THE FIFTEENTH SURAH
CCORDING to SuyQti, this sarah was revealed very shortly
after sarah 12 (Yasuf): in other words, during the last year before the
Prophet's exodus to
As in most sarahs of this period, the main theme of Al-Hijr is the evidence of God's creative activity and of the guidance vouchsafed by Him to man through revelation-especially the revelation of the Qur'an, which, as verse 9 predicts, will for all times remain impervious to corruption.
The title, derived from the mention in verse -80 of the Arabian region known as Al-Hijr, obviously 'suggested itself to the Prophet's Companions bechuse of the many legends attached to that place-name since `time immemorial. That it is a place-name and not a description ("rocky tract" or. according to some, "forbidden tract") is evident from the fact that an ancient township of that name, long since non-existent, is mentioned by Ptolemy as "Hegra" and by Pliny as "Egra". Consequently, I have left this title untranslated.
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:
THESE ARE MESSAGES of revelation -of a discourse clear in itself and clearly showing the truth.` (2) And it will come to pass that those who are [now] bent on denying this truth will wish that they ~`
had surrendered themselves to God [in their life
(3) Leave them alone; let them eat and enjoy themselves the while the hope [of vain delights] be
guiles them: for in time they will come to know [the truth].
(4) And never have We destroyed any community
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1 See Appendix II.
2 Regarding this lengthy rendering of the participial adjective mubfn, see sarah 12, note 2. In the above context, the term qur'dn (which, whenever it appears without the definite article al, denotes a solemn "recital" or "discourse") is preceded by the conjunction wa, which, in its simplest connotation, signifies "and"; but since it is used here to stress the present, particular instance of the divine writ (al-kitab), it can be omitted in the translation without affecting the meaning of the sentence.
3 Since this revelation-i.e., the Qur'an-is clear in itself and clearly shows the truth, those who deliberately reject it now will have no excuse on Resurrection Day. As so often in the Qur'an, the past tense in the expression alladhina kafara is indicative of conscious intent (see sarah 2, note 6).
[for its wrongdoing] unless a divine writ had (previously] been made known to it;` (5) [but remember that] no community can ever forestall [the end of] its term - and neither can they delay [it].5
(6) And yet, they [who deny the truth] say: "O thou unto whom this reminder has [allegedly] been bestowed from on high: verily, thou art mad! (7) Why dost thou not bring before us angels, if thou art a man of truth?"'
(8) [Yet] We never send down angels otherwise than in accordance with the [demands of] truth;' and [were the angels to appear now,] lo! they [who reject this divine writ] would have no further respite!'
(9) Behold, it is We Ourselves who have bestowed from on high, step by step, this reminder? and, behold, it is We who shall truly guard it [from all corruption]. '°
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(10) AND, INDEED, [O Prophet,] even before thy time did We send [Our apostles] unto communities" of old -
4 Lit., "unless it [the community] had a known divine writ (kitab ma'lum)"-i.e., unless the people in question had been shown through a divine writ the meaning of right and wrong, and had deliberately rejected this divine guidance: cf. the statement, in 26:208, that "never have We destroyed any community unless it had had its warners", or in 6: 131, that God "would never destroy a community for its wrongdoing so long as its people are still unaware [of the meaning of right and wrong]".
5 I.e., every community - and, in the widest sense of this term, every civilization - has a God-willed, organic span of life resembling in this respect all other living organisms, destined to grow, to reach maturity and ultimately to decay. For the ethical implications of this law of nature and its bearing on the passage that follows, see 7 :34 and the corresponding note 25.
6 Cf. 6 : 8-9. The reference of the unbelievers to the Prophet's revelation is obviously sarcastic (Zamakhshari); hence my interpolation of the word "allegedly". Although these verses relate primarily to the pagan contemporaries of the Prophet, they broadly describe the negative attitude of unbelievers of all times.
