ACCORDING to almost all the authorities (including the Itgan), this Sarah was revealed a few months before the Prophet's emigration to Medina. Although some commentators maintain that the last three verses belong to the Medina period, there is no evidence for this more or less speculative view.

The title - or, rather, the key-word by which this Sarah has been identified ever since the time of the Prophet-is based on the reference, in verses 68-69, to the marvellous instance of God's creativeness manifested in the instincts with which He has endowed the bee. Indeed, it is the evidence of the Creator's purposeful activity that provides the subject-matter of most of this silrah - an activity that culminates in the guidance which He offers man through His revealed messages, summed up, as it were, in verse 90: "Behold, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good, and generosity towards [one's] fellow-men; and He forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, as well as envy."


(1) GOD'S JUDGMENT is [bound to] come: do not, therefore, call for its speedy advent!`

Limitless is He in His glory and sublimely exalted above anything to which men may ascribe a share in His divinity!

(2) He causes the angels to descend with this divine inspiration,' [bestowed] at His behest upon whomever He wills of His servants: "Warn [all human beings] that there is no deity save Me: be, therefore, conscious of Me!"

(3) He has created the heavens and the earth in accordance with [an inner] truth;' sublimely exalted is He above anything to which men may ascribe a share in His divinity!'





1 Regarding this allusion to the incredulous inquiry of the unbelievers, see 6 : 57-58, 8 :32 and 10: 50-51, as well as the corresponding notes.

2 The term rah (lit., "spirit", "soul" or "breath of life") is often used in the Qur'an in the sense of "inspiration" - and, more particularly, "divine inspiration" - since, as Zamakhshari points out in connection with the above verse as well as with the first sentence of 42 : 52, "it gives life to hearts that were [as] dead in their ignorance, and has in religion the same function as a soul has in a body". A very similar explanation is given by Razi in the same context. The earliest instance in which the term rah has been used in this particular sense is 97 : 4.

3 I.e., in accordance with a meaning and a purpose known only to Him. See also 10: 5 and, in particular, the corresponding note 11.

4 This repetition of part of verse 1 is meant to stress the uniqueness of God's creative powers.


(4) He creates man out of a [mere] drop of sperm: and lo! this same being shows himself endowed with the power to think and to argues

(5) And He creates cattle: you derive warmth from them, and [various other] uses; and from them you obtain food; (6) and you find beauty in them when you drive them home in the evenings and when you take them out to pasture in the mornings. (7) And they carry your loads to [many] a place which [otherwise] you would be unable to reach without great hardship to yourselves.

Verily, your Sustainer is most compassionate, a dispenser of grace!

(8) And (it is He who creates] horses and mules and asses for you to ride, as well as for [their] beauty: and He will yet create things of which [today] you have no knowledge.'

(9) And [because He is your Creator,] it rests with God alone to show you the right path:' yet there is [many a one] who swerves from it. However, had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright.e


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5 Lit., "he becomes an open contender in argument (khasfm)". According to Zamakhshari and Razi, the above phrase is liable to two interpretations:' In the words of Zamakhshari, "one interpretation is that after. having been a (mere] drop of sperm, a,particle of matter without consciousness or motion, man becomes highly articulate (mintrq); able to argue on his own [for or against a proposition], courageously facing-disputes, and clearly formulating his arguments: [and herein lies] an indication of God's creative power. The., other -[interpretation] is that man is [prone to become] a contender in `argument against• his.' Sustainer, refusing to acknowledge his [very] Creator." Razi, on his part, gives- his. unqualified. support' to the first of these two interpretations, "because the above verses -are meant .to stress the evidence of the existence of a wise Creator, and not the ;fact of men's insolence and their proneness to blasphemy and ingratitude". However, in view of 36 : 77-78 ('revealed ata considerably earlier period), I am of the opinion that the above two interpretations are not'mutuall,y :exclusive but, rather, complementary, inasmuch as this passage' is meant to bring out man's unique quality°as a,rational being -a quality that may lead him to great heights. of achievemenf, but may equally well lead him utterly astray: hence my free rendering of this_ profdund_elliptic phrase.

6 The use, in this context, of the aorist yakhhiqu implies the future tense ("He will create") in contrast with the past tense khalaqa employed,in the-preceding passages. Since this reference to God's continuing creation comes immediately after, a mention of primitive means of transport (i.e., of animals domesticated by man to this end), it-obviously relates to other-as yet unknown-things of the same category: that is to say, to new means of transport which God unceasingly creates through the instrumentality of the inventiveness with which He has endowed man's mind (cf. 36:42). Inasmuch as every successive stage of human development bears witness to new, previously undreamt-of inventions in the realm of transport, the Qur'anic statement that "He will yet create things of which [today] you have no knowledge" is valid for every period - past, present and future - of man's history.

7 Lit., "upon God rests the [showing of the] goal of the path" - i.e., the establishing of the goals of ethics and morality implied in the concept of the "right path". In further analysis of this phrase, the expression "it rests upon God" (`ala 'lldh) is similar in intent to the statement in 6: 12 and 54 that He "has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy": in other words, God invariably shows the right path to everyone who is willing to follow it.

8 Since the concept of morality is linked with man's God-given freedom of choice between good and evil, God does not "impose" His guidance upon man but leaves it to him to accept or reject it.




(10) It is He who sends down water from the skies; you drink thereof, and thereof [drink] the plants upon which you pasture your beasts; (11) (and] by virtue thereof He causes crops to grow for you, and olive trees, and date-palms, and grapes, and all [other] kinds of fruit: in this, behold, there is a message indeed for people who think!

(12) And He has made the night and the day and the sun and the moon subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you;' and all the stars are subservient to His command: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who use their reason!

(13) And all the [beauty of] many hues-which He has created for you on earth: in this, behold, there is a message for people who (are willing to] take it to heart!

(14) And He it is who has made the sea subservient [to His laws], so that you might eat fresh meat from it, and take from it gems which you may wear.

And on that [very sea] one sees'° ships ploughing through the waves, so that you might [be able to] go forth in quest of some of His bounty, and thus have cause to be grateful [to Him].

(15) And he has placed firm mountains on earth, lest it sway with you," and rivers and paths, so that you might find your way, (16) as well as [various other] means of orientation: for [it is] by the stars that men find their way. '2












(17) IS, THEN, HE who creates comparable to any [being] that cannot create?

9 See 14: 33 and the corresponding note 46.

10 Lit., "thou seest".

11 This is apparently an allusion to the fact that the mountains owe their rise to the gradual balancing process to which the solid crust of the earth is subject -a process which, in its turn, is the result of stresses and disturbances due to the cooling and hardening, progressing from the -surface towards the centre, of the presumably molten or perhaps even gaseous matter of which the earth's interior seems to be composed. It appears that part of this interior is kept solid only by the enormous pressure of the overlaying material, of which the mountains are the most vivid evidence: and this explains the Qur'anic reference (in 78:7) to mountains as "pegs" (awtdd), i.e., symbols of the firmness and relative equilibrium which the surface of the earth has gradually achieved in the course of its geological history. Notwithstanding the fact that this equilibrium is not absolute (as is evidenced by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions), it is the solidity of the earth's crust - as contrasted with its possibly fluid but certainly very unstable interior - which makes life on earth possible: and this, to my mind, is the meaning of the phrase "lest it sway with you" (or "with them") occurring in the above verse as well as in 21 : 31 and 31 : 10.

12 Lit., "they find their way". This passage rounds off the preceding description of God's favours to man by returning, in a subtle manner, to the theme introduced in verse 4 and alluded to, indirectly, in the last sentence of verse 8 as well as in verse 14: namely, the consideration of man's intellectual potential-the greatest of all the gifts bestowed upon him by God. (See in this connection note 5 above, as well as the allegory of the creation of man enunciated in 2 : 30-33.)


Will you not, then, bethink yourselves?

(18) For, should you try to count God's blessings, you could never compute them!

Behold, God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace; (19) and God knows all that you keep secret as well as all that you bring into the open.

