The Message of the Quran

Muhammad Asad



Total Verses: 31




THE OPINIONS of the earliest commentators are divided as to whether this surah - also called Ad-Dahr ("Time" or "Endless Time") after a word occurring in the first verse - belongs to the Mecca or the Medina period. Many authorities of the second generation - among them Mujahid, Qatadah, Al-Hasan al-Basri and 'Ikrimah (all of them quoted by Baghawi) - hold the view that it was revealed at Medina.




(1) HAS THERE [not] been an endless span of time 1 before man [appeared - a time] when he was not yet a thing to be thought of? 2

(2) Verily, it is We who have created man out of a drop of sperm intermingled, 3 so that We might try him [in his later life]: and therefore We made him a being endowed with hearing and sight.

(3) Verily, We have shown him the way: 4 [and it rests with him to prove himself] either grateful or ungrateful.

(4) [Now,] behold, for those who deny the truth 5 We have readied chains and shackles, and a blazing flame –

(5) [whereas,] behold, the truly virtuous shall drink from a cup flavoured with the calyx of sweet-smelling flowers: 7

(6) a source [of bliss] whereof God's servants shall drink, seeing it flow in a flow abundant. 8

(7) [The truly virtuous are] they [who] fulfil their vows, 9 and stand in awe of a Day the woe of which is bound to spread far and wide,

(8) and who give food - however great be their own want of it - unto the needy, and the orphan, and the captive, 11

(9) [saying, in their hearts,] "We feed you for the sake of God alone: we desire no recompense from you, nor thanks:

(10) behold, we stand in awe of our Sustainer's judgment 12 on a distressful, fateful Day!"

(11) And so, God will preserve them from the woes of that Day, and will bestow on them brightness and joy,

(12) and will reward them for all their patience in adversity with a garden [of bliss] and with [garments of] silk. 13

(13) In that [garden] they will on couches recline, and will know therein neither [burning] sun nor cold severe,

(14) since its [blissful] shades will come down low over them, 14 and low will hang down its clusters of fruit, most easy to reach. 15

(15) And they will be waited upon with vessels of silver and goblets that will [seem to] be crystal –

(16) crystal-like, [but] of silver - the measure whereof they alone will determine. 16

(17) And in that [paradise] they will be given to drink of a cup flavoured with ginger,

(18) [derived from] a source [to be found] therein, whose name is "Seek Thy Way". 17

(19) And immortal youths will wait upon them: 18 when thou seest them, thou wouldst deem them to be scattered pearls;

(20) and when thou seest [anything that is] there thou wilt see [only] bliss and a realm transcendent

(21) Upon those [blest] will be garments of green silk and brocade; and they will be adorned with bracelets of silver. 19 And their Sustainer will them to drink of a drink most pure. 20

(22) [And they will be told:] "Verily, all this is your reward since Your endeavour [in life] has met [God's] goodly acceptance!"

(23) VERILY, [O believer,] it is We who have bestowed from on high this Qur'an upon thee, step by step 21 - truly a bestowal from on high!

(24) Await, then, in all patience thy Sustainer's judgment, 22 and pay no heed to any of them, who is a wilful sinner or an ingrate;

(25) and bear in mind thy Sustainer's name 23 at morn and evening

(26) and during some of the night, 24 and prostrate thyself before Him, and extol His limitless glory throughout the long night. 25

(27) Behold, they [who are unmindful of God] love this fleeting life, and leave behind them [all thought of] a grief-laden Day.

(28) [They will not admit to themselves that] it We who have created them and strengthened their make 26 - and [that] if it be Our will We can replace them entirely with others of their kind. 27

(29) VERILY, all this is an admonition: whoever, then, so wills, may unto his Sustainer find a way.

(30) But you cannot will it unless God wills [to show you that way]: 28 for, behold, God is indeed all-seeing, wise.

(31) He admits unto His grace everyone who wills [to be admitted]; 29 but as for the evildoers - for them has He readied grievous suffering [in the life to come].

1 Implying, according to all the classical commentators, "there has indeed been an immensely long [or "endless"] span of time" - the interrogative particle hal having here the positive meaning of qad. However, this meaning can be brought out equally well by interpolating the word "not".

2 Lit., "a thing mentioned" or "mentionable" - i.e., non-existent even as a hypothetical concept. The purport of this statement is a refutation of the blasphemous "anthropocentric" world-view, which postulates man as he exists - and not any Supreme Being - as the centre and ultimate reality of all life.

3 Sc., "with the female ovum"; cf. 86:6-7.

4 I.e., God has not only endowed man with "hearing and sight", i.e., with reason and the instinctive ability to discern between right and wrong, good and evil (cf. 90:10), but He also actively guides him by means of the revelation bestowed on the prophets.