7 Sc., "and not just to satisfy a frivolous demand of people who-refuse to consider a prophetic message on its merits". Moreover-as is evident from the next clause-an actual appearance of the angels to ordinary men would but presage the Day of Judgment (described in 78: 39 as "the Day of Ultimate Truth") and, thus, the doom of the deniers of the truth spoken of here.
8 Cf. 6: 8-"had We sent down an angel, all would indeed have been decided", i.e., the Day of Judgment would have come.
9 I.e., the Qur'an. The grammatical form nazzalnd implies a gradual revelation ("step by step") over a period of time, as has been pointed out by Zamakhshar! in his commentary on 2 : 23 (see the last sentence of my corresponding note 14).
10 This prophecy has been strikingly confirmed by the fact that the text of the Qur'an has remained free from all alterations, additions or deletions ever since it was enunciated by the Prophet in the seventh century of the Christian era; and there is no other instance of any book, of whatever description, which has been similarly preserved over such a length of time. The early-noted variants in the reading of certain words of the Qur'an, occasionally referred to by the classical commentators, represent no more than differences in respect of diacritical marks or of vocalisation, and, as a rule, do not affect the meaning of the passage in question. (See also note 11 on 85 : 22, explaining the expression lawh mahfaz.)
11 The term shl ah denotes a distinct group of people having in common the same persuasion
(11) and never yet came an apostle to them without their deriding him. (12) Even so do We [now] cause this [scorn of Our message] to pervade the hearts of those who are lost in sin, (13) who do not believe in it,". although the way which those [evildoers] of olden times had to go has long been within their ken."
(14) Yet even had We opened to them a gateway to heaven and they had ascended, on and on, up to it, (15) they would surely have said, "It is only our eyes that are spellbound! Nay, we have been bewitched !,, 14
(16) AND, INDEED, We have set up in the heavens great constellations," and endowed them with beauty for all to behold; (17) and We have made them secure against every satanic force accursed `6-(18) so that anyone who seeks to learn [the unknowable] by stealth is pursued by a flame clear to see."
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or adhering to the same principles of behaviour, and is sometimes (though not here) used in the sense of "sect".
12 Cf. 6: 10 and the corresponding note 9. My interpolation of the words "derision of Our message" is based on Tabari's and Zamakhshari's interpretations of the above passage. Regarding God's "causing" the deniers of the truth to sin, see sarah 2, note 7, as well as surah 14, note 4.
13 Lit., "although the way of life (sunnah) of those of olden times has aiready passed"-i.e., although the manner in which God has dealt with them has long since become a matter of common knowledge (Ibn Kathir).
14 Lit., "we are people bewitched". Cf. 6: 7, as well as the last paragraph of 10:2 and the corresponding note 5. The confusing of revealed truths with illusory "enchantment" or "sorcery" is often pointed out in the Qur'an as characteristic of the attitude of people who a priori refuse to accept the idea of revelation and, thus, of prophethood. The above two verses, implying that not even a direct insight into the wonders of heaven could convince "those who are bent on denying the truth", are a prelude to the subsequent passage, which once again draws our attention to the wonders of nature as an evidence of God's creative activity.
15 My rendering of buraj as "great constellations" is based on the Tdj al= Aras; among the classical commentators, Baghawi, Baydawi and Ibn Kathir give the same interpretation, while Tabarl (on the authority of Mujahid and Qatadah) explains this term as signifying "the stars" in general.
16 The term shaytan ("satan") -derived from the verb shatana ("he was [or "became"] remote") -often denotes in the Qur'an a force or influence remote from, and opposed to, all that is true and good (Tai al= Aras, Raghib): thus, for instance, in 2 : 14 it is used to describe the evil impulses (shaydtfn) within the hearts of "those who are bent on denying the truth". In its widest, abstract sense it denotes every "satanic force", i.e., every impulsion directed towards ends which are contrary to valid ethical postulates. In the present context, the phrase "every satanic force accursed (rajfm)"-like the phrase "every rebellious (mdrid) satanic force" in a similar context in 37:7-apparently refers to endeavours, strongly condemned in Islam, to divine the future by means of astrological speculations: hence the preceding reference to the skies and the stars. The statement that God has made the heavens "secure" against such satanic forces obviously implies that He has made it impossible for the latter to obtain, through astrology or what is popularly described as "occult sciences", any real knowledge of "that which is beyond the reach of human perception" (al-ghayb).
