It is commonly accepted that this sūrah began to be revealed in Makkah and was completed in Madīnah. It has 78 verses. The sūrah criticizes the Makkan polytheists for their blind, willful insistence on associating partners with God and demonstrates the contradictions in their creeds. It warns new believers, who might waver and be unwilling to persevere through some of the hardships that accepting a new faith naturally entails. Also, the sūrah allows the believers to set up armed resistance to the continuing harassment of the Makkans and their threats to the security of the Muslims in Madīnah.
- O humankind! Keep from disobedience to your Lord in reverence for Him and piety and get under His protection. (Never forget that) the violent convul- sion of the Last Hour is an awesome thing.
- On the Day when you all see it, every suckling mother will utterly forsake her infant in dread, and every pregnant female will cast off her burden. You will see all people as if gone out of their senses, while, in fact, they are in their senses. This is because God’s punishment is extremely severe.
- Among people there are such as dispute about God without any true knowl- edge and follow every corrupt, rebellious, and mischievous satan.
- It is decreed about him (Satan) that whoever takes him for a guardian, surely he leads him astray, and guides him to the punishment of the Blaze.
- O humankind! If you are in doubt about the Resurrection, (consider that) We created you from earth (in the beginning, while there was nothing of your exis- tence as humankind, and the material origin of every one of you is also earth). Then (We have created you) from a drop of seminal fluid, then from a clot cling- ing (to the womb wall), then from a lump in part shaped and in part not shaped, and differentiated and undifferentiated, and so do We clarify for you (the reality of the Resurrection).1 And We cause what We will (to come into the world) to rest in the wombs for an appointed term, then We bring you out as (dependent) infants, then (We provide what is necessary and appropriate) so that you may attain your age of full strength. Among you some are caused to die (during this period of growth and afterwards), and some are kept back to the most miserable
state of old age, ceasing to know anything after once having known some things. (As another proof for the Resurrection and a sign to comprehend it,) you see earth dry and lifeless, and suddenly, when We send down the (known, blessed) water on it, it stirs and swells and grows every pleasant pair of vegetation.
- For the full stages of the development of the human embryo which the Qur’ān taught us fourteen centuries ago, and which the modern science of embryology has recently dis- covered, also see 23: 12–14.
As in several other verses (i.e., 21: 104, and see the corresponding note 25), the Qur’ān brings the first creation to our attention as an analogy for the Resurrection. It also men- tions, as a sign and proof of it, the creation of a human being, starting with the elements in earth, air, and water, and continuing with the developmental stages in the mother’s womb. It must certainly be much easier for reason to accept that a being who once was not a thing completely unknown in existence, and then was created in stages from materials that bear no resemblance to it, will, by the same creative Power, be raised to life again after death.
- And so, God is He Who is the Absolute Truth and ever-constant, and He gives life to the dead, and He has full power over everything.
- And the Last Hour is sure to come – there is no doubt about it. And God will surely raise up all who are in the graves.
- And yet, among people there are some who dispute about God without having any true knowledge or any true guidance,2 or an enlightening (Divine) Book.
2. The verse cites three sources that one should base oneself on to have correct knowledge of God. These are: (i) knowledge obtained through the study of, and reflection on, the creation in the light of the Revelation, and through the disciplines of the spiritual way; and
(ii) true guidance, by which it is referred to the Divine Revelation or inspiration, or the guidance of any of those mentioned in 4: 69; and (iii) the Divine Book, which illuminates minds and hearts.
- They keep on disputing arrogantly to lead people astray from God’s way.3 For such there is disgrace in the world, and on the Day of Resurrection, We will cause them to taste the punishment of the scorching Fire.
3. Zamakhsharī, the author of al-Kashshāf, writes that those who are mentioned in verses 8 and 9 as disputing about God are the corrupt, rebellious, and mischievous devils mentioned in verse 3, and the disputers in verse 3 are those who follow them.
- “This punishment is the outcome of what you have (committed and) for- warded with your own hands, and never does God do the least wrong to His servants.”
- Among people are also many a one who worships God on the borderline (of
faith) in expectation of only worldly gains. If any good befalls him, he is satisfied with it, but if a trial afflicts him, he turns away utterly, reverting back to unbelief. He (thereby) incurs loss of both this world and the Hereafter. This indeed is the obvious loss.
- He invokes, apart from God, that which can neither harm nor benefit him. That indeed is straying very far away.
- He even invokes the being that is far more likely to cause harm than benefit: what evil a patron, and what evil an associate!
- Surely God will admit those who believe and do good, righteous deeds into the Gardens through which rivers flow. Surely God does whatever He wills.
- Whoever thinks that God will not help the Messenger to victory in the world and to utmost prosperity in the Hereafter, then let him move heaven and earth to prevent His help: let him stretch out a rope to heaven (to prevent God’s help and Revelation from reaching him), and then sever that rope to de- scend without being broken into pieces. Then let him see whether the schemes he makes will be of any avail to him, and (whether he can) do away with what enrages him.
- It is in the face of such rage and malice that We send down the Qur’an in messages clear in meaning and content and as manifest signs of the truth; and God guides whomever He wills.
- Those who truly believe (in God and follow Muhammad), and those who have become Jews, and the Sabaeans, and the christians, and the Magians, and those who associate partners with God (without having any relation with a Di- vinely-inspired religion)4 – God will certainly judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. God is Witness over everything.
4. This verse mentions three cardinal groups of faith. The first group includes the true believers who follow the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. They are also the true heirs to all the previous Prophets.
