This sūrah was revealed in Makkah and consists of 109 verses. It takes its name from verse 98, where an incident related to Jonah’s people is recounted. The sūrah as a whole deals with the essentials of faith – in particular, the Divine origin of the Qur’ān – and mentions certain events from the missions of the Prophets Moses and Noah, upon them be peace, related to the essentials of faith.
- Alif. Lām. Rā. These are the Revelations included in the Book full of wis- dom.
- Does it seem strange to people that We reveal to a man from among them, saying: “Warn all humankind (of the consequences of the way they follow), and give those who believe the glad tidings that they have a sure footing with their Lord (on account of their belief, faithfulness, and righteous deeds)”?1 (Is it be- cause of this that) the unbelievers say: “This (man) is clearly a sorcerer?.”
- The initial verses of a sūrah disclose the main theme that will be dealt with. The first two verses of this sūrah indicate that it will dwell mainly on the Divine origin of the Qur’ān, and the evidence presented will be based on wisdom. The evidence to be drawn from the universe, human life, history, and events as the manifestations of the Divine Name the All- Wise, will address human intellect, thought, and power of reasoning, and present to us the instances of wisdom in the creation of humans and the universe.
- Surely your Lord is God, Who has created the heavens and the earth in six days; then He established Himself on the Supreme Throne,2 directing all affairs (as the sole Ruler of creation). There is none to intercede with God unless after He grants leave. That is God, Your Lord, so worship Him. Will you still not reflect (on this fundamental truth) and be mindful?
2. For the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days, the meaning of the Supreme Throne and God’s establishing Himself thereon, see 2: 28, note 28-29; 7: 54, note 13; and 41, note 2.
- To Him you are all bound to return: a promise from God in truth (therefore certain to happen). He originates creation, then He brings it forth anew (in another world) to the end that He may reward with equity those who believe and do good, righteous deeds. Whereas, for those who disbelieve (and die as unbelievers) there is a drink of boiling water and a painful punishment because
they persistently disbelieve.
- He it is Who has made the sun a radiant, illuminating light, and the moon a light reflected, and has determined for it stations, that you might know (how to compute) the number of the years and to measure (time). God has not created that but with truth (for a definite purpose and meaningfully). He sets out in detail the signs (and proofs of the truth) for a people seeking knowledge.
- In the alternation of night and day (with their periods shortening and length- ening), and all that He has created in the heavens and the earth, surely there are signs (manifesting truth) for a people who keep from disobedience to Him in reverence for Him.
- Those who have no expectations to meet Us and are well-pleased with the present, worldly life and (neither looking nor seeing beyond it) are content with it, and those who are heedless of Our Revelations and Our signs (manifested to them in their inner worlds and in the outer world):
- Those are they whose final refuge is the Fire because of what they have been earning.
- Surely for those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, their Lord will guide them by virtue of their belief to a happy end: rivers will flow at their feet in the Gardens of bounty?and blessing.
- Therein their invocation will be: “All-Glorified You are, O God! (You are absolutely exalted above having any defects and doing anything wrong.)” And their greeting (to each other and from God and the angels) will be: “Peace!” And their invocation will close with “All praise and gratitude are for God, the Lord of the worlds!”
- If God were to hasten for human beings the ill (which they have earned) in the same manner as they hasten (the coming to them of what they consider to be) the good, their term would indeed have been decreed over for them. But We leave those who do not expect to encounter Us in their rebellion blindly wandering.
- When affliction befalls (such) a person, he invokes Us (in every situation), lying down on his side or sitting or standing; but when We remove his affliction from him, he goes his way as if he had never invoked us for an affliction that befell him. So to those wasteful ones (who have wasted their God-given facul- ties and committed excesses) are the things they have been doing decked out to be appealing.
- Assuredly We destroyed many generations before you when they committed wrongs (in their deeds, in their measures and judgments, and in their response to the truth): the Messengers raised from among them came to them with the clear proofs of the truth, but it was plain that they would not believe. Thus do We recompense the guilty people committed to accumulating sin.
- Then We made you successors after them on the earth, so that We might behold how you act.
- When Our Revelations, clear as evidence and in meaning are recited (and conveyed) to them, those who have no expectations to meet Us say (in response to Our Messenger): “either bring a Qur’an other than this or alter it.” Say: “It is not for me to alter it of my own accord. I only follow what is revealed to me. Indeed I fear, if I should rebel against my Lord, the punishment of an Awful Day.”
- Say (also): “If God had so willed, I would not have recited it to you, nor would He have brought it to your knowledge. I lived among you a whole lifetime before it (began to be revealed to me). Will you not reason and understand?”
- Who is more in the wrong than he who fabricates falsehood in attribution to God, or denies His Revelations and His signs (in the universe and in their own selves)? Surely the disbelieving criminals will not prosper.3
3. For the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, living among his people, before and during his mission, as being evidence for his Prophethood, see Appendix 5.
- They worship, apart from God, things or beings that can neither harm nor benefit them, and they say: “These are our intercessors with God.” Say: “Would you inform God of something in the heavens or the earth that He does not know? All-Glorified is He, and absolutely exalted above all that they associate with Him.”