(20) Now those beings that some people invoke" beside God cannot create anything, since they themselves are but created: (21) they are dead, not living,"' and they do not [even] know when they will be raised from the dead!

(22) Your God is the One God: but because of their false pride, the hearts of those who do not believe in the life to come refuse to admit this [truth]."

(23) Truly, God knows all that they keep secret as well as all that they bring into the open -[and,] behold, He does not love those who are given to arrogance, (24) and [who], whenever they are asked, "What is it that your Sustainer has bestowed from on high?"-are wont to answer, "Fables of ancient times!""'

(25) Hence," on Resurrection Day they shall bear the full weight of their own burdens, as well as some of the burdens of those ignorant ones whom they have led astray:` oh, how evil the load with which they shall be burdened!

(26) Those who lived before them did, too, devise many a blasphemy'9-whereupon God visited with destruction all that they had ever built,m [striking] at its very foundations, so that the roof fell in upon them from above 2' and suffering befell them without

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13 Lit., "those whom they invoke": this refers-as is obvious from verse 21 below-to dead saints invested by their followers with divine or semi-divine qualities.

14 Cf. 7: 191-194.

15 I.e., they are too arrogant to accept the idea of man's utter dependence on, and responsibility to, a Supreme Being.

16 Sc., "and not divine revelations" (cf. 8 : 21).

17 The conjunction li prefixed to the verb yahmila ("they shall carry") has here obviously -as pointed out by Razi-the function of what the grammarians call a lam al= dgibah, indicating no more than a causal sequence (`dgibah); it may be appropriately rendered by means of the conjunctive particle "and" or - as in this context - by the adverb "hence".

18 Lit., "those whom they are leading astray without knowledge" - i.e., without knowledge or understanding on the latters' part (Zamakhshari).

19 Lit., "schemed" (makara): i.e., they blasphemed by describing the divine revelations as "fables of ancient times" and by refusing to admit the truth of God's existence or of His oneness and uniqueness.

20 Lit., "their building" (see next note).

21 This is obviously a metaphor (Razi) describing the utter collapse of all endeavours - both individual and social - rooted in godlessness and false pride.




their having perceived whence it came.

(27) And then, on Resurrection Day, He will cover them [all] with ignominy, and will say: "Where, now, are those beings to whom you ascribed a share in My divinity," [and] for whose sake you cut yourselves off [from My guidance]?"'"

[Whereupon] those who [in their lifetime] were endowed with knowiedge23 will say: "Verily, ignominy and misery [have fallen] this day upon those who have been denying the truth-(28) those whom the angels have gathered in death while they were still sinning against themselves!"

Then will they [who are thus arraigned] proffer their submission, [saying:] "We did not [mean to] do any evil!"

[But they will be answered:] "Yea, verily, God has full knowledge of all that you were doing!n (29) Hence, enter the gates of hell, therein to abide!"

And evil, indeed, shall be the state of all who are given to false pride!

(30) But [when] those who are conscious of God are asked, "What is it that your Sustainer has bestowed from on high?" -they answer, "Goodness supreme!"

Good fortune awaits, in this world, all who persevere in doing good; but their ultimate state will be far better still: for, how excellent indeed will be the state of the God-conscious [in the life to come]! (31) Gardens of perpetual bliss will they enter - [gardens] through which running waters flow - having therein all that they might desire.


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22 Le., finally and utterly-for, "only on the Day of Resurrection will you be requited in full for whatever you have done" (3 :185). Since the pronoun "them" refers not only to the earlier sinners mentioned parenthetically in the preceding verse but also to those spoken of in verses 22-25, 1 have interpolated the word "all".

23 Lit., "those [alleged] partners of Mine". Regarding the Qur'anic use of the term sharfk (pl. shuraka') in connection with religious beliefs, see surah 6, note 15.

24 Or: "you were wont to contend [against My guidance]". See in this connection sarah 8, note 16.

25 Le., those who had availed themselves of the knowledge of good and evil which God offers to mankind through His prophets.

26 Cf. 6 : 23 and the corresponding note, as well as 2 : 11.

27 Sc., "and He will judge you on the basis of your motivation" -implying that their plea of ignorance is rejected in view of the fact that they were offered God's guidance through His revealed messages, which they deliberately scorned in their false pride and dismissed out of hand as "fables of ancient times" (see verses 22-24 above).

28 This "good fortune" (hasanah) does not necessarily signify, in this context, material benefits but refers, rather, to the spiritual satisfaction and the feeling of inner security resulting from genuine God-consciousness.




Thus will God reward those who are conscious of Him-(32) those whom the angels gather in death while they are in a state of inner purity, greeting them thus: "Peace be upon you! Enter paradise by virtue of what you were doing [in life]!"

(33) ARE THEY [who deny the truth] but waiting for the angels to appear unto them, or for God's judgment to become manifest?9

Even thus did behave those [stubborn sinners] who lived before their time; and [when they were destroyed,] it was not God who wronged them, but it was they who had wronged themselves: (34) for all the evil that they had done fell [back] upon them, and they were overwhelmed by the very thing which they had been wont to deride."

(35) Now they who ascribe divinity to aught beside God say, "Had God so willed, we would not have worshipped aught but Him - neither we nor our forefathers; nor would we have declared aught as forbidden without a commandment from Him.""

Even thus did speak those [sinners] who lived before their time; but, then, are the apostles bound to do more than clearly deliver the message [entrusted to them] ?31

(36) And indeed, within every community" have We raised up an apostle [entrusted with this message]: "Worship God, and shun the powers of evil!"3`



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29 Lit., "for the angels to come to them, or for God's judgment (amr) to come"-i.e., for the Day of Resurrection. The full meaning of this passage is forthcoming from 6 : 158, revealed at the same period as the present sarah.

30 See 6 : 10 and'the corresponding note. Similar phrases occur in many places in the Qur'an, always with reference to a derision of divine messages and, particularly, of predictions relating to God's chastisement of reprobate sinners. As so often, the Qur'an points out here that this "chastisement" or "suffering" (`adhab) is but a natural, unavoidable consequence of deliberate wrongdoing: hence, he who becomes guilty of it is, in reality, "doing wrong to himself" or "sinning against himself" inasmuch as he destroys his own spiritual integrity and must subsequently suffer for it.

31 Lit., "apart from Him". See in this connection -6: 148 and the corresponding note 141. (TThe arbitrary, unwarranted prohibitions and taboos alluded to in that verse as well as in the present one are discussed in 6 : 136-153 and explained in my notes.) The derision of God's messages by the deniers of the truth is implied in their questioning His grant of free will to man - that is to say, the ability to choose between right and wrong, which is the basis of all morality.

32 Le., the apostles could not force anyone to make the right choice.

33 Or "at every period", since the term ummah has this significance as well. In its wider sense, it may also be taken here to denote "civilization", thus comprising a human groupment as well as a period of time.

34 For this rendering of the term at-taghat, see sarah 2, note 250. It is to be bor,,.e in mind that, in Qur'anic terminology, "worship of God" invariably implies the concept of man's sense of responsibility before Him: hence, the above commandment comprises, in the most concise formulation imaginable, the sum-total of all ethical injunctions and prohibitions, and is the basis




And among those [past generations] were people whom God graced with His guidance," just as there was among them [many a one] who inevitably fell prey to grievous error:' go, then, about the earth and behold what happened in the end to those who gave the lie to the truth!

(37) [As for those who are bent on denying the truth-] though thou be ever so eager to show them the right way, [know that,] verily, God does not bestow His guidance upon any whom He judges to have gone astray;" and such shall have none to succour them [on Resurrection Day].

(38) As it is,'s they swear by God with their most solemn oaths, "Never will God raise from the dead anyone who has died!""  '

Yea indeed! [This very thing has God promised] by a promise which He has willed upon Himself; but most people know it not. (39) [He will resurrect them] to the end that He might make clear unto them all whereon they [now] hold divergent views,° and that they who are bent on denying the truth [of resurrection] might come to know that they were liars.