The second group is comprised of four sub-groups:
Among the Jews are some who have reduced their God-revealed Religion into a national or tribal religion and God into a god that belongs exclusively to a single race. They have also denied eternal life and reduced eternal happiness to worldly happiness in the so-called “promised land.” Moreover, they altered the Divine Law.
The Sabaeans were either those who claimed to follow the Prophet John, upon him be peace, or those who worshipped celestial bodies but claimed to follow the religion of the
Prophets Seth and enoch, upon them be peace. Both groups lived in northern Iraq.
The christians mentioned here are those who, although they followed the Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, sullied the faith of Jesus by attributing a son to God or by claiming that Jesus was God incarnate, and attributed divinity to the virgin Mary and to the Spirit who functioned as a means for God’s gift of a son reaching Mary. They also imported some other pagan doctrines into their religion.
The term Magians refers to the fire-worshippers of Persia. They believed in the two sepa- rate deities: one the deity of light and good; the other, the deity of dark and evil. They claimed to be the followers of Zoroaster.
The Qur’ān regards those who are Jews and christians as the People of the Book. God’s Messenger and the companions, based on this verse, also treated the Sabaeans and Magians as People of the Book.
The third group consists of the polytheists who do not follow any Divine Book or Prophet and, though many among them believe in God in some way as the creator of the universe, they have adopted and worship many deities, usually represented by idols or statues.
- Do you ever consider that all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth prostrate themselves to God, and so do the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, and the beasts, and so do many among human beings?5 But many others are deservedly condemned to punishment. Whoever God humili- ates can have none to give him honor. Assuredly, God does whatever He wills.6
- The reason why many among human beings are specifically mentioned, even though they are included in all those who are on the earth, is that all human beings prostrate to God in the sense that they cannot escape God’s laws of “nature” or creation and the opera- tion of the universe in many respects, such as their coming into and leaving the world, the operation of their bodies, the appointment of their families and races, and their physique, etc. However, many among human beings prostrate before God of their free volition – they believe in Him and worship and live according to His commandments.
- God is absolutely free in His will and acts. However, in His judgments about human be- ings, He considers their choices, acts, and intentions. As we have regularly pointed in these notes, as far as God’s absolute Will and its relation to human will and the judgments about human beings are concerned, the verses, The earth belongs indeed to God, and He makes it an inheritance for whom He wills of His servants (7: 128); and My righteous servants will inherit the earth (21: 105), constitute a good example. We understand that God’s will takes the choice and free acts of human beings into consideration when He decrees about them.
- These are two opposing groups (– those who prostrate to God and those who do not. Though there may be differences of approach within either group), they contend about (the truth concerning) their Lord. As for those who disbe- lieve (by categorically denying Him or associating partners with Him in His
Attributes or authority as the Lord), garments of fire are certain to be cut out for them, with boiling water being poured down over their heads,
- With which all that is within their bodies, as well as their skins, is melted away.
- For them are also goads and maces of iron.
- Whenever in their anguish they attempt to come out of the Fire, they will be returned into it (and told): “Taste the punishment of the scorching Fire!”7
7. For a similar verse and its explanation, see 18: 31, note 17.
- (On the other hand,) God will admit those who believe and do good, righ- teous deeds into the Gardens through which rivers flow; adorned therein with armbands of gold and pearls, and their garments therein will be of silk.
- They have been guided to (believe in and declare) the purest of words,8 and they have been guided to the path of the All-Praiseworthy One (saying and do- ing only what is praiseworthy).
8. What is meant in this verse is that such people believe in and declare, There is no deity but God, and they only speak pure speech or say pure words, such as a declaration of faith, mentioning God, giving advice for God’s sake, reciting the Qur’ān, etc. They refrain from any idle, useless, or unbefitting talk.
- Those who disbelieve and bar (others) from God’s way and (the believers from visiting) the Sacred Mosque, which We have set up as a place of worship for all (believing) people alike, both for those who dwell therein (in Makkah) and for those who come from abroad – whoever seeks a deviation from the right course therein by deliberate wrongdoing, We cause him to taste a painful punishment.
- Remember when We assigned to Abraham the site of the House (Ka‘bah) as a place of worship, (directing him): “Do not associate any partners with Me in any way, and keep My House pure (from any material and spiritual filth) for those who will go round it in devotion, and those who will stand in prayer before it, and those who will bow down and prostrate themselves in worship.”
- Publicly proclaim the (duty of ) Pilgrimage for all humankind, that they come to you on foot and on lean camels, coming from every far-away point,
- So that they may witness all (the spiritual, social, and economic) benefits in store for them, and offer during the known, appointed days the sacrificial cattle that He has provided for them by pronouncing God’s Name over them. eat of
their meat and feed the distressed, the poor.
- Thereafter, let them tidy themselves up (by having their hair cut, removing their ihrām [Hajj attire], taking a bath, and clipping their nails, etc.), and fulfill the vows (if they have made any, and complete other acts of the Pilgrimage), and go round the Most Ancient, Honorable House in devotion.9
9. The last two verses mention certain prescribed acts of the Hajj, some of which have already been mentioned in 2: 196–203.
On arriving at the mīqāt (any of the stations designated for entering the state of ihrām), pilgrims should shave themselves, clip their fingernails, perform ghusl or wudū’, and put on some perfume. Men don their special Hajj attire, which is also called ihrām, as it is a symbol of entering the state of ihrām. There is no special attire for women other than modest dress which covers the body loosely from head to foot (but not the hands or face). Pilgrim candidates should offer a prayer of two-rak‘ah and declare their intention to do Hajj or‘Umrah, or Hajj and ‘Umrah together. Wearing ihrām and declaring one’s intention to do Hajj or ‘Umrah are essential elements of the Pilgrimage rites, and the rites are invalid without these two elements.