- Humankind (in the beginning) were but one community following one single way but later they differed and began following different ways. Had it not been for a decree already issued by your Lord (postponing the final, decisive judgment until an appointed term), it would indeed have been judged between them in respect of all that they differ on.
- They say: “Why isn’t a miraculous sign (of a different sort) sent down on him from his Lord?” Say, then: “The Unseen belongs to God alone (He does what- ever He wills and only He knows what the future will bring): therefore, wait and see, indeed I too am with you among those who wait.”
- Whenever We let the (unbelieving) people taste an act of grace after a hard- ship which has visited them, they at once contrive some plot against Our Rev- elations. Say: “God is more swift in enforcing His will (and making any plot rebound on those who conceived it).” Surely Our (heavenly) envoys (angels) are recording what they are devising.
- He it is Who conveys you on the land and the sea. And when you are in the ship, and the ships run with their voyagers with a fair breeze, and they rejoice in it, there comes upon them a tempest, and waves surge towards them from all sides, so that they are sure that they are encompassed (by death with no way out), they call upon God, sincerely believing in Him alone (as the only Deity, Lord, and Sovereign): “If You save us from this, we will most certainly be among the thankful.”
- But when He has saved them, they behave rebelliously on earth, offending against all right. O humankind! Your rebellion is only against yourselves. (What you seek and get by all your offenses is only) the enjoyment of the present, worldly life, thereafter to Us is your return, then We will make you understand what you were doing (and call you to account).
- The present, worldly life is like this: We send down water from the sky, and the earth’s vegetation, of which humans and animals eat, mingles with it, until, when the earth has taken on her ornaments and has been embellished,4 and its inhabitants suppose that they are its masters with a free hand over the earth, Our command comes upon it by night or day unexpectedly, and We cause it to become like a field mown down, as if it had not flourished the previous day. Thus, We set out in detail the signs (the signposts of Our way, and the relevant commands and guidance included in the Qur’ān) for a people who reflect (on them and draw the necessary lessons).
4. The Qur’ān is a miracle of eloquence. This verse draws a portrait of an attractive, elabo- rately dressed woman, decked out in all her ornaments. In fact, the world is often compared to an alluring, unfaithful woman. By using a feminine pronoun for the earth, the Qur’ān adds a new dimension to this comparison. But the riches and beauties of the physical world, like the physical beauty of a woman, are also transient.
- And God invites to the Abode of Peace (where they will enjoy perfect bliss, peace, and safety,) and He guides whomever He wills to a Straight Path.
- For those who do good, aware that God is seeing them is the best (of the rewards that God has promised for good deeds), and still more. Neither stain nor ignominy will cover their faces. They are the companions of Paradise; they will abide therein.
- And for those who have earned evil deeds, the recompense of an evil deed will be the like of it; and ignominy will cover them – nor will they have any- one to defend them against God – it is as though their faces were veiled with patches of darkest night. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide therein.5
5. God rewards a good deed done with sincerity at least tenfold (6: 160). This reward can multiply as much as 700 times (2: 261) or even more, according to the depth of the sincer- ity in doing it, how well it is done, and the conditions under which it is done. In addition to this, God gives more than that in Paradise, purely out of His grace. We cannot imagine what this surplus reward will be like because Paradise is full of the bounties of God, boun- ties that no eyes have ever seen, which no ears have ever heard, and which no minds have ever conceived. The believers will also be favored there with the vision of God, the nature of which is beyond our grasp and knowledge here in this world.
While God returns a good deed with multiple rewards, the recompense for an evil deed is only the like of it.
- On that Day We will raise them all to life and gather them all together, and then We will order those who associated partners with God: “Get to your place, you and your (so-called) associates (of God)!” So did We distinguish between them and the believers, and separate them from their associates. Their associates say to them: “It was not us that you worshipped.
- “God is sufficient as a witness between us and you: we were certainly un- aware of your worshipping (us).”
- There every soul will experience what it did before (in the world). They have been returned to God, their true Owner and Master; and those that they fabri- cated to worship besides God have failed them.
- Say: “Who is it that provides for you from heaven and earth, or who is it that possesses full power over (your) hearing and eyes; and who is it that brings forth the living from the dead and brings forth the dead from the living, and who directs the whole affair (the universe)?” They will say, “It is God.”6 Then, say: “Will you not then keep your duty to him in reverence for Him and in fear of His punishment?”
6. The Makkan polytheists admitted that God was the creator and Governor of the uni- verse, but associated partners with Him in ordering their own lives. They did not accept a power above themselves with which to order their lives. It was they who devised deities for themselves and, although they imbued their (false) deities with some power, it was not their deities that ruled them, but, rather like all other polytheists throughout history, including today, they themselves exploited their deities in their own interests.
There have been, and of course there still are, such people who will not give the answer,
“It is God,” to the questions posed in this verse. But as they do not have a definite alterna- tive answer, they will cite different things or mention some hypotheses. They will never be able to convince themselves of the truth of their answers, and their consciences will not be at rest with the hypotheses they have put forward. So, many of them will take refuge in agnosticism. For this reason, even if their carnal selves attempt to give different answers to the questions asked in the verse, the answer which almost everyone’s conscience will be comfortable with, especially under the conditions mentioned in verse 22, will be, “It is God.” However, this answer, emanating from the conscience, especially under particular conditions, is not faith, for faith is confirmation and conviction with the heart (and reason), willingly and knowingly.
