THE NINETEENTH SCRAH
MAR YAM (MARY)
ALL THE AUTHORITIES agree in that this sarah belongs to the Mecca period; but whereas some of them (e.g., Suyuti) place it chronologically towards the end of that period, there is uncontrovertible historical evidence that it was revealed not later than the sixth and possibly even as early as the fifth year of the Prophet's mission, i.e., about seven or eight years before his hijrah to Medina. The Companions who at about that time took part in the second emigration of Muslims from Mecca to Abyssinia were already acquainted with this surah: thus, for instance, it is recorded that Ja`far ibn Abi Talib-the Prophet's cousin and leader of the first group of those emigrants-recited it before the Negus (i.e., King) of Abyssinia in order to explain the Islamic attitude towards Jesus (Ibn Hisham).
The title by which this sarah is commonly known is based on the story of Mary and Jesus, which (together with the story of Zachariah and his son John, the precursor of Jesus) occupies about one-third of the whole sarah and is re-echoed towards its end in verses Sll-91.
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:
(1) Kdf. Ha. Yd. `Ayn. Sdd.'
(2) AN ACCOUNT of the grace which thy Sustainer bestowed upon His servant Zachariah:2
(3) When he called out to his Sustainer in the secrecy of his heart,' (4) he prayed: "O my Sustainer! Feeble have become my bones, and my head glistens with grey hair. But never yet, O my Lord, has my prayer unto Thee remained unanswered.`
(5) "Now, behold, I am afraid of [what] my kinsfolk [will do] after I am gone,' for my wife has always been barren. Bestow, then, upon me, out of Thy grace, the gift of a successor (6) who will be my heir as well as an heir [to the dignity] of the House of Jacob; and make him, O my Sustainer, well-pleasing to Thee!"
1 See Appendix II.
2 Lit., "An account of thy Sustainer's grace upon. ..", etc. According to the account in the Gospels, not contradicted by the Qur'an, Zachariah's wife Elisabeth was a cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Cf. Luke i, 36).
3 Lit., "with secret calling".
4 Lit., "never have I been unfortunate in my prayer to Thee".
5 Lit., "after me". He evidently anticipated that
his kinsfolk-who, like himself, were priests attached to the
(7) [Thereupon the angels called out unto him:'] "O Zachariah! We bring thee the glad tiding of [the birth of] a son whose name shall be John. [And God says,] `Never have We given this name to anyone before
(8) [Zachariah] exclaimed: "O my Sustainer! How can I have a son when my wife has always been barren and I have become utterly infirm through old age?"
(9) Answered [the angel]: "Thus. it is; [but] thy 'Sustainer says, `This is easy for Me -even as I have created thee aforetime out of nothing.' "a
(10) [Zachariah] prayed: "O my Sustainer! Appoint ~a sign for me!"
Said [the angel]: "Thy sign shall be that for full three nights [and days] thou wilt not speak unto men. -9 (11) Thereupon he came out of the sanctuary unto his people and signified to them [by gestures]: "Extol His limitless glory by day and by night!"
(12) [And when the son was born and grew up,'° he was told,] "O John! Hold fast unto the divine writ with [all thy] strength!" - for We granted him wisdom "while he was yet a little boy, (13) as well as, by Our grace, [the gift of] compassion" and purity; and he vv as [always] conscious of Us (14) and full of piety towards his parents; and never was he haughty or rebellious.
(15) Hence, [God's] peace was upon him on the day when he was born, and on the day of his death, and. will be [upon him] on the day when he shall be raised to life [again].
(16) AND CALL to mind, through this divine writ," Mary. Lo! She withdrew from her family to an east
6 See 3 : 39.
7 Lit., "Never before have We made a namesake for him". The name Yahyd (John) signifies "he shall live", i.e., he will be spiritually alive and will be remembered forever; and the fact that God Himself had chosen this name for him was a singular distinction, equivalent to a divine promise (kalimah, cf. note 28 on 3 :39).
8 Lit., "when [or "although"] thou wert nothing". This stress on God's unlimited power to bring into being a new chain of causes and effects forms here, as in Al `Imran, a preamble to the announcement, expressed in very similar terms, of the birth of Jesus (see verses l9 ff.).
9 See 3 : 41 and the corresponding note 29.
10 According to Razi, this is clearly implied inasmuch as the sequence presupposes that John had in the meantime reached an age which enabled him to receive and understand God's commandment.