(40) Whenever We will anything to be, We but say unto it Our word "Be" -and it is.






(41) NOW as for those who forsake the domain of evil°' in the cause of God, after having suffered wrong [on account of their faith] - We shall most certainly grant

and source of all morality as well as the one unchanging message inherent in every true religion.

35 I.e., who availed themselves of the guidance offered by Him to all human beings.

36 Lit., "upon whom error came to be inevitably established (hagqa `alayhi)" or "against whom [a verdict of] error became inevitable": i.e., one whose heart "God has sealed" in consequence of his persistent, conscious refusal to submit to His guidance (see sarah 2, note 7, as well as sarah 14, note 4).

37 See preceding note; also 8 :55 and the corresponding note 58.

38 Lit., "And--but since this conjunction is obviously meant to elaborate the preceding statement, it is best rendered as above.

39 This categorical denial of resurrection-implying as it does a denial of God's ultimate judgment of good and evil - is characteristic of a mental attitude which refuses to admit the reality, or even possibility, of anything that lies beyond the range of man's actual or potential observation. Since such an attitude is an outcome of an intrinsically materialistic outlook on life and the "false pride" referred to in verses 22-23 above, it is anti-religious in the deepest sense of this word even if it is accompanied by a vague - because_ non-consequential - belief in the existence of God.

40 I.e., in the first instance, the truth of resurrection and judgment as such, and, in general, the final answers to all the metaphysical problems which perplex man during his life on earth.

41 For an explanation of this rendering of alladhrna hdjara, see sarah 2, note 203, and sarah 4, note 124. That the "forsaking of the domain of evil" has here a purely spiritual connotation is obvious from its juxtaposition with the "denial of the truth" referred to in the preceding verses.




them a station of good fortune in this world:4z but their reward in the life to come will be far greater yet. If they [who deny the truth] could but understand" (42) those who, having attained to patience in adversity, in their Sustainer place their trust!'

(43) AND [even] before thy time, [O Muhammad,] We never sent [as Our apostles] any but [mortal] men, whom We inspired:4s and if you have not [yet] realized this, ask the followers of [earlier] revelation,"6 (44) [and they will tell you that their prophets, too, were but mortal men whom We had endowed] with all evidence of the truth and with books of divine wisdom."

And upon thee [too] have We bestowed from on high this reminder, so that thou might make clear unto mankind all that has ever been thus bestowed upon them,' and that they might take thought. '

(45) Can, then, they who devise evil schemes' ever feel sure that God will not cause the earth to swallow them, or that suffering will not befall them without their perceiving whence [it came]? - (46) or that He will not take them to task [suddenly] in the midst of





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42 See note 28 above.

43 The verb `alima, which primarily denotes "he knew", has also the meaning of "he came to know", i.e., "he understood"; and since-as pointed out by Baghawi, Zamakhshari and Razi-the pronoun "they" in the phrase law kiina ya'laman relates to the deniers of the truth spoken of in the preceding passages, the rendering "if they could but understand" is here clearly indicated - the more so as it provides a self-evident connection with the subsequent, objective clause.

44 I.e., if they could really understand the spiritual motivation of the believers, they (the deniers of the truth) would themselves begin to believe.

45 This passage has a double purport: firstly, it connects with the statement enunciated in verse 36 to the effect that God's apostles have appeared, at one time or another, within every civilization, and that, consequently, no substantial human groupment has ever been left without divine guidance; secondly, it answers the objection frequently raised by unbelievers that Muhammad could not be God's message-bearer since he was "a mere mortal man". (As regards the Qur'anic doctrine that no created being, not even a prophet, has ever been endowed with "supernatural" powers or qualities, see 6 : 50 and 7 : 188, as well as the notes relating to those verses; also note 94 on 6 : 109.)

46 Lit., "reminder"-because every divine message is meant to remind one of the truth. The people to be asked for enlightenment in this respect are apparently the Jews and the Christians (Tabarl, Zamakhsharl).

47 The above sentence is addressed, parenthetically, to all who question the divine origin of the Qur'an on the grounds mentioned in note 45 above. For an explanation of the term zubur ("books of divine wisdom"), see sarah 21, note 101.

48 Sc., "through revelation" -implying that moral values are independent of all time-bound changes and must, therefore, be regarded as permanent.

49 To my mind, by "evil schemes" are meant here systems of God-denying philosophy and of perverted morality.

50 I.e., destroy them utterly.




their comings and goings," without their being able to elude [Him], (47) or take them to task through slow decay ?12

And yet, behold, your Sustainer is most compassionate, a dispenser of grace!"



HAVE, THEN, they [who deny the truth] never considered any of the things that God has created 54 _ (how] their shadows turn right and left, prostrating themselves before God and utterly submissive [to His will]?"

(49) For, before God prostrates itself all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth - every beast that moves, and the angels: [even] these do not bear themselves with false pride: (50) they fear their Sustainer high above them, and do whatever they are bidden to do.s'

(51) And God has said: "Do not take to worshipping two [or more] deities." He is the One and Only God: hence, of Me, of Me alone stand in awe !"59



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51 I.e., in the midst of their habitual occupations. My interpolation of the word "suddenly" is warranted by the reference, in the next verse, to the alternative of gradual decay.

52 One of the meanings of takhawwuf is "gradual diminution" or "decay" or "slow destruction" (Lisan al=Arab, art. khawafa; thus also Tabarl and Zamakhshari); in the above context, the term has obviously both a social and a moral connotation: a gradual disintegration of all ethical values, of power, of civic cohesion, of happiness and, finally, of life itself.

53 Sc., "seeing that He offers you guidance through His prophets, and gives you time to reflect and mend your ways before you do irreparable harm to yourselves".

54 In view of the separate mention, in the next verse, of animals and angels, the "things" referred to here apparently denote inanimate objects and perhaps also living organisms like plants.

55 Lit., "and they are utterly lowly" or "submissive". The "prostration" referred to in this and the next verse is obviously a symbolism expressing the intrinsic subjection of all created beings and things to God's will. See also 13: 15 and the corresponding notes 33 and 34.

56 I.e., the lowest as well as the highest. The term dabbah denotes any sentient, corporeal being capable of spontaneous movement, and is contrasted here with the non-corporeal, spiritual beings designated as "angels" (Razi).

57 I.e., they must, by virtue of their nature, obey the impulses implanted in them by God and are, therefore, incapable of what is described as "sinning". Man, however, is fundamentally different in this respect. In contrast with the natural sinlessness of "every beast that moves, and the angels", man is endowed with free will in the moral sense of this term: he can choose between right and wrong and therefore he can, and often does, sin. But even while he sins he is subject to the universal law of cause and effect instituted by God and referred to in the Qur'an as sunnat Alldh ("God's way"): hence the Qur'anic statement that "before God prostrate themselves, willingly or unwillingly, all [things and beings] that are in the heavens and on earth" (13: 15).

58 The double dual in ilahayn ithnayn ("two deities") serves to emphasize the prohibition of worshipping "more than one deity"-i.e., anything but the One God.

59 This is a striking example of the fluctuation to which personal pronouns are subjected in the Qur'an whenever they refer to God. As already pointed out in my Foreword, note 2. as well as in other places, such abrupt changes of pronoun ("He", "I", "We", "Us", "Me", etc.) indicate that God is limitless and, therefore, beyond the range of definition implied in the use of "personal" pronouns.




(52) And His is all that is in the heavens and on earth, and to Him [alone] obedience is always due: will you, then, pay reverence to aught but Him?

(53) For, whatever good thing comes to you, comes from God; and whenever harm befalls you, it is unto Him that you cry for help°-(54) yet as soon as He has removed the harm from you, lo! some of you [begin to] ascribe to other powers a share 'in their Sustainer's divinity '61 (55) [as if] to prove their ingratitude for all that We have granted them!

Enjoy, then, your [brief] life: but in time you will come to know [the truth]!

(56) As it is, they ascribe - out of what We provide for them as sustenance - a share unto things of which they know nothing."'

