AZ-ZUKHRUF


Makkah Period

Consisting of 89 verses, this sūrah was revealed in Makkah toward the closing years of the Makkan period, when the polytheists were concocting plots to assassinate the Messenger of God, upon him be peace and blessings. It takes its name from verse 35, where the word zukhruf occurs. It concentrates on some of the fundamentals of faith, namely God’s Oneness, Divine Messengership, and the afterlife; and it rejects certain false beliefs of ignorance, such as attributing daughters to God. It mentions certain episodes from the life of Prophets Abraham and Moses, upon them be peace, in order to urge polytheists to give up associating partners with God. Finally, it warns them against the end that awaits them in the Hereafter.


  1. Ha. Mim.
  2. By the Book clear in itself and clearly showing the truth,
  3. We have made it a Recitation (a Qur’an) in Arabic so that you may reason (and understand it and the wisdom in its revelation).
  4. Surely it is in the Mother Book with Us, exalted, firm, and decisive.1
    1. The Mother Book is also called the Supreme Preserved Tablet (85: 22; for the nature and meaning of the Supreme Preserved Tablet, see: 6: 59, note 13; 13: 39, note 13; 17: 14, note 10). The Qur’ān originally exists in the Mother Book, which exists with God. The Qur’ān is so high and exalted, and so firm and unfathomable, in the Mother Book that no one is ever able to reach or understand it. However, God revealed it to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, as a Book in the Arabic language so that people might be able to read and study it and understand why it has been revealed. That is, the Almighty has a very important and sublime purpose for sending it down as a Book that is compre- hensible to human reason, and we must reflect on this purpose and act accordingly. Since the Qur’ān was revealed from the Mother Book, which is in a form that is infinitely high and impenetrable by human reason, it is described as “The Divine condescension to the Human Mind.”

Truly, the Qur’ān of miraculous exposition teaches and explains many profound and subtle truths in a way so direct and clear that it is familiar to the general way of seeing things, and does not offend general human sentiments. Nor does it present itself against generally held opinions. Just as one chooses to use appropriate words when addressing a child, so, too, does the Qur’ān choose a style that is suitable to the level of those whom it addresses, and speaking in allegories, parables, and comparisons, it makes the most difficult Divine truths

 

and mysteries, which even the minds of the most profound philosophers will not otherwise be able to comprehend, understandable by ordinary people, literate or illiterate.

  1. Shall We take away this Reminder from you (and leave you to your own devices), because you are a people wasteful (of your God-given faculties and committing excesses)?
  2. How many a Prophet have We sent to convey Our Message among the for- mer peoples,
  3. And there never came to them a Prophet but they mocked him.
  4. So We destroyed peoples mightier than these in prowess, and the illustrative histories of those (destroyed peoples) have already have been related.
  5. If you ask them who has created the heavens and the earth, they most cer- tainly say (in answer), “The One All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All- Knowing, has created them;”
  6. He Who has made the earth a cradle for you, and has set on it roads for you so that you may find your way.
  7. And Who sends down water from the sky in a measure, and We raise a dead land to life with it. even so will you be (raised from the dead and) brought forth (from your graves).
  8. And Who has created all the pairs (of all things);2 and has enabled for you ships and cattle on which you ride,

2. For creation in pairs, see sūrah 36: 36, note 11.

  1. So that you sit secure on their backs, then remember and reflect on the favor of your Lord, and when you settle securely on them, say: “All-Glorified is He Who has subjugated this to our use. We were never capable (of accomplishing this by ourselves).
  2. “And surely, to our Lord we are indeed bound to return.”3

3. Reciting this statement of praise and glorification when seated on any mount was a practice of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, and, therefore, is incumbent upon us as a Sunnah act.

  1. Yet they attribute to Him (fatherhood of ) some among His servants. Hu- man is indeed ungrateful, obviously.
  2. What! has He taken to Himself daughters out of all that He creates, and
 

“honored” you with sons?