- That is God (Who does all these), Your rightful Lord, the Absolute Truth and ever-constant. What is there, after the truth, but error?7 Then, how are you turned about (to different ways, removed from the Straight Path)?7. The true, straight way is one, while the ways of error are almost as numerous as the people who are in error. All of the Prophets who came during human history agreed on the same essentials of faith, worship, good conduct, and the basic rules of law, and on the same world-view, the same view of things and events. They gave the same answer to the basic questions of life, questions which everyone asks themselves and which philosophers and thinkers have tried to answer, namely: “Who am I?” “What is the meaning of life and death and what do they demand from me?” “Who has sent me to the world and for what purpose?” “Who is my guide in this earthly journey?” The fact that all of the Prophets gave the same answers to these questions demonstrates that their source is one and the same. Therefore, their answer should also be the same; indeed, the answer provided by all the Prophets is the same, yet nearly all philosophers and thinkers have given different answers to these questions. This fact demonstrates that the way of truth is one and is that which is represented by the Prophets and those who follow them, while the ways of error are numerous.
- Thus has the word of your Lord proved true with regard to those who trans- gress: that they will not believe.
- Say: “Is there any of your (so-called) associates (of God) who originates cre- ation and then reproduces it, and will bring it forth anew (in another world)?” Say: “God originates creation and then reproduces it, and He will bring it forth anew. How then are you turned away from the truth and make false claims?
- Say: “Is there any of your (so-called) associates (of God) who guides to the truth?” Say: “God alone guides to the truth. Which, then, is worthy to be fol- lowed: He Who guides to the truth or he who cannot find the true way unless he is guided? What, then, is the matter with you, and how do you judge (so wrongly)?”
- Most of them follow only conjecture. Surely conjecture can never substitute for anything of the truth. God surely has full knowledge of all that they do.
- And this Qur’ān is not such that it could possibly be fabricated by one in attribution to God, but it is a (Divine Book) confirming (the Divine origin of, and the truths that are still contained by,) the Revelations prior to it, and an ex- planation of the essence of all Divine Books – wherein there is no doubt,8 from the Lord of the worlds.
8. There are no differences among the Divine Books – the Qur’ān, the Torah, the Gospel, and others – with respect to the essentials on which they are based. So, as the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, testifies that all the previous Prophets were on God’s way and carried out the missions imposed on them by God, and as the Muslim community testifies that all those who followed the previous Prophets correctly were on the right way in the footsteps of the Prophets, so, too, the Qur’ān bears witness that all the previous Divine Books are books revealed by God. So, the passages found in their present copies, contrary to the basic principles of the Divine Religion on which all the missions of the Prophets and the Divine Books are based, are only interpolations and alterations made by human hands. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, the Qur’ān, and the Muslim community acquit all the previous Prophets, Books, and believing com- munities of any possible accusations arising from the incorrect understanding and practices of those who follow them and who attribute themselves to them.
Another point to cite here is that all the previous Divine Books confirm the Divine origin of the Qur’ān, and along with all the previous Prophets, the Prophethood and Messenger- ship of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
- Or do they say that he (the Messenger) has fabricated it? Say: “(If it is pos- sible for a mortal to fabricate it) then produce a surah like it and call for help on anyone you can, apart from God, if you are truthful (in your doubt and the claim you base upon it).”
- No (they are not truthful in their doubt and claim), but they have denied a thing (the Qur’an) whose knowledge they could not encompass and whose exposition (through the fulfillment of its promises and threats) has not reached them. even so did those who were before them deny (the Books sent to them). So look! how was the outcome for the wrong-doers (who judged and acted wrongly)?
- Among them (the people of Makkah) there are such as have believed and will believe in it, just as among them there are such as have not believed and will not believe in it. Your Lord has full knowledge of those who provoke disorder and corruption.
- If (O Messenger) they continue to deny you (regarding the Message you
bring), say: “To me are accounted my deeds, and to you, your deeds. You are quit of all that I do, and I am quit of all that you do.”
- Among them are such as come to listen to you, but how can you make the deaf hear, if they do not use their reason (to make sense of it)?
- Among them are such as look towards you, but how can you guide the blind (to the right way), if they are lacking the power of (in)sight?9
9. The eyeball is of no use without the retina. In seeing the truth, the mind is like the eye- ball, and the heart is the retina. The light of the heart is reflected on the mind just like the moon reflects the light of the sun. The mind without the light of the heart is left in dark- ness. The place of faith is the heart, and it is reflected on the mind. The doubts that attack the mind encourage people to investigate and to base their faith on established knowledge. The evidence provided by the universe and the inner and outer world of humankind, and that which is presented by the Qur’ān, functions as a broom to sweep away all doubts. So the mind protects the belief in the heart from being pestered by doubts coming from all directions. If the mind were to be the place of faith instead of the heart, then faith would have been exposed to a variety of attacks which would harm conviction (Sözler (“The Words”), “Lemaât,” 658).