By God, you shall most certainly be called to account for all your false imagery!

(57) And [thus, too,] they ascribe daughters unto God, who is limitless in His glory" - whereas for themselves [they would choose, if they could, only] what they desire:` (58) for, whenever any of them is given the glad tiding of [the birth of] a girl, his face darkens, and he is filled with suppressed anger, (59) avoiding all people because of the [alleged] evil of the glad tiding which he has received, [and debating within himself:] Shall he keep this [child] despite the contempt [which he feels for it]-or shall he bury it in









60 Cf. 6: 40-41.

61 Lit., "associate [other powers] with their Sustainer": i.e., by attributing the. change in their "luck" to what they regard as "extraneous" factors and influences, they invest the latter, as it were, with divine qualities and powers.

62 According to most of the classical commentators, this relates to the custom of the pagan Arabs - mentioned in 6 : 136 - to dedicate a part of their agricultural produce and cattle to their deities; and because those deities were mere figments of imagination, they are described here as "things of which they know nothing". However, as I have pointed out in note 120 on 6 : 136, the above statement bears a 4nuch wider, more general meaning: it connects directly with the three preceding verses of this siirah-namely, with the attribution of a share (nasfb) in God's creativeness - and thus of a decisive influence on one's life - to "causes" or "powers" other than Him. This view has also been advanced by Razi (with a specific reference to astrological speculations) in the concluding sentence of his commentary on the above verse.

63 The pre-Islamic Arabs believed that the goddesses Al-Lat, Al-`Uzza and Manat (see note 13 on 53 : 19-20), as well as the angels, whom they conceived as females, were "God's daughters". As against this, the Qur'an states that God is utterly remote from every imperfection (subhanahu), complete in Himself, and therefore free from the incompleteness inherent in the concept of "progeny" as an extension of one's own being (cf. 6: 100 and the corresponding notes 87 and 88).-This parenthetic passage, comprising verses 57-59, is explained in note 66 below.

64 Namely, only male issue, because the pre-Islamic Arabs regarded daughters as no more than a necessary evil.

65 I.e., a tiding that should have been regarded as a happy one, since the sex of the child ought to make no difference to parental love.




the dust? Old, evil indeed is whatever they decide!66 (60) [Thus it is that] the attribute of evil applies to all who do not believe in the life to comet' -whereas unto God applies the attribute of all that is most sublime: for He alone is almighty, truly wise!

(61) Now if God were to take men [immediately] to task for all the evil that they do [on earth], He would not leave a single living creature upon its face. However, He grants them respite until a term set [by Him]:' but when the end of their term approaches, they can neither delay it by a single moment, nor can they hasten it

(62) As it is, they ascribe to God something that they [themselves] dislike '°-and [all the while] their tongues utter the lie that [by doing so] they earn supreme merit!"

Truly, they earn but the fire, and will be left out [of God's grace]!n

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66 I.e., either of these alternatives is evil: to keep the child as an object of perpetual contempt, or to bury it alive, as was frequently done by the pagan Arabs.-This passage, containing as it does an utter condemnation of men's attitude towards women in pre-Islamic Arabia, has - as is always the case with Qur'anic references to historical events or customs -a meaning that goes far beyond this speciific social phenomenon and the resulting infanticide. It would seem that the pivotal point of the whole passage is the sentence, "for themselves [they would choose, if they could, only] what they desire": that is to say, while they are only too ready to associate with God ideas which are repugnant to themselves (for instance, female progeny, which they themselves despise), they are unwilling to accept the concept of man's ultimate responsibility to Him, because such a concept militates against their own hedonistic inclinations by obliging them to impose a moral discipline on themselves. And because they rebel against the idea of ultimate moral responsibility, they instinctively reject the idea of resurrection and of life after bodily death; and since they deny, by implication, God's power to resurrect the dead, they deny His omnipotence and, consequently, begin to "ascribe divinity" - i.e., a genuinely causative function - to all manner of imaginary forces, beings or influences: and so, by means of a parenthetic reference to pre-Islamic Arabian beliefs and customs, the discourse returns full circle to the concept of God's oneness, uniqueness and omnipotence, around which the whole of the Qur'an revolves.

67 I.e., inasmuch as they deny, by implication, man's ultimate responsibility before God. According to Zamakhsharl and Razi, the term mathal (lit., "example" or "parable") has here and in the next clause the connotation of sifah ("attribute").

68 Or: "known [only to Him]" - i.e., the period of their lives on earth, during which they may reflect and repent.

69 For my rendering of sa'ah as "a single moment", see sarah 7, note 26.

70 I.e., "daughters" (see verses 57-59 above): but this alludes also, as Zamakhsharf points out, to the association with God of imaginary beings which allegedly have a share in His power and thus nullify the concept of His uniqueness: in other words, while the people spoken of here would hate to see their own legitimate spheres of influence encroached upon and curtailed by rivals, they do not extend the same consideration to their idea of God.

71 Lit., "that theirs is the supreme good (al-husnd )" - i.e., in the sight of God - because they regard their own religious or anti-religious views, in spite of their absurdity, as good and true'. This interpretation of al-husna in the above context (mentioned, among others, by Zamakhshari 'and Rdzi) connects logically with the statement in the next verse that "Satan had made their own doings seem goodly to them"

72 Lit., "theirs [or "their portion"] will be the fire, and they will be abandoned".




(63) By God, [O Prophet,] even before thy time have We sent apostles unto [various] communities: but [those who were bent on denying the truth have always refused to listen to Our messages because] Satan has made all their own doings seem goodly to them: and he is [as] close to them today" [as he was to the sinners of yore]; hence, grievous suffering awaits them.

(64) And upon thee [too] have We bestowed from on' high this divine writ for no other reason than that thou might make clear unto them all [questions of faith] on which they have come to hold divergent views, and [thus offer] guidance and grace unto people who will believe.

(65) AND GOD sends down water from the skies, giving life thereby to the earth after it had been lifeless:" in this, behold, there is a message indeed for people who [are willing to] listen.

(66) And, behold, in the cattle [too] there is indeed a lesson for you: We give you to drink of that [fluid] which is [secreted from] within their bellies between that which is to be eliminated [from the animal's body] and [its] life-blood: milk pure and pleasant to those who drink it.75

(67) And [We grant you nourishment] from the fruit of date-palms and vines: from it you derive intoxicants as well as wholesome sustenance -in this, behold, there is a message indeed for people who use their reason !76

(68) And [consider how] thy Sustainer has inspired the bee:" "Prepare for thyself dwellings in mountains

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73 Or: "He is their patron [or "master"] today": It should be borne in mind that the noun wali is derived from the verb waliya, which primarily signifies "he was [or "became"] close [or "near", i.e., to someone or something]". It is in this sense that the term wall is used in the Qur'an with reference to God's nearness to the believers (e.g., in 2 : 257 or 3 : 68), or their nearness to God (see 10: 62 and the corresponding note 84). Similarly, the "powers of evil" (at-taghut) are spoken of in 2: 257 as being "near unto those who are bent on denying the truth (alladhina kafaru)".

74 As so often in the Qur'an, a reference to the spiritual life engendered by divine revelation is followed here by a reference to the miracle of organic life as another indication of God's creative activity.

75 Milk-in itself a glandular secretion-is not necessary for the mother-animal's life (or, as it is here metonymically described, its "blood"); on the other hand, it is not just something that the body eliminates as being of no further use to its metabolism: hence it is referred to as a substance "between that which is to be eliminated [from the animal's body] and [its] life-blood".

76 The term sakar (lit., "wine" or, generically, "intoxicants") is contrasted here with rizq hasan ("wholesome sustenance"), thus circumscribing both the positive and the negative properties and effects of alcohol. Although this surah was revealed about ten years before the Qur'anic prohibition of intoxicants in 5 : 90-91, there is no doubt that their moral condemnation is already implied in the above verse (Ibn `Abbas, as quoted by Tabarl; also Razi).

