This sūrah of 112 verses was revealed toward the end of the Makkan period of the Messenger’s mission. It explains the “even path” mentioned at the end of Sūrah Tā-Hā. It gives answers to the objections made by the Makkan polytheists to the creeds of Islam, and provides support for these creeds, as well as relating some episodes from the lives of a number of earlier Prophets. It concludes by stating that, with its essentials of faith, worship, morality, and individual and collective life, Islam is the Religion which God has appointed for humankind and which He has conveyed to them through all the Prophets.
- Their reckoning has drawn near for humankind, yet they do not pay heed to it, being lost in worldly things and heedlessness.1
- Knowledge of the Last Day rests only with God, and the Last Day may come unexpect- edly at any time. If we look at how many centuries have passed since this warning was given concerning the Last Hour, which has not yet come, compared with the life of the world and humankind on the earth, the period is very brief. A person who says in the late afternoon that evening is near is telling the truth. Secondly, reckoning for everybody begins just after their death, and nothing is nearer to one than death.
- Whenever a new Revelation comes to them from their Lord to warn and enlighten them, they only listen to it in a playful manner,
- With hearts set on passing pleasures; yet those who lead in wrongdoing, es- pecially by associating partners with God, confer among themselves in great secret: “Is this (not) but a mortal like you? Will you, then, yield to magic while you see it patently?”
- (The Messenger) says (in response): “My Lord knows every word spoken in the heaven and on the earth. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.”
- (confused about which source they should attribute the Qur’an to) they say, “No, but Muhammad offers some jumbles of dream images he has. No, but he fabricates all this! No, but he is a poet. If he is true in his claim, then let him come to us with a sign (a miracle), just as the previous Messengers were sent with miracles!”
- Not one of the peoples before them that We destroyed believed (even though
the Messengers came to them with miracles). Will then these believe?
- We did not send as Messengers before you (O Muhammad), any but men to whom We revealed. So (O people) ask those who have special knowledge (of the Divine Revelations), if you do not know.
- Nor did We make them bodies not needing food so that they would not eat like others, nor were they immortals.
- We promised them help and victory, and We kept Our promise: We saved them and all whom We willed (and bound Ourselves to save – the believers),2 and We destroyed those who wasted their God-given faculties and committed excesses.
2. See 37: 171–73; 10: 103.
- Now We send down to you (O people of Makkah and O all humankind,) a Book which contains what you must heed in life for your honor and happiness. Will you not, then, use your reason?
- How many a community that did the greatest wrong (by associating partners with God) and thereby wronged itself have We shattered, and raised up another people after them.
- When they felt Our mighty punishment coming, they at once attempted to flee from it.
- “Do not attempt to flee, but return to all that (ease and comfort) in which you had been lost without scruples, and to your homes, that you may be appealed to by the poor and needy, or to take your valuable counsels!
- They could only cry: “Oh, woe to us! We were indeed wrongdoers!”
- That cry of theirs did not cease until We made them like reaped corn, and a heap of ashes.
- We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them as a play and game for Us.
- If We had willed to find a pastime (without creating the heavens and the earth with all that is in and between them), We would indeed have found it in Our Presence, if We were going to do so!
- No, but We hurl the truth against falsehood, and it breaks the latter’s head, and see, it vanishes. So woe to you for all the falsehood you attribute to God.
- To Him belongs whoever is in the heavens and the earth. And those (the an- gels) who are with Him, never disdain to worship Him, nor do they ever weary.
- They glorify Him by night and day (proclaiming that He is absolutely ex- alted above any shortcoming or need of partners or doing pointless things), and never show tiredness and never lose zeal.
- What, have those polytheists (given up hope of heaven and) adopted dei- ties from the earth, (do they believe) that they (those deities) can raise up the dead?
- But the fact is that had there been in the heavens and the earth any deities other than God, both (of those realms) would certainly have fallen into ruin. All-Glorified God is, the Lord of the Supreme Throne, in that He is absolutely above all that they attribute to Him.
- He cannot be called to account for whatever He does, but their false deities (they have adopted from among conscious beings) are accountable.
- What, have they adopted deities other than Him? Say (O Messenger): “If so, present your proof! But look, here is the Book those who are in my company follow, and there are the Books those who came before me followed: (what is stressed in all of them is that there is no deity other than Him.)” Whereas they have nothing to do with knowledge so that they might know the truth. This is why they turn away from it in aversion.
- We never sent any Messenger before you except that We revealed to him that there is no deity but Me, so worship Me alone.
- Yet some say, “The All-Merciful has taken to Himself a child.” All-Glorified He is (in that He is absolutely above doing such things). Rather, those (the an- gels, whom they regard as God’s offspring) are but His honored servants.
- They speak only what He has spoken to them and allows them to speak, and they act by His command.
- He knows what lies before them and what lies after them (what lies in their future and in their past, what is known to them and what is hidden from them); and they cannot intercede for any but His believing servants, those with whom He is well-pleased, and they themselves quake for reverent awe of Him.
- If any of them were to attempt to say, “I am a deity besides Him,” We would recompense him with Hell. Thus do We recompense all such wrongdoers.
- Do those who disbelieve ever consider that the heavens and the earth were at
first one piece, and then We parted them as separate entities; and that We have made every living thing from water?3 Will they still not come to believe?
3. every verse of the Qur’ān has both outer and inner meanings, limits and a point of comprehension, as well as boughs, branches, and twigs. each phrase, word, letter, and dia- critical point has many aspects. each person who hears it receives his or her share through a different door.
