F OR THE RENDERING of the title of this sarah as "O Man", see note 1 below. As is the case with the preceding sarah, its position in the chronology of Qur'anic revelation is not difficult to establish. Despite the vague assertions of some of the later authorities that it was revealed during the last phase (or even in the last year) of the Prophet's sojourn in Mecca, we know for certain that it was fully known to his Companions as early as the sixth year of his mission (that is, at least seven years before he left Mecca for Medina): for it was this very sarah which at that period accidentally fell into the hands of `Umar ibn al-Khattab-who until than had been a bitter opponent of the Prophet-and caused his conversion to Islam (Ibn Sad 11111, 191 ff.).

The main theme of Td Hd is the guidance which God offers man through His prophets, and the fact that the fundamental truths inherent in all revealed religions are identical: hence the long story of Moses in verses 9-98, and the reference to the "clear evidence [of the truth of this divine writ]", i.e., of the Qur'an, forthcoming from "what is [to be found] in the earlier scriptures" (verse 133).


(1) OMAN!' (2) We did not bestow the Qur'an on thee from on high to make thee unhappy,' (3) but only as an exhortation to all who stand in awe [of God]: (4) a revelation from Him who has created the earth and the high heavens - (5) the Most Gracious, established on the throne of His almightiness?

(6) Unto Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, as well as all that is between them and all that is beneath the sod.

(7) And if thou say anything aloud, [He hears it - ] since, behold, He knows [even] the secret [thoughts





1 According to some commentators, the letters t and h (pronounced td hd) which introduce this sarah belong to the group of al-mugatta'dt-the "single [or "disjointed"] letters"-which are prefixed to a number of the Qur'anic sarahs (see Appendix II). However, in the opinion of some of the Prophet's Companions (e.g., `Abd Allah ibn 'Abbas) and a number of outstanding personalities of the next generation (like Said ibn Jubayr, Mujahid, Qatadah, AI-Hasan al-Basri, `Ikrimah, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Kalbi, etc.), td hd is not just a combination of two single letters but a meaningful expression of its own, signifying "O man" (synonymous with yd rajul) in both the Nabataean and Syriac branches of the Arabic language (Tabari, Razi, Ibn Kathir), as well as in the-purely Arabian-dialect of the Yemenite tribe of `Akk, as is evident from certain fragments of their pre-Islamic poetry (quoted by Tabari and Zamakhshari). Tabari, in particular, gives his unqualified support to the rendering of td hd as "O man".

2 Le., the ethical discipline imposed upon man by the teachings of the Qur'an is not meant to

narrow down his feel of life, but, on the contrary, to enhance it by deepening his consciousness of

right and wrong.

3 For my rendering of the metaphorical term al= arsh as "the throne of His almightiness", see

note 43 on 7 : 54.




of man] as well as all that is yet more hidden [within him] .4

(8) God-there is no deity save Him; His [alone] are the attributes of perfection!'

(9) AND HAS the story of Moses ever come within thy ken?('

(10) Lo! he saw a fire [in the desert];' and so he said to his family: "Wait here! Behold, I perceive a fire [far away]: perhaps I can bring you a brand therefrom, or find at the fire some. guidance."

(11) But when he came close to it, a voice called out:' "O Moses! (12) Verily, I am thy Sustainer! Take off, then, thy sandals! Behold, thou art in the twicehallowed valley,9 (13) and I have chosen thee [to be My apostle]: listen, then, to what is being revealed [unto thee].

(14) "Verily, I - I alone - am God; there is no deity save Me. Hence, worship Me alone, and be constant in prayer, so as to remember Me!'°

(15) "Behold, [although] I have willed to keep it" hidden, the Last Hour is bound to come, so that every human being may be recompensed in accordance with what he strove for [in life].'Z (16)






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4 I.e., He knows not only man's unspoken, conscious thoughts but also all that goes on within his subconscious self.

5 For an explanation of this rendering of al-asma' al-husna, see surah 7, note 145.

6 Apart from two short references to Moses in earlier sCirahs (53 :36 and 87 : 19), the narrative appearing in verses 9-98 is undoubtedly the earliest Qur'anic exposition of the story of Moses as such. Its mention at this stage is connected with the reference to revelation at the beginning of this surah (verses 2-4) and, generally, with the Qur'anic doctrine of the basic ideological unity of all revealed religions.

7 From the sequence (here as well as in 27 : 7 and 28 : 29) it appears that Moses had lost his way in the desert: probably a symbolic allusion to his dawning awareness that he was in need of spiritual guidance. This part of the story relates to the period of his wanderings subsequent to his flight from Egypt (see 28 : 14 ff.). Regarding the allegory of the "fire" -the "burning bush" of the Bible - see note 7 on 27 : 7-8.

8 Lit., "he was called".

9 Whereas some commentators assume that the word tuwan (or tuwd) is the name of the "hallowed valley", Zamakhshari explains it, more convincingly, as meaning "twice" (from tuwan or Owan, "twice done") -i.e., "twice-hallowed"-apparently• because God's voice was heard in it and because Moses was raised there to prophethood.

10 Thus, conscious remembrance of God and of His oneness and uniqueness is declared to be the innermost purpose, as well as the intellectual justification. of all true prayer.

I I I.e., the time of its coming.

12 The expression "what he strove for" implies consciousness of endeavour. and thus excludes involuntary actions (in the widest sense of the latter term, comprising everything that is manifested in word or actual deed), as well as involuntary omissions, irrespective of whether the relevant action or omission is morally good or bad. By enunciating the above principle within the context of the story of Moses, the Qur'an stresses the essential identity of the ethical concepts underlying all true religions. (See also 53 :39 and the corresponding note 32.)




Hence, let not anyone who does not believe in its coming" and follows [but] his own desires divert thee from [belief in] it, lest thou perish!

(17) "Now, what is this in thy right hand, O Moses?"

(18) He answered: "It is my staff; I lean on it; and with it I beat down leaves for my sheep; and [many] other uses have I for it."

(19) Said He: "Throw it down, O Moses!"

