THE FOURTEENTH SURAH

IBRAHIM (ABRAHAM)

MECCA PERIOD

A LL AUTHORITIES agree that this surah belongs to the last group of Meccan revelations; in the Itqdn it is placed immediately after surah 71 (Nuh), and we have no reason to question this chronology. The title is based on Abraham's prayer in verses 35-41; its relevance to the rest of the surah has been explained in note 48.

As in the preceding surah, the main theme of IbrdhTm is the revelation of God's word to man, destined to lead him "out of the depths of darkness into the light" (verses 1 and 5) by means of messages expressed in the language of the people to whom it was originally addressed (verse 4; cf. also 13 : 37 and the corresponding note 72): but whereas all earlier instances of the divine writ were meant only for the people thus addressed by their prophet (cf. God's command to Moses, in verse 5, "Lead thy people out of the depths of darkness into the light"), the Qur'an is, as stated in the first and the last verses of this surah, a message for all mankind.

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

(1) Alif. Lam. Rd.'

A DIVINE WRIT [is this -a revelation] which We have bestowed upon thee from on high in order that thou might bring forth all mankind, by their Sustainer's leave, out of the depths of darkness into the light: onto the way that leads to the Almighty, the One to whom all praise is due - (2) to God, unto whom all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth belongs.

But woe unto those who deny the truth: for suffering severe (3) awaits those who choose the life of this world as the sole object of their love,' preferring it to [all thought of] the life to come, and who turn others away from the path of God and try to make it appear crooked. Such as these have indeed gone far astray!

(4) AND NEVER have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a message] in his own people's tongue, so that he might make [the truth] clear unto

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1 See Appendix II; also surah 11, note 1.

2 According to Zamakhshari and RRZT, this is the real meaning of the verbal form yastahibbun in the above context-implying that such an all-absorbing, exclusive love of the life of this world leads inevitably to a denial of moral truths.

SORAH 14

ABRAHAM

them;' but God lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides him that wills [to be guided] -for He alone is almighty, truly wise.

(5) And [thus], indeed, have We sent forth Moses with Our messages [and this Our command]: "Lead thy people out of the depths of darkness into the light, and remind them of the Days of God!"'

Verily, in this [reminder] there are messages indeed for all who are wholly patient in adversity and deeply grateful [to God].

(6) And, 10,6 Moses spoke [thus] unto his people: "Remember the blessings which God bestowed upon you when He saved you from Pharaoh's people who afflicted you with cruel suffering, and slaughtered your sons, and spared [only] your women'-which was an awesome trial from your Sustainer. (7) And [remember the time] when your Sustainer made [this promise] known: 'If you are grateful [to Me], I shall

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3 Since every divine writ was meant to be understood by man, it is obvious that each had to be formulated in the language of the people whom the particular prophet was addressing in the first instance; and the Qur'an - notwithstanding its universal import (cf. note 126 on 7 : 158) - is no exception in this respect.

4 Or: "God lets go astray whomever He wills, and guides whomever He wills". All Qur'anic references to God's "letting man go astray" must be understood against the background of 2 : 26-27 - "none does He cause to go astray save the iniquitous, who break their bond with God" (regarding which latter expression, see sarah 2, note 19): that is to say, man's "going astray" is a consequence of his own attitudes and inclinations and not a result of an arbitrary "predestination" in the popular sense of this word (cf. surah 2, note 7). In his commentary on the above verse, Zamakhshari stresses this aspect of free choice on the part of man and points out that "God does not cause anyone to go astray except one who, as He knows, will never attain to faith; and He does not guide anyone aright except one who, as He knows, will attain to faith. Hence, the [expression] 'causing to go astray' denotes [God's] leaving [one] alone (takhliyah) and depriving [him] of all favour, whereas [the expression] 'guidance' denotes [His] grant of fulfilment (tawfiq) and favour .... Thus, He does not forsake anyone except those who deserve to be forsaken, and does not bestow His favour upon anyone except those who deserve to be favoured." Commenting on the identical phrase occurring in 16: 93, Zamakhshari states: "[God] forsakes him who, as He knows, will [consciously] choose to deny the truth and will persevere in this [denial]; and ... He bestows His favour upon him who, as He knows, will choose faith: which means that He makes the issue dependent on [man's] free choice (al-ikhtiyar), and thus on his deserving either [God's] favour or the withdrawal of [His] aid ... and does not make it dependent on compulsion [i.e., predestination], which would rule out [man's] deserving anything of the above."

