This sūrah of 88 verses derives its name from the abbreviated or single letter sād in the first verse. It was revealed in the mid-Makkan period of Islam, after the conversion of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb, may God be pleased with him. It warns those who oppose the preaching of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. It calls for obedience to the Messenger, and gives examples from the experiences of earlier Messengers.
- Sad. (I swear) by the glorious Qur’an bearing the Reminder (with guidance to the truth and warning, that you are one who has been sent to convey God’s Religion).
- However, those who disbelieve are lost in self-glory and opposition.
- We destroyed before them many generations (who likewise willfully persisted in unbelief and opposition). (In the end) they called out for help but only when it was too late for the punishment (they had earned) to be canceled.
- They deem it strange that a warner from among them has come to them, and the unbelievers say: “This man is but a sorcerer, a fraud (who makes fabrications in attribution to God).
- “What! has he made all the deities into One God. This is a very strange thing, indeed!”
- The leaders among them went about inciting one another: “Move on, and remain constant to your deities. Surely that (to which this man calls) is the very thing that is certainly intended (deliberately plotted by him and those who fol- low him).1
- Like the leading ones among the people of Noah, upon him be peace, who reacted to his call, saying, “He only wishes to gain superiority over you” (23: 24), the leading polytheists of Makkah claimed that what God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, intended by his call, and those who followed him, was leadership and high position in Makkah.
- “We have not heard of this in recent ways of faith. This is surely nothing but a concoction.2
2. When ‘Umar became Muslim, the leading clique of the Quraysh became furious. They thought that the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and those who followed
him desired leadership in Makkah and, therefore, felt their position was threatened by his call. Led by Abū Jahl, they went to Abū Talib, the Messenger’s uncle, and suggested that the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, continue to follow his own Religion but give up preaching it. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, responded to this proposal: “O my uncle! I know and call them to such a word that should they pronounce it, not only the other Arabs but other peoples will follow them.” Unable to dispute that word, they asked what it was. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, replied: “There is no deity but God.” They reacted very strongly: “We have not heard of this in recent ways of faith. This is surely nothing but a concoction” (at-Tirmidhī, “Tafsīr,” 39).
- “From among all of us has the Reminder been sent down on him?” No! Rather (on account of their self-glory), they are lost in doubts concerning My Remind- er. No, indeed! They have not yet tasted My punishment (so that they might abandon their arrogance and recognize the truth).3
3. Although Divine punishments coming in the world cause some to recognize the truth, most of the unbelievers recognize it usually at the moment of death, or when the punish- ment comes in the form of overall destruction. However, this recognition is of no use to them, just as their recognition during the final destruction of the world will not benefit them in the least.
- Or do they own and control the treasures of the Mercy of your Lord, the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Bestowing, (that they presume to object to your being chosen as the Messenger)?
- Or do they own the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them? Then let them ascend to the heavens by ropes (and see if they can prevent the Message from being sent to you).
- They are no more than a routed band of (disunited) parties there (awaiting a defeat as certain as the defeat of the hordes of old times who rejected the Mes- sengers and were utterly abased).
- Before them the people of Noah denied (their Messenger), and the Ad, and the Pharaoh with formidable strongholds.
- And also the Thamud, and the people of Lot, and the people al-Aykah. Those are the hordes (of old times).
- Not one of them but denied the Messengers (sent to them), and therefore My retribution was their just, inevitable due.
- These wait but for a single blast, which will tolerate no delay (to give them respite).
- Yet, they say: “Our Lord! Hasten on to us our share before the Day of Reck-
- Bear patiently all that they say, and remember Our servant David, powerful (in his glorification of God, in knowledge, in kingdom, and in fighting). Surely he was one ever turning to God in penitence.
- We subdued the mountains to glorify (their Lord) along with him in the afternoon and bright morning;
- And the birds assembled; all were turned to Him (in devotion and glorifica- tion).