- Surely God does not wrong humankind in anything, but humankind wrong their own selves.
- On the Day when God will raise to life and gather them together, it will seem to them that they had not tarried in the world but a short while of the day, knowing one another. Assuredly, those who deny (the truth) that they must encounter God have ruined themselves and have never been guided.
- Whether We let you (O Messenger) witness the fulfillment of some of what We have promised them, or We cause you to die (before it befalls them), still to Us is their return. And God is witness to all that they do.
- every community has its Messenger:10 when their Messenger comes, (some believe in him and the others not, and) it is judged between them with absolute justice, and they are not wronged.
10. Throughout human history, God sent a Messenger to every nation – i.e., a separate community that shares the same lifestyle and culture and that speaks the same language – to convey His Message to them. The Message was one, although tailored in some details of social and ritual practices in order to meet local cultural needs. After the Messengers, the Message was gradually forgotten or seriously distorted, and, therefore, God raised Prophets to revive the Message or restore it to its original purity, and apply it to daily life. However, the time came when almost all the world was in darkness, oblivious to God’s Message, and human beings had reached a stage when a single Messenger and Book would be suf- ficient for the whole of them; this was when God sent the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, as the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers along with the Holy
Since the religions prior to Islam were of a national character, their followers tended to believe that they were chosen peoples. The christians acknowledge only the Prophets of Israel, while the Jewish people reject the Prophethood of Jesus. Islam says, however, that it would be a denial of the universal providence of God to assert that Messengers and Prophets were raised for one nation only. According to the Holy Qur’ān, God is the Lord and Sustainer of all the worlds. As He has not discriminated between nations in sending His Revelations, so Muslims make no distinctions between any of His Messengers in their belief in them (2: 285).
Islam is the consummation of all Divine religions. By accepting the Prophets and Scrip- tures of all nations, Islam affirms the unity and universal providence of God and the uni- versality of religious experience, and also seeks to bring together people of all races and creeds in a single all-embracing faith and brotherhood. Further, a Muslim is also the true follower of all Prophets, including Moses and Jesus, upon them be peace. Such being the case, while the term christian means one who follows Jesus christ, and Judaism has turned into the racial religion of the Jewish people only, Muslims totally reject the term “Muham- madanism,” a term used only by non-Muslims to refer to Muslims. To understand Islam as its adherents do, one should purge the word Muhammadan or Muhammadanism from one’s vocabulary. The labelling of Islam as Muhammadanism is the result of a false anal- ogy with christianity. Muslims do not worship Muhammad as christians worship christ. Muhammad was neither a god, nor an incarnation, nor the son of God. He never claimed to be anything more than a man who had received Revelations from God. He did not make Islam; he simply received the Message of Islam.
- And they say: “When will this promise be fulfilled if you (O believers) are truthful?”
- Say (O Messenger): “I have no power to harm or benefit myself, except by God’s will. For every community, there is an appointed term; and when the end of the term falls in, they can neither delay it by any period of time, however short, nor can they hasten it.”11
11. For the explanation of, for every community there is an appointed term; and when the end of the term falls in, they can neither delay it by any period of time, however short, nor can they hasten it, see 7: 34, note 10.
- Say: “Have you ever considered: what (could you do) if God’s punishment should come to you by night (unexpectedly) or by day (and you saw it come)? What do the disbelieving criminals have in prospect that they wish it to be hastened?”
- What! Is it only when it has come to pass that you will believe in it? (That day it will be said to you:) “What? (Do you believe in it) now, after you had (in your contemptuous unbelief ) wished it to be hastened?”
- Then it will be said to those who wronged (themselves through unbelief and wrong judgments): “Taste the punishment everlasting! Are you recompensed for anything other than what you used to earn?”
- They ask you, “Is it true?” Say: “Yes, by my Lord, it is surely true; and you cannot evade it.”
- If every soul that has committed wrong (through unbelief and thereby wronged itself ) possessed all that is on the earth, it would surely offer that as ransom (to be saved from the punishment); and when they see the punishment, they will even be unable to express their remorse. It is judged between them in equity, and they are not wronged.
- Know well that to God belongs all that is in the heavens and on the earth. Know well that God’s promise is surely true, but most of them do not know.
- He gives life and causes to die, and you are on the way to return to Him.
- O humankind! There has come to you an instruction from your Lord, and a cure for what (of sickness or doubt) is in the breasts, and guidance and mercy for the believers.
- Say: “In the grace and bounty of God and in His mercy – in this, then, let them rejoice. That is better than what they amass (of worldly goods and riches).”
- Say: “Have you considered the provision God has sent down12 on you, and you have (of your own accord, at your own whim) made some of it lawful and some of it unlawful?” Say: “Has God given you leave, or do you (make laws of your own accord and) attribute to God falsely?”
12. The Qur’ān, by saying, the provision God has sent down, emphasizes that the real source of all provision is God’s mercy and bounty; and, therefore, it comes from a very ex- alted source. It also alludes to the fact that almost all the provisions by which living beings are maintained require rain, and that this rain comes from on high.