5 In ancient Arabian tradition, the terms "day" or "days" were often used to describe momentous historical events (e.g., ayydm al= arab as a metonym for the inter-tribal wars of pre-Islamic Arabia). However, in view of the frequent Qur'anic application of the word "day" to eschatological concepts -e.g., the "Last Day", the "Day of Resurrection", the "Day of Reckoning", and so forth-and, particularly, in view of 45 : 14, where the expression "the Days of God" unmistakably points to His judgment at the end of time - it is only logical to assume that in the present context this expression bears the same significance: namely, God's final judgment of man on the Day of Resurrection. The use of the plural form ("the Days of God") is perhaps meant to bring out the idea that the "Day" of which the Qur'an so often speaks has nothing to do with human time-definitions but, rather, alludes to an ultimate reality in which the concept of "time" has neither place nor meaning.

6 For this rendering of the particle idh, see sarah 2, note 21.

7 Cf. 2: 49; also Exodus i, 15-16 and 22.

IBRAHIM

SURAH

most certainly give you more and more;' but if you are ungrateful, verily, My chastisement will be severe indeed!"'

(8) And Moses added: "If you should [ever] deny the truth-you and whoever else lives on earth, all of you-[know that,] verily, God is indeed self-sufficient, ever to be praised!"

HAVE THE STORIES of those [deniers of the truth] who lived before you never yet come within your ken - [the stories of] the people of Noah, and of [the tribes of] `Ad and Thamud, and of those who came after them? None knows them [now] save God .9

There came unto them their apostles with all evidence of the truth -but they covered their mouths with their hands" and answered: "Behold, we refuse to regard as true the message with which you [claim to] have been entrusted; and, behold, we are .in grave doubt, amounting to suspicion, about [the meaning of] your call to us!""

(10) Said the apostles sent unto them:`2 "Can there be any doubt about [the existence and oneness of] God, the Originator of the heavens and the earth? It is He who calls unto you, so that He may forgive you [whatever is past] of your sins and grant you respite until a term [set by Him is fulfilled].""

[But] they replied: "You are nothing but mortal men like ourselves! You want to turn us away from

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8 Le., "even more than you deserve".

9 Le., they have disappeared from the face of the earth, and none save God knows today how many they were and how they lived. See verse 14 and note 18 below.

10 Lit., "they put their hands into their mouths" - an idiomatic phrase indicating one's inaability to refute a reasonable proposition by cogent, logical counter-arguments: for the out-of-hand rejection of the apostles' message by their recalcitrant compatriots cannot by any means be regarded as an "argument".

11 See surah 11, note 92. It is to be noted that whereas in 11 :62 this reply is placed in the mouth of people of one particular community -the Thamud -and is phrased in the singulaar ("thy call to us"), it appears here in the plural ("your call to us") and represents the gist of the answers given by various communities to various prophets. This generalization, underlying the entire subsequent account and containing echos of several Qur'anic narratives relating to the experiences of individual apostles of earlier times, is obviously meant to bring out the symptomatic character of the attitude referred to: the stubborn attitude of people who either deny God altogether, or - while not consciously denying His existence - yet fee[ compelled to interpose all manner of imaginary "mediators" (thought to be divine or semi-divine) between themselves and Him, thus denying, by implication, His omniscience and omnipotence.

12 Lit., "their apostles".

13 Le., "until the end of your life in this world". This is, I believe, an indirect allusion to the calamities which are bound to befall, even in this world, "those who are bent on denying the truth" (see the last paragraph of 13 : 31 and the corresponding note 57) -implying that they who consciously respond to the call of God, conveyed through His prophets, would be immune to this kind of suffering and would be graced with abiding spiritual happiness (cf. 13 : 29).