To learned people who have not studied modern sciences, one piece in the verse means that when the heavens were clear and without clouds, and the earth was dry, lifeless, and incapable of giving birth, God opened the heavens with rain and the soil with vegetation, and created all living beings through some sort of marriage and impregnation by means of water. They understand that everything is the work of such an All-Powerful One of Maj- esty, and that the surface of the earth is merely His small garden, and all the clouds that veil the surface of the sky are sponges for watering it. They prostrate themselves before the greatness of His Power.
To exacting scholars, it means: “In the beginning, the heavens and the earth were a formless mass, each consisting of matter as if “dough,” without produce or creatures. The All-Wise creator separated them and rolled them out and, giving each a comely shape and beneficial form, and made them the origins of multiform, adorned creatures.” These scholars are filled with admiration at His Wisdom’s comprehensiveness.
Modern scientists understand that the solar system was like a cloud of gases, or was fused like a mass of “dough.” Then the All-Powerful and Self-Subsistent One rolled it out and placed the planets in their respective positions; or, the mass of gases began to cool due to the extremely speedy movement. The Almighty left the sun where it was and brought the earth here. Spreading soil over its surface, watering it with rain, and illuminating it with sunlight, He made the world inhabitable and placed us on it. These scientists are saved from the swamp of naturalism, and declare: “I believe in God, the One, the Unique.”
Another meaning this verse presents to modern scientists is: The universe was only in the form of ether, a pervasive matter (which some regard as hydrogen, one of the two atoms that are needed to make up water). God made ether a source of atoms from which He cre- ated all things, and He has placed everything in this “ocean” of the ether (The Words, “The 25th Word,” 411–412, “The 31st Word,” 587–588).
- We have set up firm mountains on the earth lest it should shake them with its movement, and We have made thereon broad paths, so that they might find their way.
- And We have established the heaven as a canopy well-secured (against col- lapse and the ascension of devils). Yet they turn away from all such signs (of truth manifested) in the universe.
- It is He Who has created the night and the day and the sun and the moon. every one (of such celestial bodies) floats4 in its orbit.
4. The verbs SaBaHa and JāRa (36: 38), meaning floating and running in the water, respec- tively, and the terms which the Qur’ān uses for the movement of celestial bodies, suggest that space is not empty, but rather is filled with some pervasive matter. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi emphasizes that space consists of ether and refers to it as “the ocean of heaven” (The Words, “The 31st Word,” 587–588).
- We never granted everlasting life to any human being before you (O Mes- senger); so if you die, will they live forever?
- every soul (person)5 is bound to taste death, and We try you through the bad and the good things (of life) by way of testing (so that your real character and rank may reveal itself ). In fact, you are on the way to return to Us (to finally be brought to Our Presence).
5. The term nafs (soul, self ) is used in the Qur’ān in various, but similar, complementary meanings. First, it means the self of a person or a thing. In this meaning, it is also used for God (3: 28; 5: 116).
Its second meaning is the substance and essence which is the source of physical life in a human being, or the dimension or aspect of the spirit which is the basis of animal and hu- man physical life (6: 93).
In its third meaning, as the basis of the human physical or worldly life, it is the essence or substance which is aware of the needs of life, which demands and tastes pleasures and encourages a person to meet those needs and experience those pleasures. In a sense, it is the substance which incites a person to commit evil (12: 53). It can and must be trained. When trained, it can be elevated from being a substance which commands evils, or being an evil-commanding soul, to the rank of being a soul at rest with faith in and worship of God (89: 27–28).
In its other and most comprehensive meaning, it is human nature or the individual person (4: 1).
- When those who persistently disbelieve see you, they make you but a target of mockery, (saying to each other): “Is this the one who speaks against your deities?” (They cannot bear to hear their false deities denied.) And yet it is they themselves who deny the Book of the All-Merciful (Who has created them and embraces them with mercy, without recognizing this as a crime).
- Humankind are by nature impatient as if made of haste, (this is why they ask derisively when the punishment with which they are threatened will come.) I will soon show you the truth of My threats, so do not ask Me to hasten it.
- But they insistently ask, “After all, when will this threat be fulfilled? (Answer us, O you who believe in it,) if you are people of truth!”
- If only those who persistently disbelieve knew the time when they will be unable to ward off the Fire from their faces, and from their backs, and they will never be helped against it!
- But it will come upon them all of a sudden and dumbfound them. They will not be able to avert it, nor will they be given respite to escape it.
- Indeed, Messengers were mocked before you (O Muhammad), but the very thing, because of which the people used to mock them, overwhelmed those who scoffed at the Messengers (to humiliate them).
- Say: “Who could protect you by night and day from the All-Merciful, if He wills to punish you?” And yet, they turn away from the Book of their Lord in aversion.
- Or do they really have deities apart from Us to defend them? They (those alleged deities) are not even able to help themselves, nor can they get any help and friendship from Us.
- The truth is that We have provided for those (polytheist sinners) and their forefathers to enjoy life, so that they have lived for a long time in ease and safety. (This is why they think that they will live forever in prosperity.) But do they not see how We deal with the earth, reducing it of its outlying parts?6 So, can they really be the victors?
6. For reducing the earth of its outlying parts, see 13: 41, note 14.
- Say: “I warn you only on the strength of the Revelation (in which there is no doubt). But the deaf do not hear the call, however much they are warned.”
- And yet, if but a breath of your Lord’s punishment touches them,7 they are sure to cry: “Oh, woe to us! We were indeed wrongdoers!”
7. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi cites this verse as one of the typical examples of the Qur’ān’s miraculous eloquence. To indicate the severity of God’s punishment, the clause points to the least amount or slightest degree of it. As the entire clause expresses this slightness, all of its parts should reinforce that meaning.
The words “If but” (la-in) signify uncertainty and, therefore, imply slightness (of punish- ment). The verb massa means to touch slightly, also signifying slightness. Nafhatun (a breath) is merely a puff of air. By both its meaning and its being used without the definite article and, therefore, by indicating indefiniteness, this word again underlines the slight- ness. The partitive min implies a part or a piece, thus indicating paucity. The word ‘adhāb (punishment) is light in meaning compared to nakāl (exemplary chastisement) and ‘iqāb (heavy penalty), and denotes a light punishment. The use of Rabb (Lord, Provider, Sus- tainer), suggesting affection, instead of (for example) Overwhelming, All-compelling, or
ever-Able to Requite, also expresses slightness.
Therefore, when so slight a breath of punishment has such an effect, we should ponder how severe Divine chastisement might be. We see in this short clause an example of the way the Qur’an’s parts are related to each other and complement each other’s meaning. This ex- ample demonstrates the Qur’ān’s choice of words and the wisdom in choosing them (The Words, “The 25th Word,” 392).
- We will set up balances of absolute justice on the Day of Resurrection, and no person will be wronged in the least. even though it be a deed so much as the weight of a grain of mustard seed, We will bring it forth to be weighed. We suffice as reckoners.
- We granted Moses and Aaron the criterion (the Book distinguishing be- tween truth and falsehood,) and made it a (guiding) light and reminder for the God-revering, pious.
- They stand in great awe of their Lord though unseen (and beyond their perception), and tremble with the thought of the Last Hour.
- And this one (the Qur’an), too, is a Reminder full of blessings which We are sending down. Will you then reject it?
- Indeed We had, before this, granted Abraham discretion and his particular consciousness of truth, and We knew him very well (in all aspects of his char- acter).
- He said to his father and people: “What are these images to which you pay such sincere devotion?”
- They said: “We have found our forefathers worshipping them.”
- “So, it is certain that,” said he, “both of you, you and your forefathers, have been in obvious error.”
- They asked: “Is it the truth that you are proclaiming to us or are you jest- ing?”
- He answered: “No, but your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, Who has originated them, each with particular features, and I am one to bear witness to this truth.”
- And (he made a decision:) “By God, I will most certainly devise a plan against your idols as soon as you have turned your backs and gone away!”
- And then he broke all of them to pieces except the one biggest in their sight,
so that they might be able turn back to it (to ask what had happened)!
- “Who has done all this to our deities?” they exclaimed. “Indeed, he is one of the worst wrongdoers!”
- Some said: “We heard a young man make mention of them, who is called Abraham.”
- They said: “Then bring him before the people’s eyes, so that they may bear witness against him!”
- “Abraham,” they asked, “is it you who has done this to our deities?”
- He answered: “Rather, (some doer) must have done it – this is the biggest of them. Ask them, if they are able to speak!”
- So they turned to their conscious nature which awoke to truth, and said (among themselves): “You (we), it is you (we) who are the wrongdoers!”
- But afterwards, (under the influence of the same factors causing them to dis- believe) they relapsed into their former way of believing, and said to Abraham: “You know very well that these (images) cannot speak.”
- (Abraham) said: “Then, do you worship, instead of God, that which cannot benefit you in any way, nor harm you?
- “Shame on you and on all that you worship instead of God! Will you not reason and understand?”
- They exclaimed: “Burn him and so protect your deities, if you really mean to do something!”
- “O fire,” We ordered, “Be cool and peaceful for Abraham!”8
8. This verse contains three subtle points:
First: Like every element in nature, fire performs a duty under God’s command. It did not burn Abraham, upon him be peace, for God commanded it not to do so.
Second: One type of heat burns through coldness. Through the phrase, Be peaceful, God Almighty commanded the cold: “Do not burn him.” An interpreter of the Qur’ān remarks: “If He had not said ‘Be peaceful!, it would have burned him with its coldness.” Fire can si- multaneously burn and be cold. Science has discovered a fire called “white heat” which does not radiate its heat. Instead, by attracting the surrounding heat, it causes the surrounding area to become cold enough to freeze liquids and, in effect, burns them through its cold. (Hell, which contains all degrees and sorts of fire, may well also have this intense cold.)
Third: Just as there is an immaterial substance like faith, and an armor like Islam, which
will remove the effects of Hellfire and prevent them from harming us, there must be a physical substance that will protect against and prevent the effects of fire. As the fire did not burn Abraham’s body or clothes, people can make a similar armor to protect them against fire.
Thus, the verse suggests:
O nation of Abraham. Be like Abraham, so that your garments may be your guard against the fire, your greatest enemy, in both worlds. coat your spirit with faith, and it will be your armor against Hellfire. Moreover, earth contains substances that will protect you from fire’s evil. Search for them, extract them, and coat yourselves with them.
As an important step in our progress, humankind discovered a fire-resistant substance. But see how elevated, fine, and beautiful a garment this verse indicates, one which will be woven on the loom of purity of faith in and submission to God, and which will not be torn for all eternity (The Words, “The 20th Word,” 273).
- They had schemed to destroy him but We frustrated them, making them the worst of losers.
- We saved him and Lot (who believed in him), guiding them to the land (of Damascus, including Palestine) in which We have produced many blessings for all peoples.
- We bestowed upon him Isaac, and as an additional gift, Jacob (for grandson); and each We made righteous.