17 Lit., "excepting [or "except that"] anyone who seeks to hear by stealth.. .", etc. The implication seems to be that any attempt at fathoming the mysteries of the unknowable by such illicit means ("by stealth") is inevitably followed by "a flame clear to see", i.e., by burning, self-evident frustration. (Cf. also 37 : 10.)
(19) And the earth -We have spread it out wide, and placed on it mountains firm, and caused [life] of every kind to grow on it in a balanced manner, (20) and provided thereon means of livelihood for you [O men] as well as for all [living beings] whose sustenance does not depend on you.'8
(21) For, no single thing exists that does not have its source with Us;` and nought do We bestow from on high unless it be in accordance with a measure well-defined."
(22) And We let loose the winds to fertilize [plants] 2' and We send down water from the skies and let you drink thereof: and it is not you who dispose of its source-(23) for, behold, it is We-We alone -who grant life and deal death, and it is We alone who shall remain after all else will have passed away !22
(24) And well do We know [the hearts and deeds,of all human beings - both] those who lived before you and those who will come after you;2' (25) and, behold, it is thy Sustainer who will gather them all together [on Judgment Day]: verily, He is wise, all-knowing!
(26) AND, INDEED, We have created man out of sounding clay, out of dark - slime transmuted 24 - (27)
18 Lit., "whose providers you are not"; i.e., all living organisms -whether plants or animalswhich are not tended by man but are nevertheless provided for. in its wider sense, this phrase stresses the notion that all living beings-man included-are provided for by God, and by Him alone (cf. 11 : 6).
19 Lit., "but with Us are its storehouses".
20 Lit., "and We do not send it down [i.e., "create it"] otherwise than according to a measure known [to Us]": that is, in accordance with the exigencies of God's plan as such and with the function which any particular thing or phenomenon is to have within that plan.
21 I.e., by pollination as well as by bringing rain-clouds.
22 Lit., "We are [or "shall be"] the inheritors (al-wdrithan)": an idiomatic metaphor based, according to the consensus of all classical commentators, on the use of the term "inheritor" or "heir" in the sense of "one who remains after his predecessor has passed away"-in this case, after all creation has perished. (Cf. the expression "the heritage of the heavens and of the earth" used, with reference to God, in 3 : 180 and 57:10.)
23 Or: "those of you who hasten forward [towards Us], and those who lag behind". Both these interpretations are considered equally legitimate by the early commentators.
24 There are many references in the Qur'an to man's having been "created out of clay (tin)" or "out of dust (turdb)", both these terms signifying man's lowly biological origins as well as the fact that his body is composed of various organic and inorganic substances existing-in other combinations or in their elementary forms-on or in the earth. The term salsdl, occurring in three verses of this sarah as well as in 55: 14, adds a further dimension to this concept. According to most of the philological authorities, it denotes "dried clay that emits a sound" (i.e., when it is struck); and since it is used in the Qur'an exclusively with reference to the creation of man, it seems to contain an allusion to the power of articulate speech which distinguishes man from all other animal species, as well as to the brittleness of his existence (cf. the expression "like pottery" in 55: 14). As the construction of the sentence shows, this salsdl is stated to have evolved (Razi)
whereas the invisible beings We had created, [long] before that, out of the fire of scorching winds." (28) And lo! Thy Sustainer said unto the angels: "Behold, I am about to create mortal man out of sounding clay, out of dark slime transmuted; (29) and when I have formed him fully and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down before him in prostration!"' (30) Thereupon the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together, (31) save IblTs: he refused to be among those who prostrated themselves.`'
(32) Said He: "O IblTs! What is thy reason for not being among those who have prostrated themselves?" (33) [Ib1Ts] replied: "It is not for me to prostrate myself before mortal man whom Thou hast created out of sounding clay, out of dark slime transmuted!" (34) Said He: "Go forth, then, from this [angelic state]: for, behold, thou art [henceforth] accursed, (35) and [My] rejection shall be thy due'' until the Day of Judgment!"