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ABRAHAM

what our forefathers were wont to worship: well, then, bring us a clear proof [of your being God's message-bearers]!"

(11) Their apostles answered them: "True, we are nothing but mortal men like yourselves: but God bestows His favour upon whomever He wills of His servants. Withal, it is not within our power to bring you a proof [of our mission], unless it be by God's leave-and [so] it is in God that all believers must place their trust. 14 (12) And how could we not place our trust in God, seeing that it is He who has shown us the path which we are to follow?"

"Hence, we shall certainly bear with patience whatever hurt you may do us: for, all who have trust [in His existence] must place their trust in God [alone] !"

(13) But they who denied the truth spoke [thus] unto their apostles: "We shall most certainly expel you from our land, unless you return forthwith to our ways r16

Whereupon their Sustainer revealed this to His apostles:" "Most certainly shall We destroy these evildoers, (14) and most certainly shall We cause you to dwell on earth [long] after they have passed away:" this is [My promise] unto all who stand in awe of My presence, and stand in awe of My warn

ing!"'9

(15) And they prayed [to God] that the truth be made to triumph."

14 I.e., it is to the contents of the divine message propounded to them that all seekers after truth must turn for illumination (see 7 : 75 and 13: 43, as well as the corresponding notes). The Quran dwells in many places (e.g., in 6: 109-111 or 13:31) on the futility - moral as well as intellectual-of the demand that the divine origin of a prophetic message should be proved by tangible, extraneous means: for, a morally valid and intellectually justifiable conviction of the intrinsic truth of such a message can be gained only through "conscious insight accessible to reason" (12: 108).

15 Lit., "guided us on our paths--a plural indicating (as does the whole of the passage beginning with verse 9) the fundamental identity of the message preached by all the prophets.

16 Cf. 7: 88-89, where this alternative is placed before Shu'ayb.

17 Lit., "to them".

18 Lit., "after them": implying a divine promise that the truth preached by the apostles would outlive its detractors (cf. verse 9 above, "None knows them [now] save God"), and would triumph in the end.

19 As Zamakhshari points out, the divine promise expressed in the above verse is equivalent to the statement in 7 : 128 that "the future (al= dgibah) belongs to the God-conscious".

20 Or: "they [i.e., the apostles] prayed for victory" or "for [God's] aid" -both these meanings being contained in the noun fath, with which the verbal form istaftahu, used here, is connected. It should be borne in mind that the primary significance of fataha is "he opened", and of istaftaha, "he sought to open [something]" or "he desired that it be opened". Thus, the above passage echoes, in a generalized form, Shu'ayb's prayer in 7 :89, "Lay Thou open (iftah) the truth between us and our people".

IBRAHIM

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And [thus it is:] every arrogant enemy of the truth shall be undone [in the life to come], (16) with hell awaiting him;" and he shall be made to drink of the water of most bitter distress," (17) gulping it [unceasingly,] little by little, and yet hardly able to swallow it.2' And death will beset him from every quarter - but he shall not die: for [yet more] severe suffering lies ahead of him.

(18) [This, then, is] the parable of those who are bent on denying their Sustainer: all their works" are as ashes which the wind blows about fiercely on a stormy day: [in the life to come,] they cannot achieve any benefit whatever from all [the good] that they may have wrought: for this [denial of God] is indeed the farthest one can go astray.25

(19) ART THOU NOT aware that God has created the heavens and the earth in accordance with [an inner] truth?26 He can, if He so wills, do away with you and bring forth a new mankind [in your stead] :27 (20) nor is this difficult for God.

(21) And all [mankind] will appear before God [on the Day of Judgment]; and then the weak28 will say

21 Lit., "[with] hell beyond him", i.e., as his destiny. For my rendering of jabbar, in this context, as "enemy of the truth", see the first part of note 58 on 26 : 130.