(20) So he threw it - and lo! it was a snake, moving rapidly.

(21) Said He: "Take hold of it, and fear not: We shall restore it to its former state. 14

(22) "Now place thy hand within thy armpit: it will come forth [shining] white, without blemish,'S as another sign [of Our grace], (23) so that We might make thee aware of some of Our greatest wonders.

(24) "[And now] go thou unto Pharaoh: for, verily, he has transgressed all bounds of equity. ,16

(25) Said [Moses]: "O my Sustainer! Open up my heart [to Thy light], (26) and make my task easy for me, (27) and loosen the knot from my tongue (28) so that they might fully understand my speech," (29) and appoint for me, out of my kinsfolk, one who will help me to bear my burden:" (30) Aaron, my brother. (31) Add Thou through him to my strength, (32) and let him share my task, (33) so that [together] we might abundantly extol Thy limitless glory (34) and remember Thee without cease!" (35) Verily, Thou seest all that is within us!"

(36) Said He: "Thou art granted all that thou hast asked for, O Moses!

(37) "And, indeed, We bestowed Our favour upon





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13 Lit., "in it".

14 The miraculous transformation of the staff into a serpent has, I believe, a mystic significance: it seems to be an allusion to the intrinsic difference between appearance and reality, and, consequently, to the spiritual insight into this difference bestowed by God on His chosen servants (cf. the experience of Moses with the unnamed sage described in 18 : 66-82). This interpretation finds strong support in 27 : 10 and 28 : 31, in both of which places it is said that Moses saw the staff "move rapidly, as if it were a serpent (ka'annahd j4nn)"

15 I.e., strangely luminescent by virtue of the prophethood to which he had been raised. (See also note 85 on 7 : 108.)

16 This seems to be a reference to Pharaoh's greatest sin, namely, his claim to divine status (cf. 28: 38 and 79: 24).

17 Le., "remove all impediment from my speech" (cf. Exodus iv, 10, "I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue"), which would imply that he was not gifted with natural eloquence.

18 This is the primary meaning of the term wazfr (lit., "burden-carrier", derived from wizr, "a burden"); hence its later-post-classical-application to government ministers.

19 Lit., "much" or "abundantly".




thee at a time long since past,'° (38) when We inspired thy mother with this inspiration: (39) 'Place him in a chest and throw it into the river, and thereupon the river will cast him ashore, [and] one who is an enemy unto Me and an enemy unto him will adopt him."'

"And [thus early] I spread Mine Own love over thee -and [this] in order that thou might be formed under Mine eye.22

(40) "[And thou wert under Mine eye] when thy sister went forth and said [to Pharaoh's people], 'Shall I guide you unto [a woman] who might take charge of him?''3 And so We returned thee unto thy mother, so that her eye be gladdened, and that she might not sorrow [any longer].24

"And [when thou camest of age,'-s] thou didst slay a man: but We did save thee from all grief, although We tried thee with various trials.'-6

"And then thou didst sojourn for years among the people of Madyan;27 and now thou hast come [here] as ordained [by Me], O Moses: (41) for I have chosen thee for Mine Own service.

(42) "Go forth, [then,] thou and thy brother, with My messages, and never tire of remembering Me: (43) go forth, both of you, unto Pharaoh: for, verily, he has transgressed all bounds of equity! (44) But speak unto him in a mild manner, so that he might bethink himself or [at least] be filled with apprehension. "'s







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20 Lit., "at another time", i.e., the time of Moses' childhood and youth, which is recalled in verses 38-40. For a fuller explanation of the subsequent references to that period - the Pharaonic persecution of the children of Israel and the killing of their new-born males, the rescue of the infant Moses and his adoption by Pharaoh's family, his killing of the Egyptian, and his subsequent flight from Egypt-see 28: 3-21, where the story is narrated in greater detail.

21 Lit., "take him" (cf. 28:9). Pharaoh is described as an enemy of God because of his overweening arrogance and cruelty as well as his claim to the status of divinity (see 79 : 24); and he was, unknowingly, an enemy of the infant Moses inasmuch as he hated and feared the people to whom the latter belonged.

22 I.e., "under My protection and in accordance with the destiny which I have decreed for thee": possibly a reference to Moses' upbringing within the cultural environment of the royal palace and his subsequent acquisition of the ancient wisdom of Egypt-circumstances which were to qualify him for his future leadership and the special mission that God had in view for him.

23 For a fuller account, see 28 : 12.

24 As is implied here and in 28 : 12-13, his own mother became his wet-nurse. 25 Cf. 28 : 14.

26 For the details of this particular incident, which proved a turning-point in the life of Moses,

see 28: 15-21.

27 See 28 : 22-28.

28 Lit., "or [that he might] fear" -i.e., that there is some truth in the words of Moses. Since God knows the future, the tentative form in the above phrase-"so that he might (Ia'allahu) bethink himself", etc., - obviously does not imply any "doubt" on God's part as to Pharoah's future reaction: it implies no more than His command to the bearer of His message to address the




(45) The two [brothers] said: "O our Sustainer! Verily, we fear lest he act hastily with regard to us,-9 or lest he [continue to] transgress all bounds of equity."

(46) Answered He: "Fear not! Verily, I shall be with you two, hearing and seeing [all]. (47) Go, then; you two unto him and say, `Behold, we are apostles sent by thy Sustainer: let, then, the children of Israel go with us, and cause them not to suffer [any longer].'° We have now come unto thee with a message from thy Sustainer; and [know that His] peace shall be [only] on those who follow [His] guidance: (48) for, behold, it has been revealed to us that [in the life to come] suffering shall befall all who give the lie to the truth and turn away [from it]!"'

(49) [But when God's message was conveyed unto Pharaoh,] he said: "Who, now, is this Sustainer of you two, O Moses?"

(50) He replied: "Our Sustainer is He who gives unto every thing [that exists] its true nature and form. and thereupon guides it [towards its fulfilment].-31

(51) Said [Pharaoh]: "And what of all the past generations?"'2

(52) [Moses] answered: "Knowledge thereof rests with my Sustainer [alone, and is laid down] in His decree;" my Sustainer does not err, and neither does He forget.""