(36) Said [Ib1Ts]: "Then, O my Sustainer, grant me a respite till the Day when all shall be raised from the dead!"
(37) Answered He: "Verily, so be it: thou shalt be among those who are granted respite (38) till the Day the time whereof is known [to Me alone]."
(39) [Whereupon IblTs] said: "O my Sustainer! Since Thou hast thwarted me, '9 I shall indeed make
out of hama' - which, according to some authorities, is the plural of ham'ah, signifying "dark, fetid mud" or "dark slime"-while the participial adjective masnitn which qualifies this noun denotes, as RazT points out, both "altered" (i.e., in its composition) and "brought into shape": hence my rendering of this expression as "transmuted", which to some extent combines both of the above meanings. To my mind, we have here a description of the primeval biological environment out of which the "sounding clay" - the matrix, as it were - of man's physical body has evolved in acccordance with God's plan of creation.
25 Cf. 55: 15- "out of the confusing flame of fire (mdrij min nar)": i.e., of non-corporeal elements. The noun al-jdnn, rendered by me as "the invisible beings", is in reality a singular, denoting here the kind of these particular beings or forces, similar to the use of the singular noun "man" (al-insan) which describes the collective entity "mankind". The etymology of the word jdnn (the plural of which is jinn) has been briefly touched upon in note 86 on 6: 100; a more detailed discussion of its meaning is found in Appendix III.
26 Cf. 2 : 30-34 and the corresponding notes, as well as 7 : 11-18. The allegorical character of all the passages bearing on the creation of man and on God's command to the angels to prostrate themselves before him is brought out clearly in God's saying, "I am about to create mortal man ... ; and when I have formed him fully. ..", etc.: for it is obvious that, in reality, no lapse of time is required for God's completing His creation - since, "when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, 'Be'-and it is" (cf. 2: 117, 3 : 47 and 59, 6: 73, 16:40, 19: 35, 36: 82 and 40: 68). God's "breathing of His spirit" into man is obviously a metaphor for His endowing him with life and consciousness: that is, with a soul.
27 See note 10 on 7 : It. For the deeper meaning of this "rebellion", see note 31 below. 28 Lit., "is upon thee".
29 See surah 7, note 11.
[all that is evil] on earth seem goodly to them, and shall most certainly beguile them-into grievous error - (40) (alll save such of them as are truly Thy servants!"3')
(41) Said He: "This is, with Me. a straight way:" (42) verily, thou shalt have no power over My creatures- unless it be such as are [already] lost in grievous error and follow thee [of their own will]:`' (43) and for all such, behold, hell is the promised goal. (44) with seven gates leading into it, each gate receiving its allotted share of sinners.-33
(45) VERILY, those who are conscious of God [shall find themselves in the hereafter] amidst gardens and springs, (46) [having been received with the greeting,] "Enter here in peace, secure!"
(47) And [by then] We shall have removed whatever unworthy thoughts or feelings may have been [lingering] in their breasts, [and they shall rest] as brethren, facing one another [in love] upon thrones of happiness.'° (48) No weariness shall ever touch them
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30 Lit., "Thy sincere servants": i.e., those who are so deeply conscious of God that no "blandishment of Satan" can lead them astray. (See also note 32 below.)
