The Message of the Quran
THE SIXTY-SEVENTH SURAH
Total Verses: 30
THE FUNDAMENTAL idea running through the whole of this surah is man's inability ever to encompass the mysteries of the universe with his earthbound knowledge, and, hence, his utter dependence on guidance through divine revelation. Best known by the key-word al-mulk ("dominion") taken from its first verse, the surah has sometimes been designated by the Companions as "The Preserving One" (Al- Waqiyah) or "The Saving One" (Al-Munjiyah) inasmuch as it is apt to save and preserve him who takes its lesson to heart from suffering in the life to come (Zamakhshari).
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:
(1) HALLOWED be He in whose hand all dominion rests, since He has the power to will anything:
(3) [Hallowed be] He who has created seven heavens in full harmony with one another: 2 no fault will thou see in the creation of the Most Gracious. And turn thy vision [upon it] once more: canst thou see any flaw?
(5) And, indeed, We have adorned the skies nearest to the earth with lights, 4 and have made them the object of futile guesses for the evil ones [from among men]: 5 and for them have We readied suffering through a blazing flame –
(7) When they are cast into that [hell], they will hear its breath indrawing as it boils up,
(8) well-nigh bursting with fury; [and] every time a host [of such sinners] is flung into it, its keepers will ask them, "Has no warner ever come to you?"
(9) They will reply: "Yea, a warner did indeed come unto us, but we gave him the lie and said, 'Never has God sent down anything [by way of revelation]! You [self-styled warners] are but lost in a great delusion!"' 7
(11) Thus will they come to realize their sins: but [by that time,] remote will have become all good from those who are destined for the blazing flame.
(15) He it is who has made the earth easy to live upon: 14 go about, then, in all its regions, and partake the sustenance which He provides: but [always bear in mind that] unto Him you shall be resurrected.
(19) Have they, then, never beheld the birds above them, spreading their wings and drawing them in? None but the Most Gracious upholds them: for, verily, He keeps all things in His sight.
(21) Or is there any that could provide you with sustenance if He should withhold His provision [from you]? Nay, but they [who are bent on denying the truth] stubbornly persist in their disdain [of God's messages] and in their headlong flight [from Him]!
(24) Say: "It is He who has multiplied you on earth; and it is unto Him that you shall be gathered [on resurrection]."
(25) But they [only] ask, "When is this promise to be fulfilled? [Answer this, O you who believe in it,] if you are men of truth!"
(26) Say thou, [O Prophet:] "Knowledge thereof rests with God alone; and I am only a plain warner."
(27) Yet in the end, when they shall see that [fulfilment] close at hand, the faces of those who were bent on denying the truth will be stricken with grief; and they will be told, "This it is that you were [so derisively] calling for!"
(28) SAY [O Prophet]: "What do you think? Whether God destroys me and those who follow me, or graces us with His mercy 21 - is there anyone that could protect [you] deniers of the truth from grievous suffering [in the life to come]?"
(29) Say: "He is the Most Gracious: we have attained to faith in Him, and in Him have we placed our trust; and in time you will come to know which of us was lost in manifest error."
1 Since what is termed "death" is stated here to have been created, it cannot be identical with "non-existence", but obviously must have a positive reality of its own. To my mind, it connotes, firstly, the inanimate state of existence preceding the emergence of life in plants or animated beings; and, secondly, the state of transition from life as we know it in this world to the - as yet to us unimaginable - condition off existence referred to in the Qur'an as "the hereafter" or "the life to come" (al-akhirah).
2 Or: "conforming [with one another]", this being the primary significance of tibaq (sing. tabaq). For the meaning of the "seven heavens", see surah 2, note 20.
3 Sc., in its endeavour to encompass the mysteries of the universe.
4 Lit., "lamps" - i.e., stars: cf. 37:6, "We have adorned the skies nearest to the earth with the beauty of stars".
5 For the wider meaning of shayatin - a term which in this context points specifically to "the satans from among mankind, that is, the astrologers" (Baydawi) - see surah 15, note 16. As regards the term rajm (pl. rujum), which literally denotes the "throwing [of something] like a stone" - i.e., at random - it is often used metaphorically in the ssense of "speaking conjecturally" or "making [something] the object of guesswork" (Jawhari, Raghib - the latter connecting this metaphor explicitly with the above verse -, Lisan al-‘Arab, Qamus, Taj al-‘Arus, etc.). Cf. also 37:6-10.
6 I.e., by presuming to know what will happen in the future - a knowledge which rests with God alone. This connects with the statement in verse 4 that man can never truly unravel the mysteries of cosmic space ("the heavens"), which in its turn implies that he should not presume to foretell terrestrial events from the position and the aspects of the stars. Since only God knows "that which is beyond the reach of a created being's perception" (al-ghayb), any such attempt is a blasphemy (kufr).
7 Lit., "You are in nothing but a great error (dalal )" - thus denying the reality of divine revelation as such.
8 Reason, properly used, must lead man to a cognition of God's existence and, thus, of the fact that a definite plan underlies all His creation. A logical concomitant of that cognition is the realization that certain aspects of the divine plan touching upon human life - in particular, the distinction between right and wrong - are being continuously disclosed to man through the medium of the revelation which God bestows on His chosen message-bearers, the prophets. This innate "bond with God" (referred to in and explained in the corresponding note 19) may be broken only at the expense of man's spiritual future, with suffering in the life to come as the inevitable alternative.
9 For this rendering of the expression bi'l-ghayb, see surah 2, note 3.
10 While the primary significance of the noun qawl is "a saying" or "an utterance", it is often used tropically in the sense of "a statement"'. i.e., of a belief, an opinion, a teaching, a doctrine, etc. In the present context it evidently relates to man's beliefs in general, be they affirmative or negative: hence the plural form in my rendering of this term.
11 I.e., He knows why one person believes in Him and another rejects this belief; hence, He takes man's innermost motivations, abilities and inabilities fully into account.
12 Lit., "Does He not know, [He] who has created?"
13 See surah 6, note 89.
14 Lit., "who has made the earth submissive (dhalulan) to you": i.e., yielding to the intelligence with which He has endowed man.
15 This expression is, of course, purely metaphorical since God is limitless in space as well as in time. Its use here is apparently meant to stress the unfathomable quality of His existence and power, which penetrates, and reveals itself in, every aspect of His cosmic creativeness, symbolized in the term "heaven".
16 Lit., "a stormwind that raises stones".
17 Lit., "before them" (min qablihim). This personal pronoun relates - as does the whole of the passage beginning with verse 13 - to people of all times, who are herewith reminded of what happened to deniers of the truth in earlier times; hence my rendering of min qablihim as "aforetime".
18 Lit., "an army".
19 Lit., "prone upon his face" - i.e., seeing only what is immediately beneath his feet, and utterly unaware of the direction into which his path is taking him: a metaphor of the spiritual obtuseness which prevents a person from caring for anything beyond his immediate, worldly concerns, and thus makes him resemble an earthworm that "goes along prone upon its face".
20 I.e., with the faculty of feeling as well as of rational thinking.
21 I.e., "Whether we succeed in spreading God's message or not, what have you unbelievers to gain?"
22 Apart from a further reminder of God's providential power (thus continuing the argument touched upon in verses 19-21), the above verse has a parabolic significance as well. Just as water is an indispensable element of all organic life, so is a constant flow of moral consciousness an indispensable prerequisite of all spiritual life and stability: and who but God could enable man to regain that consciousness after all the older ethical stimuli have dried up and "vanished underground"?