- We strengthened his kingdom, and granted him wisdom and decisive speech (to inform, and convince, and lead).
- Now, has the report of the litigants come to you, when they climbed over the wall into the royal chamber?
- When they entered in upon David, and so he was taken aback by them. They said: “Do not be alarmed! (We are) two litigating parties; one party trespassed against the right of the other. So judge between us with truth; do not be unjust; and guide us to the level path.”
- (One of them explained the case): “This is my brother: He has ninety-nine ewes, and I have but one. Then he said, ‘Make it over to me,’ and he overpowered me in (force of ) speech.”
- David said: “He has undoubtedly wronged you in demanding your single ewe to add to his own ewes. Truly many are the partners in business who trespass against the right of one another, except such as believe and do good, righteous deeds, and how few they are!” David came to understand that We had tried him, so he appealed to his Lord for forgiveness, and fell down in prostration, and turned to God in contrition.
- So We forgave him that. Indeed he enjoyed nearness to Us and an excellent place of final return.
- “O David! We have appointed you as a vicegerent in the land (to rule accord- ing to Our commandments); so judge among people with the truth, and do not follow personal inclination, lest it leads you astray from the path of God. Surely, those who wander astray from God’s path – for them there is a severe punish- ment because they have forgotten the Day of Reckoning.4
4. The gist of the trial under which God put David must be as follows:
All the Messengers were sent to convey God’s Message to people. However, each had a particular mission within this general mission according to the demands of the time and conditions, and was therefore equipped with a special capacity peculiar to him. For exam- ple, God appointed Prophet Abraham as a leader (imām), David as a vicegerent (khalīfah), and Solomon as a king (malik), upon them all be peace. However, before they were com- missioned for such particular duties, each had to pass through a strenuous trial. God tested Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, with severe commandments and terrible ordeals (such as being thrown into a fire, the destruction of the people of Lot, upon him be peace, who was his relative, and being ordered to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, upon him be peace); and after Abraham, upon him be peace, fulfilled all these tests thoroughly, He appointed him an imām (one who leads people in all matters). He put Prophet David, upon him be peace, to the test mentioned in verses 21–24 in this sūrah; and when David, upon him be peace, succeeded, He appointed him as a khalīfah (vicegerent: one who judges and governs according to God’s commandments). He also tried Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, as will be mentioned in verse 34 in this sūrah; and when Solomon, upon him be peace, was successful, He made him a king invested with very great power. We should point out that imamate, caliphate (vicegerency), and kingdom are all particular missions within the comprehensive mission of Messengership. We can conclude from this fact that any trial through which a particular Messenger had to pass was particular to the mission for which he had been chosen. So, the trial to which God put the Prophet David, upon him be peace, concerned judging between people.
Whether the litigants who entered the presence of David, upon him be peace, by climbing the high walls of his royal chamber were angels who appeared in the form of human beings or not, what David, upon him be peace, thought he had been mistaken about must be his pronouncing a judgment before listening to both sides. When he listened to the one who complained about his brother (brother-in-religion or partner-in-business), either David, upon him be peace, felt in himself that this man must be truthful or some other sign con- vinced him that the man was speaking the truth, or perhaps his judgment was based on the compassion which David, upon him be peace, felt towards him; in any case, David, upon him be peace, pronounced the judgment before listening to the other side. Then he came to understand that God had tested him and he thought he had made a mistake. Since he was a Messenger, ever-turning to God in sincere devotion, he again turned to Him in contrition and asked for forgiveness. God forgave him, which meant that David, upon him be peace, had passed the test, and then He appointed David, upon him be peace, as a vicegerent.
verse 20 states that God favored David, upon him be peace, with, in addition to other blessings, the power of speech to clarify all matters distinctly and convince his audience. It is very significant that the one making a complaint about his brother had said that the other had overpowered him in speech (verse 23). So, through this trial, God must have been warning David, upon him be peace, against powerful speech while judging between people. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, draws our attention to this point: “I am a mortal man like you. You come to me to judge the matters between you. It is possible that some of you are more convincing than the others, and I judge in his favor according to what I hear. (So everyone should speak the truth). Because if I judge in someone’s favor as against the right of his brother, let him know that I have assigned for him a brand of Hell’s fire” (al-Bukharī, “Shahādah,” 27; Muslim, “’Aqdiyah,” 5).