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sinner with a view to the latter's bethinking himself: in other words, it relates to the intention or hope with which the message-bearer should approach his task (Razi). And since every Qur'anic narrative aims at bringing out an eternal truth or truths or at elucidating a universal principle of human behaviour, it is evident that God's command to Moses to speak to one particular sinner "in a mild manner, so that he might (have a chance to] bethink himself" retains its validity for all times and all such attempts at conversion.

29 Le., "lest he prevent us, by banishing or killing us outright, from delivering Thy message fully".

30 Cf. 2 :49, 7 : 141 and 14 : 6. For a more detailed description of this Pharaonic oppression of the Israelites, see Exodus i, 8-22.

31 In the original, this sentence appears in the past tense ("has given" and "has guided"); but as it obviously relates to the continuous process of God's creation, it is independent of the concept of time and denotes, as in so many other places in the Qur'an. an unceasing present. The term khalq signifies in this context not merely the inner nature of a created thing or being but also the outward form in which this nature manifests itself; hence my composite rendering of khalqahu as "its true nature and form". The idea underlying the above sentence is expressed for the first time in 87:2-3, i.e., in a surah which belongs to the earliest period of Qur'anic revelation.

32 Sc., "who used to doomed?"

worship a plurality of deities: are they, in thy view,


33 I.e., He alone decrees their destiny in the life to come. for He alone knows their motives and understands the cause of their errors, and He alone can appreciate their spiritual merits and demerits.

34 According to Razi, the dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh ends here for the time being, with verses 53-55 representing a direct Qur'anic discourse addressed to man in general.




(53) HE IT IS who has made the earth a cradle for you, and has traced out for you ways [of livelihood] thereon," and [who] sends down waters from the sky: and by this means We bring forth various kinds 16 of plants. (54) Eat, [then, of this produce of the soil,] and pasture your cattle [thereon].

In all this, behold, there are messages indeed for those who are endowed with reason: (55) out of this [earth] have We created you, and into it shall We return you, and out of it shall We bring you forth once again."

(56) AND, INDEED, We made Pharaoh aware of38 all Our messages-but he gave them the lie and refused [to heed them]."

(57) He said: "Hash thou come to drive us out of our land°° by thy sorcery, O Moses? (58) In that case, we shall most certainly produce before thee the like thereof! Appoint, then, a tryst between us and thee - which we shall not fail to keep, nor [mayest] thou -at a suitable place!"

(59) Answered [Moses]: "Your tryst shall be the day of the Festival ;°' and let the people assemble when the sun is risen high."

(60) Thereupon Pharaoh withdrew [with his counsellors] and decided upon the scheme which he would pursue;42 and then he came [to the tryst].

(61) Said Moses to them: "Woe unto you! Do not invent lies against God,°' lest He afflict you with most grievous suffering: for He who contrives [such] a lie is already undone!"


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35 I.e., "has provided you with ways and means-both material and intellectual-to gaits your livelihood on earth and from it".

36 Lit., "pairs" (azw4j), a term which in this context apparently denotes "kinds"; but see also 13 : 3 and the corresponding note 7.

37 Regarding the creation of man's body "out of the earth", see the second half of note 47 on 3 : 59, as well as note 24 on 15 : 26; its "return into it" signifies the dissolution of this body, after death, into the elementary organic and inorganic substances of which it was composed; and all these facts-creation, subsistence and dissolution-contain the message of God's almightiness, of the ephemeral nature of man's life on earth, and of his future resurrection.

38 Lit., We showed him" (arayndhu), i.e., Pharaoh. According to Zamakhsharl, Razi and Bay#wi, this verb has here the meaning of "We made him acquainted with" or "aware of". 39 The messages alluded to here are both those entrusted directly to Moses and the intangible "messages" forthcoming from God's creation and referred to in the preceding passage.

40 I.e., "deprive us of our rule" (cf. 7 : 110).

41 Lit., "the day of adornment" -possibly the Egyptian New Year's Day. The expression "your tryst" has the connotation of "the tryst proposed by you".

42 Lit., "he decided upon his artful scheme" (jama'a kaydahu): evidently an allusion to his summoning all the greatest sorcerers of Egypt (cf. 7 : 111-114). 43 I.e., by deliberately denying the truth of His messages.


(62) So they debated among themselves as to what to do; but they kept their counsel secret, (63) saying [to one another]: "These two are surely sorcerers intent on driving you from your land44 by their sorcery, and on doing away with your time-honoured way of life.45 (64) Hence, [O sorcerers of Egypt,] decide upon the scheme which you will pursue, and then come forward in one single body:" for, indeed, he who prevails today shall prosper indeed!""

(65) Said [the sorcerers]: "O Moses! Either thou throw (thy staff first], or we shall be the first to throw."

(66) He answered: "Nay, you throw [first]."

And lo! by virtue of their sorcery, their [magic] ropes and staffs seemed to him to be moving rapidly: (67) and in his heart Moses became apprehensive.48

(68) [But] We said: "Fear not! Verily, it is thou who shalt prevail! (69) And [now] throw that [staff] which is in thy right hand -it shall swallow up all that they have wrought: [for] they have wrought only a sorcerer's artifice, and the sorcerer can never come to any good, whatever he may aim at!"49

(70) [And so it happened" - ] and down fell the sorcerers, prostrating themselves in adoration,5' [and] exclaimed: "We have come to believe in the Sustainer of Moses and Aaron!"

(71) Said [Pharaoh]: "Have you come to believe in him52 ere I have given you permission? Verily, he must be your master who has taught you magic! But I shall most certainly cut off your hands and feet in great numbers, because of [your] perverseness, and I shall most certainly crucify you in great numbers on trunks of palm-trees:5' and [I shall do this] so that you












44 See note 40 above. The dual form refers to Moses and Aaron. 45 Lit., "your exemplary [or "ideal"] way of life (tarigah)".