- What do those who falsely attribute (their own inventions) to God think will be (their situation) on the Day of Resurrection? Indeed God has grace and bounty for humankind, but most of them do not give thanks.
- Whatever your preoccupation (O Messenger), and whatever discourse from Him in this (Qur’ān) you may be reciting, and whatever work you (O people) may be doing, We are certainly witness over you while you are engaged in it. Not an atom’s weight of whatever there is in the earth or in the heaven escapes your Lord, nor is there anything smaller than that, or greater, but it is (recorded) in a
13. For the Manifest Book, see sūrah 6: 59, note 13.
- Know well that the friends (saintly servants) of God14 – they will have no fear (both in this world and the next, for they will always find My help and sup- port with them), nor will they grieve.
14. Above all else, all the believers are friends of God, for God is the guardian and confi- dant of believers, as is mentioned in many verses (2: 257; 3: 68; 5: 55; 6: 127; 7: 155; 34, 41, etc.). Likewise, Satan and the unbelievers, especially those who are more deeply rooted in unbelief, are the friends and guardians of one another. Another point to be made here is that the believers are friends and guardians of one another (3: 28; 8: 72; 9: 71, etc.), just as in the same way, some of the unbelievers and some of the People of the Book are friends and guardians of each other, especially against the believers (5: 51; 8: 73; 45: 9, etc.).
In addition to this general meaning of God being the Guardian and confidant of the be- lievers, and the believers being His friends, the original word waliyy (the plural of which is awliyā) has another special meaning. The believers are not of the same degree in believing and doing what is required by this belief, nor are they of the same degree in nearness to God. Some among them are more advanced than the others and, accordingly, are nearer to God. In common Islamic literature, when we say waliyy or awliyā, this special meaning is usually what is meant. The following verse sheds light on the subject, allowing us to better understand this concept:
God is the Guardian of those who believe (to Whom they can entrust their affairs and on Whom they can rely), bringing them out from all kinds of (intellectual, spiritual, social, economic and political) darkness into the light, and keeping them firm therein. (2: 257).
The most manifest function of God being the Guardian of the believers is that He brings them out of all the different kinds of existing darkness (intellectual, spiritual, social, eco- nomic, and political) into the light. So, those among the believers who try their best, with utmost sincerity, so that people can be brought out of all the different kinds of darkness into the light, are nearer to God and are His special friends. This is the main mission of the Messengers and the Prophets, and those who follow them in their missions. This requires that one has knowledge and the deepest conviction of the essentials of faith, that one lives according to these essentials by sincerely worshipping God and refraining from sins, and that one has praiseworthy qualities or virtues, while being dedicated to God’s cause (Key concepts, 2: 60-65 ).
- They are those who believe and keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety.
- For them is the glad tiding (of prosperity) in the life of this world and in the Hereafter. No change can there be in God’s decrees. That indeed is the supreme triumph.
- Do not let their sayings grieve you (O Messenger). Might and glory belong to God entirely. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
- Know well that to God belongs whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth (His creatures and servants). Those who invoke, apart from God, (do not do so because they really have found deities and lords that can be partners with God in His Divinity and Lordship, and so) follow those partners. They do but follow only conjecture (not authoritative knowledge), and they do nothing except make up suppositions.15
15. That is, they judge and speak according to their passing fancies, interests and personal value judgments.
- It is He Who has made for you the night so that you may rest in it, and the day, sight-giving (for you to work in). Surely in this are signs (manifesting the truth) for people who hear and pay heed (to God’s Revelations, and view things and events in their light).
- They (the polytheists) assert that God has taken to Himself a child. All- Glorified is He; He is Self-Sufficient (beyond any need of anything). To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth. You have no au- thority, nor evidence, for this (assertion). Are you, then, saying things about God that you do not know (anything about)?
- Say: “Surely those who fabricate falsehood in attribution to God will never prosper.”
- A brief enjoyment in the world; then to Us is their return, and then We will make them taste the severe punishment because they habitually disbelieved (in whatever truth was conveyed to them in God’s Name).
- Relate to them the exemplary history of Noah when he said to his people: “O my people! If my presence (among you) and my reminding (you) by God’s Revelations are offensive to you – well, in God have I put my trust. So, coming together, decide upon your course of action, and (call to your aid) your (so- called) associates of God, then let not your affair be a worry to you, and then carry out against me (whatever you have decided), and give me no respite!
- “Then if you turn away (from the Message that I convey to you), then (know that it will cause me no loss, just as your accepting it will gain me nothing) I ask you for no wage; my wage is only due from God, and I have been commanded to be of the Muslims (those who have submitted to Him).”
- And yet they denied him, and so We saved him and all who were with him
in the Ark, and made them successors (to inherit the earth), while We caused to drown those who denied Our Revelations and all other signs (pointing to Our existence and Unity).Look, then, how was the outcome for those who were warned (but never paid heed)?
