Revealed in Makkah, this sūrah consists of 128 verses. Its name is derived from verse 68, where bees are mentioned as another miraculous sign of God’s Power, Knowledge, and Wisdom. It dwells on the essentials of faith, the rejection of unbelief and the association of partners with God, with many proofs in favor of belief, and encouragement to realize certain virtues, such as justice, doing good, and generous deeds, as well as forbidding evil and vices.
- God’s command (for the calamity to strike the unbelievers and their final destruction at the end of time) is bound to come, so (O unbelievers) do not wish it to be hastened (by asking the Messenger to bring it immediately in order only to deride and cast doubt on it). All-Glorified is He, and absolutely exalted above all that they associate with Him.
- He sends down the angels with the Spirit (the life-giving Revelation) from His (absolutely pure, immaterial realm of ) command upon whom He wills of His servants (saying): “Warn people that there is no deity save Me, so keep from disobedience to Me in reverence for Me and piety.”1
- Humans, who have followed many so-called guides or leaders only to be led astray, have received true guidance through the Prophets. These servants of God were created for a spe- cial mission. Their lives resemble a beautiful symphony, perfectly harmonious and balanced. Their words are like sweet melodies that penetrate the soul. All of existence, be it animate or inanimate, listens to them. Trees and rocks would greet the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, just before and during his Prophethood, and he would answer them. In his well-known Qasīdat al-Bur‘ah, Busirī says: “Trees answered his call, prostrat- ing.” When he called them, trees came to him. Both living beings and inanimate objects were understood to have meaning through his advent, existence became a “cosmos” out of “chaos,” and each thing was perceived to become a voice that glorified God with praise. The extraordinary harmony in the universe displays God’s existence and Unity. Nothing is created in vain or without purpose (The Messenger of God, 31).
- He has created the heavens and the earth in truth (meaningfully and with definite purpose, and on solid foundations of truth). Absolutely exalted is He above all that they associate (with Him).
- He has created human from (so slight a beginning as) a mere drop of seminal fluid; and yet, he turns into an open, fierce adversary (selfishly disputing against
- And the cattle He has created, from which you get warmth (of clothing) and other uses, and from them you get (food) to eat.
- And in them there is beauty for you when you drive them home (in the eve- ning) and when you take them out to pasture (in the morning).
- They carry your loads to many a land which (otherwise) you would be un- able to reach except with great hardship to yourselves. Indeed your Lord is All- Pitying, All-compassionate.
- And horses, mules and donkeys (has He created for you) to ride, as well as for ornament (the loveliness they add to your world); and (besides all that you see and know of,) He creates what you have no knowledge of.2
2. In parallel with the development of life, God creates new things for the use of human- kind, to contribute to our life, ornamenting and enriching it. These include both plants and animals of which we are not aware at this time, but which may be discovered in later times, as well as the inventions and production of humankind, which God creates through our hands. This verse also implies that besides their many uses to human beings, plants and animals also serve them by arousing their sense of wonder and their capacity to appreciate beauty. The utility and beauty of the natural world should awaken the strongest feelings of dependence and indebtedness, which are elements of the gratitude human beings owe to the creator of themselves and the world around them.
- With God (being your creator) rests the goal of the way (to which He will guide and which you must follow). And some (ways) are crooked (misleading those who follow them). But if God had willed (to impose His guidance with- out granting people freedom of choice), He would surely have guided you all together (on His way).
- He it is Who sends down from the sky water; you drink thereof, and thereof (drink) the shrubs on which you pasture your cattle.
- With it He causes to grow for you the crops, the olives, the date-palms, the grapes, and all (other) kinds of fruit. Surely in this is a sign (manifesting the truth) for people who reflect.
- He has made the night and the day and the sun and the moon to be of ser- vice to you, and the stars are made subservient by His command. Surely in that are signs for people who reason and understand.
- And whatsoever He has created for you on earth of varying colors (and di- verse forms and qualities): surely in that is a sign for people who reflect and are mindful.
- And He it is Who has made the sea to be of service (to you) so that you eat from it fresh meat, and draw out from it ornaments that you wear. And you see the ships plowing their course through it so that you may go forth in quest of His bounty and give thanks (to Him Who has created all this).
- And He has cast firm mountains on the earth lest it should shake with you (with its movement), and rivers, and roads, so that you may find your way;
- And (other) way-marks, and they (people) find their way by the stars.
- Is He then Who creates to be likened to him who does not create? Will you not reflect and be mindful?
- And should you attempt to count God’s blessings, you could not compute them. God is indeed All-Forgiving, All-compassionate (Who continues to provide for His servants despite their sins and even their denial of Him).
- God knows whatever you keep concealed and whatever you disclose.
- But those whom they invoke, apart from God, create nothing; rather, they are themselves created.3
3. The arguments that the Qur’ān puts forth are apparently straightforward, but have pro- found meanings. Since the Qur’ān aims at guiding people to God’s way, and since the overwhelming majority of people are always of average capacity, it addresses itself to their level of understanding. However, it never deprives the most knowledgeable and intellectual. This is one of the miraculous aspects of the Qur’ān.
Only One Who can create can be a Deity worthy of worship. We can clearly see that ev- erything in the world is in flux, contained in time and space, and is changeable, and that all things have a beginning. The universe itself is also in a flux in time and space, and change- able dependent on certain laws. Therefore, anything with such attributes can only be cre- ated and must owe its existence to something other than itself. Something created cannot be a creator; rather it must have a creator. The creator obviously cannot be of the same kind as the created, nor can it be contained in time and space; therefore it must be eternal.
