61.)
150 Le., about everything, even about the truths revealed to them by God. - For a discussion of the term ummah wdhidah ("one single community") and its wider implications, see surah 2, notes 197 and 198; the second part of 2: 253 and the corresponding note 245; and the second part of 5 :48 and the corresponding notes 66 and 67. Thus, the Qur'an stresses once again that the unceasing differentiation in men's views and ideas is not incidental but represents a God-willed, basic factor of human existence. If God had willed that all human beings should be of one persuasion, all intellectual progress would have been ruled out, and "they would have been similar in their social life to the bees and the ants, while in their spiritual life they would have been like the angels, constrained by their nature always to believe in what is true and always to obey God" (Mandr XII, 193) - that is to say, devoid of that relative free will which enables man to choose between right and wrong and thus endows his life - in distinction from all other sentient beings - with a moral meaning and a unique spirritual potential.
151 Le., those who avail themselves of His grace, consisting of the God-given ability to realize His existence (cf. 7 : 172 and the corresponding note 139) and the guidance which He offers to mankind through His prophets (Razi).
152 Some of the earliest commentators (e.g., Mujahid and `Ikrimah) are of the opinion that the expression li-dhalika (rendered by me as "to this end") refers to God's bestowal of His grace upon
But [as for those who refuse to avail themselves of divine guidance,] that word of thy Sustainer shall be fulfilled: "Most certainly will I fill hell with invisible beings as well as with humans, all together!""'
(120) AND [remember:] out of all the accounts relating to the [earlier] apostles We convey unto thee [only] that wherewith We [aim to] make firm thy heart: 154 for through these [accounts] comes the truth unto thee, as well as an admonition and a reminder unto all believers.
(121) And say unto those who will not believe: "Do anything that may be within your power, [while] we, behold, shall labour [in God's way]; (122) and wait [for what is coming]: behold, we too are waiting!"
(123) And God alone comprehends the hidden reality of the heavens and the earth:'" for, all that exists goes back to Him [as its source].
Worship Him, then, and place thy trust in Him alone: for thy Sustainer is not unaware of what you do.
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man, while others (e.g., Al-Hasan and 'AW) relate it to men's ability to differ intellectually from one another. According to Zamakhshari, it refers to the freedom of moral choice which characterizes man and is spoken of in the preceding passages: and since it is this freedom which constitutes God's special gift to man and raises him above all other created beings (cf. the parable of Adam and the angels in 2:30-34), Zamakhshari's interpretation is, in my opinion, the most comprehensive of all.
153 The "word of God" reiterated here as well as in 32: 13 has originally been pronounced in with reference to the "followers of Satan", i.e., those who reject the guidance offered them by God; hence my interpolation at the beginning of the paragraph. As regards the meaning of jinn (rendered by me in this and similar instances as "invisible beings"), see Appendix III.
154 Le., the Qur'an does not intend to present those stories as such, but uses them (or, rather, relevant parts of them) as illustrations of moral truths and as a means to strengthen the faith of the believer (see the second part of note 73 as well as note 131 above).
155 Lit., "God's is [the knowledge of] the hidden reality of...", etc. For this meaning of the term al-ghayb, see note 3 on 2: 3.