46 Lit., "in one [single] line", i.e., in unison. 47 Cf. 7: 113-114.

48 Lit., "conceived fear within himself". The implication is that the feat of the sorcerers was based on mass-hallucination (cf. 7:116 - "they cast a spell upon the people's eyes"), a hallucination to which even Moses succumbed for a while.

49 Lit., "wherever he may come" - i.e., irrespective of whether he aims at a good or at an evil end (Razi). The above statement implies a categorical condemnation of all endeavours which fall under the heading of "magic", whatever the intention of the person who devotes himself to it. (In this connection, see also surah 2, note 84.)


50 Cf. 7: 117-119.

51 See note 90 on 7 : 120.

52 I.e., Moses (cf. note 91 on 7 : 123).

53 Regarding the meaning of the stress on "great numbers", forthcoming from the grammatical

form of the verbs employed by Pharaoh, see surah 7, note 92.




might come to know for certain as to which of us [two]54 can inflict a more severe chastisement, and [which] is the more abiding!"

(72) They answered: "Never shall we prefer thee to all the evidence of the truth that has come unto us, nor to Him who has brought us into being! Decree, then, whatever thou art going to decree: thou canst decree only [something that pertains to] this worldly life!" (73) As for us, behold, we have come to believe in our Sustainer, [hoping] that He may forgive us our faults and all that magic unto which thou hast forced us: 16 for God is the best [to look forward to], and the One who is truly abiding." 57

(74) VERILY, as for him who shall appear before his Sustainer [on Judgment Day] lost in sin - his [portion], behold, shall be hell: he will neither die therein nor live;58 (75) whereas he who shall appear before Him as a believer who has done righteous deeds 59 - it is such that shall have lofty stations [in the life to come]: (76) gardens of perpetual bliss, through which running waters flow, therein to abide: for that shall be the recompense of all who attain to purity.

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(77) AND, INDEED, [a time cameo when] We thus inspired Moses: "Go forth with My servants by night, and strike out for them a dry path through the sea; [and] fear not of being overtaken, and dread not [the sea]." 61

54 Sc., "I or the God in whom you now believe".

55 Or: "thou canst end [for us] only this worldly life". It is to be noted that the verb gadd signifies, among other meanings, "he decreed" as well as "he ended [something]".

56 Pharaoh (a title borne by every indigenous ruler of Egypt) was considered to be a "god-king" and, thus, the embodiment of the Egyptian religion, in which occult practices and magic played a very important role; hence, every one of his subjects was duty-bound to accept magic as an integral part of the scheme of life.

57 Lit., "and the most abiding", i.e., eternal: cf. 55 : 26-27.

58 I.e., he will neither be reborn spiritually nor find peace through extinction (Baghawi, Baydawl). As is apparent from the juxtaposition, in the next verse, of the term muirim (rendered by me as "one who is lost in sin") with that of mu'min ("believer"), the former term is here applied to one who, in his lifetime, has consciously and persistently denied God (Baydawi).

59 Thus the Qur'an implies - here as well as in many other places - that the spiritual value of a person's faith depends on his doing righteous deeds as well: cf. the statement in 6: 158 that on Judgment Day "believing will be of no avail to any human being ... who, while believing, did no good works".

60 I.e., after all the trials which the Israelites had to undergo in Egypt, and after the plagues with which Pharaoh and his followers were afflicted (cf. 7 : 130 ff.).

61 Referring to the phrase "strike out (idrib) for them a dry path through the sea", Tabari explains it as meaning "choose (ittakhidh) for them a dry path". See also 26:63-66 and the corresponding notes 33 and 35.




(78) And Pharaoh pursued them with his hosts: and they were overwhelmed by the sea which was destined to overwhelm them'2 (79) because Pharaoh had led his people astray and had not guided [them] aright.

(80) O children of Israel! [Thus] We saved you from your enemy, and [then] We made a covenant with you on the right-hand slope of Mount Sinai," and repeatedly sent down manna and quails unto you, [saying,] (81) "Partake of the good things which We have provided for you as sustenance," but do not transgress therein the bounds of equity65 lest My condemnation fall upon you: for, he upon whom My condemnation falls has indeed thrown himself into utter ruin!"6

(82) Yet withal, behold, I forgive all sins unto any who repents and attains to faith and does righteous deeds, and thereafter keeps to the right path.




[AND GOD SAID:6'] "Now what has caused thee, O Moses, to leave thy people behind in so great a haste?""

(84) He answered: "They are treading in my footsteps69 while I have hastened unto Thee, O my Sus

62 Lit.. "there overwhelmed them [that] of the sea which overwhelmed them"-expressing the inevitability of the doom which encompassed them.

63 See note 38 on 19: 52. As regards God's "covenant" with the children of Israel, see 2 : 63 and 83.

64 The reference to God's bestowal of "manna (mann) and quails (salwd)" upon the Israelites during their wanderings in the Sinai Desert after their exodus from Egypt is found in the Qur'dn in two other places as well (namely, in 2 : 57 and 7 : 160). According to Arab philologists, the term mann denotes not only the sweet, resinous substance exuded by certain plants of the desert, but also everything that is "bestowed as a favour", i.e., without any effort on the part of the recipient. Similarly, the term salwd signifies not merely "a quail" or "quails", but also "all that makes man content and happy after privation" (Qdmas). Hence the combination of these two terms denotes, metonymically, the gift of sustenance freely bestowed by God upon the followers of Moses.

65 Or: "do not behave in an overweening manner" - i.e., "do not attribute these favours to your own supposed excellence on account of your descent from Abraham".

66 There is almost complete unanimity among the classical commentators in that God's "condemnation" (ghadab, lit., "wrath") is a metonym for the inescapable retribution which man brings upon himself if he deliberately rejects God's guidance and "transgresses the bounds of equity".

67 This passage relates to the time of Moses' ascent of Mount Sinai, mentioned in 2 : 51 and 7 : 142.

68 Lit., "what has hastened thee ahead of thy people?" - implying that he should not have left them alone, without his personal guidance, at so early a stage in their freedom. In this inimitable elliptic manner the Qur'an alludes to the psychological fact that a community which attains to political and social freedom after centuries of bondage remains for a long time subject to the demoralizing influences of its past, and cannot all at once develop a spiritual and social discipline of its own.

