AS-SAJDAH


Makkah Period

This sūrah, which consists of 30 verses, was revealed in Makkah. It takes its name from verse 15, which states that the believers prostrate upon hearing the Revelations. It discusses the Divine origin of the Qur’ān, and mentions the creation of humankind to draw the attention to the second creation in the other world, and to the end of both those who believe and disbelieve in God’s signs and Revelations. It also tells how the Children of Israel were guided through a similar Divine Book given to the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace. The sūrah ends with glad tidings for the believers concerning the rewards awaiting them in the Hereafter.


  1. Alif. Lam. Mim.
  2. (This is) the Book which, it is beyond all doubt, is being sent down in parts from the Lord of the worlds.
  3. Or do they say: he (Muhammad) has fabricated it? No, rather, it is the truth from your Lord, that you may warn a people to whom no warner has come before you (during a long interlude during which no Messengers appeared), so that they may be guided (to find and follow the Straight Path).1
    1. Deducing from We would never punish (a person or community for the wrong they have done) until We have sent a Messenger (to give counsel and warning) (17: 15), some Muslim scholars hold that one who has not heard the Name of God or the teachings of Islam will be “excused,” unless he or she is a wrongdoing, unjust person. God, as He wills, rewards such people for the good they have done, and they enjoy the blessings of Paradise.

There are other scholars, however, who are of the opinion that humankind is created with a capacity to find the creator through the use of reason, even though we may not know His Names or Attributes, for we can also find Him in our conscience. A Bedouin once came to the Prophet and explained how he had attained faith: “camel droppings point to the existence of a camel. Footprints on the sand tell of a traveler. The heaven with its stars, the earth with its mountains and valleys, and the sea with its waves – do they not point to the Maker, All-Powerful, Knowing, Wise, and caring?” As he had attained faith in God through logical deduction, we cannot underrate the role of reason and thinking in faith. Thus, the exemption from punishment stated in 17: 15 means that unless a Messenger has been sent, no one will be held responsible for neglecting the other pillars of faith and for not living a life according to Islam, the complete submission to God. God uses Messengers to convey His injunctions, distinguishing what is good and evil, and does not leave human beings to stray into error because of fallible human judgment and experience.

 
  1. God is He Who has created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, then established Himself on the Supreme Throne.2 You have, apart from Him, no guardian (to whom you might refer the ultimate meaning and outcome of your affairs), nor any intermediary (who, without His leave, can cause anything of use to reach you).3 Will you not reflect and be mindful?
  1. On the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days and God’s establishing Himself on the Supreme Throne, see 2: 29, note, 28; 7: 54, note 11.
  2. Shafī’ (translated as intermediary) means one who intercedes, and it is usually taken to mean one who pleads with God on behalf of people. However, it is clear in this verse that this phrase is only concerned with worldly affairs. It is also clear that the pagans who did not believe in the Hereafter would never think of intercession in connection with the afterlife. Therefore, this phrase here means any intermediary agent or principle that acts between humankind and the origin of anything that is of use to them. Humans had ad- opted some of their so-called deities to act as intermediaries between God and themselves for their worldly affairs. The verse categorically rejects such a belief as this, as well as the creative effect of any material or immaterial cause in the creation or government of the universe. The material causes and what we call “natural forces and laws” are only titles we give to the executions of His orders by God, or the works of His Names. It is God Who creates, administers, maintains, and provides.
  1. He directs the affair from heaven to the earth; then the affair ascends to Him in a day— the measure of which is a thousand years of what you reckon.4

4. The sun is nearer to us than ourselves. Its light manifests itself in and penetrates the “heart” of everything in the world, unless a hindrance intervenes. Similarly, God, free of all restrictions of matter, time, and space, is infinitely nearer to us than ourselves, but we are infinitely distant from Him. So this verse expresses God’s infinite nearness to us vis-à-vis our infinite distance from Him. It also implies the fact that we can get near to Him only by His making us near.

Secondly, the origin of everything and every affair or event in the world is the pure, heav- enly realm. So what is meant by heaven in this verse is not the sky, but the pure, spiritual realms where God acts and executes His will without any veil or material cause. All decrees concerning the world issue from these realms.