  1. When any of them is given the news of the birth of what he accepts as ap- propriate for the All-Merciful, his face darkens, choking with anger.
  2. “What! (Am I to have a daughter –) one who is brought up in adornments, and unable to be clear in disputation?”
  3. And yet they have judged the angels, who are themselves the servants of the All-Merciful, to be females (whom they judge to be of little value, and yet regard as His daughters). Did they witness their creation? This testimony of theirs will be recorded, and they will be called to account (for this falsehood in the Hereafter).
  4. They also say: “If the All-Merciful had so willed, we would not have wor- shipped them (our deities, including angels).” They have no knowledge whatev- er of that (the relationship of Divine Will and human will and actions). Indeed, they only judge and speak according to their own fancies and interests.
  5. Or did We give them a Book before this (Qur’an) and so they are holding fast to it (and worshipping their false deities by its authority)?
  6. Not at all! (Indeed, their only argument is that) they say: “We have found our forefathers following a certain religion, and we are led in their footsteps.”
  7. In just that way, We never sent a warner to a township before you but those of its people who had been lost in the pursuit of pleasures without scruples reacted, saying: “We have found our forefathers following a religion, and we certainly follow in their footsteps.”
  8. He (who was sent to warn them) said: “What! even though I have come to you with better guidance4 than what you have found your forefathers following?” They said: “Surely we are unbelievers in that with which you have been sent.”

4. The Religion with which any Messenger came was completely true and the best in guid- ance, while any religion or faith based on associating partners with God or denial of Him is essentially false and devoid of any guidance. However, there may be some true elements in any false religion or doctrine. So the reason why the warners used better guidance was both by way of argumentation and persuasion, as well as referring to those elements of truth that can be found in any religion.

  1. So then We took Our retribution on them. So look: how was the outcome for those who denied (God’s Messengers)?
  2. And (remember) when Abraham (who rejected following the way of his forefathers blindly) said to his father and his people: “I am indeed free of all that
 

you worship.

  1. “I worship only Him Who has originated me with a particular nature, and He will guide me (to the truth and to eternal happiness).”
  2. And He left it as a Word to endure among those who would come after him, so that they may return (from worshipping false deities to the worship of One God).
  3. Indeed I have allowed these (people of Makkah), as I had allowed their forefathers, to enjoy their lives until when the truth and a Messenger came to them, making the truth clear, (and embodying it in every element of his life and character).
  4. But now the truth has come to them, they say: “This is sorcery and we are unbelievers in it.”
  5. They also say: “If only this Qur’ān had been sent down on a man of leading position of the two (chief ) cities!”5

5. This typical objection explains the standards for greatness of people bereft of Divine guidance. According to them, greatness lies in wealth, position, and posts. However, in God’s sight the most honored and greatest are those who are the most advanced in piety and righteousness (49: 13).

By the chief cities Makkah and Tā’if are meant.

  1. Is it they who distribute the mercy of your Lord (so that they may ap- point whom they wish as Messenger to receive the Book)? (Moreover, how do they presume to value some above others only because of their wealth or status, when) it is also We Who distribute their means of livelihood among them in the life of this world, and raise some of them above others in degree, so that they may avail themselves of one another’s help? But your Lord’s mercy (in particular Prophethood) is better than what they amass (in this life).
  2. And were it not that all people would become one community (around unbelief ),6 We might well have provided for everyone who disbelieves in the All-Merciful roofs of silver for their houses, and (silver) stairways on which to go up,

6. This should not be taken to mean that people may realize a peaceful unity in unbelief and lead a peaceful life without any dissension or conflict. The original word for community is ummah, which means a community based around a certain belief or doctrine. So what the verse draws our attention to is the danger and possibility of all people tending toward unbelief because of an easy life.

 
  1. And (silver) doors for their houses, and (silver) couches on which to re- cline,
  2. And also adornments of gold (and other jewelry).7 Yet all this is nothing but a (fleeting) enjoyment of the present, worldly life. And the Hereafter with your Lord is only for the God-revering, pious.