69 The classical commentators understand this phrase in its physical sense, i.e.. "they are coming up behind me and are now close by". Since, however. Moses was obviously meant to be




tainer, so that Thou might be well-pleased [with me]." (85) Said He: "Then [know that], verily, in thy absence We have put thy people to a test, and the Samaritan has led them astray."'°

(86) Thereupon Moses returned to his people full of wrath and sorrow, [and] exclaimed: "O my people! Did not your Sustainer hold out [many] a goodly promise to you? bid, then, [the fulfilment of] this promise seem to you too long in coming?" Or are you, perchance, determined to see your Sustainer's condemnation fall upon you,'z and so you broke your promise to me?"

(87) They answered: "We did not break our promise to thee of our own free will, but [this is what happened:] we were loaded with the [sinful] burdens of the [Egyptian] people's ornaments, and so we threw them [into the fire]," and likewise did this Samaritan cast [his into it]."

(88) But then, [so they told Moses ,14 the Samaritan] had produced for them [out of the molten gold] the effigy of a calf, which made a lowing sound ;'s and










alone on his ascent of Mount Sinai, I am of the opinion that his answer has a tropical sense, expressing his assumption that the children of Israel would follow his guidance even in his absence: an assumption which proved erroneous, as shown in the sequence.

70 The designation as-sdmiri is undoubtedly an adjectival noun denoting the person's descent or origin. According to one of the explanations advanced by Tabari and Zamakhshari, it signifies "a man of the Jewish clan of the Samirah", i.e., the ethnic and religious group designated in later times as the Samaritans (a small remnant of whom is still living in Nablus, in Palestine). Since that sect as such did not yet exist at the time of Moses, it is possible that-as Ibn `Abbas maintained (Razi) -the person in question was one of the many Egyptians who had been converted to the faith of Moses and joined the Israelites on their exodus from Egypt (cf. note 92 on 7:124): in which case the designation samiri might be connected with the ancient Egyptian shemer, "a foreigner" or "stranger". This surmise is strengthened by his introduction of the worship of the golden calf, undoubtedly an echo of the Egyptian cult of Apis (see note 113 on 7 : 148). In any case, it is not impossible that the latter-day Samaritans descended -or were reputed to descend - from this personality, whether of Hebrew or of Egyptian origin; this might partly explain the persistent antagonism between them and the rest of the Israelite community.

71 Or, according to Zamakhshari: "Did, then, the time [of my absence] seem too long to you?" (It is to be noted that the term `ahd signifies a "time" or "period" as well as a "covenant" or "promise''.)

72 Lit., "Or have you decided that condemnation by your -Sustainer should fall due upon you?"t;-ix., "are you determined to disregard the consequences of your doings?"

73 It is mentioned in Exodus xii, 35 that, immediately before their departure from Egypt, the Israelites "borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver and jewels of gold". This "borrowing" was obviously done under false pretences, without any intention on the part of the Israelites to return the jewellery to its rightful owners: for, according to the Biblical statement (ibid., verse 36), "they spoiled [i.e., robbed] the Egyptians" by doing so. While it is noteworthy that the Old Testament, in its present, corrupted form, does not condemn this behaviour. its iniquity seems to have gradually dawned upon the Israelites, and so they decided to get rid of those sinfully acquired ornaments (Baghawi, Zamakhshari and - in one of his alternative interpretations - Razz).

74 This interpolation is necessary in view of the change from the direct speech in the preceding verse to the indirect in this one and in the sequence.

75 See surah 7, note 113.


thereupon they said [to one another], "This is your deity, and .the deity of Moses-but he has forgotten [his past] !,,16

(89) Why-did they not see that [the thing] could not give them any response, and had no power to harm or to benefit them?

(90) And, indeed, even before [the return of Moses] had Aaron said unto them: "O .my people! You are but being tempted to evil by this [idol] -for, behold, your [only] Sustainer is the Most Gracious! Follow me, then, and obey my bidding!""

(91) [But] they answered: "By no means shall we cease to worship it until Moses comes back to us!" (92) [And now that he had come back, Moses] said: "O Aaron! What has prevented thee, when thou didst see that they had gone astray, (93) from [abandoning them and] following me? Hast thou, then, [deliberately] disobeyed my commandment?""

(94) Answered [Aaron]: "O my mother's son! Seize me not by my beard, nor by my head!" Behold, I was afraid lest [on thy return] thou say, 'Thou hast caused a split among the children of Israel, and hast paid no heed to my bidding!""

(95) Said [Moses]: "What, then, didst thou have in view, O Samaritan?"

(96) He answered: "I have gained insight into something which they were unable to see:" and so I took hold of a handful of the Apostle's teachings and cast it away: for thus has my mind prompted me [to act]." 82






76 An allusion to the fact that Moses had been brought up-obviously as an Egyptian-at Pharaoh's court.

77 Sc., "and do not follow the Samaritan". This is in sharp contrast to the Bible (Exodus xxxii, 1-5), which declares Aaron guilty of making and worshipping the golden calf.

78 Cf. the last sentence of 7 : 142, where Moses, before leaving for Mount Sinai, exhorts Aaron to "act righteously" (islih). In this connection see also Aaron's reply to Moses in 7 : 150, as well as the corresponding note 117.

79 See 7 : 150.

80 Lit., "to my word" or "to what I had said"-evidently, about the importance of keeping the people united (Zamakhshari).

81 It is to be noted that the verb basura (lit., "he became seeing") has the tropical significance of "he perceived [something] mentally", or "he gained insight" or "he understood". Hence, Abu Muslim al-Isfahani (whose interpretation of the whole of this verse Razi analyzes and finds most convincing) explains the above phrase as meaning, "I realized what they [i.e., the rest of the people] did not realize-namely, that some of thy beliefs, O Moses, were wrong". It would seem that the Samaritan objected to the idea of a transcendental, imperceivable God, and thought that the people ought to have something more "tangible" to believe in. (See also next note.)