- And We made them leaders guiding people by Our command, and We re- vealed to them to do good deeds, and to establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, and pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms. They were Our servants devoted to worshipping us with all sincerity.
- And Lot too (We made a leader), to whom We granted sound, wise judg- ment, and revealed knowledge, and We saved him from the people of the land who were given to deeds of corruption. Truly, they were a wicked people lost in transgression.
- We embraced him in Our mercy; surely he was among the righteous.
- And Noah, too. He had called out to Us long before (Abraham), and We answered his prayer and saved him and (those of ) his family and people (who believed in him) from the tremendous distress.
- We helped him to safety from the people who denied Our Revelations. Truly, they were a wicked people, so We caused them all to drown.
- (Among those whom We made leaders were) David and Solomon. The two were once judging a case regarding a field into which the sheep of some other people had strayed at night. We were watching and witnessing their judgment.
- We made Solomon understand the case more clearly. We granted each of them sound, wise judgment and knowledge (pertaining to the mission, and in accordance with the time and conditions of each).9 And We subdued the mountains, as well as birds, to glorify Us along with David.10 It is We Who do all these things.
- According to the reports, Solomon, upon him be peace, judged that the owner of the field should temporarily possess the sheep and benefit from their milk, wool, and newborn lambs. In the meanwhile, the field was to be entrusted to the owner of the sheep to cultivate it and restore to its former condition. David, upon him be peace, approved this judgment.
The verse is silent about David’s judgment. The sentence, We granted each of them sound judgment and knowledge (pertaining to the mission, and in accordance with the time and conditions of each), removes any misunderstanding concerning him. But it suggests that Solomon’s judgment was more to the point.
A Prophetic Tradition recorded in Sahīh al-Bukhārī (“I‘tisām,” 21) establishes a judicial principle: “If a judge does his best to arrive at the right judgment, he gets two rewards when he gives a correct verdict and one reward when he errs.” The verse supports this and makes it clear that both of the two judges, who give two different verdicts in the same case, get a reward, provided both sincerely do their best to judge rightly in a matter about which there is no clear, specific judgment in either the Qur’ān or the Sunnah.
- The verse points out that Almighty God gave David’s glorifications such strength and such a resonant and pleasing tone that they brought ecstasy to the mountains. Like a huge sound system, each mountain formed a circle around the chief reciter – David, upon him be peace – and repeated his glorifications. This is a reality, for every mountain with caves can “speak.” If you declare before a mountain: “All praise be to God,” the mountain will echo it back. Since God Almighty has granted this ability to mountains, it can be developed.
God endowed David, upon him be peace, with both Messengership and the caliphate in an exceptional form. Thus, He made this seed of ability flourish as a miracle with that comprehensive Messengership and magnificent sovereignty, causing the great mountains to follow him like soldiers, students, or disciples. Under his direction and in his tongue, they glorified the All-Majestic creator and repeated whatever he said.
At present, due to advancements in communication, a great commander can disperse a large army through the mountains to repeat his declaration, “God is the Greatest,” at the same time, and make the mountains speak and ring with the words. If an ordinary com- mander can do this, a magnificent commander of Almighty God can get them actually to utter and recite God’s glorifications. Moreover, each mountain has a collective personality and corporate identity, and offers glorifications and worship particular to it. Just as each one through echoes glorifies in the tongue of humankind, it also glorifies the All-Majestic
creator in its own particular tongue (The Words, “The 20th Word,” 271).
- And We taught him the art of making iron coats-of-mail so that they might fortify you from the violence of war. So, are you (really people who are) thank- ful?
- And in Solomon’s service, We put the stormy wind, running at his command to carry him to the land in which We have produced blessings (for people).11 We have full knowledge of everything (with their true nature and all their aspects).
11. Solomon covered the distance it would normally take two months to walk in two strides by flying through the air (34: 12). This suggests that humanity can and should strive to travel through the air. Almighty God is saying here: “One of My servants did not obey his carnal desires, and I mounted him on the air. If you give up laziness and benefit properly from certain of My laws in nature, you, too, can mount it” (The Words, “The 20th Word,” 267–268).
- And of the jinn and satans (devils) were some who dived for him (to extract precious stones from the sea) and did other works besides,12 and We were keep- ing watch over them (to prevent them from disobeying him).13/14
- They made for him sanctuaries and figures (of inanimate objects) and carvings, as well as basins like ponds and boilers built into the ground (34: 13).
- The verse states that the Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, made the jinn, devils, and evil spirits obey him. He prevented their evil and used them for beneficial work. This verse suggests that the jinn, conscious beings and earth’s most important inhabitants after humankind, may serve us and can be contacted. Devils also may be made to serve, either willingly or unwillingly. God Almighty made them obey a servant who obeyed His com- mands. The verse also implies: “O humankind! I made jinn and devils, including their most evil ones, obey a servant who obeyed Me. If you submit yourself to My commands, most creatures, including the jinn and devils, may be subjugated to you.”
These verses mark the highest point in the occult or supernatural sciences that deal with paranormal events, which appear as a blend of art and science. They urge us to subjugate and employ such beings through the Qur’ān so that we may be saved from their evil.
The Qur’ān, however, does not allude to modern necromancy, which some “civilized” peo- ple practice by trying to contact the spirits of the dead; for these, in reality, are evil spirits masquerading as dead persons. Rather, it is the form known to certain saints, like Muhyi’d- dīn ibn al-‘Arabī, who could communicate with good spirits at will, and make contact and form relations with them.