While in the state of ihrām, pilgrims must avoid sexual intercourse and whatever leads to it, wrangling and useless bickering, and marriage ceremonies or attending marriage ceremo- nies, for men wearing any clothes that have been stitched or shoes that cover the feet above the ankles and covering their heads and (for both men and women) faces, wearing perfume, cutting their hair or nails, hunting on land, killing any animals, and cutting trees or grass within the sacred precincts of Makkah.
Before sunrise on the first day of ‘Id al-Adhā (the Festival of Sacrifice), pilgrims who have already performed the duties of wakfah (staying for some time) in ‘Arafāt on the afternoon of the ninth day of Dhu’l-Hijjah (the eve of the Day of the Festival) and in al-Muzdalifah on the following night should return to Mina after collecting pebbles at al-Muzdalifah. After sunrise, they must throw seven pebbles at Jamrat al-‘Aqabah. Then they offer their sacrifice, have their hair cut, remove their ihrām, and return to their everyday life – with the exception that they still cannot have sexual intercourse with their spouse.
They then go to the Ka‘bah to perform the obligatory Tawāf of visiting, an essential part of the Hajj. Performing this tawāf on the first day of ‘Īd al-Adhā is recommended, but one can perform it during the following two days. After this tawāf, if both of the pilgrims (hus- band and wife) have already had their hair cut and have removed their ihrām, then sexual intercourse becomes permissible. If the pilgrims are doing Hajj Tamattu‘ (combining the Hajj and ‘Umrah with a break in between), they must perform a sa‘y after this tawāf. Those who are doing the Hajj Qiran (combining the ‘Umrah and Hajj in one state of ihrām) or Ifrād (the Hajj only) do not have to make this second sa‘y if they did the tawāf and sa‘y upon arrival in Makkah.
The pilgrims must now return to Mina and spend the three days of ‘Īd al-Adhā there. After midday on the second and third day (Dhu’l-Hijjah 11 and 12), they throw seven pebbles at each of three Jamrahs, beginning with Jamrat al-Ūlā, then Jamrat al-Wustā, and then
Jamrat al-‘Aqabah. They exalt God at each throwing and, after throwing pebbles at the first two Jamrahs, they pray for themselves, their parents, and their relatives, as well as for all Muslims. If they want to stay in Mina on the fourth day of ‘Īd al-Adhā, they throw pebbles at the Jamrahs before noon.
After returning to Makkah, those pilgrims who will be returning to their native land must perform the Farewell Tawaf. Afterwards, as highly recommended acts, they should go to the Zamzam well and drink as much of its water as possible. Then they go to al-Multazim, rub their face and chest against it, taking hold of the curtain that covers the Ka‘bah, pray, and supplicate.
- All that (is what God ordained concerning the Hajj). So whoever venerates God’s sanctities will find it to be the best for him in his Lord’s sight. cattle have been made lawful for you (for sacrifice and food), except what has already been mentioned to you (as unlawful). So, shun the loathsome evil of idol-worship and shun all words of falsehood (never say or consider or legislate anything contrary to revealed commandments concerning the lawful and the unlawful).10
10. This verse refers to the commandments that forbid the eating of carrion, blood that has spilled out of the animal— i.e. other than that which has been left in the veins of the organs, such as the liver and spleen— the flesh of swine, and that which is profane, hav- ing been slaughtered in the name of other than God and without having God’s Name pronounced over it (See 6: 145; 16: 115). The animals or kinds of meat that are forbidden are not only these. The forbidden things mentioned in these two verses pertain only to domestic animals – sheep and cattle. Based on the Revelation, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, informed us of the other animals that we are forbidden to eat.
Alongside the Qur’ān, the Sunnah of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is another basic source of the Divine commandments in Islam. It includes everything con- nected to religious commandments – everything that the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, actually said or did, or those actions which he approved of among his com- panions. The Sunnah serves as a source of legislation by enjoining and prohibiting; it lays down the principles related to establishing all religious obligations and necessities; and it determines what is lawful or unlawful. It should never be forgotten that the Sunnah is also based on Divine Revelation. The Messenger does not speak on his own, out of personal desire. (Whatever he says) is but a Revelation (explicit or implicit) which is revealed to him (53: 4).
In response to a question whether wudū’ could be performed with sea-water, the Messenger declared: “A sea is that of which the water is clean and the dead animals are lawful to eat” (Abū Dāwūd, “Tahārah,” 41; at-Tirmidhī, “Taharah,” 52). This has provided a basis for many rulings. One is that the Qur’ān generally forbids eating animals that have died natu- rally and that were not killed according to Islamic rules. The Sunnah, however, elaborates on this general rule (commandment) by allowing the consumption of sea animals that have died in the water.
For more information about the same point, see also 6: 145, note 31.
- Be believers of pure faith in God, without associating any partners with Him. Whoever associates any partners with God, it is as if he fell down from heaven, and thereupon the wild birds of prey snatch him away, or the wind blows him away into a distant, abysmal ditch (causing him to be shattered into pieces).11
11. considering the extremely eloquent simile the verse contains, we can elaborate on it as follows:
Be believers of pure faith in God, without associating any partners with Him. Whoever associates any partners with God, it is as if he fell down from heaven (the heights or peak of true humanity), and thereupon the wild birds of prey (of all misguiding human or satanic forces) snatch him away and employ him each for its own benefit, or the wind (of lusts, fancies, and events) blows him away into a distant, abysmal ditch of misguidance (causing him to be shattered into pieces).