- Then, after him, We sent forth Messengers to their people; and they came to them with the clear signs of the truth. But they would not believe in that which they used to deny before. Thus do We impress a seal on the hearts of those who exceed the bounds.16
16. For the exemplary histories of those Messengers, see 7: 65–102 and the related notes.
- Then, after them, We sent forth Moses and Aaron to the Pharaoh and his chiefs with Our signs (miracles to support them), but they grew arrogant (in the face of those signs), and (demonstrated that) they were a guilty people commit- ted to accumulating sins.
- When the truth came to them from Us, they said: “Surely this is clearly nothing but sorcery.”
- Moses said: “Do you speak of the truth like this when it has come to you? Is this sorcery? But sorcerers do not prosper.”
- They said: “Have you come to us to turn us away from what we found our forefathers following, and that high authority in this land may belong to you two? Never will we believe in you two!”
- And the Pharaoh said: “Bring me every learned, skillful sorcerer!”
- When the sorcerers came, Moses said to them: “Throw down what you will throw.”
- When they had thrown (whatever they had in their hands and produced a mighty sorcery), Moses said: “What you have brought is but sorcery. Surely God will bring it to nothing and prove it false. God never validates and sets right the work of those who cause disorder and corruption.
- “And God proves by His decrees the truth to be true and makes it triumph, however hateful this is to the criminals.”
- None save a young generation among his people believed in Moses for (they were in) fear that the Pharaoh and the chiefs among them (who collaborated with the Pharaoh in order not to lose their wealth) would subject them to per- secutions. The Pharaoh was indeed a haughty tyrant in the land and he was indeed one of those who commit excesses.
- And Moses said (in earnest advice to his people): “If you believe in God, then put your trust in Him, if you are Muslims (who have wholly submitted themselves to Him).”
- They invoked (verbally and by their actions): “In God we put our trust. Our Lord! Do not make us a target of persecution for the wrongdoing people!
- “And save us through Your mercy from those unbelieving people!”
- We revealed to Moses and his brother: “Appoint houses for your people in egypt (as places of refuge and coming together in God’s cause), and (as a whole community) make your homes places to turn to God, and establish the Prescribed Prayer in conformity with its conditions. And (O Moses,) give glad tidings to the believers!”
- Moses prayed to God: “Our Lord! Surely You have granted the Pharaoh and his chiefs splendor and riches in the life of this world, and so, our Lord, they lead people astray from Your way. Our Lord! Destroy their riches, and press upon their hearts, for they do not believe until they see the painful punishment.”
- God said: “The prayer of you two (O Moses and Aaron) has indeed been answered; so, (since the realization of your goals is dependent upon your way of conduct,) continue steadfastly on the Straight Path, and do not follow the way of those who have no knowledge (of right and wrong) and act in ignorance.”
- And We brought the children of Israel across the sea, and the Pharaoh and his hosts pursued them with vehement insolence and hostility, until (they were overwhelmed by the waters of the sea opened for Moses and his people to cross,) and when the drowning overtook the Pharaoh, he exclaimed: “I have come to believe that there is no deity save Him in whom the children of Israel believe, and I am of the Muslims (those who have submitted themselves wholly to Him).”
- Now? – (You surrender now) when before this you always rebelled and were of those engaged in causing disorder and corruption?
- So this day (as a recompense for your belief in the state of despair which will be of no avail to you in the Hereafter), We will save only your body, that you may be a sign for those to come after you.17 Surely, a good many people among humankind are heedless of Our signs (full of clear warning and lessons).
17. With this verse about the Pharaoh’s drowning, the Qur’ān suggests the following: all the Pharaohs believed in reincarnation; therefore, they mummified their bodies in the hopes of eternalizing themselves. Thus, their bodies have survived to the present day. Although not mummified, the body of the Pharaoh who lived during the time of Moses, upon him
be peace, and drowned while pursuing Moses, upon him be peace, with his army was found prostrate beside the Nile in the final years of the nineteenth century. This is an explicit Qur’ānic miracle, which was foretold centuries before in the above verse (The Words, “The 25th Word,” 420; al-Mawdūdī, 2, note 92).
- And, indeed, We settled the children of Israel in a proper place of dwelling, and provided them with pure, wholesome things. They did not suffer discord until after the knowledge came to them (of the way they would have to follow, and of what they would meet as a result of what they did). Your Lord will surely judge among them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that on which they used to differ.18
18. The Qur’ān mentions the story of the children of Israel—which, for the most part, is based mainly on the mission of Moses, upon him be peace— in many of its sūrahs, as this story is a rounded exemplary history for the progress of all nations and provides an indica- tion of the importance of the place which the children of Israel hold in human history. The Qur’ān deals with their story every time in relation to the main themes of the sūrah in which it is recounted. For example, in this sūrah, while the story of the Prophet Noah, upon him be peace, is described with the challenge he gave to his people, his deep reliance on God and his confidence in his mission, and with God’s saving him and the believers in his company while destroying all of the unbelievers; and while the stories of the Messen- gers, Hūd, Sālih, Lot, and Shu‘ayb, upon them be peace, are referred to only in one verse, with their end and the reason why that end occurred, the story of the children of Israel is narrated in its aspect of the basic dimension of Moses’ message, the intellectual and final material defeat of the Pharaoh and his chiefs, who were opposed to that message, as well as in the final triumph of the children of Israel and the main factor that led to that triumph. The main idea behind all the stories mentioned in this sūrah is as follows:
All of the Messengers came with the same fundamental message, based on Divine One- ness, and God equipped them with miracles and other manifest signs or evidence to prove that they were God’s Messengers. Those who opposed them had nothing valid in their hands to justify their opposition; rather, their opposition was out of sheer ignorance, based on prejudices governed by their worldly interests and carnal desires, as well as their arro- gance and incorrect viewpoints. They persecuted the Messengers and the believers in their company, but the latter endured all their persecutions, relying solely on God. In the end, the Messengers and their followers were saved and triumphed while their opponents were defeated and ruined themselves. The believers will enjoy eternal happiness in Paradise in the other world, but the unbelievers will suffer unending punishment in Hell.
