THE THIRTEENTH SURAH
HERE ARE considerable differences of opinion regarding the
period in which this surah was revealed, According to one statement attributed
to Ibn `Abbas, it is a Meccan surah (Suyuti), while according to other
authorities, mentioned by Tabarani, Ibn `Abbas is reported to have described it
as belonging to the Medina period (ibid.). Suyuti himself inclines to the view
that it is a Meccan surah but contains a few verses revealed at
Like so many other surahs, this one, too, takes it's title from the incidental mention of a word which caught the imagination of the earliest generation of Muslims: in this case, the word "thunder" occurring in verse 13, which relates to the evidence of God's creative powers forthcoming from the observable manifestations of nature.
The main theme of this surah is God's revelation, through His prophets, of certain fundamental moral truths which man may not neglect without suffering the natural consequences of such a neglect (see the last paragraph of verse 31 and note 57) - just as a realization of those moral truths by those "who are endowed with insight ... [and] are true to their bond with God" (verses 19-20) invariably causes them to "find inner happiness and the most beauteous of all goals" (verse 29): for, "God does not change men's condition unless they change their inner selves" (verse 11).
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:
THESE ARE MESSAGES of revelation:' and what has been bestowed upon thee from on high by thy Sustainer is the truth-yet most people will not believe [in it]?
(2) It is God who has raised the heavens without any supports that you could see, and is established on the throne of His almightiness;° and He [it is who] has
L 90 1j: P-1
1 See Appendix II.
2 Although some commentators are of the opinion that the term kitdb ("divine writ" or "revelation") refers here to this particular surah, Ibn `Abbas states emphatically that it denotes the Qur'an as a whole (Baghawi).
3 This passage connects with the concluding verses (102-111) of the preceding sarah, and particularly with.verse 103, all of which, stress the divine origin of the Qur'an.
4 For an explanation of this phrase, see surah 7, note 43. As regards the "raising of the heavens without any supports" visible to man, it should be borne in mind that the noun samd' denotes, primarily, "something that is above [another thing]", and is used -mostly in its plural form samdwdt - to describe (a) the visible skies (as well as, occasionally, the clouds), (b) the cosmic space in which the stars, the solar systems (including our own) and the galaxies pursue their course, and (c) the abstract concept of the forces emanating from God (since He is, in the
made the sun and the moon subservient [to His laws], each running its course for a term set [by Him].' He governs all that exists.
Clearly does He spell out these messages, so that you might be certain in your innermost that you are destined to meet your Sustainer [on Judgment Day].6
(3) And it is He who has spread the earth wide and placed on it firm mountains and running waters, and created thereon two sexes of every [kind of] plant;' [and it is He who] causes the night to cover the day.
Verily, in all this there are messages indeed for people who think!
(4) And there are on earth [many] tracts of land close by one another [and yet widely differing from one another']; and [there are on it] vinyards, and fields of grain, and date-palms growing in clusters from one root or standing alone,9 [all] watered with the same water: and yet, some of them have We favoured above others by way of the food [which they provide for man and beast].'°
Verily, in all this there are messages indeed for people who use their reason!
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(5) BUT IF thou art amazed [at the marvels of God's
metonymical sense of this word, "above" all that exists). To my mind, it is the second of these three meanings of samawat to which the 'above verse refers: namely, to the spatial universe in which all aggregations of matter - be they planets, stars, nebulae or galaxies - are, as it were, "suspended" in space within a system of unceasing motion determined by centrifugal forces and mutual, gravitational attraction.
5 This may refer either to the end of the world as we know it-thus indicating the finality of all creation - or, according to `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas (as quoted by Baghawi and RazT), to the "mansions" or stages through which the sun and the moon, like all other celestial bodies, move in time as well as in space.
6 Le., "so that you might realize that He who has created the universe and governs all that exists is equally able to resurrect the dead, and to judge you in the life to come in accordance with what you did when you were alive on earth".
7 Lit., "and out of all [kinds of] fruits He made thereon (i.e., on earth] pairs (zawjayn ithnayn)". The term zawj denotes, according to the context, either "a pair" or "one of a pair". Whenever the dual form zawjan is followed by the additional numerical definition ithnan ("two"), it invariably signifies "a pair comprising both sexes". Thus, the above phrase states that there are two sexes to every kind of plant: a statement fully in accord with botanical science. (Usually, the male and female organs of reproduction exist together in one and the same flower of a particular plant, e.g., cotton; alternatively, they are placed in separate flowers of one and the same plant, e.g., in most of the cucurbitaceae; and, in some rare cases, e.g., the date-palm, in entirely separate, uni-sexual plants of the same species.)
8 Le., regarding the nature of the soil, fertility and kind of vegetation. The necessity of this interpolation - which, in the consensus of all commentators, conveys the meaning of the above phrase - becomes apparent from the subsequent clauses.