- That (is the truth itself ). And whoever venerates the public symbols and rituals set up by God (such as Jumu‘ah and ‘Id Prayers, call to the Prayer, Sac- rifice, and the rites of the Pilgrimage), surely it is because of the true piety and God-consciousness of their hearts.
- There are benefits for you in them (the sacrificial animals offering of which in God’s cause is among Islam’s public symbols and rituals,) until the appointed term (of their sacrifice). Then their being carried for sacrifice (during the Hajj) ends in the sacred precincts of the Most Ancient, Honorable House.
- For every believing community We have laid down sacrifice as an act of worship to be performed at a certain time and place. So they must pronounce God’s Name over what We have provided for them of cattle (while offering it). And (bear in mind that) your God is the One and Only God, so to Him alone submit yourselves wholly. And give glad tidings to the deeply devoted, humble servants –
- Those whose hearts tremble with awe whenever God is mentioned, who are always patient with whatever ill befalls them, who always establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, and who spend (in God’s cause and for the needy) out of whatever We provide for them.
- And the cattle, (including especially the camels) – We have appointed their sacrifice as among the public symbols and rituals set up by God for you, in which there is much good for you. When they (the camels) are lined up in standing position for sacrifice, pronounce God’s Name over them. When they fall down on their sides and fully die, ready to be eaten, eat of their meat and feed the poor such as (beg not but) live in contentment and such as beg with due humility. (It is for the purposes and benefits mentioned, and based on the
principles mentioned that) We have put the sacrificial animals in your service, so that you may give thanks to God.11
12. These verses lay down the principles of offering animals as sacrifice and remove some misunderstandings that were widely circulated in the pre-Islamic era concerning them.
Offering a sacrifice (a sheep, a goat; and for seven people, a camel, a cow, or an ox) is incum- bent (wājib) upon every adult Muslim who has the nisāb (required) amount of wealth. The difference between having to pay the Zakāh and performing a sacrifice is that the Zakāh must be paid if the person has had the goods or money for one year, while a sacrifice must be offered if the person has had it for only one day. The sacrifice must be made on any of the first three days of ‘Īd al-Adhā.
Sacrifice during Hajj: Pilgrims doing the Hajj Qirān and Hajj Tamattu‘, and the pilgrims who miss any necessary act (e.g., throwing pebbles, putting on ihrām from a mīqāt, or do- ing sa‘y), or violate any major ihrām restriction or the sanctity of Harām (sacred precincts of ) Makkah, must make a sacrifice.
Sacrificial Animals: The most common sacrificial animal is a sheep or a goat. cattle and camels also can be offered as a sacrifice. Pilgrims must sacrifice a camel if they perform tawāf in a state of major ritual impurity (junub), or while they are menstruating or having post-childbirth bleeding; if they have had sexual intercourse with their spouse after spend- ing Dhu’l-Hijjah 9 (eve) in ‘Arafāt, but before shaving or clipping the hair; or if they have vowed to sacrifice a camel.
Conditions for Sacrifice: A sacrificial animal should satisfy the following conditions:
If it is a sheep, it must be one year old, or as fat and healthy as a one-year-old sheep if it is more than six months old. A camel must be at least five years old, a cow two years old, and a goat one year old.
The animal should be healthy and without defect (i.e., it must not be one-eyed, have a limp, be mangy, very thin, or weak).
Time of Offering: The sacrifice must be made at a specific time, as follows:
Whether one is performing the Hajj or not, a sacrifice must be offered on any of the first three days of ‘Īd al-Adhā.
A sacrifice made to fulfill a vow, atone for sins, or perform a supererogatory act of worship may be offered at any time during the year.
Place of Offering: A sacrifice that will be offered during the Hajj, whether it is necessary (wājib) or voluntary, must be offered within Makkah’s sacred precincts.
Who Must Sacrifice the Animal: The one who kills the animal must be a Muslim or be- long to the People of the Book (i.e. be a christian or a Jew). He must say Bismillāh before
making the sacrifice, for the meat of an animal slaughtered by an atheist, an agnostic, an apostate, or one who intentionally does not say Bismillāh cannot be eaten.
Eating the Meat of the Sacrificial Animal: God commands Muslims to eat the meat of animals that have been sacrificed: eat of their meat and feed the poor such as (beg not but) live in contentment and such as beg with due humility (22: 36). It is advisable to eat one- third, to give one-third to the poor, and one-third to one’s friends and relatives. Apparently, this command applies to both the obligatory and supererogatory sacrifice. However, one cannot eat the meat of any animal sacrificed in fulfillment of a vow, for all of that meat must be distributed among the poor and needy.
The skin of a sacrificed animal may be used as a rug or in some other way, after it is tanned, or given away to a charity. It cannot, however, be sold.
- (Bear in mind that) neither their flesh nor their blood reaches God, but only piety and consciousness of God reach Him from you. (It is for the purposes and benefits mentioned, and based on the principles mentioned) that We have put them in your service so that you must exalt God because He has guided you (to correct belief and worship and obedience to Him). Give glad tidings to those devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them.
- Surely God defends strongly those who believe. certainly God does not love any treacherous, ungrateful one.
- The believers against whom war is waged are given permission to fight in response, for they have been wronged. Surely, God has full power to help them to victory –
- Those who have been driven from their homeland against all right, for no other reason than that they say, “Our Lord is God.” Were it not for God’s repel- ling some people by means of others, monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques, where God is regularly worshipped and His Name is much men- tioned, would surely have been pulled down (with the result that God is no longer worshipped and the earth becomes uninhabitable). God most certainly helps whoever helps His cause. Surely, God is All-Strong, All-Glorious with irresistible might.