Mentioning these stories from this perspective, in this sūrah, God consoles the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and his followers, confirming them in their belief, strengthening their patience, reminding them of the main characteristic of the way they are destined to follow, and, finally, giving them a mild warning against any discord which may break out among themselves after their final victory against their enemies.
- If you are in doubt about the truth of what We have sent down on you (con- cerning what happened between Moses and the Pharaoh), then ask those who
have been reading the Book (which was given to them) before you. Surely the truth has come to you from your Lord, so be not among those who feel doubt.
- And neither be among those who deny God’s signs and Revelations, for then you will be among the losers.19
19. These verses do not mean that the Messenger had any doubts concerning his mis- sion, the Revelation he received, or the stories of the previous Messengers narrated in the Qur’ān. When the verses are considered in the light of the context in which they exist, the meaning is clear, as follows:
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was very grieved in the face of the persecutions and derisions he suffered at the hands of the unbelievers who persisted in unbelief. He told the people who were obstinate in their rejection of the truth, who knew nothing of Revelation and Messengership, and who were confined to this world with all their being, about the realms beyond the sensed world, the Divine Revelation, contact with God, Who is beyond all conceptions and other metaphysical realities, as well as of the his- tories of bygone peoples about whom he had neither read nor heard anything substantial before. It is clear what kind of reaction he faced. It was not easy to talk about such matters, to challenge formidable, stubborn enemies and to claim that the future would belong to the believers at a time when they were so few and weak. But he related all these with utmost confidence in his mission and without any doubts.
It was essential that the believers should also believe with unwavering certainty in whatever he said and in whatever news he gave, so that they should be reinforced, increasing their en- durance. So, in addressing the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, the Almighty consoled and reinforced the believers, and in addressing one who had absolute certainty in what he had received from God and conveyed to others, He was also warning the believ- ers that they should feel no doubts about their faith, nor should they be influenced by the opposition of the unbelievers. He also reminded the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and the believers of the fact that all that had occurred indicated that the way they were going was the same way that had been trodden by previous nations.
The meaning of what God says here is: “Just as the Pharaoh, one of the most refractory ty- rants of history (and his chiefs) did not believe, yet had to believe when he saw one of many of God’s earthly punishments at a time when believing was of no use, so, too, will all those who resist God’s Message – in the way that the Pharaoh and previous peoples did – have to declare faith, even if it will be of no use to them. So, their unbelief should not discourage you or cause you to waver in your faith. Besides, as believers, you will not be discouraged by the resistance and power of your enemies. For God is the All-Powerful and will make you triumphant, so long as you continue your way without wavering. ”
- Those for whom the truth of your Lord’s decree (that they will die unbeliev- ers and go to Hell) has been confirmed – they will not believe,
- even though every proof should come to them, until they see the painful punishment.
- If only there had been a community that believed (just when God’s decree of punishment was issued) and profited by their belief – there was none except the people of Jonah. When they came to believe We withdrew from them the punishment of disgrace in the life of this world, and We allowed them to enjoy life for a term.20
20. As has been pointed out several times before, as God is beyond all time and space, His (pre-) ordaining means His knowing all things and events beforehand. Therefore, a people are not compelled to do something against their own free will. (We feel obliged to use expressions such as “pre-ordaining” and “beforehand,” which denote time, since we have to bring the concepts of Divinity within our understanding, which is constrained by time and space.) For this reason, Islam does not recognize determinism in human history. If we talk about determinism established by God, it is that God has determined what consequence people will meet in return for what they do. causality is a law established by God. He has explicitly informed people of this through the Messengers He has sent and the Books He has revealed.
Another important “law” concerning God’s way of acting and the way He has established for people to follow, according to their own free will, is that He may withdraw His decree for a person or people. This law is called the law of God’s special grace, or sparing. This is like raging rapids suddenly taking someone on a different course so that after fear and near- drowning, there is safety and mercy whereas there would have been great destruction on the riverway one had originally chosen to paddle on. God sometimes informs a person or peo- ple of what will befall them, either through true dreams or presentiments, or in some other way. If that person or people can understand this warning and implore God for forgiveness, give in charity, and mend their ways, then God may spare them. Many peoples throughout history, such as those of the ‘Ād, the Thamūd, and the Pharaoh’s people, deserved to be destroyed because of their persistence in associating partners with God, dissolute lifestyles, and the injustices and atrocities they inflicted on others despite all the warnings made to them. However, the Prophet Jonah’s people, upon him be peace, turned to God with utmost sincerity and deep repentance, and morally reformed themselves after they saw the signs of impending destruction. As a result, God spared them the penalty of disgrace in the worldly life, and allowed them to enjoy life for a term. emphasizing this point, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, said: “Fear does not prevent misfortunes; rather, prayer and charity do” (al-Hindī, hadīth no. 3123).