- David, upon him be peace, was a Prophet who was given a Divine Scripture (the Psalms) and who is praised in the Qur’ān for his sincere and profound devotion to God (38: 17–20). even though he was a king, he lived a simple life, making his living through his own labor. He had such a great awareness of God that he cried a great deal and fasted every other day.
Our Prophet recommended this type of fasting to some companions who asked what the most rewarding type of supererogatory fasting was (al-Bukhārī, “Tahajjud,” 7, “Sawm,” 59; Muslim, “Siyām,” 182).
Unfortunately, the Bible attributes some sinful acts to the Prophets David and Solomon (II Samuel, 11, and I Kings, 11: 1–8), as it attributes to the Prophet Lot, upon them all be peace. It is inconceivable that these holy prophets would have committed the grievous sins attributed to them.
If the Qur’ān had not been revealed, we would not be sure whether the previous Prophets really were sincere, devout, and thankful servants of God. The Qur’ān frees Jesus, upon him be peace, from his followers’ mistaken deification of him and from his own people’s denial of his Prophethood, explaining that God had no sons and daughters. It also clears the Is- raelite and non-Israelite Prophets of their supposed “sins” that are mentioned in the Bible. It presents Jesus as a spirit from God that was breathed into the virgin Mary, Abraham as an intimate friend of God, Moses as one who spoke to God, David as a sincere servant of God, a Messenger and caliph, and Solomon as a king and a Prophet who prayed to Him humbly, upon them all be peace. And despite being the greatest and most powerful king that ever lived, the Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, remained a humble servant of God until his death.
- And (mention) Job (among those whom We made leaders): he called out to his Lord, saying: “Truly, affliction has visited me (so that I can no longer wor- ship You as I must); and You are the Most Merciful of the merciful.”
- We answered his prayer and removed all the afflictions from which he suf- fered; and restored to him his household and the like thereof along with them as a mercy from Us and, as a reminder to those devoted to Our worship.15/16
- Truthfulness, trustworthiness, the ability to communicate God’s commands, intelli- gence, and sinlessness are essentials of Prophethood. These are the attributes possessed by every Prophet.
All Muslim theologians also agree that Prophets have no bodily or mental defects. Just as they were extraordinarily attractive in personality and conduct, they were also graceful and charming in outward appearance. They were perfect in bodily structure.
Prophets must be free from all bodily defects, for their appearance should not repel oth- ers. In explaining the Divine wisdom of God’s Messenger living for 63 years, Said Nursi writes:
Believers are religiously obliged to love and respect God’s Messenger, upon him be peace, to the utmost degree, and follow his every command without feeling any dislike for any aspect of him. For this reason, God did not allow him to live to the troublesome and often humiliating period of old age, and sent him to the “highest abode” when he was 63 years old (The Letters 2, 84–85).
So, just as it is a baseless assertion that the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, had a speech impediment, some allegations about Job’s distress are also baseless. As can be deduced from the Qur’ānic verses, and as mentioned in the Bible ( Job, 2: 7), he was afflicted with a skin disease which caused painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. But the allegations that worms lived in his sores or abscesses, or that the resulting offensive odor caused people to leave him, are completely groundless. If people really left him, this might have been due to his later poverty. In the beginning, he was a rich, thankful servant of God; later on, he lost his wealth and children or his family left him. Yet, as a Prophet, he could not have had a repulsive or disgusting appearance; his face, at least, must have been exempt from sores. Nor could his body have emitted an offensive smell. contrary to the Biblical account that he cursed the day of his birth ( Job, 3: 1) and cursed God openly ( Job, 7: 20-21), justifying himself rather than God ( Job, 32: 2), the Prophet Job, upon him be peace, bore his afflictions for years without any objection. He prayed: Affliction has visited me, and You are the Most Merciful of the merciful (21: 83). God answered his prayer and removed his affliction, and restored to him his household (that he had lost) and the like thereof along with them.
- While afflicted with numerous wounds for a long time, the Prophet Job, upon him be peace, feared that his duty of worship would suffer, and so he prayed, not for the sake of his own comfort, but for the sake of his worship of God: Affliction has visited me, and You are the Most Merciful of the merciful (21: 83). God Almighty accepted this sincere, disinter- ested and devout supplication in the most miraculous fashion. He granted Job, upon him be peace, perfect health and made manifest in him all kinds of compassion.
Job’s supplication has some important lessons for us to take note of:
corresponding to the physical wounds and sicknesses of Job, upon him be peace, we have spiritual sicknesses. If our inner being were to be turned outward, we would appear more wounded and diseased than Job, upon him be peace. For each sin that we commit and each doubt that enters our mind inflicts wounds on our heart and our spirit.
The wounds of Job, upon him be peace, were of such a nature that they threatened his brief worldly life, but our inner wounds threaten our infinitely long, everlasting life. We need the supplication of Job, upon him be peace, thousands of times more than he did himself.
Sin, penetrating to the heart, darkens it until it extinguishes the light of faith. each sin has a path leading to unbelief. Unless that sin is swiftly obliterated by seeking God’s forgive- ness, it grows from a worm into a snake that gnaws on the heart.
Secondly, life is refined, perfected, and strengthened by means of disasters and illnesses, and fulfils its own purpose. Life led monotonously on the couch of ease and comfort is almost identical with non-existence.
Thirdly, this worldly realm is the field of testing, the abode of service. It is not the place of pleasure and being rewarded for things done in it in God’s cause. So sicknesses and misfortunes – as long as they do not affect faith and are patiently endured – conform fully to service and worship, and even strengthen it. Since such misfortunes make each hour’s worship equivalent to that of a day, one should offer thanks instead of complaining.