31 I.e., "this is what I have willed" - namely, that Iblis (or Satan) should tempt man, but should have no power to seduce those who are truly conscious of God. Thus, the Qur'an makes it clear that despite his ostensible "rebellion" against his Creator. Satan fulfils a definite function in God's plan: he is the eternal tempter who enables man to exercise his God-given freedom of choice between good and evil and, thus, to become a being endowed with moral free will. (See in this connection 19: 83, as well as note 26 on 2: 34 and note 16 on 7 : 24.)
32 Lit., "except him who shall follow thee from among those who are lost in grievous error". (Cf. 14: 22, according to which Satan will thus address his erstwhile followers on Judgment Day: "I had no power at all over you: I but called you-and you responded unto me.") This phrase constitutes the essential difference between the above passage and the similar one in 7 : l1-18.
33 Lit., "it has seven gates, [with) an allotted share of them for each gate". This probably means "seven degrees" of hell, i.e., of the suffering which, in the life to come, awaits the "followers of Satan" in accordance with the gravity of their sins (Razi; a similar explanation is given by Qatadah, as quoted by Tabari). It should also be remembered that the concept of "hell" as such is referred to in the Qur'an under seven different names, all of them metaphorical (necessarily so, because they relate to what the Qur'an describes as al-ghayb, "something that is beyond the reach of human perception"): namely ndr ("fire, which is the general term), jahannam ("hell"), jahfm ("blazing fire"), sa` fr ("blazing flame"), saqar ("hell-fire"). laza ("raging flame"), and hutamah ("crushing torment"). Since. as I have mentioned, these designations of other-worldly suffering are obviously allegorical, we may also assume that the "seven gates of hell" have the same character, and signify "seven approaches [or "ways"] to hell". Furthermore. it is well known that in the Semitic languages-and most particularly in classical Arabic-the number "seven" is often used in the sense of "several" or "various" (cf. Lisdn al-'Arab, Tdj al= Aras, etc.): and so the above Qur'anic phrase may well have the meaning of "various ways leading to hell" -in other words, many ways of sinning.
34 I.e.. all being equal in dignity, and therefore free from envy. As Razi points out, the plural noun surur (sing. sarrr), which literally denotes "couches" or, occasionally, "thrones", signifies also "seats [or "thrones"] of eminence" or "of happiness (surur)", from which latter word the noun sarfr and its plural surur may be derived. The sublime. quality of these "thrones of
in this [state of bliss], and never shall they have to forgo it."
(49) Tell My servants that I - I alone - am truly forgiving, a true dispenser of grace; (50) and [also,] that the suffering which I shall impose [on sinners] will indeed be a suffering most grievous."
(51) AND TELL THEM [once again] about Abraham's guests"-(52) [how,] when they presented themselves before him and bade him peace, he answered: "Behold, we are afraid of you!""
(53) Said they: "Fear not! Behold, we bring thee the glad tiding of [the birth of] a son who will be endowed with deep knowledge.""
(54) Said he: "Do you give me this glad tiding despite the fact that old age has overtaken me? Of what [strange thing], then, are you giving me a tiding!"
(55) They answered: "We have given thee the glad tiding of something that is bound to come true.-' so be not of those who abandon hope!"
(56) [Abraham] exclaimed: "And who-other than those who have utterly lost their way-could ever abandon the hope of his Sustainer's grace?"
(57) He added: "And what [else] may you have in view, O you [heavenly] messengers?"
(58) They answered: "We are sent to people lost in sin" [who are to be destroyed], (59) barring Lot's
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happiness" is in some instances further symbolized by expressions like "gold-encrusted" (56: 15) or "raised high" (88 : 13).
35 Lit., "never shall they be caused to depart from it".
36 In his commentary on the above two verses, Razi notes that the statement relating to God's forgiveness and grace contains a threefold emphasis-expressed by the repetition of the personal pronoun and relating to God, and the definite article al before each of the two participial adjectives - whereas there is no such stress in the mmention of His chastisement of recalcitrant sinners. (Cf. 6: 12-and the corresponding note 10-as well as 6: 54, both of which verses state that God "has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy".)