By means of the intellectual capacity God has granted us, human beings have been able to make great discoveries and inventions, yet we cannot create even a blade of grass. If hu- mankind, despite being the most intelligent, knowledgeable, and powerful of all creations, due to the advantages with which we have been provided, cannot create even a blade of grass, and if we cannot give existence to an atom or element, then there is nothing that is contained in the universe that can be the creator. Therefore, something that is created, be it a human being, like Jesus, upon him be peace, or an angel, or a “natural” force, or a spirit, or an idol, or anything else, cannot be a Deity worthy of adoration and invocation.
Apart from this significant fact, we openly witness that whatever we are provided with in “nature” is created and granted to us, for almost nothing. Yet, as stated above, even if all the human beings in the world were to come together and unite their power, knowledge, and
wealth, they would not be able to create even a single seed of wheat. And in order for that seed to grow into wheat, the sun, the soil, air, water, and the seed itself, as well as countless other conditions, must work together in a measured way. This means that the existence of something, no matter how small, depends on the existence of the whole universe. So, even though we have been granted everything for almost nothing, the price of everything in the universe is nearly equal to that of the universe itself. Yet, still God gives all of these to us, for almost nothing. The more we need something, the more abundantly and more cheaply God grants it to us. He grants us air for nothing and also water; these are the two things that we need most in life. All these facts, so simple in appearance, yet so meaningful, decisively demonstrate the existence and Oneness of God with all of His many Attributes and Names.
- Dead (they are), not living (nor can they give life, being themselves in need of it). And they do not know when they will be raised to life.4
4. Whether a living being or not, anything deified other than God can only be dead when by itself; i.e. it is in need of another power in order to exist. In another place, God declares: Do they associate as partners with Him those who create nothing and themselves are created, and who have no power to give them any help, nor can help themselves? And if you call them in the direction of guidance, they do not follow you: it is the same for you whether you call to them or remain silent. Those whom you deify and call upon apart from God are subservient beings created by God just like yourselves. (If you think and claim otherwise) then call on them and let them answer you, if you are truthful! (7: 191–194 and corresponding note 46).
In addition, the verse also refers to the persons, such as the Prophets, saints, heroes, and other respected ones whom the polytheists deified. Many idols that the Makkan polythe- ists and earlier peoples worshipped, such as al-Lāt, al-Manāt, al-‘Uzzā, Wad, Suwā, and Yaghūs, etc. were erected in memory of persons who had these names and who had once lived and been respected by their contemporaries. Later, these people came to be sanctified and worshipped. The verse emphasizes that, however great they are in reality or in people’s sight, even such persons, who are now dead and do not know when they will be raised to life, can in no wise be deities worthy of worship.
- Your God is the One God, but those who disbelieve in the Hereafter – their hearts are in denial (of this most evident and essential truth, and the many other truths based on it): they are (too) arrogant (to accept dependence on the Su- preme Being, or to be answerable to Him).5
5. Denial of the Hereafter comes either from denial of the existence of the metaphysical realms beyond the reach of human senses, which usually arises from a person’s arrogant confidence in their capacity of understanding and knowledge, or from an arrogant refusal to give account of their life before a Superior Being. This means a denial of the Hereafter usually entails a denial of the Supreme Being. The opposite is also true; that is, a denial of the Supreme Being entails the denial of the Hereafter. This indicates an important fact; the essentials of faith are in need of one another. Accepting one requires the acceptance of the others.
- Without doubt, God knows whatever they keep concealed and whatever they disclose; He does not love the arrogant.
- When it is said to them: “What is it that your Lord (Who sustains, protects, and raises you) has sent down (on the Messenger)?” They say: “Fables of the ancients.”
- Hence, they will bear their own burdens (of sin) in full on the Day of Res- urrection, and some of the burdens of those whom they, devoid of true knowl- edge, caused to go astray. Look now! How evil is the burden they load upon themselves!6
6. every soul earns only to its own account; and no burdened soul bears the burden of another (6: 164), is a fundamental principle in Islamic law and tradition. This means that no one is responsible for another’s sin or crime if he or she has nothing to do with it. How- ever, according to the principle, The one who causes is like the one who does it, one who causes something good or bad has a responsibility and acquires a reward or punishment in accordance with his or her share in the deed. In this respect, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, pronounces the principle: “The one who establishes a good path in Islam receives the reward of those who follow it, without any decrease in their reward. Another who establishes an evil path in Islam is burdened with the sins of those who follow it, without any decrease in their burden” (Muslim, “Zakāh,” 69; Ibn Mājah, “Muqaddimah,” 203).
- Those before them (like them, persistent in unbelief, wrongdoing and evil) schemed (against the Messengers and the Divine Message they brought), so God struck what they built at its foundations, and the roof fell in upon them from above, and the doom came upon them without their perceiving whence it came.
- Then, on the Day of Resurrection, He will disgrace them and will say: “Where are (those beings whom you claimed) as partners with Me and for whose sake you used to oppose (the believers), defying and disobeying (My guidance)?” Those who (in their lifetime) were endowed with the Knowledge7 declare: “Disgrace and evil are, this day, on the unbelievers:”
7. As mentioned in many previous verses (2: 120, 145; 3: 7, 61, 66; 4: 157; 6: 100, 119, 144;
11: 46; 12: 68; 16: 25), unbelief and the association of partners with God are in no way connected to knowledge, while knowledge necessitates belief. Therefore, we should also point out that knowledge (al-‘ilm) and having some information are different from each other. Knowledge is a product, like milk, that is the result of many processes in the mind, like imagination, conceptualization, reasoning, inquiry, verification, judging, adoption, con- viction, and certainty. There is a kind of knowledge which is absolutely certain: it is the knowledge taught by the Divine Revelation. Islam accepts Revelation, intelligence (reason), sound sense, and scientific inquiry as being the means of knowledge.