7. verses 33–35 warn against the fact that luxury may lead people to self-adoration, indul- gence in worldly appetites, ingratitude to God, and, therefore, unbelief.

  1. Whoever willfully ignores the remembrance of the All-Merciful (and lives as if He did not exist always watching him), We assign to him a devil,8 who becomes his closest comrade.

8. The devil mentioned in the verse, as in verses 41: 25 and 19: 83, may be of the jinn or humankind. In any case, both human and jinn “devils,” or satanic devils, are always stand- ing close to unbelievers or those who willfully ignore God’s existence and awareness of whatever they do, living a life according to their own desires. So, the proverb, “Tell me who your friend is, and I will tell you what kind of person you are,” is very apt.

  1. Such devils certainly bar them from the way (of truth). Yet they think (in themselves) that they are rightly guided.9

9. Right or true guidance is the guidance of the Qur’ān. So, however rightly-guided those who follow other ways may regard themselves to be, they have, in reality, strayed far from the truth. The Qur’ān severely warns such people in 18: 103–104: Say: “Shall We inform you who are the greatest losers in respect of their deeds? Those whose endeavor has been wasted in this world (because it is directed only to this-worldly ends, and so it is bound to be wasted hereafter also) but who themselves reckon that they are doing good.” (See cor- responding note 32.)

  1. But in the end, when such a one comes to Us (on Judgment Day), he says (to his comrade): “Ah, would that between me and you were the distance of the two easts.10 How evil a comrade!”

10. This phrase is highly typical, and suggests that the earth is sphere. As we know, the point where the sun sets in a hemisphere is, in fact, the same point where it rises in another; and so the setting of the sun is a relative fact. What is meant is the distance between the east and the west – the distance which is impossible to cross.

  1. “It is of no avail to you at all today (this remorse after death). For you did wrong (in the world), and you will suffer the punishment together.”
  2. (Although this is the truth and clear to you, O Messenger,) can you make the deaf hear or guide the blind and him who is lost in obvious error?

43. So hold fast to what is revealed to you. Surely you are on a straight path (in

 

all matters).11

11. These verses came at a time when the believers were extremely weak and unprotected in Makkah, and the leaders of the Quraysh were plotting to assassinate the Messenger of God, upon him be peace and blessings. If the Messenger, upon him be peace and bless- ings, had died, God would have inflicted total retribution upon the polytheists of Makkah. However, He took him away from among them by letting him emigrate to Madīnah to perfect Islam and complete His favor upon the believers, and He inflicted His retribution upon their most obstinate leaders in the Battle of Badr, letting His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, witness the fulfillment of His promise both to him and to others. So, as stated in verse 43, what befalls the believer is always to hold fast to God’s Religion in the footsteps of His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, in perfect conviction and confidence of its truth and of the absolute Power of God, and to leave to Him the fulfillment of the result.

  1. Or We let you see (in your lifetime) the fulfillment of what We have prom- ised them: (either way) We have full power over them.
  2. So hold fast to what is revealed to you. Surely you are on a straight path (in all matters).
  3. Indeed, it (the Qur’an) is a Reminder for you and for your people, in which lie your honor and happiness (in both worlds). And you (all people) will be questioned (about how it was understood, and how lived).
  4. And ask (their true followers about) those of Our Messengers whom We sent before you: did We ever enable deities to be worshipped apart from the All-Merciful?12

12. The All-Merciful (ar-Rahmān) is the attributive Name that is particular to the Divine Being and exclusive (1: 1, note 4; 17: 110).

  1. Assuredly We sent Moses to the Pharaoh and his chiefs with Our clear signs (miracles demonstrating Our being the sole Deity and Lord to be worshipped), and he said: “I am a Messenger of the Lord of the worlds.”
  2. But when he came to them with Our clear signs (miracles), they then ridi- culed them.
  3. We displayed to them sign after sign, each greater than the other, and We seized them with (diverse forms of ) punishment13 so that they might turn back (from the way they followed).