77 The expression "He has inspired" (awha) is meant to bring out the wonderful quality of the


and in trees, and in what [men] may build [for thee by way of hives]; (69) and then eat of all manner of fruit, and follow humbly the paths ordained for thee by thy Sustainer."'a

[And lo!] there issues from within these [bees] a fluid of many hues, wherein there is health for man. In all this, behold, there is a message indeed for people who think!

(70) AND GOD has created you, and in time will cause you to die; and many a one of you is reduced in old age to a most abject state, ceasing to know anything of what he once knew so well."

Verily, God is all-knowing, infinite in His power! (71) And on some of you God has bestowed more abundant means of sustenance than on others: and yet, they who are more abundantly favoured are [often] unwilling to share their sustenance with those whom their right hands possess, so that they [all] might be equal in this respect.e° Will they, then, God's blessings [thus] deny?

(72) And God has given you mates of your own kinds' and has given you, through your mates,





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instinct which enables the lowly insect to construct the geometrical masterpiece of a honeycomb out of perfectly-proportioned hexagonal, prismatic wax cells - a structure which is most economical, and therefore most rational, as regards space and material. Together with the subsequently mentioned transmutation, in the bee's body, of plant juices into honey, this provides a striking evidence of "God's ways" manifested in all nature.

78 Lit., "thy Sustainer's paths".

79 Lit., "is reduced to a most abject age, so that he knows nothing after [having had] knowledge": alluding to the organic curve of man's growth, his acquisition of bodily strength, intelligence and experience, followed by gradual decay and, in some cases, the utter helplessness of senility, comparable to the helplessness of a new-born child.

80 The phrase "to share their sustenance with.. .", etc., reads, literally, "to turn over their sustenance to". The expression "those whom their right hands possess" (i.e., "those whom they rightfully possess") may relate either to slaves taken captive in a war in God's cause (see sarah 2, notes 167 and 168, and sarah 8, note 72) or, metonymically, to all who are dependent on others for their livelihood and thus become the latters' responsibility. The placing of one's dependants on an equal footing with oneself with regard to the basic necessities of life is a categorical demand of Islam; thus, the Prophet said: "They are your brethren, these dependants of yours (khawalukum) whom God has placed under your authority [lit., "under your hand"]. Hence, whoso has his brother under his authority shall give him to eat of what he eats himself, and shall clothe him with what he clothes himself. And do not burden them with anything that may be beyond their strength; but if you [must] burden them, help them yourselves." (This authentic Tradition, recorded by Bukhdri in several variants in his Sahih, appears in the compilations of Muslim, Tirmidhi and Ibn Hanbal as well.) However, men often fail to live up to this consciousness of moral responsibility: and this failure amounts, as the sequence shows, to a denial of God's blessings and of His unceasing care for all His creatures.

81 Lit., "has made [or "provided"] for you mates out of yourselves". The term zawj denotes not only "a pair" or "a couple" but also - as in this instance - "one of a pair" or "a mate" of the opposite sex; hence, with reference to human beings, the plural azwdj signifies both "husbands" and "wives".




children and children's children, and has provided for you sustenance out of the good things of life.

Will men," then, [continue to] believe in things false and vain, and thus blaspheme against God's blessings? - (73) and will they [continue to] worship, instead of God, something that has it not within its power to provide for them any sustenance whatever from the heavens or the earth," and can do nothing at all?

(74) Hence, do not coin any similitudes for Gods' Verily, God knows [all], whereas you have no [real] knowledge.

(75) God propounds [to you] the parable of [two men-] a man enslaved, unable to do anything of his own accord, and a [free] man upon whom We have bestowed goodly sustenance [as a gift] from Ourselves, so that he can spend thereof [at will, both] secretly and openly. Can these [two] be deemed equal?"

All praise is due to God [alone]: but most of them do not understand it.

(76) And God propounds [to you] the parable of two [other] men -one of them dumb," unable to do anything of his own accord, and a sheer burden on his master: to whichever task the latter directs him,"' he accomplishes no good. Can such a one be considered the equal of [a wise man] who enjoins the doing of what is right and himself follows a straight way?'s

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82 Lit., "they", i.e., those who deny the truth of God's existence and/or oneness.

83 For the comprehensive meaning embodied in the term rizq, see the first sentence e1; note 4 on 2 : 3.

84 Le., "do not blaspheme against God by regarding anyone or anything as comparable with Him, or by trying to define Him in any terms whatsoever" - since "definition" is, in the last resort, equivalent to a delimitation of the qualities of the object thus to be defined in relation to, or in comparison with, another object or objects: God, however, is "sublimely exalted above anything that men may devise by way of definition" (see last sentence of 6 : 100, and the corresponding note 88).

85 The obvious answer is that they cannot. The implication is equally clear: if even these two kinds of man cannot be deemed equal, how could any created being, with its intrinsic, utter dependence on other created beings, or any force of nature conceivable or imaginable by man, be thought of as possessing powers comparable with those of God, who is almighty, limitless, unconceivable-the self-sufficient fount of all that exists? (This argument is continued and further elaborated in the subsequent parable.)

86 The term abkam signifies "dumb" both in the literal, physiological sense and (as in colloquial English) in the sense of being "unable to speak properly" on account of intellectual weakness: i.e., "dull-witted" or "stupid". Both these meanings are contained in the above Qur'anic description.

87 Or: "wherever he sends him".

88 I.e., who is not only wise and righteous but also has the strength and authority to enjoin a righteous way of living upon others. Thus, while in the first parable the main issue is the contrast between freedom and bondage or - more generally - between dependence and independence, in the second parable we are given the antithesis of dumbness and incompetence, on the one hand, and




(77) Ands", God's [alone] is the knowledge of the hidden reality of the heavens and the earth."° And so, the advent of the Last Hour will but manifest itself [in a single moment,] like the twinkling of an eye, or closer still:9' for, behold, God has the power to will anything.

(78) And God has brought you forth from your mothers' wombs knowing nothing-but He has endowed you with hearing, and sight, and minds, so that you might have cause to be grateful.

(79) Have, then, they [who deny the truth] never considered the birds, enabled [by God] to fly in mid-air,' with none but God holding them aloft? In this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who will believe!

(80) And God has given you [the ability to build] your houses as places of rest, and has endowed you with [the skill to make] dwellings out of the skins of animals"' - easy for you to handle when you travel and when you camp -and [to make] furnishings and goods for temporary use of their [rough] wool and their soft, furry wool"' and their hair.

(81) And among the many objects of His creation," God has appointed for you [various] means of protection:' thus, He has given you in the mountains places of shelter, and has endowed you with [the



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wisdom, justice and competence, on the other; and in both parables the implication is the same (see note 85 above).

89 This passage connects with the second sentence of verse 74 - "Verily, God knows [all], whereas you have no [real] knowledge."

90 As may be inferred from the sequence, the term ghayb - rendered here as the "hidden reality" - alludes in this context to the coming of the Last Hour, the time whereof is known to God alone (Zamakhshari). Parallel with this, it may also relate to God's Own existence, which cannot be directly established by the testimony of our senses (Bay¢awi) but, as the Qur'lin consistently points out, may be inferred from the observable effects of His creativeness.

91 Lit., "the case (i.e., the manifestation] of the [Last] Hour will be like...", etc. - implying that it will be characterized by utter suddenness and unpredictability, both of them an outcome of the absence of any time-interval between God's decreeing it and its materialization: and this explains the phrase "or closer still" at the end of the above sentence.

92 Lit., "subservient [to God's laws] in the air of the sky".

93 The term julud (sing. jild) denotes, literally, "skins", but apparently comprises here also the wool which grows on the skins of domesticated animals. It is to be noted that in Arabian usage the noun bayt ("house") signifies not only a solid building but also a "tent" - in brief, every kind of dwelling, whether permanent or temporary.

94 Wabar (here given in its plural, awbdr) is the soft wool growing on the shoulders of camels ("camel-hair"), used in the weaving of fine cloths and sometimes also of bedouin tents.