9 Lit., "non-clustered" (ghayr sin wan)=i.e., each tree having separate roots.
10 Cf. 6:99 and 141, where a similar stress is laid on the multiformity of plants-and their varying beneficence to man and animal - as some of the signs of God's purposeful, creative activity.
creation], amazing, too, is their saying, "What! After we have become dust, shall we indeed be [restored to life] in a new act .of creation?""
It is they who [thus show that they] are bent on denying their Sustainer; 'Z and it is they who carry the shackles [of their own making] around their necks;" and it is they who are destined for the fire, therein to abide.
(6) And [since, O Prophet, they are bent on denying the truth,] they challenge thee to hasten the coming upon..them of evil instead of [hoping for] good'"although [they ought to know that] the exemplary punishments [which they now deride] have indeed come to pass before their time.
Now, behold, thy Sustainer is full of forgiveness unto men despite all their evildoing:" but, behold, thy Sustainer is [also] truly severe in retribution!
(7) However, they who are bent on denying the truth [refuse to believe and] say, "Why has no miraculous sign ever been bestowed on him from on high by his Sustainer?"16
[But] thou art only a warmer; and [in God] all people have a guide."
11 Le., while it is amazing that one can refuse to believe in God despite all the evidence, accessible to human observation, of the existence of a definite purpose in all life-phenomena, and thus of the existence of a conscious Creative Power, it is no less amazing to see people who, while vaguely believing in God, can yet refuse to believe in individual resurrection: for, if God has created the universe and the phenomenon of life as such, He obviously has the power to re-create life -and its requisite physical vehicle -in a new act of creation.
12 By denying the possibility of resurrection, they implicitly deny God's almightiness, and thus, in effect, His reality.
13 A metaphor of man's wilful self-abandonment to false values and evil ways, and of the resulting enslavement of the spirit (cf. Zamakhshari, Razi, Baydawl). See also surah 34, note 44.
14 Lit., "they ask thee to hasten the evil before the good": i.e., instead of willingly accepting the guidance offered them by the Prophet, they mockingly challenge him to bring about the exemplary punishment with which, according to him, God threatens them. (For a fuller explanation of this "challenge", referred to here and in several other places in the Qur'an, see 6 : 57-58 and 8 : 32, as well as the corresponding notes.)
15 Cf. the first sentence of 10: 11 and the corresponding note 17.
16 Le., to prove that he (Muhammad) is really a prophet inspired by God. But the Qur'an makes it clear in several places (e.g., 6 : 7 and I11, 10 : 96-97 or 13 : 31) that even a miracle would not convince those who are "bent on denying the truth".
17 According to the classical commentators, this sentence lends itself to several interpretations: (1) "Thou art only a warmer; and every nation has had a guide like thee (i.e., a prophet)"-which would be in consonance with the Qur'anic doctrine of the continuity of prophetic guidance; or (2) "Thou art only a warmer - but [at the same time] also a guide unto all people" - which would stress the universality of the Qur'anic message as contrasted with the time-bound and ethnically limited missions of the earlier prophets; or (3) "Thou art only a warmer bound to do no more than deliver the message entrusted to thee, while it is God alone who can truly guide men's hearts towards faith". Since the last of the above three interpretations is the most plausible and has, moreover, the support of `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas, Sa `Yd ibn Jubayr, Mujahid and Ad-Dahhak, I have adopted it in
(8) God knows what any female bears [in her womb], and by how much the wombs may fall short [in gestation], and by how much they may increase [the average period]:'8 for with Him everything is [created] in accordance with its scope and purpose.'9
(9) He knows all that is beyond the reach of a created being's perception as well as all that can be witnessed by a creature's senses or mind2°-the Great One, the One far above anything that is or could ever be!"
(10) It is all alike [to Him] whether any of you conceals his thought22 or brings it into the open, and whether he seeks to hide [his evil deeds] under the cover of night or walks [boldly].in the light of day," (11) [thinking that] he has hosts of helpers-both such as can be perceived by him and such as are hidden from him"-that could preserve him from whatever
my rendering. According to Zamakhshari, this interpretation is further strengthened by the subsequent reference to God's omniscience.
18 The term unthd denotes any female being, whether human or animal. The "falling short" may refer either to a shortening of the usual period of gestation (e.g., to seven months in human beings) or to a falling short of the completion of pregnancy, i.e., a miscarriage; it is to be noted that the noun ghayd signifies "an abortive foetus" (Tdj al-Arils), i.e., in human beings, a foetus less than seven months old. The "increase", on the other hand, may mean either the completion of gestation or its being in excess of the average period (as, for instance, the occasional lengthening of human pregnancy from the usual period of about 280 days to 305 or, according to some medical authorities, even 307 days). In addition to this, God's knowledge of "what any female bears [in her womb]" obviously relates also to the sex of the unborn embryo as well as to the number of offspring involved in one pregnancy.-As the sequence shows, this reference to the mysteries of gestation, fully known only to God, is meant to bring out the idea that He who knows what is in the wombs knows also the innermost disposition of every human being and the direction in which that human being will develop.