22 The word sadrd is an infinitive noun of sadda. which in its primary meaning denotes "he turned away" or "was averse [from something]"; also - as noted in the Qamus and the Asas - "he cried out loudly" (i.e., by reason of his aversion to something). Since sadrd signifies anything that is repulsive, it is also used tropically to describe the pus that flows from wounds or the viscous liquid that oozes from corpses. In his commentary on this verse, RazY suggests that the expression md' sadrd is here purely metaphorical, and should be understood as "water like [what is described as] sadrd". It is in pursuance of this interpretation that I have rendered the above expression as "waters of most bitter distress" - a metaphor of the boundless suffering and bitter frustration which, in the life to come, awaits those who during their life in this world were bent on denying all spiritual truths. (Cf. the expression sharab min ham rm -rendered by me as "a draught of burning despair"-occurring in several places and elucidated in note 62 on 6: 70.)

23 I.e., to reconcile himself to this suffering.

24 I.e., even the good ones (Razi).

25 Lit., "this, this is the straying far-away". The definite article in the expression ad-dalal al-bard, preceded by the pronouns dhalika huwa, is meant to stress the extreme degree of this "straying far-away" or "going astray": a construction that can be rendered in English only by a paraphrase, as above. It is to be noted that this phrase occurs in the Qur'an only twice- namely, in the above passage and in 22: 12 -and refers in both cases to a denial, conscious or implied, of God's oneness and uniqueness.

26 See note 11 on 10: 5.

27 Lit., "bring forth a new creation" or "new people", for it should be remembered that the term khalq denotes not merely "creation" or "act of creation" but also "people" or "mankind", which seems to be its meaning here (Ibn `Abbas, as quoted by Razl).

28 I.e., those who had sinned out of moral weakness and self-indulgence, relying on the supposedly superior wisdom of the so-called "leaders of thought", who are described in the sequence as having "gloried in their arrogance" (astakbara) inasmuch as they refused to pay heed to God's messages (Tabari, on the authority of Ibn `Abbas).

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ABRAHAM

unto those who had gloried in their arrogance: "Behold, We were but your followers: can you, then, r,elieve us of something of God's chastisement?"

[And the others] will answer: "If God would but show us the way [to salvation], we would indeed guide you [towards it7.'9 It is [now] all one, as far as we are concerned, whether we grieve impatiently or endure [our lot] with patience: there is no escape for us!"

(22) And when everything will have been decided, Satan will say: "Behold, God promised you something that was bound to come true!' I, too, held out [all manner of] promises to you -but I deceived you. Yet I had no power at all over you: I but called you-and you responded unto me. Hence, blame not me, but blame yourselves." It is not for me to respond to your cries, nor for you to respond to mine:" for, behold, I have [always] refused to admit that there was any truth in your erstwhile belief that I had a share in God's divinity.""

29 Sc., "but now it is too late for repentance". According to Tabari and Razi, this is the meaning of the above passage. Zamakhshari, however, prefers another interpretation, implying a reference not to the present but to the past, thus: "`If God had guided us aright, we would have guided you [too] aright": in other words, he understands the phrase as an attempt on the part of the doomed to divest themselves of all responsibility, and to attribute their past sinning to God's "not having willed" to guide them aright. To my mind, the interpretation offered by Tabar-i and Razi is preferable because-all other considerations apart-it provides a logical connection between the request of "the weak" (see preceding note) and the reply of those who in their earthly life had "gloried in their arrogance", as well as with the latters' subsequent, despairing utterance, which can be summed up in the words, "too late!"

30 Lit., "God promised you a promise of truth" - i.e., the promise of resurrection and last judgment.

31 In his commentary on this passage, Razi remarks: "This verse shows that the real Satan (ash-shaytan al-asIT) is [man's own] complex of desires (an-nafs): for, Satan makes it clear [in the above] that it was only by means of insinuations '(was wasah) that he was able to reach [the sinner's soul]; and had it not been for an already-existing [evil] disposition due to lusts, anger, superstition or fanciful ideas, these [satanic] insinuations would have had no effect whatsoever."