11 Lit., "compassion from Us"-i.e., as a special divine gift.
12 Lit., "in the divine writ". In this surah as well as in Al `Imran the story of the birth of John is followed by that of Jesus-firstly, because John (called "the Baptist" in the Bible) was to be a precursor of Jesus, and, secondly, because of the obvious parallelism in the form of the announcements of these two births.
ern place (17) and kept herself in seclusion from them," whereupon We sent unto her Our angel of revelation, who appeared to her in the shape of a well-made human being."
(18) She exclaimed: "Verily, 'I seek refuge from thee with the Most Gracious! [Approach me not] if thou art conscious of Him!"
(19) [The angel] answered: "I' am but a messenger of thy Sustainer, [who says,] `I shall bestow upon thee the gift of a son endowed with purity.'"
(20) Said she: "How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me? - for, never have I been a loose woman!"
(21) [The angel] answered: "Thus it is; [but] thy Sustainer says, `This is easy for Me;" and [thou shalt have a son,] so that We might make him a symbol unto mankind and an act of grace from US.-16
And it was a thing decreed [by God]: (22) and in time she conceived him, and then she withdrew with him to a far-off place.
(23) And [when] the throes of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree," she exclaimed: "Oh, would that I had died ere this, and had become a thing forgotten, utterly forgotten!"
(24) Thereupon [a voice] called out to her from
13 Apparently, in order to devote herself undisturbed to prayer and meditation. The "eastern place" may possibly, as Ibn Kathir suggests, signify an eastern chamber of the Temple, to the service of which Mary had been dedicated by her mother (cf. 3:35-37).
14 As pointed out in surah 2, note 71, and surah 16, note 2, the term ruh often denotes "divine inspiration". Occasionally, however, it is used to describe the medium through which such inspiration is imparted to God's elect: in other words, the angel (or angelic force) of revelation. Since - as is implied in 6:9 - mortals cannot perceive an angel in his true manifestation, God caused him to appear to Mary "in the shape of a well-made human being", i.e., in a shape accessible to her perception. According to Razi, the designation of the angel as rah ("spirit" or "soul") indicates that this category of beings is purely spiritual, without any physical element.
15 Cf. the identical phrase in verse 9 above, relating to the announcement of John's birth to Zachariah. In both these cases, the implication is that God can and does bring about events which may be utterly unexpected or even inconceivable before they materialize. In connection with the announcement of a son to Mary, the Qur'an states in 3 : 47 that "when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, 'Be' -and it is": but since neither the Qur'an nor any authentic Tradition tells us anything about the chain of causes and effects (asbdb) which God's decree "Be" was to bring into being, all speculation as to the "how" of this event must remain beyond the scope of a Qur'an-commentary. (But see also note 87 on 21 : 91.)
16 One of the several meanings of the term dyah is "a sign" or, as elaborately defined by Raghib. "a symbol" (cf. surah 17, note 2). However, the sense in which it is most frequently used in the Qur'an is "a [divine] message": hence, its metonymic application to Jesus may mean that he was destined to become a vehicle of God's message to man - i.e., a prophet- and, thus, a symbol of God's grace. - As regards the words "thou shalt have a son" interpolated by me between brackets, a statement to this effect is implied in the subsequent phrase beginning with "so that" (Zamakhshari and Razi).
17 Le., compelling her to cling to it for support: thus stressing the natural, normal circumstances of this childbirth, attended-as is the case with all women-by severe labour pains.
beneath that [palm-tree]:'e "Grieve not! Thy Sustainer has provided a rivulet [running] beneath thee; (25) and shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards thee: it will drop fresh, ripe dates upon thee. (26) Eat, then, and drink, and let thine eye be gladdened! And if thou shouldst see any human being, convey this unto him:'9 `Behold, abstinence from speech have I vowed unto the Most Gracious; hence, I may not speak today to any mortal.' " '
(27) And in time she returned to her people, carrying the child with her."
They said: "O Mary! Thou hast indeed done an amazing thing! (28) O sister of Aaron!u Thy father was not a wicked man, nor was thy mother a loose woman!" (29) Thereupon she pointed to him.
They exclaimed: "How can we talk to one who [as yet] is a little boy in the cradle?"