19 Lit., "according to a measure" (bi-migddr) -i.e., in accordance with the particular ppurpose for which it has been created, the exigencies of its existence and the role which it is destined to play within God's plan of creation.
20 See silrah 6, note 65.
21 God's attribute al-muta'dl, which occurs in the Qur'an only in this one instance, denotes His infinite exaltedness above anything existing or potential; also, according to ZamakhsharT, above anything that could be circumscribed by human definitions. (See in this connection the last sentence of 6 : 100 and the corresponding note 88.)
22 The term Bawl denotes, primarily, "a saying" or "an utterance", but it is also used tropically,
in the sense of "an idea", irrespective of whether it is expressed in actual words (as a statement, an assertion, a formulated doctrine, etc.) or merely conceived in the mind (e.g., an opinion, a view, or a connected set of ideas). Since in the above verse this term obviously refers to unspoken thoughts, I have rendered it accordingly.
23 Lit., "and goes forth by day" - i.e., commits evil deeds openly (Ibn `Abbas, as quoted by Baghawi and Razi). In the Arabic construction, the sentence reads thus: "All alike [to Him] is he from among you who conceals his thought (al-pawl) and he who brings it into the open, as well as he who. .. ," etc.
24 Lit., "from between his hands and from behind him". As in 2 : 255, the expression "between his hands" denotes "something that is perceivable by him" or "evident to him", while that which is "behind him" is a metonym for something "beyond his ken" or "hidden from him". See also next note.
God may have willed.'
Verily, God does not change men's condition unless they change their inner selves ;26 and when God wills people to suffer evil [in consequence of their . own evil deeds], there is none who could avert it: for they have none who could protect them from Him.
(12) HE IT IS who displays before you the lightning, to give rise to [both] fear and hope,' and calls heavy clouds into being; (13) and the thunder extols His limitless glory and praises Him, and [so do] the angels, in awe of Him; and He [it is who] lets loose the thunderbolts and strikes with them whom He wills.
And yet, they stubbornly argue about God,28 notwithstanding [all evidence] that He alone has the power to contrive whatever His unfathomable wisdom wills!'
25 Lit., "from God's command (amr)". The rendering of the above passage hinges on the meaning given to the term mu'aggibdt-a double plural of mu'agqib, which signifies "something that comes immediately after another thing" or "succeeds another thing without interruption". Most of the classical commentators understand by mu'aggibdt "hosts of angels", i.e., the recording angels who attend on every human being, succeeding one another without interruption. Consequently, they interpret the phrase min bayni yadayhi wa-min khalfihi as meaning "ranged before him and behind him", i.e., surrounding man from all sides; and they explain the words "from God's command" as being here synonymous with "by God's command", and take them to refer to the angels or to their function of guardianship. However, this interpretation has by no means the support of all the commentators. Some of the earliest ones assume that the term mu'agqibdt refers to all manner of worldly forces or concepts on which man so often relies in the mistaken belief that they might help him to achieve his aims independently of God's will: and this is the meaning given to this elliptic passage by the famous commentator AN Muslim al-Isfahani, as quoted by Razi. Explaining verse 10 and the first part of verse 11, he says: "All alike are, in God's knowledge, deeds done secretly or openly, as well as he who hides in the darkness of night and he who walks [boldly] in the light of day ... : for he that resorts to the [cover of] night can never elude God's will (amr), just as he [cannot] that walks in the light of day, surrounded by hosts of helpers (mu'aggibdt)-that is, guards and aids-meant to protect him: [for] those guards of his cannot save him from [the will of] God." It is on this convincing interpretation that I have based my rendering. The worldly "guards and aids" on which a sinner relies may be tangible (like wealth, progeny, etc.) or intangible (like personal power, high social standing, or the belief in one's "luck"): and this explains the phrase "both such as can be perceived by him and such as are hidden from him" (see preceding note).
26 Lit., "that which is in themselves". This statement has both a positive and a negative connotation: i.e., God does not withdraw His blessings from men unless their inner selves become depraved (cf. 8: 53), just as He does not bestow His blessings upon wilful sinners until they change their inner disposition and become worthy of His grace. In its wider sense, this is an illustration of the divine law of cause and effect (sunnat Allah) which dominates the lives of both individuals and communities, and makes the rise and fall of civilizations dependent on people's moral qualities and the changes in "their inner selves".
27 I.e., hope of rain, which in the Qur'an frequently symbolizes faith and spiritual life. With this verse, the discourse returns to the theme enunciated at the beginning of this surah (verses 2-4): namely, to the evidence of a consciously devised plan and purpose inherent in all nature and, thus, of the existence of God.