32 Le., "I cannot respond to your call for help, just as you should not have, in your lifetime, responded to my call." The above sentence is often interpreted in another sense, namely, "I cannot succour you, just as you cannot succour me". However, in view of Satan's allegorical reference-in the preceding passages as well as in the next sentence-to the sinners' earthly past, the rendering adopted by me seems to be more suitable; moreover, it is closer to the primary meaning of the verb sarakha ("he cried out"), from which the form musrikh ("one who responds to a cry") is derived (Jawhari).

33 This is, to my mind, the meaning of the highly elliptical phrase kafartu bi-md ashraktumanr min gabl, which could be literally-but most inadequately-translated thus: "I have refused to admit the truth of that whereby you associated me aforetime [with God]." The implication is that Satan, while endeavouring to lead men astray, never claims to be God's "equal" (cf. 7 : 20, where he speaks of God, to Adam and Eve, as "your Sustainer", or 15 :36 and 39, where he addresses Him as "my Sustainer", or 8 : 48 and 59 : 16, where he says, "behold, 1 fear God") but, rather, tries to make men's sinful doings "seem goodly to them" (cf. 6 : 43, 8 : 48, 16: 63, 27: 24, 29: 38), i.e., persuades them that it is morally justifiable to follow one's fancies and selfish desires without any restraint. But while Satan himself does not make any claim to equality with God, the sinner who

IBRAHIM

SURAH

Verily, for all evildoers' there is grievous suffering in store. '

(23)_ But those who shall have attained to faith and done righteous deeds will be brought into gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide by their Sustainer's leave, and will be welcomed with the greeting, "Peace!""

(24) ART THOU NOT aware how God sets forth the parable of a good word? [It is] like a good tree, firmly rooted, [reaching out] with its branches towards the sky, (25) yielding its fruit at all times by its Sustainer's leave.

And [thus it is that] God propounds parables unto men,' so that they might bethink themselves [of the truth]."

(26) And the parable of a corrupt word is that of a corrupt tree, torn up [from its roots] onto the face of the earth, wholly unable to endure.'$

(27) [Thus,] God grants firmness unto those who have attained to faith through the word that is unshakably true'' in the life of this world as well as in the life to come; but the wrongdoers He lets go

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submits to Satan's blandishments attributes to him thereby, as it were, "a share in God's divinity".-It must be stressed, in this connection, that the~Qur'anic expression shaytan is often used as a metaphor for every human impulse that is intrinsically immoral and, therefore, contrary to man's best - i.e., spiritual - interests.

34 I.e., all those who had consciously-either from intellectual arrogance or from moral weakness -responded to "Satan's call".

35 As in 10: 10, this phrase reads literally, "their greeting therein [will be],'Peace!' (salam)"-a term which has been explained in surah 5, note 29.

36 In its wider meaning, the term kalimah ("word") denotes any conceptual statement or proposition. Thus, a "good word" circumscribes any proposition (or idea) that is intrinsically true and - because it implies a call to what is good in the moral sense - is ultimately beneficent and enduring; and since a call to moral righteousness is the innermost purport of every one of God's messages, the term "good word" applies to them as well. Similarly, the "corrupt word" mentioned in verse 26 applies to the opposite of what a divine message aims at: namely, to every idea that is intrinsically false or morally evil and, therefore, spiritually harmful.

37 See note 33 on the first clause of 39: 27.

38 Lit., "having no permanance (garar) whatever": i.e., the "corrupt word" (see note 36 above) is ephemeral in its effect, however strong its original impact on the minds of people who fall prey

 

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39 Lit., "firm" (thabit). The term Bawl -similar to the term kalimah (see note 36 above) - denoteo,beyond its primary meaning of "saying" or "utterance", also anything that can be defined as a statement of belief or opinion, namely, "concept", "tenet", "assertion of faith", and so on. In this context it expresses the concept that there is no deity save God, and that Muhammad is His Apostle: which is an interpretation of the above phrase given by the Prophet himself, as quoted by Bukhdri in a Tradition on the authority of Al-Bard' ibn `Azib (Kitdb at-Tafsir), and by other Traditionists, including Muslim, on the authority of Shu`bah. The adjective thabit connotes the "firmness"-that is, the unshakable truth-of the "word" (or "concept",) which it qualifies, thus connecting it with the preceding parable of the "good word" and the "good tree".