37 For a more detailed story of Abraham and the heavenly messengers, see verses 69-76 of Sarah 11 (Had), which was revealed shortly before the present one. The connection between this story and the preceding stress on God's grace arises from Abraham's saying (in verse 56), "And who-other than those who have utterly lost their way-could ever lose the hope of his Sustainer's grace?" Similarly, the subsequent references (in verses 58-84) to the sinful communities that were destroyed because they refused to heed the warnings of their prophets are, obviously, meant to illustrate the reverse of God's grace, namely, His inevitable chastisement of deliberate, unrepented sinning (verse 50 above).
38 For the reason of Abraham's and Sarah's apprehension. see 11:70. 39 Le., will be a prophet.
40 Lit., "We have given thee the glad tiding of the truth" -i.e., of the truth willed by God On `Abbas, as quoted by Razi).
41 I.e., to the people of Sodom (see also 7 : 80-84 and 11 :77-83).
household, all of whom, behold, we shall save - (60) excepting only his wife, [of whom God says,] `We have ordained [that], behold, she should be among those who stay behind!' '4z
(61) AND WHEN the messengers [of God] came to the house of Lot, (62) he said: "Behold, you are people unknown [here] !""s
(63) They answered: "Nay, but we have come unto thee with [the announcement of] something that they [who are given to evil] have always been wont to call in question," (64) and we are bringing thee the certainty [of its fulfilment] :4s for, behold, we are speaking the truth indeed. (65) Go, then., with thy household while it is yet night, with thyself following them in the rear; and let none of you look back,' but proceed whither you are bidden."
(66) And [through Our messengers] We revealed unto him this decree: "The last remnant of those [sinners] shall be wiped out"' in the morn."
(67) And the people of the city came [unto Lot], rejoicing at the glad tiding."8
(68) Exclaimed [Lot]: "Behold, these are my guests: so put me not to shame, (69) but be conscious of God and disgrace me not!"
(70) They answered: "Have we not forbidden thee [to offer protection] to any kind of people?""9
42 See 7 : 83 and the corresponding note 66, as well as 11 :81 and 66: 10. My interpolation of the words "of whom God says" is necessitated by the elliptic use of the verb gaddamd - which, in the sense of "We have ordained" or "decreed", is an act attributed in the Qur'an invariably, and exclusively, to God. As I have repeatedly pointed out in my notes, God's "ordaining" a sinner to commit a sin or His "decreeing" that he should remain deaf to the voice of truth is a metonym for the natural law instituted by Him, which has been explained in surah 2, note 7; it refers also, generally speaking, to God's absolute fore-knowledge of how any of His creatures will act in a given situation (Zamakhshari). See also note 56 on 11 :34 and note 4 on 14: 4.
43 Implying that they might be assaulted by the sinful people of his town: cf. 11 : 77 and the corresponding note 107.
44 Lit., "that about which they have persistently been (kdna) in doubt"-i.e., the doom which, in this world or in the hereafter, is the inevitable consequence of deliberate sinning: a prediction which the sinners themselves so often deride (cf. 6: 57-58, 8 : 32, 11 :8, and the corresponding notes). To my mind, this sentence constitutes the reason for the repetition, in this surah, of the stories of Lot's people and the other sinful communities of old that were punished for their persistent transgressions against all moral laws.
45 Lit., "We have brought thee for "come to thee with"] the truth".
46 For an explanation of this metaphorical "looking back", see Sarah 11, note 112. 47 Lit., "cut off".
48 Sc., "of the arrival of handsome strangers". See also 7 : 80-81 and 11 : 77-79, as well as the
49 Lit., "all people" (al= dlamin): obviously, because Lot was a stranger in Sodom-having come there from Mesopotamia, his and Abraham's country of origin (see surah 11, note 102)-and had previously aroused the ire of the Sodomites by his moral reproaches (cf. 7 : 80-82).