(30) [But] he said:' "Behold, I am a servant of God. He has vouchsafed unto me revelation and made me a prophet, (31) and made me blessed wherever I may be; and He has enjoined upon me prayer and charity as long as I live, (32) and [has
3:e,;,:*~h li,JlcLl ;
18 Or: "from beneath her". However, Qatadah (as quoted by Zamakhshari) interprets this as meaning "from beneath the palm-tree".
19 Lit., "say"-but since actual speech would contradict what follows, the "saying" implies here a communication by gestures.
20 In its primary sense, the term sawm denotes "abstinence" or "self-denial"; in the present context it is synonymous with samt ("abstinence from speech"); in fact-as pointed out by Zamakhshari-the latter term is said to have figured in the Qur'an-copy belonging to `Abd Allah ibn Mas'dd (possibly as a marginal, explanatory notation).
21 Lit., "she came with him to her people, carrying him".
22 In ancient Semitic usage, a person's name was often linked with that of a renowned ancestor or founder of the tribal line. Thus, for instance, a man of the tribe of Band Tamim was sometimes addressed as "son of Tamim" or "brother of Tamim". Since Mary belonged to the priestly caste, and hence descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses, she was called a "sister of Aaron" (in the same way as her cousin Elisabeth, the wife of Zachariah, is spoken of in Luke i, 5, as one "of the daughters of Aaron").
23 Although the Qur'an mentions in 3 : 46 that Jesus would "speak unto men [while yet] in his cradle" - i.e., would be imbued with wisdom from his early childhood - verses 30-33 seem to be in the nature of a trope, projecting the shape of things to come by using, for the sake of emphasis, the past tense to describe something that was to become real in the future. (See also next note.)
24 Since it is not conceivable that anyone could be granted divine revelation and made a prophet before attaining to full maturity of intellect and experience, `Ikrimah and Ad-Dahhak-as quoted by Tabari-interpret this passage as meaning, "God has decreed (gadd) that lie would vouchsafe unto me revelation. . .", etc., thus regarding it as an allusion to the future. Tabari himself applies the same interpretation to the next verse, explaining it thus: "He has decreed that He would enjoin upon me prayer and charity". However, the whole of this passage (verses 30-33) may also be understood as having been uttered by Jesus at a much later time-namely, after he had reached maturity and been actually entrusted with his prophetic mission: that is to say, it may be understood as an anticipatory description of the ethical and moral principles which were to dominate the adult life of Jesus and particularly his deep consciousness of being only "a servant of God"
endowed me with] piety towards my mother; and He has not made me haughty or bereft of grace.
(33) "Hence, peace was upon me on the day when I was born, and [will be upon me] on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life [again]!"
(34) SUCH WAS, in the words of truth, Jesus the son of Mary, about whose nature they so deeply disagree.' (35) It is not conceivable that God should have taken unto Himself a son: limitless is He in His glory!' When He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it "Be" -and it is!
(36) And [thus it was that Jesus always said]: "Verily, God is my Sustainer as well as your Sustainer; so worship [none but] Him: this (alone] is a straight way."'
(37) And yet, the sects [that follow the Bible] are at variance among themselves [about the nature of Jesus
Woe, then, unto all who deny the truth when that awesome Day will appear!' (38) How well will they hear and see [the truth] on the Day when they come before Us!
Today, however, these evildoers are obviously lost in error: (39) hence, warn them of [the coming of] the Day of Regrets, when everything will have been decided-for as yet they are heedless, and they do not believe [in it].
(40) Behold, We alone shall remain after the earth and all who live on it have passed away," and (when] unto Us all will have been brought back.
(41) AND CALL to mind, through this divine writ, Abraham." Behold, he was a man of truth, [already] a
25 Lit., "about whom they are in doubt", or "about whom they [vainly] dispute": an allusion to the many conflicting views about the nature of Jesus and his origins, ranging from the blasphemous Jewish assertion that he was a "false prophet" and the product of a shameful, illicit union (cf. 4 : 156), to the Christian belief that he was "the son of God" and, therefore, God incarnate. In this connection, see also 3 : 59 and the corresponding note 47.
26 See note 96 on 2 : 116.
27 Cf. 3 : 51 and 43 : 64.
28 I.e., either rejecting him entirely, as do the Jews, or-as is the case with the Christiansdeifying him.
29 Lit., "from the manifestation (mashhad) of an awesome Day", i.e., the Day of Judgment.
30 Lit., "We alone shall inherit the earth and all who are on it". For an explanation of this metaphoric use of the concept of "inheritance", see surah 15, note 22.