Worship consists, in fact, of two kinds, positive and negative. What is meant by positive is obvious. As for negative worship, this is when one afflicted with misfortune or sickness perceives his or her own weakness and helplessness, and turning to the compassionate Lord, seeks refuge in Him, meditating upon Him, petitioning Him, and thus offering a pure form of worship that no hypocrisy can penetrate. If he or she endures patiently, thinks of the reward attendant on misfortune and offers thanks, then each hour that passes will count as a whole day spent in worship. One’s brief life thus becomes much longer. There are even cases where a single minute is counted as being equal to a whole day’s worship.
The power of patience given to a person by God Almighty is adequate for every misfor- tune, unless it has been squandered on baseless fears. But through the predominance of delusion, one’s neglect, and imagining that this transient life is eternal, a person squanders his or her power of patience on the past and the future. When the patience that has been squandered is not equal to the misfortunes of the present, then a person begins to complain. It is as if – God forbid! – he or she were complaining about God Almighty to people.
In short, just as gratitude increases Divine bounty, so, too, does complaint increase misfor- tune, removing all occasion for compassion.
Fourthly, the truly harmful misfortune is that which affects the Religion. One should at all times seek refuge at the Divine court from misfortune in matters of the Religion and cry out for help. But misfortunes that do not affect the Religion are not, in reality, misfortunes. Some of them are warnings from the All-Merciful One. If a shepherd throws a stone at his sheep when they trespass on another’s pasture, they understand that the stone was intended as a warning to save them from a perilous action; full of gratitude, they turn back. So too, there are many apparent misfortunes that are Divine warnings and admonishments, some others that cause sins to be forgiven, and still others that awaken people from the sleep of neglect, reminding them of their human helplessness and weakness, thus affording them a form of peace. As for the variety of misfortune that is illness, it is not at all a misfortune, as has already been said, but rather a favor from God and a means of purification.
The Prophet Job, upon him be peace, did not pray for the comfort of his soul, but rather sought cures for the purpose of worship, because disease was preventing his remembrances of God with his tongue and his meditation upon God in his heart. We, too, should make our primary intent, when making that supplication, the healing of the inward and spiritual wounds that arise from sinning.
As far as physical diseases are concerned, we may seek refuge from them when they hinder our worship. But we should seek refuge in a humble and supplicating fashion, not by pro- testing or being plaintive. If we accept God as our Lord, then we must resign ourselves to all that He gives us as a manifestation of His Lordship. To sigh and complain in a manner that suggests we object to the Divine Destiny and Decree is a form of criticizing Divine Destiny, an accusation leveled against God’s compassion. One who finds fault with God’s mercy will inevitably be deprived of it. A person who, when afflicted with misfortune, responds to it with protests and complaints, only compounds his or her misfortune. (Sum- marized from Lem’alar [“The Gleams”], 8–11.)
- (Mention also) Ishmael, Idrīs, and Dhu’l-Kifl17 (among the leaders). All
were men of fortitude and patience.
17. It is not possible to say anything definite about the identity of the Prophet Dhu’l-Kifl, upon him be peace. Abu’l-‘Alā al-Mawdūdī points out that Dhu’l-Kifl is not a name, but a title like the title Dhu’n-Nūn that was used for the Prophet Jonah, upon him be peace, meaning “the companion of the Fish.” According to him, Dhu’l-Kifl means “a man of great portion,” and it was used for him because of his exalted personality and lofty degree in the Hereafter. Like al-Mawdūdī, Professor Suad Yıldırım, of Turkey, is of the opinion that he might be the Prophet ezekiel, upon him be peace, who was among the children of Israel driven out of Jerusalem to Babylon. He lived and performed his mission of calling people to God in the land of the chaldeans by the river chebar, roughly between 594–572 bc.
- We embraced them in Our mercy. They were among the people of utmost righteousness.
- And (also mention) Dhu’n-Nun ( Jonah). He departed in anger (from his people, who persistently disbelieved and paid no attention to his warnings), and he was certain that We would never straiten (his life for) him. But eventually he called out in the veils of darkness (formed of the belly of the fish, the sea, and dark, rainy night): “There is no deity but You, All-Glorified You are (in that You are absolutely above having any defect). Surely, I have been one of the wrongdo- ers (who have wronged themselves).”
- We answered His call, too, and We saved him from distress. Thus do We save the believers.18
18. The supplication of the Prophet Yūnus ( Jonah), son of Mattā, upon our Prophet and him be peace, is the most powerful supplication, a most effective means for the acceptance of prayer by God. The gist of the story of Jonah, upon him be peace, is as follows:
He was cast into the sea and swallowed by a large fish. The sea was stormy, the night tur- bulent and dark, and his hope was exhausted. But it was while he was in such a situation that his supplication became a swift means of salvation. The secret of the power of his supplication was this:
In that situation all causes were suspended, for Jonah, upon him be peace, could only be saved by one whose command would subdue the fish and the sea, and the night and the sky. The night, the sea, and the fish were united against him. Only one whose command might subdue all three of these could bring him to the shore of salvation. even if the entirety of creation had become his servants and helpers, it would have been of no avail. For causes have no real, creative effect. Since Jonah, upon him be peace, saw with the eye of certainty that there was no refuge other than in the creator of causes, and clearly perceived God’s special mercy for every being in the light of his faith in the Divine Oneness, his supplica- tion was suddenly able to subdue the night, the sea, and the fish. Through his substantial faith in God’s Oneness and absolute Sovereignty throughout the universe, the belly of the fish became a submarine for him, and the surging sea, which in its awesomeness resembled
an erupting volcano, became a serene plain, the site of a pleasant excursion. Again, through the light of his faith, the sky’s surface was cleared of all clouds and the moon appeared over his head, like a lamp. In the end, he reached the shore of salvation, and observed God’s favor clearly.