82 Contrary to the fanciful interpretations advanced by some of the other commentators, Abu Muslim (as quoted by Razi) explains the term athar (lit., "vestige" or "trace") in its tropical sense of the "practices and sayings" or - collectively - the "teachings" of any person, and particularly of a prophet; thus, he makes it clear that the phrase gabadtu gabdatan min athari 'r-rasul


(97) Said [Moses]; "Begone, then! And, behold, it shall be thy lot to say throughout [thy] life, `Touch me not!'" But, verily, [in the life to come] thou shalt be faced with a destiny from which there will be no escape!" And [now] look at this deity of thine to whose worship thou hast become so devoted: we shall most certainly burn it, and then scatter [whatever remains of] it far and wide over the sea! (98) Your only deity is God - He save whom there is no deity, [and whho] embraces all things within His knowledge!"

(99) THUS DO WE relate unto thee some of the stories of what happened in the past; and [thus] have We vouchsafed unto thee, out of Our grace, a reminder."

(100) All who shall turn away from it will, verily, bear a [heavy] burden on the Day of Resurrection: (101) they will abide in this [state], and grievous for them will be the weight [of that burden] on the Day of Resurrection - (102) on the Day when the trumpet is blown: for on that Day We will assemble all such as had been lost in sin, their eyes dimmed" [by terror], (103) whispering unto one another, "You have spent but ten [days on earth] .. . ."s'

(104) [But] We know best" what they will be saying








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fa-nabadhtuha signifies "I took hold of a handful [i.e., "something"] of the teachings of the Apostle, and discarded it": it being understood that "the Apostle" referred to by the Samaritan in the third person is Moses himself. (As already mentioned in the preceding note, Razi unreservedly subscribes to Abi3 Muslim's interpretation of this passage.) In my opinion, the Samaritan's rejection of a part of Moses' teachings is meant to explain the subconscious tendency underlying all forms of idolatry and of the attribution of divine qualities to things or beings other than God: a futile, self-deceiving hope of bringing the Unperceivable closer to one's limited perception by creating a tangible "image" of the Divine Being or, at least, of something that could be conceived as His "emanation". Inasmuch as all such endeavours obscure rather than illuminate man's understanding of God, they defeat their own purpose and destroy the misguided devotee's spiritual potential: and this is undoubtedly the purport of the story of the golden calf as given in the Qur'an.

83 Lit., "no touching" -a metaphorical description of the loneliness and the social ostracism in which he would henceforth find himself.

84 Lit., "there is for thee an appointment which thou canst not fail to keep".

85 The adverb kadhalika ("thus") which introduces this verse is meant to stress the purpose of all Qur'anic references to past events-be they historical or legendary-as well as the manner in which the relevant stories are treated. Since the purpose underlying every Qur'anic narrative is, invariably, the illustration of certain fundamental truths, the narrative as such is often condensed and elliptic, omitting all that has no direct bearing on the point or points which the Qur'an means to bring out. The term "reminder" alludes to the unceasing guidance which God offers to man through His revelations.

86 Lit., "blue [of eye]"-i.e., as if their eyes were covered with a bluish, opaque film.

87 As in several other places in the Qur'an (e.g., in 2 : 259, 17 : 52, 18 : 19, 23 : 112-113, 30: 55, 79: 46, etc.), this and the next verse touch upon the illusory character of man's consciousness of "time" and, thus, upon the relativity of the concept of "time" as such. The number "ten" is often used in Arabic to denote "a few" (Razi).

88 Signifying, in this context, "We alone understand fully".




when the most perceptive of them shall say, "You have spent [there] but one day!"

(105) AND THEY WILL ask thee about [what will happen to] the mountains [when this world comes to an end]. Say, then: "My Sustainer will scatter them far and wide, (106) and leave the earths" level and bare, (107) [so that] thou wilt see no curve thereon, and no ruggedness."

(108) On that Day, all will. follow the summoning Voice from which there will be no escape;" and all sounds will be hushed before the Most Gracious, and thou wilt hear nothing but a faint sough in the air.

(109) On that Day, intercession shall be of no avail [to any] save him in whose case the Most Gracious will have granted leave therefor, and whose word [of faith) He will have accepted:92 (110) [for] He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them," whereas they cannot encompass Him with their knowledge.

(111) And [on that Day] all faces will be humbled before the Ever-Living, the,Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being; and undone shall be he who bears [a burden of] evildoing" -(112) whereas anyone who will have done [whatever he could] of righteous deeds, and was a believer withal, need have no fear of being wronged or deprived [of aught of his merit].95


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(113) AND THUS96 have We bestowed from on high this

89 Lit., "leave it"-the pronoun relating, by implication, to the earth (Zamakhsharl and RUT).

90 In the eschatology of the Qur'an, the "end of the world" does not signify an annihilationi.e., reduction to nothingness-of the physical universe but, rather, its fundamental, cataclysmic transformation into something that men cannot now visualize. This is brought out in many allegorical allusions to the Last Day, e.g., in 14: 48, which speaks of "the Day when the earth shall be changed into another earth, as shall be the heavens".

91 Lit., "the caller in whom there will be no deviation (Id `iwaja lahu)"-i.e., the summons to the Last Judgment.

92 Regarding the Qur'anic concept of "intercession" on the Day of Judgment, see note 7 on 10 : 3. The "word [of faith]" referred to towards the end of the above verse is-according to Ibn `Abbas (as quoted by Baghawi) - a metonym for the belief that "there is no deity save God", i.e., the realization of His oneness and uniqueness. See also 19: 87 and the corresponding note 74.

93 For an explanation of this phrase -which occurs in exactly the same wording in 2 : 255, 21 : 28 and 22 : 76 as well - see surah 2, note. 247.

94 I.e., evildoing which has not been atoned for by repentance before death (Razi). In this particular context, it may be an allusion to the rejection of God's guidance - His "reminder" - spoken of in verses 99-101.