31 The mention of Abraham and his subsequent, unavailing plea to his father to recognize God's oneness and uniqueness connects with the preceding discourse, under the same aspect, on the true nature of Jesus as a mortal human being and a mere servant of the One and Only God.
prophet (42) when he spoke [thus] unto his father: "O my father! Why dost thou worship something that neither hears nor sees and can be of no avail whatever to thee?
(43) "O my father! Behold, there has indeed come to me [a ray] of knowledge such as has never yet come unto thee:" follow me, then; I shall guide thee onto a perfect way.
(44) "O my father! Do not worship Satan-for, verily, Satan is a rebel against the Most Gracious!" (45) O my father! I dread lest a chastisement from the Most Gracious befall thee, and then thou wilt become [aware of having been] close unto Satan!"'
(46) He answered: "Dost thou dislike my gods, O Abraham? Indeed, if thou desist not, I shall most certainly cause thee to be stoned to death! Now begone from me for good!"
(47) [Abraham] replied: "Peace be upon thee! I shall ask my Sustainer to forgive thee: for, behold, He has always been kind unto me. (48) But I shall withdraw from you all and from whatever you invoke instead of God, and shall invoke my Sustainer [alone]: it may well be that my prayer [for thee] will not remain unanswered by my Sustainer." as
\ (49) And after he had withdrawn from them and from all that they were worshipping instead of God, We bestowed upon him Isaac and Jacob, and made each of them a prophet; (50) and We bestowed upon them [manifold] gifts out of Our grace, and granted them a lofty power to convey the truth [unto others].'e
.LL~;JG~hl~ ~3:I:as, a
~-~~ - 6;,~ .1 s4
(51) AND CALL to mind, through this divine writ, Moses. Behold, he was a chosen one, and was an apostle [of
32 I.e., a cognition of God's existence and uniqueness through intellectual insight (cf. 6 : 74-82).
33 The absurdity inherent in the attribution of divine qualities to anything or anyone but God is here declared, by implication, to be equivalent to "worshipping" the epitome of unreason and ingratitude symbolized in Satan's rebellion against his Creator. In this connection it should be noted that the term shaytdn is derived from the verb shatana, signifying "he was [or "became"] remote [from the truth]" (Lisan al-'Arab, Tai al= Aras); hence, the Qur'an describes every impulse that inherently offends against truth, reason and morality as "satanic", and every conscious act of submission to such satanic influences as a "worship of Satan".
34 According to Zamakhshari and Razi, the construction of this clause (beginning with "so that") is meant to bring out the idea that one's belated realization, in the hereafter, of having been "close unto Satan" is the most terrible consequence of deliberate sinning.
35 Lit., "that I will not be unfortunate in the prayer to my Sustainer".
36 Lit., "a lofty language of truth" or "of truthfulness"-the term lisan ("language" or "tongue") being used here metonymically for what may be pronounced by the tongue (Zamakhshar0. An alternative interpretation of the phrase, advanced by many commentators, is "granted them 'a lofty renown for truth" or "truthfulness", or simply "a most goodly renown".
God], a prophet."
(52) And [remember how] We called upon him from the right-hand slope of Mount Sinai's and drew him near [unto Us] in mystic communion, (53) and [how], out of Our grace, We granted unto him his brother Aaron, to be a prophet [by his side].
(54) AND CALL to mind, through this divine writ, Ishmael." Behold, he was always true to his promise, and was an apostle [of God], a prophet, (55) who used to enjoin upon his people prayer and charity,'° and found favour in his Sustainer's sight.
(56) AND CALL to mind, through this divine writ, Idris.°' Behold, he was a man of truth, a prophet, (57) whom We exalted onto a lofty station.`2
iJ~~11~ a 0
(58) THESE WERE some of the prophets upon whom God bestowed His blessings - [prophets] of the seed of Adam and of those whom We caused to be borne [in the ark] with Noah, and of the seed of Abraham and Israel°': and [all of them were] among those
37 The mention of Moses and other prophets in this context serves to reinforce the statement that all of them - like Jesus - were but mortal servants of God whom He had inspired with His message to man (cf. verse 30 above). As regards the distinction between the terms "prophet" (nab[) and "apostle" (rasul), see the opening clause of 22: 52 and the corresponding note 65.
38 Le., to the right side-from the standpoint of Moses, as he was facing Mount Sinai (Tabari). However, it is much more probable that the term "right side" has here, as elsewhere in the Qur'an, the abstract connotation of "blessedness" (cf. note 25 on 74: 39). For a fuller account of God's calling Moses to prophethood, see 20: 9 ff.