A scholar should provide guidance for others in the way that a sheep feeds its young, not in the way a bird does. A sheep feeds its lambs on milk, a fully-digested and processed substance, whereas a bird feeds its chicks on what it has half-chewed and then regurgitated. (For a quotation from Said Nursi, see sūrah 12, note 25.)
- Those whose souls the angels take while they are still wronging themselves (by falsely associating partners with God, and committing evils). (When they see the punishment), they offer full submission, (saying in an attempt to excuse themselves): “We did not (mean to) do any evil.” (But they are answered:) “No! Surely God has full knowledge of what you were doing (and your intentions therein).
- “So, go in through the gates of Hell to abide therein.” How evil, indeed, is the dwelling of the arrogant (those too haughty to accept God’s guidance).
- Whereas it is said to those who keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety: “What is it that your Lord sends down (on the Messenger)?” They answer: “That which is purely good and to our benefit (in both worlds).” For those devoted to doing good in this world, aware that God is seeing them, there is good, and the abode of the Hereafter is indeed better. How excellent, indeed, is the abode of the God-revering, pious!
- Gardens of perpetual bliss which they will enter, through which rivers flow. Therein they will have whatever they may desire. Thus does God reward the God-revering, pious –
- Those whose souls the angels take whilst they are in a pious state (free of evil, and worshipping none but God alone), saying: “Peace be upon you! enter Paradise for what you have been doing.”
- Are they (the unbelievers and/or those who associate partners with God) but waiting for the angels to come to them (to take their souls or bring them a disaster), or for your Lord’s command (to judge them and open Hell for them)? even so did those before them. God did not wrong them but they did wrong themselves.
- Then the evil consequences of what they used to do fell upon them, and that which they were mocking overwhelmed them.
- Those who associate partners with God say: “Had God so willed, we would not have worshipped anything other than Him, neither we nor our forefathers; nor would we have declared anything unlawful without (a commandment from) Him.” even so did those who lived before them (and associated partners with God like them). But, then, is any duty laid upon the Messengers except to con-
vey the Message clearly?
- And certainly, We have raised within every community a Messenger (to convey the primordial Message): Worship God alone, and keep away from false deities and powers of evil (who institute patterns of faith and rule in defiance of God). Among them (past generations) were people whom God guided, just as there were among them those for whom straying was their just due. Go about, then, on the earth and look! How was the outcome for those who denied (God’s manifest signs and His Messengers)!
- Though you long ardently for them (all humankind) to be rightly guided, God surely does not guide those whom He has led astray (as their just due).8 And they have no helpers (to defend them against God).
8. The last two verses explicitly state that guidance is a gift from God, while misguidance is a person’s due. God does not will misguidance for anybody, but people prefer misguid- ance under the influence of their carnal souls. So, such expressions should be viewed in the light of the following verses: God leads the wrongdoers astray (14: 27); He thereby leads none astray save the transgressors (2: 26); surely those who disbelieve and do wrong (to people by barring them from God’s way, and to God and His Messengers and angels, and to all believers and all creatures bearing witness to the truth, and to their own conscience, by accusing them of lying and deception) – God will indeed not forgive them, nor will He guide them to a road, except the road of Hell, to abide therein forever; and that is easy for God (4: 168–169).
- And by God they swear their most solemn oaths, “God will never raise from the dead anyone who has died!” No! but it is a promise (that He has laid) upon Himself in truth, but most people do not know (being ignorant and lacking desire for knowledge of the truth).
- (He will indeed fulfill that promise and resurrect them,) so that He will make clear to people the truth about what they differ on, and so that those who disbelieve will know that they were liars.
- (Raising the dead to life, like giving them life in the first place, is easy for Us:) Our word for a thing when We will it is simply Our saying to it, “Be!” and it is.9
9. For the meaning of this and similar expressions, see sūrah 2: 117, note 101; and sūrah 3: 47.
Here, we would add the following:
The Absolutely Powerful One creates things with absolute ease and speed and with no physical contact. He creates with a mere command. Moreover, although the All-Powerful Maker is infinitely near to creatures, they are infinitely distant from Him. Furthermore, despite His infinite Grandeur, He does not exclude even the most insignificant thing from
the importance He attaches in designing and fashioning creation, nor does He deprive it of the beauty of His art. The perfect order which is observed in creation, despite the absolute facility witnessed in its being called into existence, testifies to this Qur’ānic truth. The following comparison explains how this is possible and serves to make it more easily comprehensible.
The sun, like a dense, solid mirror for the Divine Name of Light, is infinitely near to all things on earth; rather, it is nearer to them than their own selves, and has an effect on them in numerous ways, such as through its light and heat. By contrast, these things are millions of miles away, and they have no effect on the sun in any way, nor can they claim any nearness to it. The presence of the sun, with its light, heat, and image flooding in every transparent object, big or small, and its reflection in opaque, translucent things, the heat and color it gives to each, and how it affects things, all go to prove this fact. The extent of its luminosity, i.e., the degree of its brightness, increases the capacity and comprehensive- ness of its penetration. It is because of the greatness of its luminosity that even the tiniest things cannot hide or escape it. This means that the sun’s immensity and “grandeur” do not exclude even the most insignificant particles, the tiniest things, from the sphere of its com- prehension; rather, everything is included in it. The sun manifests itself by God’s leave in all things, from atoms to the planets, from droplets to the surface of vast oceans, with such ease and speed and over so comprehensive an area that if, supposing the impossible, we were to imagine that the sun could act of its own free will, then we would have to suppose that it performed all this with a mere command. An atom and a planet are equal before its manifestation. The heat and the light that it spreads over the entire surface of a vast ocean are also given with perfect order to the finest atom, in accordance with its capacity.