Thirdly, as stated in note 13 to 7: 54, the Qur’ān uses the word day not only in the sense of our normal day, but also as time unit and period. While this verse mentions a day to be the equivalent of 1,000 years by our reckoning, another verse mentions a day that measures 50,000 years (70: 4). This shows that the concept of day is relative. The world does not consist only in our world or the visible universe. Rather, there are worlds or dimensions within one another. Just as time or the length of a day is different in the world of dreams, so, too, is it also different in the worlds of spirit and imagination and that of immaterial forms, in other spiritual realms.

Fourthly, the verse may also be referring to the fact that periods of 1,000 years are usually

 

turning points in human history. (Also see 55: 29, note 11.)

  1. Such is He, the Knower of the Unseen and the witnessed (all that lies in the hidden and visible realms and beyond and within the realm of any created being’s perception), the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-compassionate:
  2. He Who makes excellent everything that He creates; and He originated the creation of humankind from clay.
  3. Then He made his reproduction dependent upon an extraction of humble fluid;5

5. The noted scientist, Maurice Bucaille, comments on this verse:

The Arabic word, translated here by the word ‘quintessence (extraction),’ is sulālāh. It signi- fies ‘something which is extracted, the issue of something else, or the best part of a thing.’ In whatever way it is translated, it refers to a part of a whole.

The fertilization of the egg and reproduction are produced by a cell that is very elongated: its dimensions are measured in ten thousandths of a millimeter. In normal conditions (it is estimated that in one cubic centiliters of sperm, there are 25 million spermatozoon that, under normal conditions, have an ejaculation of several cubic centimeters), only one single cell among several tens of millions produced by a man will actually penetrate the ovule; a large number of them are left behind and never complete the journey that leads from the vagina to the ovule, passing through the uterus and Fallopian tubes. It is therefore an infinitesimally small part of the extract from a liquid whose composition is highly complex that actually fulfills its function.

In consequence, it is difficult not to be struck by the agreement between the text of the Qur’ān and the scientific knowledge we possess today of these phenomena (The Bible, the Qur’an and Science).

  1. Then He fashioned him in due proportions, and breathed into him out of His Spirit;6 and He appointed for you (the faculty of ) hearing, and eyes, and hearts (for understanding, feeling and insight). Scarcely do you give thanks!

6. For God’s breathing out of His Spirit, see 2:31–34, notes 32–34; 15: 29, note 8.

  1. Yet they say: “What! When we have been (dead and) lost in the earth, will we then be created anew?” No, (they do not really regard being created anew as impossible; rather,) they are unbelievers in the meeting with their Lord.7

7. Those who live a dissipated life driven by their carnal desires and who are lost in accu- mulating sin cannot look forward to being taken to account for their lives. This is what lies behind their denial of the Hereafter.

  1. Say: “The Angel of Death who is charged with taking your souls will take
 

your souls; then you will be returned to your Lord.”8

8. verse 39: 42 says that God takes the souls, while verses 6: 61 and 16: 28 say that God’s envoys and the angels take them, respectively. We learn from this verse that the Angel of Death does this task. These verses do not, of course, contradict each other. It is ultimately God Who makes people die, but out of wisdom, He has charged the Angel of Death with this task, and he has aides.

Another point to be mentioned is that sometimes God Himself takes the souls of some of His servants, and sometimes the Angel of Death does this task, without sending in his helpers. This is according to the spiritual rank of the person: whether he or she is a believer, a hypocrite, a sinful believer.

  1. If you could but see those disbelieving criminals when they hang their heads before their Lord (pleading): “Our Lord! Now we have seen and heard (the truth and are ready to be obedient). So return us (to the world): we will certainly do good, righteous deeds. Now we are certain (of the truth).”
  2. (That is no more than a vain desire.) If We had so willed, We would have given every soul its guidance (the route to salvation particular to it); but (many choose unbelief, and) the word from Me has proven true that I would most cer- tainly fill Hell with jinn and humankind, all together.9