13. For the kinds of punishment with which God seized the Pharaoh and his people, see 7: 130–133.

  1. (Whenever We seized them with a punishment) they would say (to Moses):
 

“O Sorcerer! Pray for us to your Lord by the covenant He has made with you (that He will remove affliction from us if we believe); for we will surely accept the right guidance.”

  1. But when We removed the punishment from them, they then broke their promise.
  2. The Pharaoh made this proclamation among his people: “O my people! Does not the dominion of egypt belong to me, as well as these rivers flowing beneath me? Will you not see the truth?
  3. “And, am I not better than this man, who is despicable and can scarcely express himself clearly?
  4. “(If he is true in his claim) why are bracelets of gold not dropped upon him (from the sky), or why do there not come with him angels (to support him in his cause)?”
  5. Thus did he make fools of his people and demeaned them, and they obeyed him. Assuredly, they were a people given to transgression.14

14. As can be understood from the verses, the Pharaoh began to really fear the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, and worried about what would happen. So, in order to secure his throne, he sent out heralds among the people to strengthen their obedience to him. He reminded them of his absolute dominion over egypt, implying that the people led their lives in his land only by his generosity. Thus, they could only be his servants. Moreover, he tried to disgrace Moses, upon him be peace, in their eyes by reminding them that he belonged to an inferior class – the children of Israel, who had long been serving them. He also claimed that Moses, upon him be peace, could not express himself clearly, although this was not true. There was no impediment in Moses’ speech, as some have thoughtlessly claimed (see sūrah 20, note 8; sūrah 21: 84, note 15). The Pharaoh fooled his people, and they blindly obeyed him, though for years they had been witnessing the truth clearly. Their obedience was not because they believed in the proclamations of the Pharaoh, but rather because they were a people given to a dissipated life-style and who recognized no rules to guide their behavior. They also feared the Pharaoh, as he could take their lives. So they followed him and shared with him his rebellion against God and his cruel treatment of Moses, upon him be peace, and his followers.

  1. So finally when they incurred Our condemnation, We took retribution on them, and We caused them to drown all together.
  2. So We made them a thing of the past, and a precedent (in entering the Fire), and an example to later generations.
  3. And when ( Jesus) the son of Mary has been presented as an example (of God’s Power and Oneness and to refute his being deified by many christians), your people turn from it in disdain;
 
  1. And they say, “Are our deities better or is he?” They put it to you only for disputation. Indeed, they are a people addicted to contentiousness.15

15. Many leading polytheists in Makkah tended to use the fact that Jesus, upon him be peace, was deified by many christians as a pretext for their polytheism, and their worship of angels, in particular. But when the Qur’ān clarified Jesus’ identity, making it clear that he was only a human being who worshipped God, they did not like this and desired to continue to use the fact that many christians deified him as an alleged argument for their polytheism. They even said: “We worship angels, while christians worship a human being. So our deities are better than theirs.”

  1. Surely he ( Jesus) was not other than a servant (worshipping God), whom We favored (with Messengership), and We made him a miraculous example for the children of Israel (to follow and mend their ways).
  2. If We had so willed, We could have made some from among you angels, suc- ceeding each other on the earth.16

16. This is also stated to refute the deification of angels. The Qur’ān warns that being a human, Jesus, upon him be peace, was able to revive some of the dead and give life to some clay figures, but he did those things by God’s permission; and he was a human being who had been created, one responsible for worshipping God, which he did. The polytheists of Makkah thought that only angels could do the extraordinary things that Jesus, upon him be peace, and other Prophets did with God’s permission. In fact, the believers among hu- man beings are more virtuous and exalted in rank than the angels; the distinguished ones among them, such as the Prophets, are greater than the greatest among the angels; and the ordinary ones among the believers are greater than their counterparts among the angels. Human beings have a will, i.e. freedom of choice, which the angels do not possess. So the angels cannot elevate their rank. Thus it was that God willed humankind, not the angels, to inhabit the earth as vicegerents, as a huge grace to humankind, to improve it and live on it according to His Will; and He chose the Prophets from among them. Therefore, there is no need to look for virtue and achievement in other creatures, as it is humankind that has been endowed with the potential to attain the greatest virtues and achievements any created being can attain. And this fact categorically refutes the deification of the angels and the worship of them by human beings.