95 Lit., "no fear of [any] wrong"-i.e., punishment for any sin which he may have contemplated but not committed - "and neither of a diminution", i.e., of his merit: .cf. the twice-repeated statement in 16: 96-97 that the righteous shall be recompensed in the hereafter "in accordance with the best that they ever did".

96 As in verse 99 above - with which this passage connects - the adverb kadhalika ("thus") refers to the method and purpose of the Qur'an.




[divine writ] as a discourse in the Arabic tongue,' and have given therein many facets to all manner of warnings, so that men might remain conscious of Us, or that it give rise to a new awareness in them'"

(114) [Know,] then, [that) God is sublimely exalted. the Ultimate Sove'reign, the Ultimate Truth: and [knowing this,] do not approach the Qur'an in haste,"' ere it has been revealed unto thee in full, but [always) say: "O my Sustainer, cause me to grow in knowledge!„1o1

(115) AND, INDEED, long ago did We impose Our commandment on Adam;'° but he forgot it, and We found no firmness of purpose in him.

(116) For [thus it was:] when We told the angels, "Prostrate yourselves before Adam!"- they all prostrated themselves, save Ibis, who refused [to do it];'°' (117) and thereupon We said: "O Adam! Verily, this is a foe unto thee and thy wife: so let him not drive the two of you out of this garden and render

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97 Lit., "as an Arabic discourse (qur'dn)". See, in particular, 12: 2, 13 : 37, 14: 4 and 19: 97, as well as the corresponding notes.

98 Lit., "so that they might be [or "remain"] God-conscious, or that it create for them a remembrance", i.e., of God. The verb ahdatha signifies "he brought (something] into existence", i.e., newly or for the first time, while the noun dhikr denotes "remembrance" as well as the "presence [of something] in the mind" (Raghib), i.e., awareness.

99 Whenever the noun al-hagq is used as a designation of God, it signifies "the Truth" in the absolute, intrinsic sense, eternally and immutably existing beyond the ephemeral, changing phenomena of His creation: hence, "the Ultimate Truth". God's attribute of al-malik, on the other hand, denotes His absolute sway over all that exists and can, therefore, be suitably rendered as "the Ultimate Sovereign".

100 Lit., "be not hasty with the Qur an" (see next note).

101 Although it is very probable that - as most of the classical commentators point out - this exhortation was in the first instance addressed to the Prophet Muhammad, there is no doubt that it applies to every person, at all times, who reads the Qur'an. The idea underlying the above verse may be summed up thus: Since the Qur'an is the Word of God, all its component parts-phrases, sentences, verses and sarahs - form one integral. coordinated whole (cf. the last sentence of 25 : 32 and the corresponding note 27). Hence, if one is really intent on understanding the Qur'anic message, one must beware of a "hasty approach"-that is to say, of drawing hasty conclusions from isolated verses or sentences taken out of their context-but should, rather, allow the whole of the Qur'an to be revealed to one's mind before attempting to interpret single aspects of its message. (See also 75: 16-19 and the corresponding notes.)

102 The relevant divine commandment-or, rather, warning-is spelled out in verse 117. The present passage connects with the statement in verse 99, "Thus do We relate unto thee some of the stories of what happened in the past", and is meant to show that negligence of spiritual truths is one of the recurrent characteristics of the human race (Razi), which is symbolized here-as in many other places in the Qur'an-by Adam.

103 See 2 : 30-34 and the corresponding notes, especially 23, 25 and 26, as well as note 31 on 15:41. Since-as I have shown in those notes-the faculty of conceptual thinking is man's outstanding endowment, his "forgetting" God's commandment-resulting from a lack of all "firmness of purpose" in the domain of ethics-is an evidence of the moral weakness characteristic of the human race (cf. 4 : 28 - "man has been created weak"): and this, in its turn, explains man's dependence on unceasing divine guidance, as pointed out in verse 113 above.


thee unhappy.'°` (118) Behold, it is provided for thee that thou shalt not hunger here or feel naked,'°' (119) and that thou shalt not thirst here or suffer from the heat of the sun."

(120) But Satan whispered unto him, saying: "O Adam! Shall I lead thee to the tree of life eternal; and [thus] to a kingdom that will never decay?"'°6

(121) And so the two ate [of the fruit] thereof: and thereupon they became conscious of their nakedness and began to cover themselves with pieced-together leaves from the garden. And [thus] did Adam disobey his Sustainer, and thus did he fall into grievous error.'°'

(122) Thereafter, [however,) his Sustainer elected him [for His grace], and accepted his repentance, and bestowed His guidance upon him, (123) saying: "Down with you all'°8 from this [state of innocence, and be henceforth] enemies unto one another! None the less, there shall most certainly come unto you guidance from Me: and he who follows My guidance will not go astray, and neither will he be unhappy. (124) But as for him who shall turn away from remembering Me - his shall be a life of narrow scope;"' and on the Day of Resurrection We shall




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104 Lit., "so that thou wilt become unhappy". Regarding the significance of "the garden" spoken of here, see sarah 2, note 27.

105 Lit., "be naked": but in view of the statement in verse 121 (as well as in 7 : 22) to the effect that only after their fall from grace did Adam and Eve become "conscious of their nakedness", it is but logical to assume that the words "that thou shalt not ... be naked" have a spiritual significance, implying that man, in his original state of innocence, would not feel naked despite all absence of clothing. (For the deeper implications of this allegory, see note 14 on 7 : 20.)

106 This symbolic tree is designated in the Bible as "the tree of life" and "the tree of knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis ii, 9), while in the above Qur'anic account Satan speaks of it as "the tree of life eternal (al-khuld)". Seeing that Adam and Eve did not achieve immortality despite their tasting the forbidden fruit, it is obvious that Satan's suggestion was, as it always is, deceptive. On the other hand, the Qur'an tells us nothing about the real nature of that "tree" beyond pointing out that it was Satan who described it- falsely - as "the tree of immortality": and so we may assume that the forbidden tree is simply an allegory of the limits which the Creator has set to man's desires and actions: limits beyond which he may not go without offending against his own, God-willed nature. Man's desire for immortality on earth implies a wishful denial of death and resurrection, and thus of the ultimate reality of what the Qur'an describes as "the hereafter" or "the life to come" (al-dkhirah). This desire is intimately connected with Satan's insinuation that it is within man's reach to become the master of "a kingdom that will never decay": in other words, to become "free" of all limitations and thus, in the last resort, of the very concept of God-the only concept which endows human life with real meaning and purpose.