95 Lit., "out of that which He has created".

96. Lit., "shades (zildl. sing.,;ill). Metonymically, this term is occasionally used to describe anything that "shades" one in the sense of protecting him; and since the sequence clearly refers to means of protection, I believe that this derivative meaning of zilal is here preferable to the literal.




ability to make] garments to protect you from heat [and cold]," as well as such garments as might protect you from your [mutual] violence

In this way does He bestow the full measure of His blessings on you, so that you might surrender yourselves unto Him.

(82) BUT IF they turn away [from thee, O Prophet, remember that] thy only duty is a clear delivery of the message [entrusted to thee]. (83) They 1who turn away from it] are fully aware of God's blessings, but none the less they refuse to acknowledge them [as such], since most of them are given to denying the truth

(84) But one Day We shall raise up a witness out of every community,'°° whereupon they who were bent on denying the truth will not be allowed to plead [ignorance],"' and neither will they be allowed to make amends.

(85) And when they who were bent on evildoing behold the suffering [that awaits them, they will realize that] it will not be lightened for them [by virtue of their pleading] ; and neither will they be granted respite.

(86) And when they who were wont to ascribe divinity to beings other than God behold [on Judgment Day] those beings to whom they were wont to ascribe a share in His divinity,'° they will exclaim: "O our Sustainer! These are the beings to whom we









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97 According to almost all the classical commentators, the mention of "heat" implies here its opposite as well, namely "cold"; hence my interpolation.

98 According to most of the commentators, the second incidence of the term "garments" (sarabil) in this verse is to be understood as "coats of mail" or "armour", in which case it would allude to wars and other instances of mutual violence. But although this interpretation cannot be ruled out, it seems to me that the second mention of "garments" can be understood in a much wider sense, perhaps metonymically denoting all manner of "coverings" (i.e., devices meant to protect the body) which man may be constrained to use in dangerous situations of his own making: hence the stress on "your violence" (ba'sakum).

99 I.e., although they are aware of the many blessings which man enjoys, they refuse to attribute them to God's creative activity, thus implicitly denying the truth of His existence. My rendering of al-kafirun as "[such as] are given to denying the truth" is conditioned by the definite article al which, in the above construction, is meant to stress the quality of deliberate intent.

100 An allusion to the Day of Judgment, when the prophets whom God has called forth within every community - or, in the wider sense of the term ummah, within every civilization or cultural period - will symbolically bear witness to the fact that they had delivered God's message to their people and explained to them the meaning of right and wrong, thus depriving them of any subsequent excuse.

101 According to Zamakhshar-i, their being "refused permission" to plead is a metonym for their having no valid argument or excuse to proffer. (Cf. also 77 : 35-36.)

102 Cf. 6:22 and the corresponding note 15.




ascribed a share in Thy divinity, and whom we were wont to invoke instead of Thee !"'°' -whereupon [those beings] will fling at them the retort: "Behold, you have indeed been lying [to yourselves]!"'°`

(87) And on that Day will they [who had thus been sinning, belatedly] proffer their surrender to God; and all their false imagery will have forsaken them.

(88) Upon all who were bent on denying the truth and who turned others away from the path of God will We heap suffering upon suffering in return for all the corruption that they wrought: (89) for one Day We shall raise up within every community a witness against them from among themselves.'O'

And thee [too, O Prophet,] have We brought forth to bear witness regarding those [whom thy message may have reached],'° inasmuch as We have bestowed from on high upon thee, step by step, this divine writ, to make everything clear,'°' and to provide guidance and grace and a glad tiding unto all who have surrendered themselves to God.

(90) BEHOLD, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good, and generosity towards [one's] fellow-men;'°s and He forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason,'° as well as envy; [and] He ex







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103 The Qur'an states in many places that every sinner who dies without repentance will be endowed on Judgment Day with a clear, objectified vision of his sins, every one of which will have assumed for him the status of an independent reality bearing witness against him and forcing him to acknowledge his now irremediable guilt. It is to be remembered in this connection that the Qur'an describes every act of sinning - whether it be an offence against the concept of God's oneness and uniqueness or a wrong done to any of His creatures - as, primarily, one's "wronging oneself" or "sinning against oneself".

104 Cf. 6 : 23-24 and the corresponding notes 16 and 17.

105 See note 100 above.

106 Although the Arabian contemporaries of the Prophet were, naturally, the first to whom his revelation was conveyed - a fact that gave a particular weight to the manner in which they responded to it-the Qur'anic message as such is addressed to all mankind (see in this connection, in particular, 7 : 158 and 21 :107, as well as the corresponding notes).

107 Le., everything that pertains to the knowledge of good and evil, in both the individual and social senses of these terms. - Regarding my rendering of nazzalnd, it should be borne in mind that this particular grammatical form is often used in the Qur'an to bring out the fact that it was revealed gradually ("step by step") over a considerable period of time, and not in one piece.

108 Lit., "the giving to [one's] kinsfolk (dhu 'I-qurbd)". The latter term usually denotes "relatives", either by blood or by marriage; but since it occurs here in the context of a comprehensive ethical exhortation, it obviously alludes to man's "kinsfolk" in the widest sense of the term, namely, to his "fellow-men".

109 The term al-munkar (rendered by me in other places as "that which is wrong") has here its original meaning of "that which the mind [or the moral sense] rejects", respectively "ought to reject". Zamakshari is more specific, and explais this term as signifying in the above context "that which [men's] intellects disown" or "declare to be untrue" (md tunkiruhu al= uqul): in other words, all that runs counter to reason and good sense (which, obviously, must not be confused




horts you [repeatedly] so that you might bear [all this] in mind.

(91) And be true to your bond with God whenever you bind yourselves by a pledge,"' and do not break [your] oaths after having [freely] confirmed them"' and having called upon God to be witness to your good faith: "2 behold, God knows all that you do.

(92) Hence, be not like her who breaks and completely untwists the yarn which she [herself] has spun and made strong-[be not like this by] using your oaths as a means of deceiving one another,"' simply because some of you may be more powerful than others."'

By all this, God but puts you to a test-and [He does it] so that on Resurrection Day He might make clear unto you all that on which you were wont to differ."s (93) For, had God so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community ;116 however, He lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides aright him that wills [to be guided];"' and you will surely be called to account for all that you ever did!"e







with that which is beyond man's comprehension). This eminently convincing explanation relates not merely to intellectually unacceptable propositions (in the abstract sense of the term) but also to grossly unreasonable and, therefore, reprehensible actions or attitudes and is, thus, fully in tune with the rational approach of the Qur'fn to questions of ethics as well as with its insistence on reasonableness and moderation in man's behaviour. Hence my rendering-of al-munkar, in this and in similar instances, as "all that runs counter to reason".

110 Regarding the expression "bond with God" ('ahd All4h), see sdrah 2, note 19. The clause "whenever you bind yourselves by a pledge" has a twofold meaning: in the first instance (as in 13 : 20) it refers to the spiritual, moral and social obligations arising from one's faith in God; and, secondly, it applies to all pledges or promises given by one person to another-for, as RAzT points out, every pledge given by man to man represents, in its essence, a pledge to God. It is to this second aspect of man's "bond with God" that the sequence refers.

111 Le., as distinct from oaths "uttered without thought" (see 2: 225).

112 Lit., "and having made God [or "named God as"] your guarantor (kafil)". 113 Lit., "as a [means of] deception (dakhalan) among yourselves".

114 Lit., "because there are people (ummah) more powerful than [other] people": relating to declarations and false promises made out of fear.

115 As is evident from the preceding passage as well as from the sequence, the differences alluded to here relate to ethical and moral values, regarding the truth and relevance of which people of various communities and persuasions hold most divergent views. See also sarah 2, note 94.

116 I.e., bound by mutually agreed-upon moral values. See in this connection 10: 19 and the corresponding notes, especially note 29. For an elucidation of the concept of ummah wdhidah ("one single community") and its further implications, see sarah 2, notes 197 and 198.