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astray: for God does whatever He wills.

(28) ART THOU NOT aware of those who have preferred a denial of the truth to God's blessings 4' and [thereby] invited their people to alight in that abode of utter

desolation (29) - hell - which they [themselves] will ' have to endure?4z And how vile a state to settle in! (30) For, they claimed that there are powers that could rival God,' and so they strayed from His path. Say: "Enjoy yourselves [in this world], but, verily, the fire will be your journey's end!" ' (31) [And] tell [those of] My servants who have attained to faith that they should be constant in prayer and spend [in Our way], secretly and openly, out of what We provide for them as sustenance," ere there come a Day when there will be no bargaining, and no mutual befriending.'

(32) [And remember that] it is God who has created the heavens and the earth, and who sends down water from the sky and therpby brings forth [all manner] of fruits for your sustenance; and who has made ships subservient to. you, so that they may sail through the sea at His behest; and has made the rivers subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you; (33) and has made the sun and the moon, both of them constant upon their courses, subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you; and has made the night and the day subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you."

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40 See note 4 on verse 4 of this surah.

41 Lit., "who have exchanged God's blessings for a denial of the truth". The expression "God's blessings (ni'mah)" obviously refers here to the messages revealed through His apostles.

42 This is evidently an allusion to the relationship between the arrogant leaders of thought and their weak followers spoken of in verse 21 above.

43 Lit., "they gave God compeers (anddd)". For an explanation of my paraphrase of this sentence (fully justified by Razi), see surah 2, note 13.-The particle li prefixed to the subsequent verb li-yudillu does not denote intent but is a so-called lam al-`dgibah, i.e., "the [letter] lam indicating a consequence" or "a result" (Razi), and is in this case suitably rendered as "and so".

44 See surah 2, note 4.

45 Cf. 2: 254. According to the philologist Abu `Ubaydah, as quoted by Razi, the expression bay` ("selling and buying" or "bargaining") denotes here the metaphorical "[giving and taking] ransom" which, as the Qur'an repeatedly stresses, will be inadmissible on the Day of Judgment (cf. 3 : 91 and the corresponding note 71, as well as 5 : 36, 10: 54, 13: 18, 39: 47 and 70: 11-15); similarly, the denial of khildl - which Abu `Ubaydah regards as synonymous, in this context, with mukhdlah ("mutual befriending")-expresses the impossibility of "ransom" through intercession on Judgment Day, for "now, indeed, you have come unto Us in a lonely state, even as We created you in the first instance" (6: 94).

46 Almost all classical commentators agree that God's having made the natural phenomena "subservient" to man is a metaphor (majaz) for His having enabled man to derive lasting benefit from them: hence my explanatory interpolations. In the same sense, the night and the day are spoken of in 10: 67, 27 : 86 or 40: 61 as having been "made for you" (resp. "for them").

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(34) And [always] does He give you something out of what you may be asking of Him ;47 and should you try to count God's blessings, you could never compute them.

[And yet,] behold, man is indeed most persistent in wrongdoing, stubbornly ingrate!

AND [remember the time] when Abraham spoke [thus]:" "O my Sustainer! Make this land secure,49 and preserve me and my children from ever worshipping idols"-(36) for, verily, O my Sustainer, these [false objects of worship] have led many people astray!

"Hence, [only] he who follows me [in this my faith]~ is truly of me;s' and as for him who disobeys me - Thou art, verily, much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!

(37) "O our Sustainer! Behold, I have settled some of my offspring in a valley in which there is no arable land," close to Thy sanctified Temple, so that, O our Sustainer, they might devote themselves to prayer: cause Thou, therefore, people's hearts to incline towards them 53 and grant them fruitful sustenance,

47 Le., God satisfies every one of man's desires, provided that His unfathomable wisdom regards its satisfaction as ultimately beneficial to the human being concerned: this is the meaning of the preposition min (lit., "out of", but in this context, "something out of") preceding the phrase "what you may be. asking".