(71) [Lot] said: "[Take instead] these daughters of mine," if you must do [whatever you intend to do]!" (72) [But the angels spoke thus:] "As thou livest, [O Lot, they will not listen to thee:]5' behold, in their delirium [of lust] they are but blit*ly stumbling to and fro!"
(73) And thereupon the blast [of Our punishment] overtook them32 at the time of sunrise, (74) and We turned those [sinful towns} upside down, and rained down upon them stone-hard blows of chastisement pre-ordained.s'
(75) Verily, in all this there are messages indeed for those who can read the signs:" (76) for, behold, those [towns] stood by a road that still exists."
(77) Verily, herein lies a message indeed for all who believe [in God].
(78) AND THE DWELLERS of the wooded dales [of Madyan, too,] were inveterate evildoers, (79) and so We inflicted Our retribution on them.
And, behold, both these [sinful communities] lived by a highway, [to this day] plain to seed'
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(80) AND, [likewise,] indeed, the people of AI-Hijr51 gave the lie to [Our] message-bearers: (81) for We did vouchsafe them Our messages, but they obstinately turned their backs upon them-(82) notwithstanding
50 See surah 11, note 109.
51 The above two interpolations are based on Zamakhsharl's oath "As thou livest" reads, literally, "By thy life"._
52 Regarding the meaning of the term sayhah, rendered by me as "blast ment", see surah 11, note 98.
53 See surah 11, note 114.
commentary on this verse. The
54 In its full significance, the term mutawassim denotes "one who applies his mind to the study of the outward appearance of a thing with a view to understanding its real nature and its inner characteristics" (Zamakhsharl and Razi).
55 The existence of that road, which led from northern Hijaz to Syria, skirting the Dead Sea-to the north-east of which Sodom and Gomorrah were situated-has received startling confirmation through aerial photographs recently published by the American School of Oriental Research (New Haven, Connecticut). These photographs clearly show the ancient road as a dark streak winding northwards, more or less parallel with the eastern shores of the Dead Sea.
56 As is evident from 26: 176 ff., the "dwellers of the wooded dales (al-aykah)" were the people of Madyan, who refused to pay heed to their prophet, Shu'ayb, and were thereupon destroyed, apparently by an earthquake and/or a volcanic eruption (cf. 7 : 85-93 and 11 : 84-95).
57 Le., the people of Lot and those of Shu'ayb, who inhabited adjacent regions (see surah 7, note 67), and whose fate should be an example as plain to see as the highway which passes through the regions once inhabited by them.
58 I.e., the tribe of Thamud (see surah 7, note 56), who in pre-Islamic times inhabited the region of AI-Hijr in northernmost Hijaz, south of the oasis of Taymah. The story of the Thamud is found in 7 : 73-79.
of [God's] punish
that they had been wont [to enjoy Our blessings and] to hew out dwellings from the mountains, [wherein they could live] in security" -: (83) and so the blast [of Our punishmennt] overtook them at early morn, (84) and of no avail to them was all [the power] that they had acquired.
(85) AND [remember:] We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them without [an inner] truth;' but, behold, the Hour [when this will become clear to all] is indeed yet to come.
Hence, forgive [men's failings] with fair forbearance: (86) verily, thy Sustainer is the all-knowing Creator of all things !61
(87) AND, INDEED, We have bestowed upon thee seven of the oft-repeated [verses], and [have, thus, laid open before thee] this sublime Qur'an:62 (88) [so] turn, not thine eyes [longingly] towards the worldly benefits which We have granted unto some 63 of those [that deny the truth]. And neither grieve over those [who refuse to heed thee], but spread the wings of thy tenderness over the believers," (89) and say: "Behold, I am indeed the plain warner [promised by God] !-61
(90) [For, thou art the bearer of a divine writ66] such
59 See 7 : 74 and the corresponding notes (particularly note 59).
60 For an explanation of this rendering of ills bi'l-hagq (lit., "otherwise than with [or "in"] truth"), see sarah 10, note 11.