- They are the believers who, if We give them authority on earth, without doubt establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms fully, and enjoin and promote what is right and good, and forbid and try to prevent evil. With God rests the outcome of all matters.13
13. Almost all scholars are in agreement that verse 39, which was revealed during the first year after the Hijrah, is the first verse in the Qur’ān concerning fighting on the part of the believers. It was revealed to permit the believers to fight in self-defense against those who
waged war against them. Along with the following two verses, it propounds the reason for, and wisdom in, this permission being granted, as well as the result expected of the believers in case of victory; and it contains certain warnings by allusion.
It is interesting that the verses permitting the believers to fight, and verses 2: 190–195, which order them to fight when inevitable, occur in the Qur’ān in the same context as the Hajj. This suggests that what lies behind both this permission and the order in verses 2: 190–195 is the necessity of putting an end to the association of partners with God in Mak- kah, and particularly in the Ka‘bah, thereby purifying it of all idols and idol-worship. The association of partners with God in any way is what lies at the bottom of the disorder on earth, and verse 2: 193 propounds the final end in communicating God’s Religion: there should no longer be any disorder and corruption arising from the association of partners with God, and the authority to organize life should be recognized as belonging solely to God. In addition to the Hajj being a sign of the purification of the Ka‘bah from idols and idol-worship, and as the place of the final dominion of God’s Religion, it is also the con- summation of all the ways or forms of worship that are to be found within Islam. Moreover, it symbolizes the ordering of worldly life according to the requirements of the afterlife, and it is a rehearsal of the events in the Hereafter.
These verses also remind us of the following facts and principles that are concerned with the permission to fight:
Warfare is not an essential of Islam. God wills that there be none other than Him to be worshipped. Only His authority is absolute, and no other power has the right to exercise absolute authority over His creatures. His Messengers come to people to convey this mes- sage. Throughout human history, worldly powers that have exercised authority over people in a wrongful way, or that have caused injustice and sedition in the world, have declined to give a positive response to God’s call. Worse than that, they have tried to prevent others from accepting it and have gone as far as to torture and kill those who convey God’s Mes- sage and those who have accepted it. The Last Messenger, upon him be peace and bless- ings, and his followers also encountered the same ruthless reaction and were forced to leave their native homeland without being allowed to take any of their property. They were not even allowed to live peacefully and safely in Madīnah, and they were frequently molested. They were also thwarted in all their attempts to visit Makkah and the Ka‘bah. It was in such circumstances that the believers were given permission to fight in self-defense.
So long as irreligious, tyrannical forces prevail in a land, believers will not be allowed to order their lives according to God’s commandments. Nor will they be allowed to believe in and worship the One and Only God, to enjoy their freedom of faith and their practice of their faith. The verse is clear in this respect: Those who have been driven from their home- land against all right for no other reason than that they say, “Our Lord is God.” Such forces will not be content with the usurpation of this basic human right. They will close down or destroy all buildings in which God is worshipped. History is a clear witness to this.
If the believers are to enjoy authority on the earth, they must never behave like the ty- rannical forces described. They must fulfill the duty of worshipping God, which prevents them from all kinds of evil and leads to their spiritual and moral perfection. They must also pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms, which will purify their hearts of a love for wealth,
and which eliminates any class differences in society, thus establishing social justice, bal- ance, and peace. Moreover, they will support, promote, and spread all good acts, and try to prevent all evil ones. This means that believers can never have worldly or personal aims in fighting, such as the conquest or colonization of lands, the subjugation of peoples, the at- tainment of wealth, or the usurpation of the property of others.
- If they are denying you (O Messenger, you know that) before them the people of Noah, the Ad and the Thamud also denied (the Messengers sent to each.)
- And so too did the people of Abraham and the people of Lot;
- And the dwellers of Midian, and Moses too was denied (by the Pharaoh and his clan). every time I granted respite to the unbelievers and then seized them (when they persisted in unbelief and injustices), how awesome was My disown- ing them!
- How many a township have We destroyed because it was given up to wrong- doing: so they all lie in ruins, with their roofs caved in, wells and fountains de- serted, and towering, lofty castles collapsed.
- Do they never travel about the earth (and view all these scenes with an eye to learn lessons), so that they may have hearts with which to reason (and arrive at truth), or ears with which to hear (God’s call)? For indeed, it is not the eyes that have become blind; it is rather the hearts in the breasts that are blind.14
14. The word translated here as “to reason (and arrive at truth)” is ‘aql. Literally, it means taking refuge, holding fast to something, fasten, and preserve. As a faculty, it is described as the spiritual power which preserves humans through knowledge, and prevents them from being dragged along the ways of perdition.
However, the Qur’ān uses the word ‘aql not as a separate faculty, but as a function or act of the heart. Thus, the verb is used in two forms, (‘A-Qa-La–ya‘qilu–) ‘aqlan and ta‘aqqul. This means thinking, deducing, or inferring, thereby arriving at a conclusion by using one’s heart.
In Qur’ānic terminology, the “heart” signifies the spiritual aspect of the heart, which is the center of all emotions and (intellectual and spiritual) faculties, such as perception, con- sciousness, sensation, reasoning, and will-power.
An individual’s real nature is found in his or her heart. It is in relation to this intellectual and spiritual aspect of existence that one is able to know, perceive, and understand. The spirit is the essence and inner dimension of this faculty; the soul (nafs) is its mount.