48 The whole of this passage (verses 35-41)-from which the title of this surah is derivedrepresents a parenthetic reminder, in the form of Abraham's prayer, of the only way to righteousness, in the deepest sense of the word, open to man: namely, a recognition of God's existence, oneness and uniqueness and, hence, a rejection of all belief in "other powers" supposedly co-existent with Him (cf. verse 30 above). Inasmuch as this prayer implies a realization of, and gratitude for, God's infinite bounty, it connects directly with the preceding verse 34 and the subsequent verse 42.

49 Le., the land in which the Ka~bah is situated (see surah 2, note 102) and, more specifically, Mecca.

50 The term "idols" (asndm, sing. sanam) does not apply exclusively to actual, concrete representations of false "deities": for shirk -that is, an attribution of divine powers or qualities to anyone or anything beside God-may consist also, as Razi points out, in a worshipful devotion to all manner of "causative agencies and outward means to an end" - an obvious allusion to wealth, power, luck, people's favour or disfavour, and so forth-"whereas genuine faith in the oneness and uniqueness of God (at-tawhfd al-mahd) consists in divesting oneself of all inner attachment to [such] causative agencies and in being convinced that there exists no real directing power apart from God".

51 Thus, Abraham accepts God's verdict (given descendants.

in 2 : 124) regarding the sinners from among his

52 Le., the narrow desert valley of Mecca, which is enclosed by barren, rocky hills. By "some of my offspring" Abraham refers to Ishmael and his descendants who settled at Mecca.

53 Le., to be desirous of visiting them - namely, on pilgrimage to Mecca - and thus help them to maintain themselves in the holy but barren land. The phrase af'idah min an-nds lends itself also to the rendering "the hearts of some people", in which case it could be taken to mean "the hearts of the believers" (Baghawi, Razi, Ibn Kathir).

378

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ABRAHAM

so that they might have cause to be grateful.

(38) "O our Sustainer! Thou truly knowest all that we may hide [in our hearts] as well as all that we bring into the open:' for nothing whatever, be it on earth or in heaven, remains hidden from God.

(39) "All praise is due to God, who has bestowed

upon me, in my old age, Ishmael and Isaac! Behold, my Sustainer hears indeed all prayer: (40) [hence,] O my Sustainer, cause me and [some] of my offspring to remain constant in prayer !Ss

"And, O our Sustainer, accept this my prayer: (41) Grant Thy forgiveness unto me, and my parents, and all the believers, on the Day on which the [last] reckoning will come to pass!"

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(42) AND DO NOT think that God is unaware of what the evildoers are doing: He but grants them respite until the Day when their eyes will stare in horror, (43) the while they will be running confusedly to and fro, with their heads upraised [in supplication], unable to look away from what they shall behold, e and their hearts an abysmal void.

(44) Hence, warn men of the Day when this suffering may befall them, and when those who did wrong [in their lifetime] will exclaim: "O our Sustainer! Grant us respite for a short while, so that we might respond to Thy call and follow the apostles!""

[But God will answer:] "Why - were you not aforetime wont to swear that no kind of resurrection and retribution awaited you?" (45) And yet, you

54 I.e., metonymically, "to remain utterly devoted to Thee". The particle min ("[some] of") preceding the word dhurriyati ("my offspring") is obviously an allusion to 2 : 124, where God says in answer to Abraham's question about his descendants: "My covenant does not embrace the evildoers." Thus, Abraham has been given to understand that not all of his posterity would be righteous and that none can claim to belong to a "chosen people" by virtue of his or her descent from an apostle of God: a statement which relates not only to the Israelites, who descended from Abraham through Isaac, but also to the Arabian (Ishmaelite) branch of the Abrahamic peoples, from whom the Quraysh were to spring: hence, by implication, even to the unrighteous among the descendants of the Last Prophet, Muhammad, who belonged to the tribe of Quraysh.