117 Or: "He lets go astray whomever He wills, and guides aright whomever He wills". Regarding the problem of free will versus predestination, seemingly implied in the concept of God's "letting man go [or "causing him to go"] astray" or, alternatively, "guiding him aright", see sdrah 14, note 4.

118 Alluding to the erroneous idea that man's good or evil actions -and therefore also his




(94) And do not use your oaths as a means of deceiving one another-or else [your] foot will slip after having been firm,"' and then you will have to taste the evil [consequences]`2° of your having turned away from the path of God, with tremendous suffering awaiting you [in the life to come].

(95) Hence, do not barter away your bond with God for a trifling gain!

Verily, that which is with God is by far the best for you, if you but knew it: (96) all that is with you is bound to come to an end, whereas that which is with God is everlasting.

And most certainly shall We grant unto those who are patient in adversity their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did.

(97) As for anyone - be it man or woman - who does righteous deeds, and is a believer withal - him shall We most certainly cause to live a good life .121 and most certainly shall We grant unto such as these their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did.

(98) NOW whenever thou happen to read this Qur'an, seek refuge with God from Satan, the accursed.'22 (99) Behold, he has no power over those who have attained to faith and in their Sustainer place their

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propensities and resulting attitudes -are "predetermined" by God and not really an outcome of free choice, Zamakhshari rounds off his views on this problem (quoted by me in surah 14, note 4) in these words: "If [it were true that] God compels [men] to astray or, alternatively, to follow His guidance-why should He have postulated their deeds as something for which they will be held responsible?"

119 Le., "you will offend against God after having attained to faith", seeing that-as has been pointed out in note 110 above-every pledge given by man to man is synonymous with a pledge to God.

120 I.e., in this world (Tabari, Zamakhshari, Baydawi), inasmuch as the breaking of pledges unavoidably leads to a gradual disappearance of all mutual trust and, thus, to the decomposition of the social fabric.

121 This may relate either to life in this world-inasmuch as a true believer invariably finds happiness in his God-consciousness - or to the happiness which awaits him in the hereafter, or to both.

122 The present passage (verses 98-105) evidently connects with the broad ethical exhortation given in verse 90 above and, thus, with the statement (in verse 89) that the Qur'an is meant "to make everything clear and to provide guidance and grace and a glad tiding unto all who have surrendered themselves to God" - which, in its turn, implies that the Qur'an is the ultimate source of all God-willed ethical and moral values, and thus an unchanging criterion of good and evil. But since man is always, by virtue of his nature, prone to question the very validity of the moral standards established through revelation, the believer is now called upon to seek, whenever he reads or meditates on this divine writ, God's spiritual aid against the whisperings of what the Qur'an describes as "Satan, the accursed"-that is, all the evil forces, both within man's own soul and within his social environment, which tend to undermine his moral convictions and to lead him away from God.


trust: (100) he has power only over those who are willing to follow him,'2' and who [thus] ascribe to him a share in God's divinity.'24

(101) And now that We replace one message by another"-since God is fully aware of what He bestows from on high, step by step '26 - they [who deny the truth] are wont to say, "Thou but inventest it!" Nay, but most of them do not understand it!'n

(102) Say: "Holy inspiration"8 has brought it down from thy Sustainer by stages, setting forth the truth, so that it might give firmness unto those who have attained to faith, and provide guidance and a glad tiding unto all who have surrendered themselves to God."

(103) And, indeed, full well do We know that they say, "It is but a human being that imparts [all] this to him!"'29-[notwithstanding that] the tongue of him to whom they so maliciously point is wholly outlandish, "° whereas this is Arabic speech, clear [in itself] and clearly showing the truth [of its source]."'




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123 Or: "who make him their master". Cf. in this connection 14:22 and the corresponding note 31.

124 Le., inasmuch as they pay an almost worshipful reverence to such blandishments as wealth, power, social position, etc.

125 Le., by substituting the message of the Qur'an for the earlier dispensations - and not, as some Muslim scholars maintain, "abrogating" one Qur'anic verse and replacing it by another. (Regarding the untenable "doctrine of abrogation", in the latter sense, see 2: 106 and the corresponding note 87; see also note 35 on 41 : 42.)

126 Le., the gradualness of revelation (implied in the verbal form yunazzil) corresponds to God's plan, according to which He has gradually unfolded His will to man, substituting one dispensation for another in the measure of mankind's intellectual and social development, bringing it to its culmination in the message of the Qur'an.

127 Le., they do not understand the necessity of a new dispensation and, therefore, do not really understand the Qur'an.

128 As in the three other places in which the expression ruh al-qudus occurs (2: 87 and 253, and 5 : 110),1 am rendering it here, too, as "holy inspiration" (see surah 2, note 71), a term which, to my mind, is a Qur'anic synonym for "divine revelation". However, a literal rendering-"spirit of holiness" -is also possible if one applies this term to the angel who communicates God's revelations to the prophets. (See also verse 2 of this surah and the corresponding note 2.)

129 I.e., to Muhammad - thus insinuating that his claim to divine revelation was false.

130 Whereas some of the pagan Quraysh regarded the ideas expressed in the Qur'an as "invented" by Muhammad, others thought that they must have been imparted to him by a foreigner - perhaps a Christian - who lived in Mecca at that time, or whom the Prophet was supposed to have encountered at an earlier period of his life. Various conjectures have been advanced - both by early Muslim commentators and by modern orientalists - as to the "identity" of the person or persons whom the suspicious Meccans might have had in mind in this connection; but all these conjectures are purely speculative and, therefore, of no historical value whatever. The suspicion of the pagan Meccans implies no more than the historical fact that those of the Prophet's opponents who were unwilling to pay him the compliment of having "invented" the Qur'an (the profundity of which they were unable to deny) conveniently attributed its authorshipor at least its inspiration-to a mythical non-Arab "teacher" of the Prophet.

131 For an explanation of this composite rendering of the descriptive term mubin, see surah 12,


(104) Verily, as for those who will not believe in God's messages, God does not guide them aright; and grievous suffering will be their lot [in the life to come]. (105) It is but they who will not believe in God's messages that invent this falsehood;" and it is they, they who are lying!

(106) As for anyone who denies God after having once attained to faith-and this, to be sure, does not apply to... one who does it under duress, the while his heart remains true to his faith,'34 but [only, to] him who willingly opens up his heart to a denial of the truth-: upon all such [falls] God's condemnation, and tremendous suffering awaits them: (107) all this, because they hold this world's life in greater esteem than the life to come, and because God does not bestow His guidance upon people who deny the truth.

(108) They whose hearts and whose hearing and whose sight God has sealed -it is they, they who are heedless !131 (109) Truly it is they, they who in the life to come shall be the losers!

(110) And yet, behold, thy Sustainer [grants His forgiveness] unto those who forsake the domain of evil after having succumbed to its temptation,"6 and who thenceforth strive hard [in God's cause] and are patient in adversity: behold, after such [repentance] thy Sustainer is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!

(111) [Be conscious, then, of] the Day when every human being shall come to plead for himself [alone], and every human being shall be repaid in full for









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note 2. 'the term is used here to stress the fact that no human being-and certainly no non-Arab -could ever have produced the flawless, exalted Arabic diction in which the Qur'fln is expressed.

132 I.e., the scurrilous allegation referred to in verse 103. Although this statement alludes, in the first instance, to the hostile contemporaries of the Prophet, it extends, by obvious implication, to people of all times who refuse to believe in the reality of Muhammad's revelations, and try to explain them away as obsessive illusions or even as deliberate fabrications.

133 Lit., "except" - but the Arabic construction of the sentence that follows makes it necessary to render the simple particle ills in the manner adopted by me ("and this, to be sure, does not apply to. . . , etc.).

134 Lit., "one who is coerced, the while his heart is at rest in [his] faith". This relates to believers who, under torture or threat of death, ostensibly "recant" in order to save themselves. Although the Qur'an makes it clear in several places that martyrdom in the cause of faith is highly meritorious, "God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear" (cf. 2 : 233 and 286, 6 : 152, 7 : 42, 23: 62, and many other Qur'anic statements to the same effect).