Thus, we can clearly see that the sun, which is a light-giving “bubble” in the “ocean” of the heavens, and a small, solid mirror to the manifestation of the Absolutely Powerful One’s Name of Light, displays examples of the principles of this truth. So, we believe, and ev- eryone should believe, with complete certainty, as though they have witnessed it, that the All-Majestic One, Who is the Light of Lights, the Illuminator of Light, the Determiner of Light, is all-present and all-seeing and infinitely near to all things through His Knowledge and Power, and other Attributes, and that things are infinitely distant from Him, and that He does things so easily and with no preparation. He creates with a mere command, and nothing, big or small, particular or universal, is excluded from the sphere of His Power, and His Greatness encompasses all things.
- Those who emigrate (to another land) for God’s cause after they have been oppressed on account of their faith, We will surely give them goodly residence in the world, and their reward in the Hereafter is certainly greater. If only they (all people) knew (how great that reward is)!
- Those (they are) who have persevered in patience (through all adversities), and it is in their Lord that they put their trust.
- We did not send before you (O Muhammad) any but men to whom We revealed – and if you (O people) do not know, then ask the people of expert knowledge (those who have knowledge of the Divine Revelations) —
- (We sent them with) clear proofs of the truth and Scriptures. And on you We have sent down the Reminder (the Qur’an) so that you may make clear to humankind whatever is sent down to them (through you of the truth concern- ing their present and next life), and that they may reflect.
- Do they, who (in defiance of God’s grace) devise evil schemes, feel safe and secure that God will not cause the earth to swallow them, or that the punish- ment will not befall them without their perceiving whence it has come?
- Or that He will not seize them in the midst of their strutting about (the land in pomp and show of dominion), and they are helpless to frustrate Him?
- Or that He will not seize them with gradual wasting (of wealth and health giving them time to mend their ways)? For surely your Lord is All-Pitying, All- compassionate.
- Do they not see the things that God has created, how their shadows bend to the right and to the left, making prostration before God, and that in the hum- blest manner?
- Before God prostrates itself whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth of living creatures,10 and the angels (likewise, for) they are not arro- gant.
10. For the motion of the shadow and beings’ prostration before God Almighty, see 13: 15, note 7.
- They (the angels) fear their Lord high above them (i.e., Who has absolute power over them), and they do what they are commanded.
- God has said: “Do not take two (or more) deities: He is but One God. So be in awe of Me and Me alone, (and be saved from other fears bringing disgrace upon you).”
- To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on the earth, and to Him alone absolute obedience is always due. Will you, then, fear and obey in piety and due reverence other than God?
- Whatever blessing you have, it is from God; and when harm touches you, it is to Him that you cry for help.
- When thereafter He removes the harm from you, a party of you attribute partners to their Lord (Who alone sustains and provides for you, and saves you from misfortunes);
- And so deny with ingratitude the favors God has granted them. So enjoy (O polytheists, the favors We grant you) – in time you will come to know (the truth).
- They assign, out of what We provide for them, a portion to the things (non- existent gods, misunderstood “causes,” the real nature of ) which they have no sure knowledge.11 By God, you will certainly be questioned about what you used to fabricate.
- This verse has several meanings:
- So as to order their lives, some people ascribe creativity and the authority to things or beings which they assume to have (Divine) power, such as idols, persons, institutions, celestial bodies, spirits, and so on.
- They ascribe authority to make lawful what is unlawful, or unlawful what is lawful, concerning their livelihood to powers other than God; yet their livelihood has been granted to them by God.
- They assign to God, of the produce and cattle that He has created, a portion, and they say: “This is God’s” – so they assert – “and this (the rest) is for the partners which we associate with God.” (6: 136)
- And they assign daughters to God – All-Glorified is He (above having chil- dren) – and to themselves sons!
- When any of them is given news of the birth of a girl, his face becomes over- cast, and he is (as if choking inwardly) with suppressed anger.
- He hides himself from the people because of the evil (as he wrongly supposes it) of what he has had news of. (So he debates within himself:) Shall he keep her with dishonor or bury her in earth? Look now! how evil is the judgment they make (concerning God, and how evil is the decision they debate)!
- To those who do not believe in the Hereafter applies the most evil of at- tributes, and to God applies the most sublime attribute, and He is the All- Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise.
- If God were to take people immediately to task for their wrongdoings, He would not leave on it (the earth) any living creature (as the wrongdoings of hu- mankind would make the earth uninhabitable). But He grants them respite to a term appointed (by Him). When their term has come, they can neither delay it by a single moment, nor can they bring it forward.
- They make over to God that which they dislike (for themselves); and all the while their tongues utter the falsehood that (“if there would be another life as the Messenger claims,” the best reward (Paradise) would be theirs. No doubt
theirs is (on the contrary, only) the Fire, and they will be hastened on into it.
- By God, We certainly sent Messengers to the communities before you (O Messenger), but Satan decked out their deeds as appealing to (the unbelievers among) them. And this day (too, when the Qur’an is being revealed), he is their close friend, and theirs is a painful punishment.
- And We have not sent down the Book on you except that you may explain to them all (the questions of faith and law) on which they differ, and as guidance and mercy for people who will believe and who have already believed.