61 Le., "He has created all human beings with full knowledge of their natural differentiation and the disparity in their respective conditions" (Razi) -and this, of course, includes their f ailings and errors. (Cf. 7 : 199 - "Make due allowance for man's nature" - and the corresponding note 162.)
62 With these words, the discourse returns to the theme enunciated at the beginning of this sarah and indirectly alluded to in verse 85 as well: namely, the revelation of the divine writ, destined to serve as a moral guidance to man, who cannot, as yet, discern the meaning and purpose of God's creation. - According to most of the authorities, including some of the foremost Companions of the Prophet, "The Seven Oft-Repeated [Verses]" is a designation given by Muhammad himself to the first sarah of the Qur'an, which has also been described by him as "The Essence of the Divine Writ" (Umm al-Kitdb) inasmuch as it alludes to all the ethical and metaphysical principles set forth in the Qur'dn (Bukhari, Kitdb at-Tafsir). See also my introductory note to Al-Fdtihah ("The Opening").
63 The philological authorities are unanimous in that the plural noun azwdj denotes here "kinds" of people, or "some" of them, and not -as certain modern translators of the Qur'dn have assumed - "pairs".
64 Lit., "lower thy wing for the believers": an idiomatic metaphor for loving tenderness and humility (see 17: 24 and the corresponding note 28).
65 The above interpolated phrase offers, to my mind, the only satisfactory explanation of the definite articles prefixed to the words an-nadhir al-mubfn ("the plain warner"). This construction possibly alludes to the Biblical prediction of the advent of the Prophet Muhammad appearing in Deuteronomy xviii, 15 and 18, which has been discussed by me in sarah 2, note 33.
66 Thus Zamakhshari, explaining the elliptic beginning of this sentence and its logical connection with the preceding verse as well as with verse 87.
as We have bestowed from on high upon those who [afterwards] broke it up into parts ,e' (91) [and] who [now] declare this Qur'an to be [a tissue of] falsehoods!
(92) But, by thy Sustainer! [On the Day of Judgment] We shall indeed call them to account, one and all, (93) for whatever they have done!
(94) Hence, proclaim openly all that thou hast been bidden [to say], and leave alone all those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God: ( 95) verily, We shall suffice thee against all who [now] deride [this message - all] (96) who assert that there are, side by side with God, other divine powers as well:b9 for in time they will come to know [the truth].
(97) And well do We know that thy bosom is constricted by the [blasphemous] things that they say: (98) but extol thou thy Sustainer's limitless glory and praise Him, and be of those who prostrate themselves [before Him] in adoration, (99) and worship thy Sustainer till death comes to thee.'°
67 This is apparently a reference to the followers of the Bible, who "believe in some parts of the divine writ and deny the truth of other parts" (cf. 2:85)-i.e., who act in accordance with those principles of the Bible which suit their inclinations and the prevailing social trends, and disregard the others, thus denying, by implication, their validity.
68 This, according to the Tdj al= Arus (art. `adiha and `adawa) is the meaning of `idin in the above context: an interpretation also advanced by Tabarl and Rdzi (in the last paragraph of the latter's commentary on this verse). Another interpretation -equally acceptable from the purely linguistic point of view - is "[those] who cut up the Qur'an into separate parts": i.e., accept (on the analogy of the Jews and the Christians) some of it as true and regard the rest as Muhammad's invention. But since - as Tabari points out - those who refuse to believe in the divine origin of the Qur'an do not accept any of it as true, the first interpretation is by far the preferable.
69 Lit., "who postulate (yaj'alun), side by side with God, another deity (ildh)"-a term which is obviously used here in its generic sense, embracing anything that could be visualized as a "divine power": hence my use of the plural.
70 Lit., "till there comes unto thee that which is certain (al-yagin)" - a term which in the Qur'an is often used as a metonym for "death" (Bukhari, Kitdb-at-Tafsir). However, see also the earliest occurrence of this term in 74: 47.