28 I.e., about His transcendental existence or the quality of His Being.
29 According to Raghib, the expression shadrd al-mihdl (which occurs in the Qur'an only in
(14) Unto Him [alone] is due all prayer aiming at the Ultimate Truth,'° since those [other beings or powers] whom men invoke instead of God 31 cannot respond to them in any way - [so that he who invokes them is] but like one who stretches his open hands3Z towards water, [hoping] that it will reach his mouth, the while it never reaches him. Hence, the prayer of those who deny the truth amounts to no more than losing oneself in grievous error.
(15) And before God prostrate themselves, willingly or unwillingly, all [things and beings] that are in the heavens and on earth," as do their shadows in the mornings and the evenings.3°
(16) Say: "Who is the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth?"
Say: "[It is] God."
Say: "[Why,] then, do you take for your protectors, instead of Him, such as have it not within their power to bring benefit to, or avert harm from, themselves?"
Say: "Can the blind and the seeing be deemed equal? -or can the depths of darkness and the light be deemed equal?"
Or do they [really] believe that there are, side by side with God, other divine powers35 that have
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this one place) signifies "powerful in contriving, in a manner hidden from man, that wherein wisdom lies"; hence my rendering.
30 Lit., "His is the call [or "invocation"] of the truth"; or, possibly, "to Him [alone] is due all true invocation". It should, however, be remembered that the term al-hagq ("the Truth") is one of the Qur'anic attributes of God, signifying the Ultimate Reality or Primal Cause of all that exists (the Urgrund in German philosophical terminology): consequently, the expression da`wat al-hagq may be understood in the sense of "prayer directed towards Him who is the Ultimate Reality", implying-as the sequence clearly states-that the invocation of any other being, power or principle is eo ipso wrong and futile.
31 Or: "side by side with God".
32 Lit., "his two palms".
33 The expression yasjud ("prostrates himself" or "prostrate themselves") is a metonym for complete submission to His will (Zamakhshari), that is, to the natural laws decreed by Him with regard to everything that exists. According to most of the classical commentators, those who submit to God willingly (i.e., consciously) are the angels and the believers, whereas the deniers of the truth, who are "not willing" to submit to Him, are nevertheless, without being conscious of it, subject to His will. However, in view of the subsequent reference to "shadows" it is logical to assume that the relative pronoun man relates in this context not merely to conscious beings but also to all other physical objects, whether animate or inanimate-i.e., to "all things and beings that are in the heavens and on earth". (See also 16: 48-49 and 22 : 18.)
34 Le., the varying lengths of the shadow projected by any material object depend on the position of the sun in relation to the earth; and since the earth's rotation around the sun is -as everything else in the universe - an outcome of God's creative will, the greater length of a shadow in the morning and evening and its contraction towards noon visibly expresses the shadow's subjection to Him.
35 Lit.. "do they assign to God partners . . .", etc. - i.e.. beings that supposedly have a share in God's divinity and/or His creative power. (See also surah 6, note 15.)
created the like of what He creates, so that this act of creation appears to them to be similar [to His]?-6 Say: "God is the Creator of all things; and He is the One who holds absolute sway over all that exists."
(17) [Whenever] He sends down water from the sky, and [once-dry] river-beds are running high" according to their measure, the stream carries scum on its surface;" and, likewise, from that [metal] which they smelt in the fire in order to make ornaments or utensils, [there rises] scum.
In this way does God set forth the parable of truth and falsehood: for, as far as the scum is concerned, it passes away as [does all] dross; but that which is of benefit to man abides on earth.
In this way does God set forth the parables (18) of those who have responded to their Sustainer with a goodly response, and of those who.did not respond to Him." [As for the latter,] if they possessed all that is on earth, and twice as much,"° they would surely offer it as ransom [on the Day of Judgment] :4' a most evil reckoning awaits them, and their goal is hell: and how evil a resting-place!
(19) CAN, THEN, he who knows that whatever has been
36 Although the term khalq ("creation" or "act of creation") is often used metaphorically with reference to human achievements, there is an intrinsic difference between the "creation" of an artist, a poet or a philosopher, and the act of creation as attributed to God: for whereas the human "creator" produces his work out of already-existing elements and does no more than bring those elements together in a (possibly) new combination, God alone has the power to create in the true sense of the word - that is, to bring into being something that did not exist, either in its entirety or in its components, before this particular act of creation (cf. 2 : 117-"when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, 'Be'- and it is"). This is the significance of the allusion, in the above verse, to the erroneous belief that any other power or being could ever have "created the dke of what He creates".
37 The interpolation of the adjective "once-dry" before "river-beds" (awdiyah) is necessitated by the absence of the definite article al before this noun. According to Zamakhshari, this indicates that only some of the river-beds are streaming with water while others, not affected by this particular rainfall, remain dry. It is to be borne in mind that the term wad (or wadi in popular parlance) denotes, primarily, a "water-course" or "river-bed" which is normally dry and carries water only after copious rainfalls; it is only by extension that this term is sometimes applied to an actual river.