Now we are in a situation one hundred times more awesome than that in which Jonah, upon him be peace, first found himself. Our night is the future. When we look upon our future with the eye of neglect, it is a hundred times darker and more fearful than his night. Our sea is this earth revolving in space. each wave of this sea bears on it thousands of corpses, and is thus a thousand times more frightening than his sea. Our fish is the mali- cious desires of our carnal soul, which strives to destroy the foundation of our eternal life. This fish is a thousand times more harmful than his. For his fish could destroy a hundred- year lifespan, whereas ours seeks to destroy an eternal life. This being our true state, we should, in imitation of Jonah, upon him be peace, take refuge directly in the creator of causes, Who is our Lord, and should say:
There is no god but You, All-Glorified are You! Surely I have been one of the wrongdoers, and understand with full certainty that it is only He who can repel from us the harm of the future, this world, and the temptations of our carnal souls, united against us because of our neglect and misguidance. For the future is subject to His command, the world to His au- thority, and our soul to His direction. (Summarized from Lem’alar [“The Gleams”], 5–7)
- (Mention also) Zachariah. Once he called out to his Lord, saying: “My Lord! Do not let me leave the world without an heir, for You are the Best of the inheritors.”
- We answered his call, too, and bestowed upon him John, and cured his wife for him (so she was able) to bear a child. Truly, these (three) used to hasten to do good deeds as if competing with each other, and invoke Us in hopeful yearning and fearful anxiety. And they were utterly humble before Us.19
19. The conclusion of the verse is not contrary to the first part of Zachariah’s supplication; rather, it confirms it. God Almighty usually acts from behind the veil of causality in this world, which is the realm of wisdom and testing. So the meaning is: “I fully believe that You are the Best of the inheritors, so I expect You to favor me with a righteous heir,” and it is similar to Job’s asking for God’s mercy by concluding his supplication: “You are the Most Merciful of the merciful.”
- And (mention) that blessed woman who set the best example in guarding her chastity.20 We breathed into her out of Our Spirit,21 and We made her and her son a miraculous sign (of Our Power and matchless way of doing things) for all the worlds.
- Why the Qur’ān mentions Mary along with the Prophets, even though she was not a Prophet, is because of Mary’s exceptional greatness and honor, and for the purpose of introducing Jesus, upon him be peace, in his real (human) identity.
- For God’s breathing out of His Spirit into Mary to conceive of Jesus, and into the “body” of Adam, which He shaped out of clay, upon them both be peace, so that he might come to the world, and the meaning of His breathing out of His Spirit, see 4: 171, note 34; 15: 29, note 8.
- So, this community of yours (which all the Messengers and their followers have formed) is one single community of the same faith, and I am your Lord (Who creates, sustains, and protects you);22 so worship Me alone.
22. Having discussed many Prophets with the suffering each had to bear and of which they were then relieved by God, and by discussing the distinguished aspect of the character and mission of each, the Qur’ān declares that the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, did not bring a different religion; and, thus, all the Prophets and their followers, from the first day of human history on earth to the Last Day, constitute a single commu- nity with God being their Lord, Who alone must be worshipped. The basic foundation of this faith and the basic point of unity among the believers, which is also the main dynamic against disunity among them, is believing in God as the only Deity, Lord and Sovereign of the whole creation, including, of course, humanity, and worshipping Him alone.
- But people have broken up and differed among themselves as regards the Religion. But they are all bound to return to Us (to account for all that they did).
- Whoever does any deed of good and righteousness, being a true believer, his endeavor will not be left unrewarded in ingratitude. We are keeping the record of every good deed of his in his favor (without the least being neglected).
- It is inconceivable that a community, the destruction of which We have de- creed (because of their unbelief and irremediable sins), could return to faith (nor that a community which We destroyed should not come back to Us and then be returned to the world again, so that they could believe and do good deeds).23
23. The verse has all of the three meanings given. While verse 94 mentions a believing servant, this verse talks about a community. This suggests that corruption is like a conta- gious disease and individuals usually go astray in imitation of others in a community. Total destruction comes as a result of the corruption that encompasses almost the whole or at least the majority of a community. This shows the importance of social reform or improve- ment.
- eventually, a day will come when Gog and Magog will be let loose, and they will rush down from every mound.24
24. For Gog and Magog and their invasion of the civilized world just before the end of time, see 18: 98–99, note 30–31.
- And the true promise of the Last Hour has been close at hand, and look, the
eyes of those who stubbornly disbelieve stare in horror fixedly, exclaiming: “Woe to us! Indeed we have lived in heedlessness and forgetfulness of this. Ah! We truly have been wrongdoers (who have, most of all, wronged our own selves)!”
- “You and all the things you deify and worship apart from God are but fire- wood for Hell. You are bound to arrive in it.”
- If those (false objects of their worship) had truly been gods, they would not arrive in it. every one of them will abide therein.
- Moaning will be their lot in it, and (nothing to their benefit) will they be able to hear therein (as a recompense for their willful deafness to the Divine Revelation in the world).
- But, as for those for whom the decree of ultimate good has already gone forth from Us, they will be kept away from it (Hell).