- We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in vain (so that people should think themselves at liberty to act each according to his own desires and inclinations). That is the mere conjecture of those who disbelieve. Woe to those who disbelieve because of the Fire!
- Or (do they think that) We treat those who believe and do good, righteous deeds the same as those who provoke disorder and corruption on earth, or (that) We treat the pious, God-revering ones the same as the shameless, dissolute ones?
- This is a Book, which We send down to you, full of blessings, so that they (all conscious, responsible beings) may ponder its verses and that the people of discernment may reflect on it and be mindful.
- We granted to David (who was perfectly righteous in his caliphate), Solo- mon. How excellent a servant Solomon was! Surely he was one ever-turning (to God) in penitence.5
5. The Qur’ān mentions the basic function or duties of a Messenger in the verse 2: 151 as follows:
As We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, reciting to you Our Revelations, and purifying you (of false beliefs and doctrines, and sins, and all kinds of uncleanness), and instructing you in the Book and the Wisdom, and instructing you in whatever you do not know.
The term “Imamate” is used in the sense of guiding people to truth in all matters, especially in purely religious ones, and leading them in life; caliphate is used in the sense of judging, particularly among people with the truth; while Kingdom is used in the sense of enjoying temporal authority or rulership in the highest degree— these are all included in the duties of Messengership when the time and conditions necessitate them. The imamate does not require either a caliphate or kingdom, nor is every caliph, king or sovereign an imām in all matters. caliphate and kingdom both require people’s resignation and allegiance, however. So neither the caliphate nor the kingdom that is referred to by the Qur’ān is the same as absolutism. It is significant that God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, emi- grated to Madīnah after he took the allegiance of the Muslims in Madīnah, and there felt the need to renew this allegiance before attempting certain important tasks. In addition, he never neglected to consult with his companions, the citizens of the Muslim state in his time, in all social and political issues. Islam insists upon the necessity of consultation or an advisory government, and freedom of opinion in all social and political matters. In the history of the children of Israel, the period of founding a government or having caliphs or kings began after or upon the children of Israel’s demand to have a commander-king to fight against their enemies (2: 246–247). In their history, the Prophet Moses was a Messenger-Imām, David was a Messenger-caliph, and Solomon was a Messenger-King, upon them all be peace.
- Once, in the afternoon, there were brought before him nobly-bred horses
(trained for fighting in God’s cause, steady when standing, swift when run- ning).
- (Having watched them for some time,) he said: “Indeed my love for these horses is (not on their own behalf, but) because they serve for the remembrance of my Lord (and conveying His Name to other lands).” And the horses were hidden by the veil of distance.
- (He commanded): “Bring them back to me.” Then, he rubbed down their legs and their necks.6
6. The Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, was a Prophet-king. But nothing of the world, even those nobly bred horses, kept and trained for fighting in God’s cause, ever prevented him from remembrance of God, because remembrance of God is the most im- portant thing. He loved everything for God’s sake or because of his love for God. So these three verses, which come after the verse that states Solomon, upon him be peace, was one ever-turning to God in devotion, emphasize Solomon’s deep devotion to God despite his being a powerful king.
- Indeed, We tried Solomon and placed a lifeless body upon his throne. After- wards, he turned (to God) in contrition.
- He prayed: “My Lord, forgive me, and bestow on me a kingdom which will not suit anyone after me.7 Surely You are the All-Bestowing.”
7. When we consider the trial by which the Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, was tried from the perspective of his subsequent prayer and the fact that, as explained in note 4 above, a Messenger is put through a test with respect to the particular aspect of his mission of Messengership, in addition to taking into account a Prophetic Tradition related to that event, we can conclude that the trial through which the Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, passed must have been concerned with his kingdom.
The Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, prayed to God to grant him a son (37: 100). God accepted his prayer and granted him Ishmael, upon him be peace, when he was an old man. Then Abraham was tried by being ordered to offer Ishmael in sacrifice, upon them both be peace. When he succeeded in this, God granted him Isaac, upon him be peace, and many grandsons. The Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, showed that his desire for a son was due to his desire for the continuation of his mission. Similarly, the Prophet Zachariah, upon him be peace, also prayed for a son (19: 5–6), and he was also tried by seeing his son, the Prophet John, upon him be peace, killed before his eyes. The greater a favor is, the greater the responsibility and suffering it brings. As pointed out by some, the Prophet Solomon desired his kingdom to continue through his offspring, and as reported from God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to have sons who would struggle for God’s sake (al-Bukhārī, “Anbiyā,” 40). This was, of course, because he desired to earn uninterrupted spiritual rewards through his offspring, and so that the Divine Sovereignty in the human realm might continue without lessening. However, God’s will was different. How and by whom people should be governed depend on what kind of a government and ruler they deserve, as a consequence of their spiritual, moral, and intellectual level in adher-
ence to Islam. So the lifeless body placed upon his throne might have been the body of one of his sons, or of the son whom he desired to succeed him. Prophet Solomon prayed to God that He might grant him such a kingdom that, through it, he could serve Him to the extent that all his progeny would have served if they had succeeded him, and no one else would be able to serve Him through the kingdom to that degree. Since this meant that there would be agreeable competition in serving God, and since he was perfectly sincere in his prayer – he desired such a kingdom purely for God’s service – his prayer was accepted.
- We (accepted his prayer and) subdued the wind to his service, so that it coursed gently by his command wherever he willed;8
8. For similar statements and an explanation, see sūrah 21: 81, note 11; sūrah 34: 12.
- And of the satans (devils), (We made subservient to him) every builder (on earth) and diver (to extract precious stones from the sea);9
9. See sūrah 21: 82, note 12; sūrah 34: 13.
- And others (of the rebellious jinn) linked together in fetters.10
10. These fetters must be of a kind peculiar to the jinn.
- “This is Our gift, so either bestow (from it), or withhold (from it), without reckoning (that it may diminish or that you will be held to account for it).
- Surely he enjoyed nearness to Us and an excellent place of final return.
- And remember Our servant, Job, when he called out to his Lord: “Surely Satan has caused me to be afflicted with distress and great suffering.”11
11. On the suffering of Job and his supplication to God, see sūrah 21: 83–84, notes 15– 16.
For any event to take place, for a thing to come into and go out of existence, and for a bless- ing or an affliction to visit a person, there are two causes: one apparent and visible, material; the other real and invisible. The former cause relates to the material world with the beings in it and human beings themselves, while the latter relates to God. God allows something good or evil to visit a person either because of that person’s belief or unbelief; good or evil intention and deeds; or purely as a blessing or harm for them, either to test them or to make them rise to higher ranks. Like all other apparent, material causes, Satan is also a cause for human beings to do something. Like all other material causes, he also has no creative effect on anything that takes place. So, the Prophet Job’s attributing his affliction to Satan as a cause can be seen to be either like the Prophet Moses’ qualifying the enmity and fighting which led to someone’s death as of Satan’s doing, or that Satan and other jinn may actually cause some illnesses in the human body. The second alternative invites medical research.
Another point that should be mentioned here is that although the Prophets are sinless, this does not prevent them from seeing themselves as having faults or lapsing, or from asking
God for forgiveness. Since they are extremely sensitive to their duties and their relationship with God, they asked for God’s forgiveness much more than other people. God’s Messen- ger, upon him be peace and blessings, says: “I ask for God’s forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance (according to al-Bukhārī, “Da’awāt,” 3) more than seventy times (or according to Muslim, “Dhikr,” 41, a hundred times a day.”