- God sends down from the sky water and therewith revives the earth af- ter its death. Surely in that there is a sign (manifesting the truth) for people ready to hear (and understand the discourses of the “Book of creation” and the Revelation.)12
12. It is God Who revives this vast earth when it is dead and dry, and therein manifests His Power by creating hundreds of thousands of species, each as extraordinary as humankind; these creatures manifest His all-embracing Knowledge in its infinite variations, within a complex intermingling of all their distinct forms. The dried, ossified roots and trunks of trees and plants, as also hibernating animals, are revived and restored exactly as they were. Animals, such as flies, and plants, flowers and grass, which die leaving behind many seeds, are “recreated” in a form so similar as to be nearly identical to the original. The seeds, which outwardly appear so alike, grow over a short period, distinct and differentiated, and are brought to full vigor with extraordinary rapidity and facility, in absolute orderliness and harmony. Indeed, the Almighty Disposer of this world’s affairs creates at every moment of time, on the finite, transient surface and in the depths of the earth, numerous signs, examples and indications of revival after death, the Supreme Gathering, and the Plain of Resurrection.
It is God Who, in addition to creating at every moment numerous signs, examples, and indications of the Resurrection and life after death, turns our attention toward everlasting happiness, assuring us of Resurrection in all of His heavenly decrees. So, both in these decrees and by causing “nature” to speak in numerous languages, He addresses our power of hearing as well. He shows the importance He attaches to humankind by creating us as the most comprehensive and subtle, the worthiest, and most valued fruit on the Tree of creation; He addresses humans, allowing them to get in touch with Him whenever and wherever they wish, and without any intermediary.
- And surely in the cattle (feeding on the pastures of the revived earth), there is a lesson for you: We give you from that which is within their bodies, (marvel- ously distinguished from) between the waste and blood, milk that is pure and palatable to those who drink.13
13. The Qur’ān narrates the process of the production of milk in remarkable detail: the part-digestion of what is ingested as food, the absorption of it, and then a second process and refinement in the glands. Milk is a wholesome and agreeable product for living beings,
yet it is a secretion, like other secretions, and it is non-essential for the life of the mother. Despite being a secretion produced from between the dung in the bowels and the blood in the veins, it is one of the most vital and useful foods for living beings. The Qur’ān’s narra- tion of the process of its production fourteen centuries ago is one of the countless proofs of its Divine origin.
- And there are (among the produce that God brings forth as nourishment for you on the revived earth) the fruits of the date-palm, and grapes: you derive from them intoxicants and good, wholesome nourishment. Surely in this there is a sign for people who reason and understand.14
14. This verse was revealed long before the prohibition of intoxicants (See 5: 90–91, note 18). However, by using the phrase of good, wholesome nourishment after intoxicants, the fact that an intoxicant is not good, wholesome nourishment is implied. coming after the verse describing milk and how it is produced, the Qur’ān refers to intoxicants in corre- spondence to excrement and blood, while the phrase good, wholesome nourishment cor- responds to milk, thereby preparing the minds for the prohibition of intoxicants. By calling on people to use their reason concerning this matter, it encourages them to think, and to be sensible and reasonable when choosing their food and drink.
- And your Lord inspired the (female) bee:15 “Take for yourself dwelling-place in the mountains, and in the trees, and in what they (human beings) may build and weave.
15. Almost from the very moment an animal is born, it seems to have been sent to this world having been trained in another, perfected in all its faculties. Within a few hours or days or months, it comes into full possession of its natural capacity to lead its life accord- ing to particular rules and conditions. A sparrow or a bee, for example, acquires, or, rather, is inspired with, the skill and ability to integrate into its environment in a matter of 20 days; for a human to achieve the same level of skill requires 20 years. This means that the basic obligation upon animals, i.e., their essential role, does not include seeking perfection through learning or progress through scientific knowledge; nor does it include “conscious” prayer and the petitioning for help by displaying their impotence. Their obligation or role in creation is to act within the bounds of their innate faculties, which is the mode of wor- ship specified for them.
A human being, by contrast, is born with no knowledge of life or his or her environment, and with a need to learn everything. Unable to entirely complete the conditions of life, even after 20 years, a human being needs to continue learning until the end of his or her life. ecah one appears to have been sent to the world with much weakness and inability; it may take someone as long as two years to learn just how to walk. Only after 15 years can a person distinguish between good and evil, and by virtue of living in a society, attain a point where he or she can choose between what is beneficial and what is harmful.
Thus, the essential duty of human beings, the one intrinsic to their existence, is to seek perfection through learning and to proclaim their worship of God, and their servanthood to Him, through prayer and supplication. They should look for the answer to such ques-
tions as, “Through whose compassion is my life so wisely administered? Through whose generosity am I being so affectionately trained? Through whose favors and benevolence am I being so solicitously nourished?” They should then pray and petition The Provider of Needs, in humble awareness of their needs, even one in a thousand of which they are unable to satisfy unassisted. Their understanding and confession of their impotence and poverty will then become two wings on which to fly to the highest of ranks, that is, being a servant of God (The Words, “The 23rd Word,” 331–332).
- “Then eat of all the fruits, and returning with your loads, follow the ways your Lord has made easy for you.” There comes forth from their bellies a fluid of varying color, wherein is health for human beings. Surely, in this, there is a sign for people who reflect.16
16. For the diary of a honeybee, see Appendix 9.
- God has created you, then He causes you to die. And among you are those who are deferred to the age of senility so they do not know, of what they once knew, anything at all. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Powerful.
- And God has favored some of you above others in provision. And yet, (while it is We Who provide them) those who are more favored do not consent to share their provision with those (slaves) whom their right hands possess so that they might be equal with them in this respect. How then do they deny God’s grace and bounty, (and associate partners with Him)?