It is one’s heart that God addresses and that undertakes responsibilities; it is the heart that is elevated through true guidance or debased through deviation, and which is hon- ored or humiliated. The heart is also the “polished mirror” in which Divine knowledge is
The heart or spiritual intellect, if we may call it thus, has an intrinsic connection with its biological counterpart. The nature of this connection has been discussed by philosophers and Muslim sages for centuries. Of whatever nature this connection may be, it is beyond doubt that there is a close connection between the biological heart and the “spiritual” one, which is a Divine faculty, the center of true humanity, and the source of all human feelings and emotions.
In the Qur’ān, religious sciences, morals, literature, and Sufism, the word “heart” signifies the spiritual heart. Belief, knowledge and love of God, and spiritual delight are the objec- tives to be achieved through this Divine faculty.
God considers one’s heart. He treats human beings according to the quality of their hearts, as the heart is the stronghold of many elements vital to the believer’s spiritual life and hu- manity: reason, knowledge, knowledge of God, intentions, belief, wisdom, and nearness to God Almighty. If the heart is alive, all of these elements and faculties are alive; if the heart is diseased, it is difficult for those elements and faculties to remain sound.
Belief is the life of the heart; worship is the blood that flows in its veins; reflection, self- supervision, and self-criticism are the foundations of its permanence. The heart of an un- believer is dead; the heart of a believer who does not worship is dying; and the heart of a believer who worships but does not engage in self-reflection, self-control, or self-criticism is exposed to many spiritual dangers and diseases (Key concepts, 22–27).
A heart has two windows opening on the outer world: the spiritual ear and eye. It is the heart which hears the Divine messages with its ear, and which sees God’s signs with its eye. If a heart is blinded or dead, even if a person sees and hears with his eyes and ears, he is blind and deaf spiritually and in the sight of God. (Also see sūrah 2: 7, note 7; sūrah 6: 36, note 7; sūrah 10: 100, note 21.)
- They challenge you to hasten the coming upon them of God’s punishment (with which they are threatened). Let them know that God never fails to fulfill His promise; but a day with your Lord is like a thousand years in your reckon- ing.15
15. This verse touches on certain important facts from the perspectives of astrophysics and the sociology of history.
First of all, it draws attention to the relativity of time. A time or duration which people see as being long may be very short in the sight of God. In addition, God does not consider time as people do. He is not contained by time or space, and His Wisdom that directs things and events considers each thing and event both as an individual entity in and as an indispensable part of the general fabric of creation and history. As each thing in the uni- verse has an intrinsic relationship with not only every other thing individually, but also with the whole universe at the same time, so, too, is each event in human history interrelated with every other event individually and with the whole of history. Human beings cannot
grasp this relationship; they cannot know the past perfectly, grasp the present completely, nor guess the future well. The wheel of both the universe and history does not revolve ac- cording to the desires of human beings.
Secondly, a day for humanity is the time it takes the earth to make a single rotation around itself. The earth has another day, which consists in its revolution around the sun. This day lasts 365 days according to the reckoning of a day by humanity. So, too, does every other planet and all systems, like the solar system, have a day that is peculiar to each. This means that the concept of a day differs according to the planets and the systems.
Thirdly, God has laid out certain laws concerning human social life. He judges a commu- nity according to the creeds, world-view, and conduct of, at least, the majority. Thus, there are eras and ages in human history and eras of foundation, rising, fall, and decline for com- munities and civilizations. Thus, we can consider the whole life of a state or community or civilization as a day; the most important changes in the history of humanity usually occur once in 1,000 years. This verse also alludes to this fact.
- (Let them not hasten you to bring on them Our punishment.) How many a township that was given up to wrongdoing have I given respite to, but then seized them (when they persisted in unbelief and injustices); and to Me is the homecoming.
- Say (O Messenger): “O people! (I am not a man who can do whatever he wills, nor whatever you wish;) I am only a plain warner sent to you.”
- So those who believe and do good, righteous deeds – for them is a forgive- ness (to bring unforeseen blessings) and an honorable, generous provision (in the Hereafter).
- As to those who strive against Our Revelations, seeking to frustrate and void them, they are the companions of the Blazing Flame.
- Never did We send a Messenger or a Prophet before you but that when he recited (God’s Revelations to the people) Satan would make insinuations (about these Revelations, prompting people to misconstrue them in many wrong sens- es, rather than the right one). But God abrogates whatever insinuations Satan may make, and then He confirms and establishes His Revelations. God is All- Knowing, All-Wise.
- He makes Satan’s insinuations a trial for those in the center of whose hearts there is a sickness (that extinguishes their power of understanding and corrupts their character), and who have hardened hearts. The wrongdoers have certainly veered far from the truth and are in wide schism.
- While those who have been granted knowledge (of the truth) know (with a
greater certainty) that whatever God reveals is the truth itself, and they believe in it and their hearts submit to Him in utmost humility. God most certainly guides to a straight path those who believe with sincerity.
- Whereas those who persistently disbelieve will not cease to be in doubt about it (the Revelation) until the Last Hour comes upon them suddenly, or there comes to them the punishment of a barren day (when every hope would turn into despair, and after which there will be no night to rest in).
- On that Day the absolute authority belongs to God exclusively. He judges (all people and makes a distinction) between them. consequently, those who believe and do good, righteous deeds will be in Gardens of bounty and bless- ings.
- As for those who disbelieve and deny Our Revelations, for them there will be a shameful, humiliating punishment.
- Those who emigrate in God’s cause, and then are killed (for God’s cause) or die – God will most certainly provide for them with a good, wholesome sus- tenance. Surely God is He Who is the Best to be sought as provider with the ultimate rank of providing.”