- They will not even hear the slightest sound of it, and they will abide in that which their souls desire, (enjoying it to the full).
- even the greatest shock (of the second blowing of the Trumpet) will not cause them any worry, and the angels welcome them, with the greeting: “This is your day, the day which you were promised.”
- The Day when We will roll up heaven as written scrolls are rolled up. We will bring the creation back into existence as easily as We originated it in the first instance.25 This is a binding promise on Us, and assuredly, We fulfill what- ever We promise.
25. God revives this vast earth when it is dead and dry, thereby displaying His Power via quickening countless species of creation, each as extraordinary as humankind. He shows His all-embracing Knowledge in these creatures’ infinite variations within the complex intermingling of all their distinct forms. God turns His servants’ attention toward eternal happiness, assuring them of Resurrection in His heavenly decrees, and makes visible the splendor of His being their Lord and Nurturer. He causes all His creatures to collaborate with each other, turning within the orbit of His command and Will, causing them to help each other in submission to Him.
He shows us our value by creating us as the Tree of creation’s most comprehensive, subtle, worthy, and valued fruit; by addressing us directly; and by subjugating all things to us. could One so compassionate and Powerful, Wise and All-Knowing not bring about the Resurrection, assemble His creatures, and restore us to life? could He not institute His Supreme court or create the Heaven and Hell? Such ideas are inconceivable.
Indeed, the Almighty Disposer of the affairs of this world continually creates on its finite, transient surface numerous signs, examples, and indications of the Supreme Gathering and the Place where this will take place. each spring we see countless animal and plant species
assembled in a few days and then scattered. All tree and plant roots, as well as certain ani- mals, are revived and restored exactly as they were. Other animals are re-created in nearly identical forms. Seeds that appear so alike quickly grow into distinct and differentiated entities, after being brought to full vigor with extraordinary rapidity and ease, in absolute orderliness and harmony. How could anything be difficult for the One Who does this? How could He Who has created the heavens and the earth in “six days” be unable to resur- rect humankind with a single blast?
Suppose a gifted writer could write countless books on a vast sheet of paper in just an hour, without error or omission, fully and in the best style. If someone then told you that he could rewrite his own book from memory, even if it had fallen into the water and had become lost, how could you say that he could not do so? Or think of a sovereign who, to show his power or warn his subjects, removes mountains at a command, turns his country around, and transforms the sea into dry land. Then imagine that a great boulder blocks the path of guests traveling to his reception. If someone says that the sovereign will remove the boulder at a command, would you say that he could not do so? Or imagine someone assembles a great army, and you are told that he will recall it to parade in battalions by a trumpet blast after dismissing them to rest? If the battalions formed in disciplined rows, would you respond with unbelief? If you did, your error would be enormous (The Words, “The 10th Word,” 96).
- We (recorded in the Supreme Preserved Tablet and then) wrote down in the Psalms after the Torah that My righteous servants will inherit the earth.26
26. For the Supreme Preserved Tablet, see sūrah 6: 59, note 13; sūrah 13: 39, note 13; sūrah 17, note 10.
This verse will be more understandable when it is considered along with 24: 55: God has promised those of you who believe and do good, righteous deeds that He will most cer- tainly empower them as vicegerents on the earth (in the place of those who are in power at present), even as He empowered those (of the same qualities) that preceded them, and that, assuredly, He will firmly establish for them their religion, which He has (chosen and) approved of for them, and He will replace their present state of fear with security (so that they can practice their religion freely and fully and in peace). They worship Me alone, as- sociating none with Me as partners (in belief, worship, and the authority to order their life). The righteous servants promised to finally inherit the world will be those who combine righteousness with devotion to worshipping God exclusively, as will be mentioned in the verse to come.
- Surely in this (Qur’an) there is the explanation (of every truth necessary) for God’s servants devoted to worshipping Him.
- We have not sent you (O Muhammad) but as an unequalled mercy for all the worlds.27
27. This verse expounds the mission of our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, in all clarity. This mission has two cardinal aspects: one for the creation and life of the whole universe, and the other for the people from his time until the Last Hour.
With respect to the former aspect of his mission, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is both the seed of the Tree of creation and its most illustrious and perfect fruit, one about whom God declares, “But for you, I would not have created the worlds” (al-‘Ajlūnī, 2: 232), and the mirror or means for God’s manifestation of His being the All-Merciful or His favors of Mercy to reach the whole creation. In Sufi terminology, he is the first and foremost or greatest Universal Man. With respect to the second, religious aspect of his mission, he is the means for the individuals and communities following him to attain eternal happiness, and the owner of the most comprehensive rank of intercession in the Hereafter. In other words, he is the mirror or means for God’s particular favors of His being the All-compassionate to reach each creature. There is no other way than his which leads to eternal salvation.
- Say: “It is revealed to me that your God is the One and Only God. Will you, then, become Muslims (those wholly submitted to Him)?”
- If they still turn away, say: “I have conveyed to you all that I must convey, and warned you all alike. But I do not know if that with which you are threat- ened (whether it be the destruction or the Last Judgment,) is near or far.
- “Truly, He knows all that is spoken openly, just as He knows all that you keep concealed (including your secret intentions).
- “I do not know but the respite given to you may be a trial for you (– a respite so that you may fully display your deserving His punishment), and enjoyment for a while.”
- (The Messenger) said (in conclusion): “My Lord, judge (between me and those unbelievers) with truth (and allow the truth to be fully manifested). Our Lord is the All-Merciful, the One Whose help is ever sought against all that you falsely attribute (to Him and me).”