135 Sc., "of what is good and what is bad for them". -For an explanation of God's "sealing" the hearts of those who are bent on denying the truth, see 2:7 and the corresponding note.

136 For an explanation of the concept of fitnah (appearing here in the verbal form futinu) and of my rendering it as "temptation to evil", see surah 8, note 25. As regards the expression alladhfna hdiaru in its spiritual connotation, see surah 2, note 203 and Aiirah 4, note 124.


whatever he has done, and none shall be wronged.

(112) AND GOD propounds [to you] a parable: [Imagine] a town which was [once] secure and at ease, with its sustenance coming to it abundantly from all quarters, and which thereupon blasphemously refused to show gratitude for God's blessings: and therefore God caused it to taste the all-embracing misery'37 of hunger and fear in result of all [the evil] that its people had so persistently wrought. 138

(113) And indeed, there had come unto them an apostle from among themselves -but they gave him the lie; and therefore suffering overwhelmed them while they were thus doing wrong [to themselves].


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(114) AND SO, partake of all the lawful, good things which God has provided for you as sustenance, and render thanks unto God for His blessings, if it is [truly] Him that you worship.'39

(115) He has forbidden to you only carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that over which any name other than God's has been invoked; but if one is driven [to it] by necessity - neither coveting it nor exceeding his immediate need -verily, God is muchforgiving, a dispenser of grace.''°

(116) Hence, do not utter falsehoods by letting your tongues determine [at your own discretion], "This is lawful and that is forbidden", thus attributing your own lying inventions to God: 141 for, behold, they who attribute their own lying inventions to God will never attain to a happy state! (117) A brief enjoyment [may be theirs in this world] -but grievous suffering awaits them [in the life to come]!






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137 Lit., "the garment" (libas)-idiomatically used in classical Arabic to describe the utmost degree of misfortune which "envelops man like a garment" (Tdj al= Arus, with specific reference to the above verse).

138 This parable is meant to show that deliberate ingratitude for the manifold blessings which God bestows upon man - in other words, a deliberate refusal to submit to His guidance - is bound, in the long run and in the context of aggregate social life, to have disastrous consequences not only in the hereafter but in this world as well, inasmuch as no society may expect to live in security and ease unless it conforms to the ethical and social standards inherent in the concept of man's "bond with God" (as explained in sarah 2, note 19).

139 It is this call to gratitude that provides a connection between the present passage and the foregoing parable of the ungrateful town and, thus, with the opening passages (verses 1-15) of this sarah.

140 It is to be noted that the above two verses are almost identical with 2 : 172-173, and ought, therefore, to be read in conjunction with the whole passage of which those two verses form a part-namely, 2: 168-173. Cf. also 6: 145.

141 Regarding the very important problem of an arbitrary determination, based on subjective preferences, of what is to be considered ethically right or wrong, see sarah 2, note 137.


_          (118) And [only] unto those who followed the Jewish faith did We forbid all that We have mentioned to thee ere this;'42 and no wrong did We do to them, but it was they who persistently wronged themselves.

(119) And once again:" Behold, thy Sustainer [shows mercy] to those who do evil out of ignorance and afterwards repent and live righteously: behold, after such [repentance] thy Sustainer is indeed muchforgiving, a dispenser of grace.

(120) VERILY, Abraham was a man who combined within himself all virtues,`"` devoutly obeying God's will, turning away from all that is false,`4s and not being of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God: (121) [for he was always] grateful for the blessings granted by Him who had elected him and guided him onto a straight way.

(122) And so We vouchsafed him good in this world; and, verily, in the life to come [too] he shall find himself among the righteous.

(123) And lastly," We have inspired thee, [O Muhammad, with this message:] "Follow the creed of Abraham, who turned away from all that is false, and was not of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God; (124) [and know that the observance of] the Sabbath was ordained only for those who came to hold divergent views about him;` but, verily, God









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142 I.e., in 6 : 146, revealed shortly before the present surah. The conjunctive particle "And" at the beginning of this sentence establishes a connection with the precept laid down in verse 114 above, "partake of all the lawful, good things which God has provided for you as sustenance": the implication being (as in 6: 145) that none of the really good and wholesome things have been forbidden to the believer, and that the many dietary prohibitions and restrictions imposed on the Jews were imposed on them alone in punishment of their persistent sinning (cf. 3 : 93).

143 For this rendering of thumma, see surah -6, note 31.

144 This is one of the many meanings of the term ummah and, to my mind, the one most appropriate in the above context. - The mention of Abraham at this place contains a subtle allusion to verse 118, where the Jews are spoken of: for, the latter claim to be "the chosen people" on account of their descent from Abraham, whereas the Qur'an consistently rejects all claims to a special status by virtue of one's descent. Moreover, the Qur'an states in many places that whereas this particular ancestor of the Hebrews - and, by the way, of most of the Arab tribes as well - was a personification of all that is good and upright, so that "God exalted him with His love" (4: 125), his Jewish descendants always tended to rebel against God and, thus, "persistently wronged themselves".

145 For an explanation of this rendering of the term han1f, see surah 2, note 110.

146 Lit., "thereafter" or "afterwards" (thumma): but since this particle evidently alludes here to the climax of all revelation as manifested in the Qur'an, the above rendering seems to be suitable.

147 I.e., about Abraham. The implication is that the majority of the Jews had deviated from the true creed of Abraham (which is the meaning of the phrase, "those who came to hold divergent views about him") inasmuch as most of them became convinced that they were "God's chosen people" simply because of their physical descent from that great Prophet: an assumption which




will judge between them on Resurrection Day with regard to all on which they were wont to differ.' 149

125) CALL THOU (all mankind] unto thy Sustainer's path with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the most kindly manner-49 for, behold, thy Sustainer knows best as to who strays from His path, and best knows He as to who are the right-guided. (126) Hence, if you have to respond to an attack (in argument], respond only to the extent of the attack levelled against you;'-" but to bear yourselves with patience is indeed far better for (you, since God is with] those who are patient in adversity.

(127) Endure, then, with patience (all that they who deny the truth may say] -always remembering that it is none but God who gives thee the strength to endure adversity's' -and do not grieve over them, and neither be distressed by the false arguments which they devise:'m (128) for, verily, God is with those who are conscious of Him and are doers of good withal!

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obviously runs counter to every truly religious principle. As the Qur'gn repeatedly points out, this spiritual arrogance was punished by God's imposition ou the children of Israel-and on them alone -of all manner of severe restrictions and rituals, of which the obligation to refrain from all work and even travel on the Sabbath was one. In its widest implication, this passage is meant to stress the fact that all God-imposed rituals are only a means towards the achievement of spiritual discipline, and never a religious goal in themselves.

148 Le., He will judge between those who are convinced of their ultimate salvation on the basis of their alleged status of "God's chosen people", and those who believe in man's individual responsibility before God: and thus the discourse returns to the problem of God-consciousness and righteous living.

149 Cf. 29: 46 - "And do not argue with the followers of earlier revelation otherwise than in the most kindly manner". This stress on kindness and tact and, hence, on the use of reason alone in all religious discussions with adherents of other creeds is fully in tune with the basic, categorical injunction, "There shall be no coercion in matters of faith" (2: 256).

150 Lit., "retaliate [or "respond"] with the like of what you have been afflicted with": thus, the believers are admonished to observe self-restraint while arguing with people of another persuasion, and never to offend against decency and intellectual equity. Although retaliation in argument is permissible if one's integrity is impeached by an opponent, the sequence makes it clear that it is morally preferable to renounce it altogether and to bear the unjust attack with patience.

151 Lit., "and thy patience in adversity (sabr) is due to (or. "ream with"] none but God"-i.e., it must never be allowed to become a source of spiritual arrogance and false self-righteousness.

152 Lit., "all that they are scheming", i.e., by inventing false and irrelevant arguments against God's messages.


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