38 Sc., "while the water beneath remains clear".
39 This rendering is based on Zamakhshari's interpretation of the above passage. According to other commentators, the beginning of verse 18 is independent of the last sentence of the preceding verse, and is a new sentence, reading thus: "For those who have responded to their Sustainer there is the ultimate good (al-husnd) [in store]; but as for those who did not respond to Him. . .", etc. In my opinion, Zamakhshari's reading-in which the expression al-husna is regarded as an adjective qualifying the believers' response - is preferable inasmuch as it fully justifies the repetition of the reference to "God's parables".
40 Lit., "and the like of it with it".
41 Cf. 3 : 91 and the corresponding note 71. 362
bestowed from on high upon thee by thy Sustainer is the truth be deemed equal to one who is blind? Only they who are endowed with insight keep this in mind: (20) they who are true to their bond with God and never break their covenant ;4z (21) and who keep together what God has bidden to be joined,°' and stand in awe of their Sustainer and fear the most evil reckoning [which awaits such as do not respond to Him]; (22) and who are patient in adversity out of a longing for their Sustainer's countenance, and are constant in prayer, and spend on others, secretly and openly, out of what We provide for them as sustenance, and [who] repel evil with good.'
It is these that shall find their fulfilment in the hereafter:4s (23) gardens of perpetual bliss, which they shall enter together with the righteous from among their parents, their spouses, and their offspring;' and the angels will come unto them from every gate [and will say]: (24) "Peace be upon you, because you have persevered!"
42 The "covenant" is, in this context, a general term embracing the spiritual obligations arising from one's faith in God and the moral and social obligations, resulting from that faith, towards one's fellow-men (Zamakhshari)-1 see in this connection the first sentence of 5 : 1 (where the term `aqd is used) and the corresponding note 1. As regards my rendering of `ahd AIM as "bond with God", see surah 2, note 19.
43 This refers to all ties arising from human relationships-e.g., the bonds of family, responsibility for orphans and the poor, the mutual rights and duties of neighbours -as well as the spiritual and practical bonds which ought to exist between all who belong to the brotherhood of Islam (cf. 8: 75 and the corresponding notes). In its widest sense, the phrase "what God has bidden to be joined" applies to the spiritual obligation, on the part of man, to remain conscious of the unity of purpose underlying all of God's creation, and hence - according to Razi - man's moral duty to treat all living beings with love and compassion.
44 Some of the commentators take this to mean that "if they have committed a sin, they repel it [i.e., its effect] by repentance" (Ibn Kaysan, as quoted by Zamakhshari), while others think that the "repelling" connotes the doing of a good deed in atonement of a -presumably unintentional - bad deed (Razii), or that it refers to endeavours to set evil situations to rights by word or deed (an alternative interpretation mentioned by Zamakhshari). But the great majority of the classical commentators hold that the meaning is "they repay evil with good"; thus Al-Hasan al-Basra (as quoted by Baghawi, Zamakhshari and Razi): "When they are deprived [of anything], they give; and when they are wronged, they forgive." Tabari's explanation is very similar: "They repel the evil done to them by doing good to those who did it"; and "they do not repay evil with evil, but repel it by [doing] good". See also 41 :34-36.
45 Lit., "For them there will be the end-result [or "fulfilment"] of the [ultimate] abode". The noun `ugba is regarded by almost all the philological authorities as synonymous with `dgibah ("consequence" or "end" or "end-result"; hence also "recompense" and, tropically, "destiny" or "fulfilment"). The term ad-dar stands for ad-dar al-dkhirah, "the ultimate abode", i.e., life in the hereafter.
46 As I have pointed out in several places, the term zawj denotes "a pair" or "a couple" as well as each of the components of a couple - i.e., with reference to human couples, "a spouse": hence it signifies either "husband" or "wife": Similarly, the term abd' (lit., "fathers" or "forefathers") usually denotes both fathers and mothers, i.e., "parents"; and this is, according to Zamakhshari, the meaning in this instance. - As regards the expression `adn, rendered by me as "perpetual bliss", see note on 38: 50, the earliest instance of the Qur'anic use of this term.
How excellent, then, this fulfilment in the hereafter!
(25) But as for those who break their bond with God after it has been established [in their nature],' and cut asunder what God has bidden to be joined, and spread corruption on earth -their due is rejection [by God],°8 and theirs is a most evil fate [in the life to come].
(26) GOD GRANTS abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, unto whomever He wills; and they [who are given abundance] rejoice in the life of this world - even though, as compared with the life to come, the life of this world is nought but -a fleeting pleasure.
(27) NOW THOSE who are bent on denying the truth [of the Prophet's message] say, "Why has no miraculous sign ever been bestowed upon him from on high by his Sustainer?"<9
Say: "Behold, God lets go astray him who wills [to go astray],So just as He guides unto Himself all who turn unto Him-(28) those who believe, and whose hearts find their rest in the remembrance of God - for, verily, in the remembrance of God [men's] hearts do find their rest-: (29) [and so it is that] they who attain to faith and do righteous deeds are destined for happiness [in this world] and the most beauteous of all goals [in the life to come]!"