5 In this context, the "denial of the truth" (kufr) apparently relates to man's deliberate suppression of his inborn cognition of God's existence (cf. 7:172 and the corresponding note 139) as well as to his disregard of his own instinctive perceptions of good and evil.

6 Sc., "of despair". For the metaphor of "shackles and chains" - i.e., the consequence of the sinners' blind surrender to their own passions and to false values, and the resulting enslavement of their spirit - see surah 34, note 44; also Razi's elaborate comments (quoted in note 7 on 73:12-13) on this allegory of suffering in the hereafter.

7 The Lisan al-Arab gives "the calyx (kimm) of the grape before its flowering" as the primary significance of kafur; according to other lexicologists (e.g" Taj al-Arus), it denotes "the calyx of any flower"; Jawhari applies it to the "spathe of a palm tree", Hence, this - and not "camphor" - is evidently the meaning of kafur in the above context: an allusion to the sweet, extremely delicate fragrance of the symbolic "drink" 'of divine knowledge (cf. 83:25-28 and the corresponding notes 8 and 9),

8 Lit" "making [or "letting"] it flow…", etc.: i.e., having it always at their disposal.

9 I.e., the spiritual and social obligations arising from their faith.

10 Or, as in 2:176, "however much they themselves may cherish [i.e., "need"] it"; cf. also 90:14-16. It is to be noted that in this context the concept of "giving food" comprises every kind of help and care, both material and moral.

11 The term asir denotes anyone who is a "captive" either literally (e.g. a prisoner) or figuratively, i.e., a captive of circumstances which render him helpless; thus, the Prophet said, "Thy debtor is thy captive; be, therefore, truly kind to thy captive" (Zamakhshari, Razi, et al.). The injunction of kindness towards all who are in need of help - and therefore "captive" in one sense or another - applies to believers and non-believers alike (Tabari, Zamakhshari), and apparently also to animals dependent on man.

12 Lit" "we fear our Sustainer".

13 For this allegory, see first half of note 41 on 18:31.

14 Regarding the allegorical implication of the term "shades" (zilal), see note 74 on 4:57. It is to be noted that the existence of shade presupposes, the existence of light (Jawhari), which latter is one of the characteristics implicit in the concept of "paradise".

15 Lit., "in all humility".

16 I.e., partaking of as much as they may desire.

17 This is how Ali ibn Abi Talib - as quoted by Zamakhshari and Razi - explains the (obviously compound) word salsabilan, dividing it into its two components, sal sabilan ("ask [or "seek"] the way"): namely, "seek thy way to paradise by means of doing righteous deeds". Although Zamakhshari does not quite agree with this interpretation, it is, in my opinion, very convincing inasmuch as it contains an allusion to the highly allegorical character of the concept of "paradise" as a spiritual consequence of one's positive endeavours in this world, That its delights are not of a material nature is also evident from their varying descriptions - i.e., "a cup flavoured with ginger" in verse 17, and "flavoured with the calyx of sweet-smelling flowers" in verse 5; or "they will be waited upon with trays and goblets of gold" in 43:71, and "vessels of silver and goblets that will [seem to] be crystal – crystal-like, [but] of silver", in verses 15-16 of this surah; and so forth.

18 See note 6 on 56:17-18.

19 See 18:31 (where "bracelets of gold" are mentioned) and the corresponding note 41.

20 Implying that God Himself will slake their spiritual thirst by purifying their inner selves "of all envy, and rancour, and malice, and all that leads to harm, and all that is base in man's nature" (Ibn Kathir, quoting Ali ibn Abi Talib), and by allowing them to "drink" of His Own Light (Razi).

21 The gradualness of Qur'anic revelation is implied in the verbal form nazzalna..

22 This connects with the preceding mention of the life to come, in which the righteous will meet with bliss, and the evildoers with suffering.

23 I.e., His "attributes" as they manifest themselves in His creation - since the human mind can grasp only the fact of His existence and the manifestation of those "attributes", but never the "how" of His Reality (Razi).

24 I.e., at all times of wakefulness.

25 I.e., "whenever unhappiness oppresses thee and all seems dark around thee".

26 I.e., endowed their bodies and minds with the ability to enjoy "this fleeting life".

27 I.e., with other human beings who would have the same powers of body and mind, but would put them to better use.

28 See note 11 on 81:28-29. The perplexity of some of the commentators at the apparent "contradiction" between those two verses - as well as between verses 29-30 of the present surah - has been caused by their elliptic formulation, which, I believe, is resolved in my rendering. In the present instance, in particular, there is a clear connection between the above two verses and verse 3 of this surah: "We have shown him the way: [and it rests with him to prove himself] either grateful or ungrateful". (Cf. also 74:56.)

29 Or: "whomever He wills" - either of these two formulations being syntactically justified.


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