- (We told him:) “Strike the ground with your foot: here is cool water to wash with and to drink.”12
12. The Prophet Job, upon him be peace, must have suffered from a skin disease. When he struck the ground with his foot, God caused a spring to gush forth. When he washed himself with it and drank of it, his disease was healed, by God’s leave.
- We granted him his household and the like thereof along with them as a mercy from Us, and as a reminder (with guidance and instruction) for the people of discernment.
- (We also told him): “Take in your hand a bundle of rushes and strike with it: do not break your oath.”13 Surely, We found him full of patience and constancy. How excellent a servant! He was surely one ever-turning to God in penitence.
13. While he was ill, the Prophet Job, upon him be peace, swore by God that if God would restore him to health, he would punish his wife with lashes because she had committed an error. God revealed to him that he could fulfill his vow by striking her with a bundle of (as many) rushes (as the amount of the lashes with which he swore to punish her). There is such a rule in the Sharī’ah: should the culprit be so ill that there is no reasonable chance of recovery, or if he or she is too old, he or she should be hit only once with a branch with as many twigs as the amount of the lashes with which the culprit should be punished, or with a broom with the same number of straws, so as to meet the formal requirements of the Law.
- And remember Our servants Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, endowed with power (in obedience to God and doing good deeds), and insight (to discern the truth in things and events).
- We made them perfectly pure and sincere by virtue of a characteristic most pure: their constant remembrance of the Abode (of the Hereafter).
- They are in Our sight among the perfectly purified, chosen ones, the truly good.
- And also remember Ishmael and al-Yasa‘a (Isaiah),14 and Dhu’l-Kifl.15 every one of them is of the truly good.
- Al-Yasa’a, who is also mentioned in 6: 86, is most probably Isaiah, upon him be peace, in the Bible. He succeeded the Prophet Ilyās (elijah), upon him be peace, and put up a fierce struggle against worshipping the idol Ba’l in Israel. However, after his death, idol-worship
and evils re-appeared in Israel, and this was followed by attacks from the Assyrians. After a series of attacks, the ruthless Assyrian king, Sargon, put an end to the kingdom of Israel in 721 bc.
- On Dhu’l-Kifl, see 21: 85, note 17.
- All this is a remembrance (of the excellence of those We have mentioned and an instruction for people). For the God-revering, pious there is an excellent abode of return:
- Gardens of perpetual bliss whose gates are wide-open to them,
- In which they will recline (on thrones), calling therein for many a fruit and drink.
- And with them will be pure, chaste-eyed spouses, well-matched, (whose glances are fixed on them only).
- This is what you are promised for the Day of Reckoning.
- This is certainly Our provision (for you) with no diminishing (nor end) in it.
- All this (for the God-revering, pious); but for the rebellious is an evil abode of return:
- Hell, where they will enter to roast: how evil a cradle.
- This (then is for them), so let them taste it: boiling water and intensely-cold, dark fluid.
- And paired with that, another (torment) of similar nature.
- “(O rebellious ones!) Here is the crowd of people who rushed blindly into sin in your company (while in the world, and now they will rush into the Fire together with you)!” (The rebellious ones cry out:) “No welcome for them! They will indeed enter the Fire to roast.”
- They (who had blindly followed) say: “No! rather for you, there is no wel- come for you! It is you who forwarded this for us (from the world)!” Then, how evil a place to abide in!
- And they say (in supplication): “Our Lord! Whoever forwarded this for us, increase him in punishment doubled in the Fire!”
- And (the rebellious ones) say: “What is it with us that we cannot see the men (the poor and weak believers) whom we used to count among the wicked,
- “Whom we used to take in mockery? Or is it that (they are here with us, but) our eyes have missed them (just as we turned our eyes from them in contempt in the world)?”
- Such will in truth be the mutual wrangling of the people of the Fire.