- God has made for you, from your selves, mates (spouses), and has made for you from your mates children and grandchildren, and has provided you with good, wholesome things. Do they, then, believe in falsehood and deny the bless- ings of God?
- And do they worship, apart from God, what has no ownership of any provi- sion in the heavens and the earth with which to provide for them, nor have they (whom they falsely worship) any capacity (to take on, still less, discharge such a task)?
- So do not invent similitudes for God (do not liken Him to others to as- sociate partners with Him, for there is nothing similar to Him). Surely God knows and you do not know (the exact truth about Him and the exact nature of things).
- God strikes a parable (of two men so that you may understand that true freedom lies in the service of God, because it frees from servitude to all else): a man enslaved, unable to do anything of his own will, and a (free) man whom We have provided with a fair provision from Us, and he spends thereof secretly and
openly. Are the two equal? All praise and gratitude are due to God (for to Him alone belongs absolute ownership and disposition of the universe); but most of them do not know.
- And God strikes a parable of two (other) men: one of them dumb, unable to control anything (unable to answer any call, unable to decide any matter or meet any need). He is a burden upon his master; wherever he directs him, he brings no good. Is he equal with one who enjoins right and justice and is himself on a straight path?
- And to God belongs (absolute dominion and full knowledge of ) the unseen of the heavens and the earth, and the matter of the Hour (of Doom) is (in rela- tion with the Divine Power) but the twinkling of an eye, or even quicker. Surely God has full power over everything.17
17. The Divine Power is infinite, and an indispensable Attribute of the Supreme Being. It operates like a law, having the same relationship with everything, large or small, few or many, and directly upon the inner dimension of things, or the metaphysical domain, which is free of all obstacles and of particular differences. This domain is in direct contact with the Divine Power. Something big is as easy for the Divine Power to create as something small and, therefore, it will be no more difficult for this Power to destroy the world in an instant and re-build it in a new form on the Last Day than it is for It to revive an insect in the spring.
- God brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when you knew nothing, and (in order that you might be perfected through learning) endowed you with hearing and eyes and hearts, that you may give thanks (from the heart and in speech, and in action by fulfilling His commandments).
- Do they not consider the birds flying in the air subservient to God’s com- mand? None holds them but God (Who has endowed them with the power of flight). Surely in that there are signs (manifesting the truth) for people who will believe who will deepen in faith.
- And (among His blessings on you) God has made for you of your houses places of dwelling and rest; and He has made for you, from the hides of cattle, (another kind of ) dwellings that you find light when you travel and when you stop to camp; and in their wool, fur, and hair (He has provided you with means for) furnishings and enjoyable comforts for a while.
- And (among countless other blessings of His) He has made for you, out of the things He has created, shelter from the sun, and given you refuges in the mountains, and made (the means whereby you make) garments to protect you from heat (or cold), and garments (such as coats-of-mail) to protect you from
your (mutual) violence. In this way He completes His favors on you so that you may submit to Him (and thereby receive the greatest favor of all).
- Then if they (despite these blessings of God and His completing His favors upon them through this Revelation) turn away, what rests with you, (O Mes- senger,) is only to convey the Message fully and clearly.
- They are fully aware of God’s favors, but they refuse to acknowledge them (as such), and most of them are obstinate unbelievers (willfully and stubbornly associating partners with Him in belief and worship).
- But a Day (will come) when We raise up a witness from among every com- munity (to testify against them that God’s Religion was communicated to them), and then those who were unbelievers will not be allowed (to speak their excuses), nor will they be allowed (it then being too late) to make amends.
- When those who persist in wrongdoing (by associating partners with God and committing evils) see the punishment, it will not be lightened for them, nor will they be reprieved.
- And when those who associate partners with God see their associate-deities (such as Prophets, saints, and heroes, whom they hold as partners with God in worship and absolute obedience), they will say “Our Lord! Those are our associate-deities whom we (held as partners with You, and) used to invoke apart from You. (They are the ones who led us astray.)” Whereupon (those beings) fling at them the retort: “You are indeed liars!”
- On that Day they (those who associated partners with God) have offered submission to God, (which out of arrogance they used to withhold), and what they used to fabricate (by way of false deities to worship besides God) has failed them.
- Those who (themselves) disbelieved and barred (other) people from God’s way – We add punishment to their punishment because they used to cause dis- order and corruption.18
18. This verse refers to the leaders of unbelief, particularly those who both disbelieve and lead others to disbelieve, while also trying their hardest to prevent others from believing and following God’s way. So, they also cause unrest and corruption in the society. It is be- cause of this that, in addition to punishment for their unbelief, they will also suffer punish- ment for barring others from God’s way and causing unrest and corruption.
- And on that Day We will raise up within every community a witness from among themselves (to testify) against them (that God’s Religion was commu- nicated to them), and We will bring you (O Messenger) as a witness against
those (whom your Message has reached). We have sent down on you the Book as an exposition of everything (that pertains to guidance and error and to the knowledge of good and evil, and to happiness and misery in both worlds), and guidance and mercy and glad tidings for the Muslims (those who have submit- ted themselves wholly to God.
- God enjoins justice (and right judgment in all matters), and devotion to doing good, and generosity towards relatives, and He forbids you indecency, wickedness and vile conduct (all offenses against religion, life, personal property, chastity, and health of mind and body). He exhorts you (repeatedly) so that you may reflect and be mindful!
- And fulfill God’s covenant when you have made the covenant (and any com- mitment that you made among yourselves in God’s Name), and do not break your oaths after having confirmed them; indeed you have made God your guar- antor. Surely God knows all that you do.