- He will most certainly admit them into a place with which they will be pleased. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-clement.
- So it will be. And whoever responds to the wrong done to him to the extent of the wrong, and then is again subjected to oppression, God will most certainly help him. Assuredly, God is All-Pardoning (Who overlooks the faults of His servants), All-Forgiving.16
16. Islam allows retaliation in the case of wrong as a principle of law, for justice requires that inviolate values demand equal respect and retaliation (2: 194). However, in many of its verses (i.e., 2: 237; 41: 34; 42: 40; and 42: 43), the Qur’ān advises an individual to forgive an evil done to him or her, even to repel it with what is better, and warns against exceeding the limits in retaliation (17: 33).
However, we should remember here that an individual is urged to forgive any wrong done to him or her, but no one can forgive any wrong done to a community or its sacred values. As the community or government has no authority to forgive in the name of an individual, neither can an individual forgive in the name of the community. But the Qur’ān also warns a community against exceeding the limits in repelling an attack, and warns it to remain within the limits of piety (2: 194).
What verse 60, which is being discussed here, means by, God will most certainly help him, is similar to that found in verse 33 of Sūrah 17: If anyone has been killed wrongfully and intentionally, We have given his heir (as defender of his rights) the authority (to claim re-
taliation or damages or to forgive outright). But let him (the heir) not exceed the legitimate bounds in (retaliatory) killing. Indeed, he has been helped (already and sufficiently by the provisions and procedures of the Law) (17: 33). In the case of a community being attacked, it also means that God helps it against the attacker, as He helped the believers in the Battle of Badr by sending angels, or in other ways (8: 9–12).
As for the verse concluding by mentioning God’s being All-Pardoning and All-Forgiving, it is similar to: Whoever is constrained by dire necessity (and driven to what is forbidden), without purposely inclining to sin – surely God is All-Forgiving, All-compassionate (5: 3). This means that even if any act that is done in the name of retaliation is an evil in and of itself, if the continuation of human life through justice requires it, God will forgive the person who does it.
- So (will He do), because God makes the night pass into the day and makes the day pass into the night, and God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.17
17. Something similar to this idea exists in Sūrat Âl ‘Imrān (3: 27).Thus, it also has the same meaning as that which exists in that verse and is to be considered together with the verse that comes just before it (26): Say: “O God, Master of all dominion! You give domin- ion to whom You will, and take away dominion from whom You will, and You exalt whom You will, and abase whom You will; in Your hand is all good; surely You have full power over everything.” We can also view this together with the verse: Such (historic, eventful) days
– We deal them out in turns among people so that God may mark out those who (truly) believe and select from among you such as bear witness to the truth (with their lives) (3: 140). God rules over the universe, and just as He makes night and day follow each other and brings about the brightness of the day after the darkness of night, He also changes the dark night of the oppressed into a bright day for them, and the bright day of the oppressors into a dark night for them. every night is followed by a day, and every winter is followed by spring.
- So (will He do), because God is He Who is the Absolute Truth and all that they (the unbelievers) deify and invoke instead of (or apart from) Him is sheer falsehood, and God is He Who is the All-exalted, the All-Great.
- Do you not consider that God sends down from the sky water, and behold, the earth turns green. Surely, God is All-Subtle (penetrating to the most minute dimensions of all things and accomplishing what He wills by ways that are not quite tangible), All-Aware.
- To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth. And surely God is He Who is the All-Wealthy and Self-Sufficient (absolutely inde- pendent of the whole creation), the All-Praiseworthy (Who provides for all of them as their Lord).18
18. For a mention of God’s acts or disposals in the world of humankind and the worlds of other creatures or other parts of the universe, see 7: 57–58, note 14.
- Do you not consider that God has made all that is on earth to be of service to you, and the ships that run upon the sea by His command? And He holds the heaven so that it may not fall upon the earth unless by His leave. Surely God is for humankind All-Pitying, All-compassionate.
- It is He Who has given you life, then He causes you to die, then He will bring you to life again. However, humankind are really ungrateful.
- For every community, We have appointed a whole system of worship which they are to observe. So do not let those (who follow their own systems) draw you into disputes concerning this matter, but continue to call people to your Lord. You are most certainly on the straight way leading to pure guidance.19
19. The Religion with which all the Prophets came is the same and is in agreement in the essentials of faith or creeds, worship, principles of good morality, and the prescriptions of the lawful and unlawful. However, there are differences in some secondary matters that are open to changes according to time and conditions. This is what is meant by the verse:
For each (community to which a Messenger was sent with a Book), have We appointed a clear way of life and a comprehensive system (containing the principles of that way and how to follow it). And if God had so willed, He would surely have made you a single community (following the same way of life and system, surrounded by the same condi- tions throughout all history); but (He willed it otherwise) in order to test you by what He granted to you (and, thereby, made you subject to a law of progress). Strive, then, together as if competing in good works. To God is the return of all of you, and He will then make you understand (the truth) about what you have differed on (5: 48).
There are also differences in the way of observing worship. The system of worship pre- scribed by God for the Islam conveyed by the Last Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is the last and perfected one (5: 3), as it is universal and meant for all people. The verse, We have set you on a way of life (sharī‘ah) based on the Religion, so follow it, and do not follow the desires and caprices of those who do not know (the Divine Guidance) (45: 18), is related to both verse 5: 48 and this one. So Muslims should not allow others to draw them into disputes concerning this matter. Their system of worship and way of life are perfect. What the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and his followers are expected to do is to continue to call people to God with all their strength.