9. As beings endowed with free will and special mechanisms, jinn and humankind are responsible for their free choices. Because of this, God does not compel them to choose a certain way in their lives. Therefore, in the same way as He does not impose guidance on them, He also has explained to them the causes of guidance and misguidance. For example, He decreed and declared that He would not guide those lost in wrongdoing and injustice (3: 86; 5: 51; 6: 144; 9: 19, etc.) and in transgression (5: 108; 9: 24, etc.), and those who have willfully chosen the way of unbelief (5: 67; 9: 37, etc.). That is, a stubborn and prejudiced insistence on unbelief, wrongdoing, injustice, and transgression prevent one from believing. He also declared that those with whom He would fill Hell would be Satan, his progeny, and his followers (38: 85). Just as He has created humankind with a disposition to belief and equipped us with necessary mechanisms, He has also sent Messengers to every nation throughout history to call people to His way and to warn them of the consequences of their evil acts, and He showed them openly the way to the truth with perfectly clear signs.

  1. “So, (you who willingly chose and followed the way of unbelief in the world despite Our warnings,) taste the punishment because you acted in oblivious heedlessness of (the appointment I gave you for) this Day. We are (now) oblivi- ous and heedless of you. Taste the abiding punishment for what you used to do.”
  2. Only they (truly) believe in Our signs and Revelations who, when they are mentioned of them (by way of advice and instruction), fall down in prostration, and glorify their Lord with His praise, and they do not behave with haughti-
 

ness.

  1. Their sides forsake their beds at night, calling out to their Lord in fear (of His punishment) and hope (for His forgiveness, grace, and good pleasure), and out of what We have provided for them (of wealth, knowledge, power, etc.,) they spend (to provide sustenance for the needy and in God’s cause, purely for the good pleasure of God and without placing others under obligation).
  2. No soul knows what joyous means of happiness are kept hidden (reserved) for them as a reward for what they have being doing.
  3. Is, then, he who is a believer like him who is a transgressor? They are not equal.
  4. As for those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, for them are Gardens of Refuge and Dwelling, as a welcome (from God, in return) for what they have been doing.
  5. But as for those who transgress (the bounds set by God in belief and action), their refuge and dwelling is the Fire. every time they desire to come out of it, they will be returned to it and they will be told, “Taste the punishment of the Fire which you used to deny.”
  6. However (before that supreme punishment) We will most certainly make them taste the lower kinds of punishment (in the world), so that they may (re- pent their ways) and return.
  7. Who is more in wrong than he who has been reminded (repeatedly) of his Lord’s Revelations and signs, yet turns away from them in aversion. We will surely requite the criminals (committed to accumulating sins).
  8. And We surely granted Moses the Book (as We are sending you the Qur’an), so be not in doubt of its reaching you (from your Lord, and your final meeting with Him in the Hereafter). And We made it (the Book We granted to Moses) a guidance for the children of Israel.
  9. And so long as they remained patient (in adversity they met on the path of God) and they had certainty of faith in Our Revelations, We appointed from amongst them leaders guiding by Our command (in accordance with Our or- dinances).
  10. Surely your Lord will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection con- cerning the matters on which they (subsequently) differed (and about which they continue to be at variance).10
 

10. The Qur’ān’s method of guidance is extremely significant. While verse 24 implies the future victory of the Muslims at a time when they were persecuted in Makkah, verse 25 im- plicitly warns them of certain internal conflicts that might later ensue among them. Both the implied good tidings and the implicit warning are certainly true for all similar periods.

  1. Is it not (enough as a means of ) guidance for them (the unbelievers) how many a generation We have destroyed before them, amidst whose dwelling plac- es they travel? Surely in this are signs. Will they still not listen (and pay heed to warnings revealed directly and in these signs)?
  2. Do they not consider that We drive the rain to the dry land (bare of vegeta- tion), and bring forth with it crops, of which their cattle and they themselves eat? Will they still not see (the truth)?
  3. Instead, they say (throwing out a challenge): “When will this judgment take place (which will cause everything to appear in all clarity), if you are truthful (in your threats)?”
  4. Say: “On the day of the judgment (when everything will appear in all clarity),11 their faith (then) will be of no use to those who disbelieve (now), nor will they be reprieved.

11. This day is the day when death or an inescapable calamity or war, in which they will be killed, will come upon them.

  1. So withdraw from them (do not care what they do and say), and wait (for the judgment to come); they too are waiting.