39 After the mention of Moses, who descended from Abraham through Isaac, we are reminded of Ishmael, Abraham's first-born son and the progenitor of the "northern" group of Arab tribes, and thus of the Prophet Muhammad, who descended in direct line, through the tribe of Quraysh, from Ishmael.
40.This may perhaps mean that Ishmael was the first among the prophets to establish prayer and charity as obligatory forms of worship.
41 The majority of the classical commentators identify the Prophet Idris-who is mentioned in the Qur'an once again, namely in 21 :85-with the Biblical Enoch (Genesis v. 18-19 and 21-24), without, however, being able to adduce any authority for this purely conjectural identification. Some modern Qur'an-commentators suggest that the name Idris may be the Arabicized form of Osiris (which, in its turn, was the ancient Greek version of the Egyptian name As-ar or Us-ar), said to have been a wise king and/or prophet whom the Egyptians subsequently deified (cf. Maraghi XVI, 64, and Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zildl al -Qur'an, Cairo, n.d., vol. XVI, 44); but this assumption is too far-fetched to deserve any serious consideration. Finally, some of the earliest Qur'an-commentators (`Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud, Qatadah, `Ikrimah and Ad-Dahhak) assert-with, to my mind, great plausibility-that "Idris" is but another name for Ilyas, the Biblical Elijah (regarding whom see note 48 on 37 : 123).
42 As regards my rendering of rafa'ndhu as "whom We exalted", see 3:55 and 4: 158, where the same expression is used with reference to Jesus, as well as note 172 on the last-named verse.
43 Whereas the Hebrew prophets. whose line ended with Jesus, descended from Abraham through Isaac and Israel (Jacob), Muhammad traced his descent from the same patriarch through the latter's first-born son, Ishmael.
whom We had guided and elected; [and] whenever the messages of the Most Gracious were conveyed anto them, they would fall down [before Him], prostrating themselves and weeping.°°
(59) Yet they were succeeded by generations [of people] who lost all [thought of] prayer and followed [but] their own lusts; and these will, in time, meet with utter disillusion..°s
(60) Excepted, however, shall be those who repent and attain to faith and do righteous deeds: for it is they who will enter paradise and will not be wronged in any way:'6 (61) [theirs will be the] gardens of perpetual bliss which the Most Gracious has promised unto His servants, in a realm which is beyond the reach of human perception:°' [and,] verily, His promise is ever sure of fulfilment!
(62) No empty talk will they hear there-nothing but [tidings of] inner soundness and peace;°8 and there will they have their sustenance by day and by night:`9 (63) this is the paradise which We grant as a heritage unto such of Our servants as are conscious of Us.
(64) AND [the angels say]: "We do not descend [with revelation], again and again, other than by thy Sustainer's command: unto Him belongs all that lies open before us and all that is hidden-from us and all that is in-between." And never does thy Sustainer forget
44 Le., all of the prophets were conscious of being no more than mortal, humble servants of God. (See also 32:15.)
45 Le., they will realize in the hereafter the full extent of the self-deception which has led to their spiritual ruin.
46 Le., they will not only not be deprived of reward for the least of their good deeds, but will be granted blessings far beyond their actual deserts (cf. 4: 40).
47 This lengthy paraphrase of the expression bi'l-ghayb gives, I think, the closest possible interpretation of the idea underlying it: namely, the prospect of a reality which is inconceivable by man in terms of his worldly experiences, and which can, therefore, only be hinted at by means of allegorical allusions. (See also the first clause of 2 : 3 and the corresponding note 3.)
48 The term salam comprises the concepts of spiritual soundness and peace, freedom from faults and evils of any kind, and inner contentment. As I have pointed out in note 29 on 5 : 16 (where this term has been rendered, in a different context. as "salvation"), its closest-though by no means perfect-equivalent would be the French salut, in the abstract sense of that word, or the German Heil.
49 Le., always. It is to be noted that the term rizq ("sustenance") applies to all that might be of benefit to a living being, spiritually as well as physically.
50 Le., that which even the angels can only glimpse but not fully understand. Literally, the above phrase reads, "that which is between our hands and that which is behind us and that which is between these". Regarding this idiomatic expression, see 2 : 255 - "He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them"-and the corresponding note 247. The reference to the angels connects with the preceding mention of some of the earlier prophets who, like Muhammad, were recipients of divine revelation.