- If they argue with you, say only: “God knows well what you are doing. (To me are accounted my deeds, and to you, your deeds. You are quit of all that I do, and I am quit of all that you do.)”
- God will judge between you on the Day of Resurrection concerning what you used to differ on.
- Do you not know that surely God knows whatever there is in the heavens and on the earth (including whatever takes place in them). They are all recorded
in a Book. This (keeping the record of them all) is indeed easy for God.
- And yet, they worship, apart from God, things for which He has sent down no warrant, nor are they are based on true knowledge (when they claim that there can be partners with Him). The wrongdoers will have no helper (to pro- tect them from God’s punishment).
- When Our Revelations, clear as evidence and in meaning are recited (and conveyed) to them, you perceive utter repugnance and denial on the faces of those who disbelieve; they would almost pounce upon those who convey Our Revelations to them. Say: “Then, shall I tell you of something worse than what you now regard as repugnant? The Fire! God has promised it to those who dis- believe. How evil a destination to arrive at!
- O humankind! A parable is struck, so pay heed to it: Those whom, apart from God, you deify and invoke will never be able to create even a fly, even if all of them were to come together to do so. And if a fly snatches away anything from them, they cannot recover that from it. Powerless indeed is the seeker, and (so is) the sought!
- They have no true judgment of God as His right (in being God) requires. God is certainly All-Strong, All-Glorious with irresistible might.
- God chooses Messengers from among the angels as well as from among humankind (so they are all created beings having no share in Divinity at all.) Surely God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.
- 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). To God are all affairs ultimately referred, (and whatever He wills occurs).
- O you who believe! Bow down and prostrate yourselves (thus performing the Prayer), and fulfill all your other duties of worship to your Lord, and do (all the other commands of your Religion, which are all) good, so that you may prosper.20
20. This is the only way in which one may hope to prosper, particularly in the other world. However, all duties of worship and commands of the Sharī‘ah are in order to thank God for His bounties that He has already bestowed on us; they are not performed to receive His future rewards. But purely out of His compassion, God has made them a reason to forgive us and to admit us into Paradise. even if we were to spend every second of our life worshipping Him, we would not be able to pay our duty of thanksgiving for, say, our eyes. We should not restrict God’s favors to what we are provided with. Nature, with everything in it, life, the family, the environment, love, compassion, belief, and many other things are also included in His favors. Our basic necessities of life are given to us for free, while others
are virtually free. So no one can prosper in the other world unless God has mercy on him or her, and His admitting us into Paradise is purely out of His compassion. He has made faith and the fulfillment of our duties of worship a reason for us to receive His compassion.
- Strive in God’s cause and purely for His sake (against His enemies, to raise His Word, and against Satan and your carnal, evil-commanding souls), in a manner worthy of that striving.21 He has chosen you (especially for this task)22 and has not laid any hardship on you in the Religion.23 This is the way of your father Abraham. God named you Muslims previously,24 and in this Book, that the (most noble) Messenger may be a witness for you (as to the ways you fol- low), and that you may be the witnesses for people. So establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms, and hold fast to God. He is your Owner and Guardian. How excellent a Guardian and an Owner He is, how excellent a Helper!
- For the meaning and types of striving made in God’s cause and for His sake (jihād), see 2: 218, note 147.
- Al-Mawdūdī notes:
Of all humanity, the believers were chosen for the task mentioned in the present verse. The same point is also made in other places in the Qur’ān: We have made you a middle-way community, that you may be witnesses for the people (as to the ways they follow), and that the (most noble) Messenger may be a witness for you (2: 143). (For an explanation of this verse, see sūrah 2, note 113 in this study.) You are the best community ever brought forth for (the good of ) humankind, enjoining and actively promoting what is right and good, and forbidding and trying to prevent the evil, and (this you do because) you believe in God (3: 110).
It is perhaps pertinent to point out here that this is one of several verses which establish the excellence of the Prophet’s companions. The verse also makes clear how wrong those people who are prone to launch attacks on the companions are. It is quite obvious that this verse directly identifies the companions as those chosen by God and, furthermore, it indirectly extols other members of the Ummah (al-Mawdūdī, 6: 71, note: 129).
- Islam contains nothing that hinders the growth of culture and civilization (in ways ap- proved by God); it does not restrain human practical life, nor obstruct intellectual progress. Neither does it have any shackles forged by theologians, priests, or lawyers, as were im- ported into previous religions. Its principles of faith are quite clear, and its commandments for worship and life are both meaningful and practical. It also contains special dispensa- tions for those who should be excused. It avoids all complicated rituals or systems of taboos, which impose undue restrictions on everyday human life.
- And when Abraham, and Ishmael with him, raised the foundations of the House (they were praying): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Surely You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. Our Lord! Make us Muslims, submissive to You, and of our offspring a
community Muslim, submissive to You….” (2: 127–28).
Abraham bequeathed and enjoined this submission to his sons (Ishmael and Isaac) and (to his grandson) Jacob, saying: “My sons, God has chosen for you (from different ways of faith and life) the Religion (of Islam, based on submission to Him and absolutely free from any kind of associating partners with Him). Therefore, make sure that you do not die except as Muslims (those submitted to Him exclusively).” Or were you (O children of Israel, of Ja- cob) witnesses when death came to Jacob (so that you might claim that he bequeathed and enjoined a religion otherwise than as Abraham did, to give yourselves an excuse for refusing Islam,) when he said to his sons: “What will you worship after me?” They answered: “We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac, One God; we are Muslims submitted to Him” (2: 132–33).