55 This verse connects with the last sentence of Abraham's prayer, namely, his reference to "the Day on which the [last] reckoning will come to pass". The wrongdoers mentioned here are those who indulge in the belief "that there are other powers that can rival God" (cf. verse 30 above), and thus commit the unforgivable sin of shirk. As regards the "respite" granted to them, see the first clause of I1 : 20 and the corresponding note 39.

56 Lit., "their gaze will not revert to them".

57 Cf. 6 : 27.

58 Lit., "that there would be no going down [or "no removal"] whatever for you" - i.e., no passing-over from earthly life to a life in the hereafter, attended by God's retribution of sins: a reference to many people's refusal, often mentioned in the Qur'an, to believe in life after death and, hence, in God's ultimate judgment.

IBRAFIIM

SURAH

dwelt in the dwelling-places of those who had sinned against their own selves [before your time],59 and it was made obvious to you how We had dealt with them: for We have set forth unto you many a parable [of sin, resurrection and divine retribution]."'

(46) And [this retribution will befall all evildoers because] they devise that false imagery of theirs" - and all their false imagery is within God's knowledge.

[And never can the blasphemers prevail against the truth - not] even if their false imagery were so (welldevised and so powerful] that mountains could be moved thereby.

(47) HENCE, do not think that God will fail to fulfil the promise which He gave to His apostles :62 verily, God is almighty, an avenger of evil!

(48) [His promise will be fulfilled] on the Day when the earth shall be changed into another earth, as shall be the heavens 6' and when [all men] shall appear before God, the One who holds absolute sway over all that exists. (49) For on that Day thou wilt see all who were lost in sin linked together in fetters," (50) clothed in garments of black pitch, with fire veiling their faces.6'

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59 I.e., "you lived on the same earth, and in basically the same human environment, as those earlier generations who offended against all ethical values and thereby brought destruction upon themselves: hence, their tragic fate should have been a warning to you".

60 Lit., "the parables", i.e., the parables in the Qur'an which illuminate the idea of resurrection and of God's final judgment (Rail). See also note 37 above.

61 Lit., "they devised their devising", i.e., their blasphemous belief in the existence of other "divine powers" side by side with God: this is the interpretation given by Tabarl towards the end of his long commentary on this verse. For my rendering of the term makr, in this context, as "false imagery", see surah 13, note 62.

62 I.e., the promise of resurrection and recompense on the Day of Judgment. This relates specifically to the "respite" occasionally granted to evildoers for the duration of their lifetime (cf. verse 42 above).

63 This is an allusion to the total, cataclysmic change, on the Last Day, of all natural phenomena, and thus of the universe as known to man (cf. 20: 105-107 and the corresponding note 90). Since that change will be beyond anything that man has ever experienced or what the human mind can conceive, all the Qur'anic descriptions - in the next two verses as well as in many other places-of what is to happen on that Last Day are, of necessity, expressed in allegorical terms: and this applies also to all descriptions of man's condition, good or bad, in, the life to come. (Cf. note 37 above, relating to the term "parable" often used in the Qur'an.)

64 In his commentary on this passage, Razi expresses the view that the reference to the sinners' being "linked together in fetters" is a metaphor of their own evil deeds and inclinations and, consequently, of the utter despair which will be common to all of them in the hereafter. To my mind, it may also be an allusion to the chain-reaction which every evil deed is bound to set in motion on earth, one evil unavoidably begetting another.

65 According to Razl, the "garments of black pitch (gatirdn)"' and the "fire veiling their faces" are metaphors of the inexpressible suffering and loathsome horror which will enwrap the sinners' souls on the Day of Judgment. (See also sarah 73, note 7.)

14

(51) [And all shall be judged on that Day,] so that God may requite every human being for all that he has earned [in life]: verily, God is swift in reckoning!

(52) THIS IS A MESSAGE unto all mankind. Hence, let them be warned thereby, and let them know that He is the One and Only God; and let those who are endowed with insight take this to heart!

 

 

 

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