107 Regarding the symbolism of Adam and Eve's becoming "conscious of their nakedness", see note 105 above as well as the reference, in 7 : 26-27, to "the garment of God-consciousness", the loss of which made man's ancestors "aware of their nakedness", i.e., of their utter helplessness and, hence, their dependence on God.

108 See sarah 7, note 16.

109 I.e., sterile and spiritually narrow, without any real meaning or purpose: and this, as is indicated in the subsequent clause, will be a source of their suffering in the hereafter.


raise him up blind."

(125) [And so, on Resurrection Day, the sinner] will ask: "O my Sustainer! Why hast Thou raised me up blind, whereas [on earth] I was endowed with sight?"

(126) [God] will reply: "Thus it is: there came unto thee Our messages, but thou wert oblivious of them; and thus shalt thou be today consigned to oblivion!"

(127) For, thus shall We recompense him who wastes his own self... and does not believe in his Sustainer's messages: and, indeed, the suffering [of such sinners] in the life to come shall be most severe and most enduring!

(128) CAN, THEN, they [who reject the truth] learn no lesson by recalling how many a generation We have destroyed before their time?"' - [people] in whose dwelling-places they [themselves now] walk about? In this, behold, there are messages indeed for those who are endowed with reason!

(129) Now were it not for a decree that has already gone forth from thy Sustainer, setting a term"' [for each sinner's repentance], it would inescapably follow [that all who sin must be doomed at once]."'

(130) Hence, bear with patience whatever they [who deny the truth] may say, and extol thy Sustainer's limitless glory and praise Him before the rising of the sun and before its setting; and extol His glory, too, during some of the hours of the night as well as during the hours of the day,"° so that thou might attain to happiness.

(131) And never turn thine, eyes [with longing] towards whatever splendour of this world's life We may have allowed so many others"' to enjoy in order that We might test them thereby: for the sustenance






110 Regarding this rendering of the phrase man asrafa, see surah 10, note 21, in which I have discussed the meaning of the participial noun musrff, derived from the same verbal root.

111 Lit., "Is it, then, no guidance for them how many a generation. . .", etc. It is to be borne in mind that, in Qur'anic usage, the noun qarn signifies not only "a generation", but also - and rather more often-"people belonging to one particular epoch", i.e., "a civilization" in the historical sense of this term.

112 Lit., "and a term set [by Him]". This phrase, placed in the original at the end of the sentence, connects - as most of the classical commentators point out - with the opening clause of this verse, and has been rendered accordingly.

113 Cf. 10:11 and 16:61.

114 Lit., "at the sides [or "extremities"] of the day". See in this connection also 11 : 114 and the corresponding note 145.

115 Lit., "groups for "kinds"] of them" (azwdian minhum ). According to most of the commentators, this relates to the deniers of the truth spoken of in the preceding passages; but since the above injunction has obviously a wider purport, condemning envy in general, I have rendered this expression as "so many others".


which thy Sustainer provides [for thee] is better and more enduring."'

(132) And bid thy people to pray, and persevere therein. [But remember:] We do not ask thee to provide sustenance [for Us]:"' it is We who provide sustenance for thee. And the future belongs to the God-conscious. "e

(133) NOW THEY [who are blind to the truth] are wont to say, "If [Muhammad] would but produce for us a miracle from his Sustainer!""9 [But] has there not come unto them a clear evidence [of the truth of this divine writ] in what is [to be found] in the earlier scriptures?

(134) For [thus it is:] had We destroyed them by means of a chastisement ere this [divine writ was revealed], they would indeed [be justified to] say [on Judgment Day]: "O our Sustainer! If only Thou hadst sent an apostle unto us, we would have followed Thy messages rather than be humiliated and disgraced [in the hereafter]!"'''

(135) Say: "Everyone is hopefully waiting [for what the future may bring]:'7` wait, then, [for the Day of Judgment - ] for then you will come to know as to who has followed the even path, and who has found guidance!"


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116 Implying that whatever God grants a person is an outcome of divine wisdom and, therefore, truly appropriate to the destiny which God has decreed for that person. Alternatively, the phrase may be understood as referring to the life to come and the spiritual sustenance which God bestows upon the righteous.

117 My interpolation of the words "for Us" is based on Raz!'s interpretation of the above sentence: "God makes it clear that He has enjoined this [i.e., prayer] upon men for their own benefit alone, inasmuch as He Himself is sublimely exalted above any [need of] benefits." In other words, prayer must not be conceived as a kind of tribute to a "jealous God"-as the Old Testament, in its present corrupted form, frequently describes Him-but solely as a spiritual benefit for the person who prays.

118 Lit., "to God-consciousness".

119 I.e., in proof of his prophetic mission: cf. 6 : 109 and, many other instances in which the deniers of the truth are spoken of as making their belief in the Qur'anic message dependent on tangible "miracles".

120 I.e., "Does not the Qur'an express the same fundamental truths as were expressed in the revelations granted to the earlier prophets?" Beyond this, the above rhetorical question contains an allusion to the predictions of the advent of Muhammad to be found in the earlier scriptures, e.g.. in Deuteronomy xviii, 15 and 18 (discussed in my note 33 on 2: 42) or in John xiv, 16, xv, 26 and xvi, 7, where Jesus speaks of the "Comforter" who is to come after him. (Regarding this latter prediction, see my note on 61 : 6.)

121 Cf. 6: 131. 15:4 or '_6:208-209, where it is stressed that God never punishes man for any wrong committed in ignorance of what constitutes right and wrong in the moral sense - i.e., before making it possible for him to avail himself of divine guidance.

122 I.e., human nature is such that no man, whatever his persuasion or condition, can ever cease to hope that the way of life chosen by him will prove to have been the right way.



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