- And do not be like her who destroys her yarn that she herself made strong, betraying (thereby, her own effort) – by making your oaths a means of deception among yourselves, in order that you may be a community greater in numbers (in power and other worldly things) than another community.19 In this, God is only testing you, and on the Day of Resurrection, He will certainly make clear to you all that on which you used to differ.
19. Any covenant which is made in God’s Name means God’s covenant. God’s covenant consists of a “rope” of light woven from the threads of Divine Will, Wisdom, and Favoring, and functions as that which is responsible for order in the universe, and is able to establish peace, order, and harmony in the human life. It refers to the spiritual, moral, and social ob- ligations that arise from one’s belief in and worship of God (see sūrah 2: 27, note 24; sūrah 40, notes 47–48; sūrah 13: 20), and to all pledges or promises a person gives to another by naming God. It is aimed at justice, good judgment, devotion to doing good, and mutual help in society, as well as the eradication of all evil, indecency and all shameful deeds – such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and all similar vices – including, too, insolence and offenses against one another. So, making a covenant with God calls for fulfilling all these obligations that arise from belief in Him, and fulfilling these obligations is a sign of true guidance, while breaking this covenant means misguidance and transgression.
In social life, individuals, communities, and nations or states enter into different treaties with one another on certain conditions, and God Almighty orders loyalty to them. No in- dividual or community, relying on its power or material superiority, should be able to break the treaties and betray the conditions. We are strictly forbidden from making our religion merely a means to take advantage of others in our relations and agreements. It is interesting to note that during the Prophet’s time, the Quraysh were prone to break their treaties with other tribes when a more powerful party offered them an alliance. Such vices are almost the norm in international affairs today. Islam commands more rigorous ethical and moral standards; a covenant is binding before both humankind and God.
- Had God so willed, He would have made you all one single community (with the same faith and religion), but He (has granted you free will with the re- sult that He) leads astray whomever He wills, and guides whomever He wills.20 You will certainly be called to account for what you used to do.
20. For God’s leading whomever He wills astray, and guiding whomever He wills, see sūrah 2, note 10; 26-27, note 23; and sūrah 6: 39, note 8.
- Do not make your oaths a means of deception and wrongdoing among your- selves, lest feet should slip (from the way of guidance) after having been firm (on it, and that others too may be misled by your misconduct); and you should taste the evil (consequences) of your barring from God’s way. And (in the Hereafter) there is a mighty punishment for you.
- And do not sell God’s covenant for a trifling price (such as status and other worldly gains). Surely what is with God is the best for you, if you but knew.
- Whatever is with you wastes away, but that which is with God is permanent. We will most certainly pay those who are persevering and patient (in fulfill- ing God’s commandments, refraining from sins, and all the adversities in God’s cause) their reward in accordance with the best of what they used to do.
- Whoever does good, righteous deeds, whether male or female, and is a be- liever, most certainly We will make him (or her) live a good life, and most cer- tainly We will pay such as these their reward in accordance with the best of what they used to do.
- So when you recite the Qur’an (as a good, righteous deed), seek refuge in God from Satan rejected (from His Mercy, because of his evil suggestions and whisperings during the recitation).
- Surely he has no power over those who believe and put their trust in their Lord.
- His power is only over those who make a confidant of him (seeking and heeding his advice and direction), and those who associate partners with God (in worship and obedience).
- When We put a Revelation in place of another Revelation (in the course of perfecting the Religion and completing Our favor upon you) – and God knows best what He sends down – they say: “You are but a forger!” No, rather, most of them do not know.21
21. For the doctrine of abrogation referred to in this verse, see sūrah 2: 106, note 95; and sūrah 13: 39, note 13.
- Say (to them, O Messenger): “(My Lord affirms): ‘The Spirit of Holiness brings it down in parts from your Lord with truth (embodying the truth and with nothing false in it), that it may confirm those who believe (strengthening them in their faith and adherence to God’s way), and as guidance, and glad tidings for the Muslims (those who have submitted themselves wholly to God)’.”22
22. For the Spirit of Holiness, see, 2: 87, note 86. This most probably refers to Archangel Gabriel here, as Gabriel brought the Qur’ān from God to the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. His being mentioned as the Spirit of Holiness alludes to his purity from any blemish, and the Qur’ān’s being absolutely free from any defects or doubt.
- certainly, We know that they say, “It is but a human being that teaches him.” But the tongue of him to whom they falsely hint is outlandish, while this (Qur’ān) is in clear Arabic tongue.23
23. In order to invent excuses, no matter how false they were, for their rejection of the Mes- sage which the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, brought, the Mak- kan polytheists sometimes attributed the Qur’ān to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, himself, and sometimes to some other person whom they claimed had imparted it to him. But their claim was so baseless that not only did they contradict their own claim that the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had invented the Qur’ān himself, but they did not take into consideration the simple fact that that other person to whom they were referring was not an Arab, and spoke another language. This has been the same throughout human history: those who have rejected the Divine Message constantly invent false and contradictory excuses for their rejection, and only manage to make themselves appear ridiculous.
- Surely those who do not believe in God’s Revelations (and therefore persist in wrongdoing) – God does not guide them (to the way of true prosperity), and for them is a painful punishment.
- Only those fabricate lies who do not believe in God’s Revelations; and those are the liars.
- Whoever disbelieves in God after having believed – not him who is under duress, while his heart is firm in and content with faith, but the one who will- ingly opens up his heart to unbelief – upon them falls God’s anger (His con- demnation of them), and for them is a mighty punishment.
- That is because they have chosen the present, worldly life in preference to the Hereafter, and because God does not guide the people of unbelief (to the way of true prosperity and Paradise).