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47 Lit., "after its establishment (mithdq)". For a full explanation of the expression "bond with God" and of my interpolation, between brackets, of the words "in their nature", see surah 2, note 19.
48 The Qur'anic term ia'nah - usually but inexactly translated as "curse" (and popularly used in this sense in post-classical Arabic parlance) -denotes "banishment" or "alienation" (ib'dd), i.e., from all that is good (Lisdn al-Arab). Whenever it is attributed in the Qur'an to God with reference to a sinner, it signifies the latter's "exclusion from God's grace" or his "rejection by God". In the present context, this meaning is reinforced by the subsequent reference to "a most evil fate" (lit., "abode") in afterlife. - For an explanation of the phrase "what God has bidden to be joined", see note 43 above.
49 See verse 7 of xhis surah and the corresponding note 16. The repetition of this question at this place points to its connection with the reference to "those who break their bond with God after it has been established [in their nature]" in verse 25 above (elucidated in note 19 on 2: 27). The abandonment of their original, innate faculty to realize the existence of God and their own dependence on His guidance-caused by their utter immersion in the passing pleasures of this world's life - makes it impossible for "those who are bent on denying the truth" to sense the breath of the divine in the message propounded to them by Muhammad: and so they refuse to accept it as true unless it is supported by an outward "miracle". (See in this connection note 94 on 6 : 109.)
50 Or: "God lets go astray whomever He wills". Regarding the rendering adopted by me, see surah 14, note 4.
(30) Thus" have We raised thee [O Muhammad] as Our Apostle amidst a community [of unbelievers] before whose time [similar] communities have come and gone," so that thou might propound to them what We have revealed unto thee: for [in their ignorance] they deny the Most Gracious !33
Say: "He is my Sustainer. There is no deity save Him. In Him have I placed my trust, and unto Him is my recourse!"
(31) Yet even if [they should listen to] a [divine] discourse by which mountains could be moved, or the earth cleft asunder, or the dead made to speak - [they who are bent on denying the truth would still refuse to believe in it] !s4
Nay, but God alone has the power to decide what shall be." Have, then, they who have attained to faith not yet come to know that, had God so willed; He would indeed have guided all mankind aright ?16 ,
But as for those who are bent on denying the truth-in result of their [evil] deeds, sudden calamities will always befall them or will alight close to their homes;" [and this will continue] until God's promise
.;-~ . iyy;A
51 Most of the commentators explain the "thus" or "thus it is" (kadhdlika) as referring to the earlier prophets, namely, "Thus, [or "in like manner"] as We sent prophets before thee, O Muhammad, We have now sent thee. . .", etc. It seems to me, however, that this speculative interpolation is unnecessary, and that the adverb "thus" connects directly with the preceding statement that God "guides unto Himself all who turn unto Him": in other words, the "thus" qualifies Muhammad's mission as an instrument of God's guidance. (This is, apparently, how Tabari understands the above phrase.)
52 Lit., "before whom [other] communities have passed away": an indirect reference to the continuity of prophetic revelation before and up to the time of the Last Prophet, Muhammad (Zamakhshari, Raz!). The interpolation of the words "of unbelievers" is based on Ibn Kathir's commentary on this verse, whereas my rendering of arsalndka (lit., "We have sent thee") as "We have raised thee as Our Apostle" is necessitated, in English, by the subsequent preposition "amidst".
53 Le., by refusing to acknowledge His existence, or by rejecting His guidance, or by ascribing divine qualities to other beings or forces side by side with Him.
54 The sentence added by me between brackets corresponds to the interpretation given to the above passage by Tabari and also by Az-Zajjaj (as quoted by, Razi and-without the mention of Az-Zajjaj by name - by Baghawi and Zamakhshari as well); cf. 6 : 109-111.
55 Lit., "God's alone is all [power of] command": i.e., no "miraculous sign" can ever convince those whose hearts God has "sealed" in consequence of their "breaking their bond with Him" (see surah 2, notes 7 and 19).
56 The meaning is that God grants man the freedom to choose between right and wrong: "He guides unto Himself all who turn unto Him" (verse 27 above) and "are true to their bond with God" (verse 20); on the other hand, He withholds His guidance from "the iniquitous, who break their bond with "God" (2: 26-27). See also the last sentence of 6 : 149 and the corresponding note 143.
57 Lit., "a sudden calamity (gdri'ah) will not cease (Id yazdl) to befall them or to alight close to their home". However, since this phrase connotes repetition and continuity, the singular form of the noun gdri'ah has here obviously a cumulative sense - namely, an unceasing succession of
[of resurrection] is fulfilled: verily, God never fails to fulfil His promise!
(32) And, indeed, [even] before thy time have [God's] apostles been derided, and for a while I gave rein to those who were [thus] bent on denying the truth: but then I took them to task - and how awesome was My retribution!