  1. Surely he ( Jesus) (brought into the world without a father, and granted such miracles as reviving the dead) is a means to knowledge of the Last Hour, so do not feel any doubt concerning it and follow Me (to attain eternal happiness in the other life). This is a straight path.
  2. And never let Satan debar you (from the Straight Path). Surely he is a mani- fest enemy.
  3. When Jesus came with manifest truths (and miracles), he said: “I have come to you with the Wisdom (the truths and essentials of faith and good life), and so that I may make clear to you some of what you differ on (matters that require
 

clarification for your good in both worlds). So keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety, and obey me.

  1. “Surely God is He Who is my Lord as well as your Lord, so worship Him (alone). This is a straight path.”
  2. However, parties (that arose and held differing views concerning him and his teachings) fell into disagreement among themselves. Then woe to those who do the greatest wrong (by corrupting his teachings) because of the punishment of a painful Day.
  3. Do they (who persist in unbelief and evil deeds) wait but for the Last Hour
  • (waiting) that it come upon them all of a sudden, being unaware and indiffer- ent toward it?
  1. Those who are intimate friends (in the world) will be enemies one to an- other on that Day, except the God-revering, pious. (They will hear:)
  2. “O My servants! You will have no fear today, nor will you grieve!
  3. “(You) who have believed in My signs and Revelations, and have submitted to Me wholly (as Muslims).
  4. “enter Paradise, you and your (believing) spouses, made contented.”
  5. Trays of gold and goblets will be passed round them; and there will be there- in all that souls desire, and eyes delight in:17 “And you will abide therein.

17. See 41: 31–32, note 9.

  1. “That is the Paradise which is made your inheritance,18 in return for what you used to do (in the world).

18. For inheriting Paradise, see 26: 85, note 19.

  1. “In it there is for you fruit (of all kinds) in abundance, to eat therefrom.”
  2. But the disbelieving criminals will abide in the punishment of Hell.
  3. It will not be abated for them, and therein they are in despair (of any mercy and hope of escape).
  4. We have not wronged them, but they are the wrongdoers (who ever wronged themselves).
  5. They will call out (to the chief keeper of Hell): “O Malik! Let your Lord make an end of us!” He says: “You are bound to remain (therein)!”
 
  1. We have brought you the truth, assuredly, but most of you are averse to the truth.
  2. Or are they settling on some plan (against you, O Messenger)? But We have already settled a “plan” (against them).
  3. Or do they think that We do not hear their secrets (that they whisper only to themselves,) and their private counsels? Indeed We do, and Our messengers (angels) are by them, recording.
  4. Say: “If the All-Merciful had a child, I would be the first to worship.”
  5. All-Glorified is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the Lord of the Supreme Throne,19 (exalted) above all that they attribute (to Him in ignorance and falsehood).

19. For the Supreme Throne, see 7: 54, note 13.

  1. So leave them plunging about in play and amusement until the Day which they have been promised.
  2. And He it is Who is God in the heaven (exclusively deserving of worship), and God on the earth (exclusively deserving of worship). He is the All-Wise, the All-Knowing.
  3. Blessed and Supreme is He to Whom belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them; and with Him is the knowledge of the Last Hour. And to Him you are on the way to return.
  4. Those whom they (deify and then) invoke apart from God have no power and permission to intercede (with God in either world); only those who bear witness to the truth (of God’s absolute Oneness in Divinity, Lordship, and Sov- ereignty), and who have knowledge (of the truth, will have it).
  5. If you ask them who has created them, they will certainly say, “God.” How then are they turned away from the truth and make false claims?
  6. (God certainly hears His Messenger when) he says: “O my Lord! Surely those are a people who do not believe.”
  7. Yet forbear and pardon them, and (when you go your way,) say, “Peace (be upon you)!” In time, they will come to know.