[anything] - (65) the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them! Worship, then, Him alone, and remain steadfast in His worship! Dost thou know any whose name is worthy to be mentioned side by side with His?"
WITH ALL THIS, man [often] says, "What! Once I am dead, shall I again be brought forth alive?"
(67) But does man not bear in mind that We have created him aforetime out of nothing?"
(68) And so, by thy Sustainer, [on Judgment Day] We shall most certainly bring them forth together with the satanic forces [which impelled them in life] 12 and then We shall most certainly gather them, on their knees, around hell; (69) and thereupon We shall, indeed, draw forth from every group [of sinners] the ones that had been most determined in their disdainful rebellion against the Most Gracious :s3 (70) for, indeed, We know best as to which of them is most deserving of the fires of hell.
(71) And every one of you will come within sight of it:ss this is, with thy Sustainer, a decree that must be fulfilled.
(72) And once again: 56 We shall save [from hell] those who have been conscious of Us; but We shall leave in it the evildoers, on their knees.
(73) AS IT IS, whenever Our messages are conveyed to them in all their clarity, those who are bent on
51 Lit., "when for "although"] he was nothing".
52 See surah 15, first half of note 16; cf. also the reference to the "worship of Satan" in verses 44-45 of the present sarah, as well as the corresponding notes 33 and 34. The symbolism of the sinners being linked on Judgment Day "with the satanic forces which impelled them in life" is easily understood if we remember-as has been pointed out in note 10 on 2: 14-that the term shaytan ("satan" or "satanic force") is often used in the Qur'an to describe every evil propensity in man's own self. The personal pronoun relates to those who reject the concept of resurrection and life after death.
53 Le., those who have consciously and deliberately rejected the idea of man's responsibility before God and have thus led their weaker, less conscious fellow-men astray will be consigned to the deepest suffering in the hereafter.
54 Lit., "of burning therein": an allusion to the fact that not every one of the sinners will be irrevocably consigned to the suffering described in the Qur'an as hell. (The particle thumma which introduces this clause has here the function of an explanatory conjunction with the preceding statement and is, therefore, best rendered as "for".)
55 Lit., "none of you but will reach it". According to some of the classical authorities, the pronoun "you" relates to the sinners spoken of in the preceding passages, and particularly to those who refuse to believe in resurrection; the majority of the commentators, however, are of the opinion that all human beings, sinners and righteous alike, are comprised within this address in the sense that all "will come within sight of it": hence my rendering.
56 For this particular rendering of thumma, see surah 6, note 31.
57 I.e., utterly humbled and crushed by their belated realization of God's judgment and of the ethical truths which they had arrogantly neglected in life.
denying the truth are wont to say unto those who have attained to faith: "Which of the two kinds of manse is in a stronger position and superior as a community?""
(74) And yet, how many a generation have We destroyed before their time-[people] who surpassed them in material power° and in outward show!
(75) Say: "As for him who lives in error, may the Most Gracious lengthen the span of his life!'"'
[And let them say whatever they saybz] until the time when they behold that [doom] of which they were forewarned-whether it be suffering [in this world] or [at the coming of] the Last Hour -: for then they will understand which [of the two kinds of man] was worse in station and weaker in resources!"
(76) And God endows those who avail themselves of [His] guidance with an ever-deeper consciousness of the right way;` and good deeds, the fruit whereof endures forever, are, in thy Sustainer's sight, of far greater merit [than any worldly goods], and yield far
Saa j.a;.el 4~'J
58 Lit., "two groups" or "parties": an allusion to two kinds or types of human society characterized by their fundamentally different approach to problems of faith and morality. (See next note.)
59 Lit., "better in assembly". This parabolic "saying" of the unbelievers implies, in the garb of a rhetorical question, a superficially plausible but intrinsically fallacious argument in favour of a society which refuses to submit to any absolute moral imperatives and is determined to obey the dictates of expediency alone. In such a social order, material success and power are usually seen as consequences of a more or less conscious rejection of all metaphysical considerations-and, in particular, of all that is comprised in the concept of God-willed standards of morality-on the assumption that they are but an obstacle in the path of man's free, unlimited "development". It goes without saying that this attitude (which has reached its epitome in the modern statement that "religion is opium for the people") is diametrically opposed to the demand, voiced by every higher religion, that man's social life, if it is to be a truly "good" life, must be subordinated to definite ethical principles and restraints. By their very nature, these restraints inhibit the unprincipled power-drive which dominates the more materialistic societies and enables them to achieve - without regard to the damage done to others and, spiritually, to themselves-outward comforts and positions of strength in the shortest possible time: but precisely because they do act as a brake on man's selfishness and power-hunger, it is these moral considerations and restraints-and they alone-that can free a community from the interminable, self-destructive inner tensions and frustrations to which materialistic societies are subject, and thus bring about a more enduring, because more organic, state of social well-being. This, in short, is the elliptically implied answer of the Qur'an to a rhetorical question placed in the mouths of "those who are bent on denying the truth".