(33) IS, THEN, HE who has every living being"' in His almighty care, [dealing with each] according to what it deserves'9-[is, then, He like anything else that exists]? And yet, they ascribe to other beings a share in God's divinity!
Say: "Give them any name [you please]:6° but do you [really think that you could] inform Him of anything on earth that He does not know-or [do you] but play with words ?,,61
Nay, goodly seems their false imagery6Z to those who are bent on denying the truth, and so they are turned away from the [right] path: and he whom God lets go astray can never find any guide. (34) For such, there is suffering in the life of this world;6° but, truly, [their] suffering in the life to come will be harder still, and they will have none to shield them from God.
social catastrophes, fratricidal wars and mutual deprivations which, in consequence of their deliberate disregard of all spiritual values, will directly befall "those who are bent on denying the truth" (alladhrna kafaru), or will, indirectly, cause them to suffer by affecting their whole organic environment: and this, to my mind, is the meaning of the phrase "or will alight close to their homes". (Cf. in this connection 5 :33 and the corresponding notes, especially note 45.)
58 The term nafs has here apparently the general meaning of "soul" or "living being", applying both to humans and animals.
59 Lit., "what it has acquired" - i.e., according to the exigencies of its life, and - in the case of a
human being-according to his or her moral deserts as well.
60 Lit., "Name them!" Most of the commentators explain this phrase as an expression of utter contempt for those allegedly "divine" beings: i.e., "they are so unreal and meaningless as not to deserve even a name". It is also conceivable that we have here an echo of the statement, to be found in 7 : 71, 12: 40 and 53 : 23, to the effect that those false objects of worship are but "[empty] names which you have invented". However, in view of the next sentence - which refers to God's omniscience and is similar to 10 : 18, where imaginary "intercessors" are explicitly mentioned - it is possible to interpret the above phrase still more precisely, viz., "Call them `divine intercessors', if you so like: but. . .", etc. (According to Zamakhshari, the particle am, which usually denotes "or", stands here for bal, "nay, but" or simply "but".)
61 Lit., "or [do you say this] in the outward appearance (bi-zdhir) of a saying". Cf. the second part of 10: 18 (preceded by a reference to deified "intercessors") and the corresponding note 27.
62 Lit., "their cunning [or "artful"] device (makr)": but since, as Tabarl points out, this term relates here mainly to conscious shirk ("the attribution of divine qualities to aught but God") and, hence, to false religious ideas in general, it can be suitably rendered as above.
63 See surah 7, note 152, and surah 14, note 4.
64 See the last paragraph of verse 31 and note 57 above.
(35) THE PARABLE of the paradise promised to those who are conscious of God [is that of a garden] through which running waters flow:" [but, unlike an earthly garden,] its fruits will be everlasing, and [so will be] its shade.'
Such will be the destiny of those who remain conscious of God-just as the destiny of those who deny the truth will be the fire.
(36) Hence, they unto whom We have vouchsafed this revelation rejoice at all that has been bestowed upon thee [O Prophet] from on high;b9 but among the followers of other creeds there are such as deny the validity of some of it.'°
Say [unto them, O Prophet]: "I have only been bidden to worship God, and not to ascribe divine. powers to aught beside Him :71 unto Him do I call [all mankind], and He is my goal!"
(37) Thus, then, have We bestowed from on high this [divine writ] as an ordinance in the Arabic tongue.'2 And, indeed, if thou shouldst defer to men's likes and dislikes" after all the [divine] knowledge
65 This rendering (and the interpolation of the words "is that of a garden") reproduces literally the interpretation given to the above passage by Az-Zajjaj, as quoted by Zamakhshari and-in an abbreviated form - by Razi; according to Zamakhshari, this passage serves "as a parabolic illustration, by means of something which we know from our experience, of something that is beyond the reach of our perception" (tamthTlan li-ma ghdba `annd bi-md nushahid). As in the similar (but wider) reference to "the parable of paradise" in 47 : 15, we are here reminded that the Qur'anic descriptions of what awaits man after resurrection are, of necessity, metaphorical, since the human mind cannot conceive of anything that is - both in its elements and its totality - entirely different from anything that can be experienced in this world. (See in this connection Appendix I.)
66 I.e., its gift of happiness. Regarding this metaphorical meaning of ;ill ("shade"), see the last clause of 4 : 57 and the corresponding note 74.
67 For my rendering of `ugbd, in this context, as "destiny" see note 45 above. 68 Sc., "and who believe in it".
69 I.e., because it offers them guidance in this world and holds out to them the promise of
ultimate happiness in the life to come.
70 I.e., while admitting that the Qur'an contains much that coincides with the spiritual concepts taught by their own religions. The designation ahzdb (lit., "parties" or "sects", sing. hizb) connotes here the followers of other religions or creeds (Tabari and Razi).
71 The particle "only" (innamd) at the beginning of this sentence "clearly shows that there is [in Islam] no obligation, no ordinance and no prohibition that is not connected with this [principle]" (Razi).