- Those are they upon whose hearts, hearing, and eyes God has set a seal, and those are they who are unmindful, heedless.
- No doubt, in the Hereafter they will be the utter losers.
- Yet surely your Lord turns with favor to those who emigrate after they have been subjected to persecutions (because of their faith) and thereafter exert themselves in God’s cause and endure with patience (whatever befalls them)
- indeed, in return for such (good deeds) your Lord is All-Forgiving, All-com- passionate.
- (Be ever mindful of ) the Day when every soul will come pleading for itself, and every soul will be repaid in full for what it did, and none of them will be wronged.
- God strikes a parable of a township which was secure and at ease, with its provision coming to it in abundance from all quarters. But it showed ingratitude to God (its people disbelieved, attributed their apparent well-being to other than God and so fell into the habit of making up partners with Him in belief and worship, and daily life); and so God caused it to taste the garment of famine and fear because of what they habitually contrived.
- For sure a Messenger from among themselves had come to them, but they denied him, and in consequence, the punishment seized them while they were doing wrong.
- So (O people) partake as pure, lawful and wholesome of what God has provided you, and give thanks for His bounty, if it is indeed Him that you wor- ship.
- He has made unlawful to you only carrion, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that (the animal) which is offered in the name of other than God. Yet whoever is constrained by dire necessity to eat of them, provided he does not covet (what is forbidden) and does not exceed (the bounds of necessity) – (no sin shall be on him). Surely God is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate.
- And do not pronounce for what your tongues falsely describe: “This is law- ful and this is forbidden,” so that you fabricate falsehood in attribution to God. Surely those who fabricate falsehood in attribution to God do not prosper.
- (Their lot is) a brief enjoyment (in this world), and theirs is a painful pun- ishment (in the Hereafter).
- And for those who are Jews, We made unlawful what We have already related to you. We have never wronged them, but they did habitually wrong themselves.24
24. This verse has a connection with verse 114 above and the verses below; it explains why
God forbade some pure, wholesome things to the Jews, even though they were believers. It refers to 4: 160–161, and 6: 146. So, see 4: 160–161; and 6: 146, notes 31-32.
- Then indeed your Lord is – to those who do evil in ignorance (as a result of failing to counter the prompting of the evil-commanding soul), and then repent (soon as they realize what they have done is wrong) and mend their ways and conduct – indeed your Lord is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate (with special mercy toward His penitent servants).
- Abraham was an exemplary leader, (whose self-dedication to the good of his community made him) as if a community, sincerely obedient to God as a man of pure faith (free from any stain of unbelief and hypocrisy), and he was not of those who associate partners with God –25
25. In addition to being the father of the great Messengers, including the Prophets Moses and Jesus after him, upon them be peace, the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, was also the father of the Quraysh through his son Ishmael, upon him be peace. Like the Jews and some christians who claim that he was a Jew or christian, respectively, the Quraysh sometimes asserted that they were following the way of Abraham, upon him be peace. The Qur’ān categorically rejects all such assertions. Abraham, upon him be peace, was neither a Jew, nor a christian, nor a polytheist. He was a Messenger of God who absolutely believed in and preached His Oneness. He was extremely tender-hearted, and he was devoted to, and desired intensely, the guidance of all people. Having appeared among a polytheist na- tion, he alone revolted against all kinds of polytheism and proclaimed God’s existence, Oneness, and His absolute dominion of all the heavens and earth with whomever and whatever is in them. As a single individual, he preached the Divine Religion based on God’s absolute Oneness and represented it. With all such aspects of his person and mis- sion, and in particular with his wish for the good and guidance of all people, God Almighty appreciates him as being like a whole community. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi remarks: “One who aims at and endeavors for the good of their whole nation, is a nation.”
- Always thankful for His favors. He (God) chose him, and guided him to a straight path (to follow himself and guide others).
- We granted him good in the world, and he is surely among the righteous in the Hereafter.
- Thereafter, We have revealed to you (O Messenger): Follow the way of Abraham as one of pure faith (free from unbelief and hypocrisy), and he was never of those who associate partners with God.26
26. For an exposition of the matters mentioned in these last four verses, see, 2: 124–135 and corresponding notes 102–111.
- The Sabbath was ordained only for those who differed about it (not for all the communities that were to follow the way of Abraham).27 Your Lord will
assuredly judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that on which they used to differ.
27. For the Sabbath and its breakers, see, 2: 65; 4: 47, and 7: 163–166 and corresponding notes.
- call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and argue with them in the best way possible.28 Your Lord surely knows best who has gone astray from His way, and He knows best who are the rightly guided.
28. The Almighty orders His Messenger to follow three ways in preaching His Message: calling to His way with wisdom, calling with fair exhortation, and arguing in the best way possible. As either or all of these three ways may be required to call everybody to God’s way, either may be preferred in calling certain people. People are usually of three groups: those who have knowledge and can think; the commonalty, who usually follow their “nature” and pursue their individual interests; and others who persist in unbelief. A preacher should call the first group with wisdom, addressing their intellect and explaining the evidence; advise the second group and exhort them to God’s way in the best way possible; and argue with the third group mildly to win their hearts, trying not to increase them in unbelief or enmity.
- If you have to respond to any wrong, respond (only) to the measure of the wrong done to you;29 but if you endure patiently, it is indeed better for the patient.
29. For an exposition of responding to the extent of the wrong done, see: 5: 45, note 10.
- endure patiently; your endurance is only for God’s sake and by His help; and do not grieve for them (because of their attitude toward your mission), nor be distressed because of what they scheme.
- Surely God is with those who keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety and those devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them.