60 Lit., "in property" or "abundance of property". In this context - as in the last verse of this surah -the term garn apparently signifies "people of one and the same epoch", i.e., a "civilization".
61 Or: "grant him a respite", so that he might have a chance to realize the error of his ways and to repent: thus, every believer is enjoined to pray for those who are sinning.
62 This interpolation refers to, and connects with, the "saying" of the deniers of the truth mentioned in verse 73 above (Zamakhshari).
63 Lit., "in respect of support" or "of forces" (jundan) -an expression which, in this context, denotes both material resources and the ability to utilize them towards good ends.
64 Lit., "God increases in guidance those who. ..", etc.
(77) An4 hast thou ever considered [the kind of man] who is bent on denying the truth of Our messages and says, "I will surely be given wealth and children"?
(78) Has he, perchance, attained to a realm which is beyond the reach of a created being's perception ?67 _ or has he concluded a covenant with the Most Gracious?
(79) Nay! We shall record what he says, and We shall lengthen the length of his suffering [in the hereafter], (80) and divest him of" all that he is [now] speaking of: for [on Judgment Day] he will appear before Us in a lonely state.69
(81) For [such as] these have taken to worshipping deities other than God, hoping that they would be a [source of] strength for them.'° (82) But nay! [On Judgment Day] these [very objects of adoration] will disavow the worship that was paid to them, and will turn against those [who had worshipped them]!
ur~i.a:L.: C "tJLfi
.. .-.,-- :-L . ,/-„ L.A..ul
(83) ART THOU NOT aware that We have let loose all [manner of] satanic forces" upon those who deny the truth - [forces] that impel them [towards sin] with strong impulsion?'Z
65 Lit., "which are bets-K-thy Sustainer's sight as regards merit, and better as regards returns" (cf. 18 : 46.)
66 This is a further illustration of the attitude described in verses 73-75 (and referred to in note 59): namely, the insistence on material values to the exclusion of all moral considerations, and the conviction that worldly "success" is the only thing that really counts in life. As in many other places in the Qur'an, this materialistic concept of "success'." is metonymically equated with one's absorption in the idea of "wealth and children".
67 In this context, the term al-ghayb denotes the unknowable future.
68 Lit., "inherit from him" -a metaphor based on the concept of one person's taking over what once belonged to, or was vested in, another.
69 I.e., bereft of any extraneous support, and thus depending on God's grace and mercy alone (cf. 6: 94 as well as verse 95 of the present sarah).
70 This refers to the type of man spoken of in the preceding passage as well as in verses 73-75: people who "worship" wealth and power with an almost religious devotion, attributing to these manifestations of worldly success the status of divine forces.
71 Lit., "the satans", by which term the Qur'an often describes all that is intrinsically evil, especially the immoral impulses in man's own soul (cf. note 10 on 2 : 14 and note 33 on verse 44 of the present sarah).
72 See note 31 on 15 : 41. According to Zamakhshari and Razi, the expression "We have let loose (arsalnd) all [manner of] satanic forces (shaydtin) upon those who deny the truth" has here the meaning of "We have allowed them to be active (khallaynd) among them", leaving it to man's free will to accept or to reject those evil influences or impulses. Razi, in particular. points in this context to sarah 14, verse 22, according to which Satan will thus address the sinners on Resurrection Day: "I had no power at all over you: I but called you -and you responded to me. Hence, blame not me, but blame yourselves." See also note 31 on 14: 22, in which Razi's comment is quoted verbatim.
(84) Hence, be not in haste [to call down God's punishment] upon them: for We but number the number of their days."