- Say: “I am but a warner. There is no deity save God, the One (with no-one and nothing like or comparable to Him), the All-Overwhelming (with absolute sway over all that exists).
- The Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, the All- Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Forgiving.
- Say: “This (Qur’an) is a supreme message.
- “You turn away from it in aversion.
- “I had no knowledge of the High Assembly (in the heavens) when they were arguing.16
16. This statement emphasizes that the Messenger, upon him be peace, had no knowledge of the events that take place in the heavens among the angels or between God and the angels, except by Revelation. For example, he could not have had any knowledge of the things that took place between God, the angels and Iblīs (Satan),concerning the creation and appointment of humankind as vicegerent on the earth, which will be mentioned in the verses to come.
- “I (follow only what is revealed to me and) it is revealed to me that I am but a plain warner.”
- (Remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “I am creating a mortal out of clay (to set him on the earth as vicegerent).
- “When I have fashioned him fully and breathed into Him out of My Spirit,17 then fall down prostrating before him (as a sign of respect for him and his su- periority).”
17. On God’s breathing into humankind out of His Spirit, see 15: 29, note 7.
- So the angels prostrated, all of them together, 18
18. On the vicegerency of humankind and the angels’ prostrating before them, see 2: 30–34, notes 30–35.
- But Iblis did not (in defiance of God’s explicit order to him); he grew ar- rogant and displayed himself as an unbeliever.
- (God) said: “O Iblīs! What prevents you from prostrating before the being whom I have created with My two Hands?19 Are you too proud (to bow down before any created being in defiance of My command), or are you (of those who think themselves) so high in honor (that they cannot be ordered to prostrate before anyone)?”
19. In 36: 71, God says that He has originated many things and beings with His Hands. However, in this verse, He states that He has created humanity with both of His Hands. The hand signifies power. Therefore, mentioning two Hands in this verse has two impor- tant meanings: one is that God has created humankind in the perfect form, as the best pat- tern of creation; the other is that humankind has two dimensions in its existence, spiritual and material. verse 71 refers to humankind’s material origin (clay), while verse 72 refers to its real value, which lies in the spiritual dimension of its existence.
- (Iblīs) answered: “I am better than him. You have created me from fire and him, You have created from clay.”20
20. According to Iblīs, honor and goodness lie in physical origin or matter. His attitude is typical of materialism and represents a lack of correct understanding. He saw only the material origin of humankind and ignored the spiritual dimension that originated in being breathed into out of God’s Spirit.
The other point to mention here is that Iblīs judged God’s order according to his own knowledge and understanding, and opposed His explicit order based on his own judgment. He demonstrated that, out of arrogance, he would fulfill God’s orders only when they con- formed with his desire or understanding, not because he believed all of these orders to be truths in themselves and that they must be obeyed. So are those who act in the same way aware who it is that they follow, and whose pupils they are?
- (God) said: “Then get you down out of it; surely You are one eternally re- jected (from My Mercy).
- And My curse is on you until the Day of Judgment.”
- He said: “My Lord, grant me respite till the Day when they are raised (from the dead)!”
- (God) said: “You are of the ones granted respite
- “Until the Day of the Time Appointed.”21
21. This time is the overall destruction of the world, a time until which human beings will continue to bear the responsibility of carrying out God’s orders.
- (Iblis) said: “Then (I swear) by Your Glory, I will certainly cause them all to rebel and go astray,
- “except Your servants among them, endowed with sincerity in faith and worshipping You.”
- (God) said: “(Whatever I do and command is) the truth itself, and the truth I speak:
- “I will most certainly fill Hell with you (and your kind), and those (of hu- mankind) who follow you, all together.”
- Say (O Messenger): “I ask of you no wage for this (conveying the Qur’an to you), and I am not of those who claim to be what they are really not and make fabrications of their own.
- “This (Qur’an) is only a Reminder (with guidance and admonishment) for all conscious beings.
- You will most certainly come to know what it informs of after a time (as appointed for you).