The Prophet Jonah, upon him be peace, lived about eight centuries before Jesus, upon him be peace, and was sent to Ninevah during the early years of the second Asyyrian empire. Despite his years of preaching God’s Message, his people persisted in their association of partners with God, and despairing of his people’s ability to ever believe, he left them without having been ordered to do so by God, believing that God would always guard and provide him wherever he was (21: 87). According to what we conclude from the Qur’ān (37: 140), the ship he had boarded was about to sink in a storm because of the weight of its load, and the sailors felt constrained to lighten it. They cast lots to decide who should be thrown into the sea, and the lot fell to Jonah. So, they cast him into the sea.A large fish swallowed him. Jonah was a beloved servant of God who had always glorified Him. He glorified God in the fish, also, and asked for His forgiveness. In the end, by God’s leave, the fish threw him out on the shore. When Jonah left his people and the signs of God’s
impending punishment appeared, they implored Him for forgiveness for days, and God withdrew His decree of punishment. Jonah returned to his people, and more than 100,000 people believed in his message (37: 137–148). Jonah’s suffering must have had a share in the sparing of his people. For God sends misfortune upon believers either to guide them to better conditions, or enable them to develop their potentialities, or warn them against any possible destructive faults and sins, or so that it serves as a means of perfection for them. Misfortune sometimes comes as a result of a sin committed or fault made. When believers ask God for forgiveness for those sins or faults, this serves as a means of two rewards, one coming immediately, and the other later on.
Some people who approach the Qur’ān and the miracles of the Prophets purely from a rationalistic viewpoint tend to interpret Jonah’s being swallowed by a fish and then being saved from it by God in a metaphorical way. However, a similar event took place centuries later. A hunter of whales in england called James Bartley fell into the sea while fishing on a boat called Star of the east, in August, 1891, and was swallowed by a whale. The whale was found dead two days later, but the fisherman was taken out of its belly alive after 60 hours (Urdu Digest, February 1964, quoted in Tefhim, 5: 41, note 82).
- If your Lord had so willed (and, denying them free will, compelled human- kind to believe), all who are on the earth would surely have believed, all of them. Would you, then, force people until they become believers?
- It is not for any person to believe save by God’s leave. God sets those who do not use their reason in a mire of uncleanness.21
21. The Qur’ān attaches great importance to the intellectual activities or faculties, all of which it relates to the “heart”; these faculties are reflection, using reason, considering, knowledge, insight, “hearing,” etc. It regards anyone who is devoid of these as being dead. even if we relate all these to the heart, or each to a different faculty, the way to keep these alive is to refrain from being pre-conditioned, and to avoid prejudices, incorrect viewpoints, evil intentions, sins, wrongdoing, arrogance, and selfishness. These are the vices which pre- vent one from believing. The last two verses both complement and also give a mild warning to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, because he wished for all people to believe; in fact, this was such a strong desire in him that he would torment himself nearly to death with grief if they would not believe (18: 6). This verse also relates belief to God’s leave, which He relates to whether or not people’s intellectual faculties are alive. Those who do not use their intellectual faculties, or those who use them in improper ways, are devoid of God’s leave to believe.
- Say: “consider what there is (and what happens) in the heavens and on the earth.” But all such signs (of the truth of the essentials of faith) and the warnings cannot avail a people who will not believe.
- For what do they watch and wait but the like of the days of punishment which befell those (unbelievers) who passed away before them? Say: “Then watch and wait, and I will be with you watching and waiting.”
- Then We save Our Messengers and those who believe (as We always did before). We have bound Ourselves to save the believers.
- Say: “O humankind! If you are in doubt about my religion, then (know that) I do not worship those whom you worship apart from God, but I worship God alone, Who causes you all to die. I have been commanded to be of the believers.
- “(I have also been commanded:) Set all your being exclusively to the true religion as one with pure faith (free from unbelief and hypocrisy), and never be among those who associate partners with God.
- And do not invoke, apart from God, that which can neither benefit you nor harm you; if you did so, then you would be of the wrongdoers (who wrong them- selves by committing the greatest wrong of associating partners with God).
- If God touches you with affliction, there is none who can remove it but He; and if He wills any good for you, then there is none who can hold back His bounty. He causes it to reach whomever He wills of His servants. He is the All- Forgiving, the All-compassionate.”
- Say: “O humankind! Assuredly there has come to you the truth from your Lord. Whoever, therefore, chooses the right way, follows it but for his own good; and whoever chooses to go astray, goes astray but to his own harm. I am not one appointed as a guardian over you to assume your responsibility.”
- And follow what is revealed to you, and remain patient and steadfast in your way until God gives His judgment. And He is the best in giving judgment.