72 Lit., "as an Arabic ordinance (hukm)": i.e., so as to enable the Arabian Prophet to propound it to the people of his immediate environment and, through them, to the whole world. Cf. in this connection 14: 4, where it is stated that every one of God's prophets was entrusted with a message "in his own people's tongue, so that he might make [the truth] clear unto them". That the message of the Qur'an is universal, and not restricted to the Arabs alone, is brought out clearly in many places, e.g., in 7 : 158, "Say [O Prophet]: 'O mankind! Verily, I am an apostle of God to all of you."
73 Lit., "follow their likes and dislikes (ahwahum)" - i.e., by compromising with the followers of other creeds who, while accepting some of the fundamental verities of the Qur'an, are unwilling to accept the whole of it.
that has come unto thee, thou wouldst have none to protect thee from God, and none to shield thee [from Him].
(38) And, truly, We sent forth apostles before thee, and We appointed for them wives and offspring;" and it was not given to any apostle to produce a miracle save at God's behest.'5
Every age has had its revelation :76 (39) God annuls or confirms whatever He wills [of His earlier messages] -for with Him is the source of all revelation."
(40) BUT WHETHER We let thee see'[in thy lifetime, O Prophet, the fulfilment of] some of what We have promised them, or whether We cause thee to die [before its fulfilment] - thy duty is no more than to deliver the message; and the reckoning is Ours.
(41) Have, then, they [who deny the truth] never yet seen how'9 We visit the earth [with Our punishment], gradually depriving it of all that is best thereon?eo
74 Le., they were mortals like all other men, and were not endowed with any "supernatural" qualities. This is a rejoinder to those who refuse to'accept a divine message as true on the grounds of its having been conveyed to mankind by an "ordinary mortal". (Cf. 25 : 7, where the unbelievers are speaking derisively of Muhammad as an apostle "who eats food [like all other mortals] and goes about in the market-places", and the many references to their incredulous wondering that God should have chosen as His prophet "a man from among themselves".) In addition to this, the above verse stresses, by implication, the positive value of man's natural, physical life-summarized, as it were, in the expression "wives and offspring"-and the rejection of exaggerated asceticism and self-mortification as an allegedly desirable "way to God".
75 Lit., "by God's leave". Cf. 6 : 109 - "Miracles are in the power of God alone" - and the corresponding note 94. In the present context, this is an answer to those who refuse to believe in Muhammad's message unless "a miraculous sign" is bestowed upon him.
76 Or: "a divine writ" (kitdb). See 5 : 48 - "Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life"-and the corresponding note 66, which explains the succession of divine messages culminating in, and ending with, the revelation of the Qur'an. This interpretation of the above phrase - adopted, among others, by Ibn Kathir - connects it plausibly with the precedingg mention of the apostles who came before Muhammad, and with the subsequent reference to the supersession of the earlier divine messages by that of the Qur'an. Apart from this, the statement that every age had a revelation suited to the particular needs of the time and the people_ concerned (Zamakhshari) constitutes an answer to the objection, often raised by followers of other creeds, that the message of the Qur'an differs in many respects from the earlier divine revelations (Razi).
77 I.e., He is the fountainhead or source (asl) of all revelation.-As regards the preceding reference to the abrogation of earlier divine dispensations and their supersession by later ones - ending with the final revelation, the Qur'an - see 2 : 106 and the corresponding note 87. (According to Qatadah, as quoted by Tabari and Ibn Kathir, the passage under consideration has the same purport as 2: 106.)
78 I.e., the calamities which, according to the last paragraph of verse 31 above, are in store for "those who are bent on denying the truth" (alladhIna kafaru).
79 Lit., "that".
80 Or: "curtailing it from [all] its sides" (min atrdfihd) -depending on whether one understands '3/,A
For, [when] God judges, there is no power that could repel His judgment: and swift in reckoning is He!
(42) Now those who lived before these [sinners] did, too, devise many a blasphemy"-but the most subtle devising is that of God, who knows what each human being deserves :12 and the deniers of the truth will [in time] come to know to whom the future belongs."
(43) And [if] they who are bent on denying the truth say [unto thee, O Prophet], "Thou hast not been sent [by God]", say thou: "None can bear witness between me and you as God does; and [none can bear witness as does] he who truly understands this divine writ."
by atrdf the "sides" or "extremities" or
"outlying parts" (of a concrete body or land) or, alternatively, the
"outstanding men" - i.e., the great leaders, scholars and thinkers
81 Lit., "did scheme"-an expression which in this context apparently refers to blasphemous ideas and attitudes.
82 Lit., "earns" -i.e., of good and evil.
83 For an explanation of this rendering of `ugba 'd-ddr (which is here synonymous with `dgibat
ad-ddr), see sarah 6, note 118.
84 Lit., "and anyone who possesses (man `indahu) knowledge of the revelation"-implying that a true understanding of the Qur'an unavoidably leads one to the conviction that it has been revealed by God.