(85) On the Day when We shall gather the Godconscious unto [Us,] the Most Gracious, as honoured guests, (86) and drive those who were lost in sin unto hell as a thirsty herd is driven to a well - (87) [on that Day] none will have [the benefit of] intercession unless he has [in his lifetime] entered into a bond with the Most Gracious.'°
(88) As it is,'S some assert, "The Most Gracious has taken unto Himself a son„!76
(89) Indeed, [by this assertion] you have brought forth something monstrous, (90) whereat the heavens might well-nigh be rent into fragments, and the earth be split asunder, and the mountains fall down in ruins! (91) That men. should ascribe a son to the Most Gracious, (92) although it is inconceivable that the Most Gracious should take unto Himself a son!"
(93) Not one of all [the beings] that are in the heavens or on earth appears before the Most
73 Lit., "We number for them but a number". Cf. also the first sentence of verse 75 above.
74 Lit., "except him who has.. .", etc. According to the classical commentators -including some of the most outstanding Companions of the Prophet-the "bond with God" denotes, in this context, the realization of His oneness and uniqueness; for the wider implications of this term, see siirah 2, note 19. Consequently, as pointed out by Rfizi, even great sinners may hope for God's forgiveness - symbolically expressed by the right of "intercession" which will be granted to the prophets on Judgment Day (see note 7 on-10:3)-provided that, during their life on earth, they were aware of God's existence and oneness.
75 Lit., "And" (wa), connecting the present passage with verse 81.
76 This allusion to the Christian belief in Jesus as "the son of God" - and, in general, to every belief in God's "incarnation" in a created being-takes up the theme broached in verse 81 above: namely, the deification of powers or beings other than God "with a view to their being a source of strength" to those who turn to them. But whereas verse 81 refers specifically to the godless who accord a quasi-divine status to material wealth and power and abandon themselves entirely to the pursuit of worldly success, the present passage refers to people who, while believing in God, deify prophets and saints, too, in the subconscious hope that they might act as "mediators" between them and the Almighty. Since this deification offends against the principle of God's transcendent oneness and uniqueness, it implies a breach of man's "bond with God" and, if consciously persisted in, constitutes an unforgivable sin (cf. 4:48 and 116).
77 The idea that God might have a "son" - either in the real or in the metaphorical sense of this term -would presuppose a degree of innate likeness between "the father" and "the son": but God is in every respect unique, so that "there is nothing like unto Him" (42: 11) and "nothing that could be compared with Him" (112: 4). Moreover, the concept of "progeny" implies an organic continuation of the progenitor, or of part of him, in another being and, therefore, presupposes a degree of incompleteness before the act of procreation (or incarnation, if the term "sonship" is used metaphorically): and the idea of incompleteness, in whatever sense, negates the very concept of God. But even if the idea of "sonship" is meant to express no more than one of the different "aspects" of the One Deity (as is claimed in the Christian dogma of the "Trinity"), it is described in the Qur'an as blasphemous inasmuch as it amounts to an attempt at defining Him who is "sublimely exalted above anything that men may devise by way of definition" (see last sentence of 6 : 100).
Gracious other than as a servant:'s (94) indeed, He has full cognizance of them, and has numbered them with [unfailing] numbering; (95) and every one of them will appear before Him on Resurrection Day in a lonely state."
VERILY, those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds will the Most Gracious endow with love:° (97) and only to this end have We made this [divine writ] easy to understand, in thine own tongue, [O Prophet,]" so that thou might convey thereby a glad tiding to the God-conscious, and warn thereby those who are given to [futile] contention: (98) for, how many a generation 12 have We destroyed before their time - [and] canst thou perceive any one of them [now], or hear any whisper of them?
78 Le., all of them - whether men or angels - are but created beings, having no share whatever in His divinity, and all of them submit, consciously or' unconsciously, to His will (cf. 13 :15 and 16: 48-49).
79 See note 69 above.
80 Le., bestow on them His love and endow them with the capability to love His creation, as well as cause them to be loved by their fellow-men. As is shown in the next verse, this gift of love is inherent in the guidance offered to man through divine revelation.
81 Since man is incapable of understanding the "word" of God as such, it has always been revealed to him in his own, human tongue (cf. 14:4-"never have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a message] in his own people's tongue"), and has always been expounded in concepts accessible to the human mind: hence the reference to the Prophet's revelations as "brought down upon thy heart" (2:97), or "[divine inspiration] has alighted with it upon thy heart" (26:193-194).
82 Le., civilization - a meaning which the term qarn has also in the identical phrase in verse 74.