AL-A’LA


Makkah Period

Revealed in Makkah, this surah of 19 verses derives its name from the word al-a’la (the Most High) in the first verse. It concentrates on God’s Power and Unity and the Revelation, and it contains some advice on observing the proper conditions and manners for preaching and admonition.


  1. Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Most High,
  2. Who creates and fashions in due proportions,
  3. And Who determines (a particular life, nature, and goal for each creature), and guides (it toward the fulfillment of that goal);
  4. And Who brings forth herbage,
  5. Then turns it to dark-colored, rotten stubble.1
    1. Interpreters of the Qur’ān find references to coal and oil in this verse, because the origi- nal words that have been translated as rotten stubble connote manure, charcoal, and the heaps carried by a flood.
  6. (For the guidance of humankind,) We will establish the Qur’an in your heart and have you recite (it to others), so you will not forget (anything of it)2

2. See 20: 114; 75: 16–19, note 5.

  1. except what God wills.3 Surely He knows all that is manifest and all that is hidden (including your outward and inward states).

3. Many interpreters of the Qur’ān rightly take this exception as being related to the rule of abrogation stated in 2: 106: We do not abrogate any verse or omit it (leaving it to be forgotten) but We bring one better than it or the like of it (more suited to the time and conditions in the course of perfecting the Religion and completing Our favor upon you). Do you not know (and surely you do know) that God has full power over everything? The verse does not mean that there is something of the Qur’ān that God caused the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to forget. Rather, this exception is like the exception in verse 11: 108: see the corresponding note 24. It came to stress that everything depends on God’s absolute Will.

  1. We will guide you to the easiest path (in all your affairs).
 

Surah 87                                             Al-A’la (The Most High)                                         1160

  1. So remind and instruct (them in the truth), in case reminder and instruction may be of use.4

4. The Qur’ān says that instruction and reminding will be of use to the believers (51: 55), and one who stands in awe of God will receive instruction and admonition (this occurs in the next verse in this sūrah). And the Messenger is told to withdraw from those who decisively turn away from God’s Book and remembrance, and who aim at and desire noth- ing but the life of this world (53: 29). So, an instructor or preacher should observe whether instructing or preaching will be of use, and in what circumstances and for whom it will be of use. However, it should also be pointed out that instruction and preaching will never be rendered useless, particularly when done by sincere people like the Prophets. So the verse also implies that we should try to give constructive instructions and preaching.

  1. He who stands in awe of God will be mindful of the instruction.
  2. But the most wicked one remains aloof from it;
  3. He who will enter the Great Fire (of Hell) to roast.
  4. He will neither die therein (to be saved from punishment) nor live.
  5. Prosperous indeed is he who purifies himself (of sins, and of his wealth by spending from it in God’s cause and for the needy);
  6. And who mentions the Name of his Lord and does the Prayer.5

5. According to some Prophetic Traditions, in the last two verses, there is an allusion to the alms-giving to be performed before the ‘Īd al-Fitr (the religious festival of the end of Ramadān), and the congregational prayer on that day, which would later be prescribed in Madīnah (at-Tabarī, ar-Rāzī, and al-Qurtubī in the interpretation of this verse).

  1. But you (O humankind) are disposed to prefer the life of this world;
  2. While the Hereafter is better and more lasting .6

6. The Hereafter is incomparably good and eternal. The reason why the verse uses better and more lasting is for the sake of comparison with the worldly life.

  1. This is surely contained in the former Scrolls.
  2. The Scrolls of Abraham and Moses.7

7. What is told in verses 14-17 is also contained is the former Divine Scriptures. Mention- ing only the Scrolls given to Abraham and Moses, upon them be peace, functions to attract our attention toward their high standing among the earlier Revelations. Some Traditions say that before receiving the Torah, Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, was also given a Scroll of ten pages (as-Suyūtī from Ibn Mirdawayh and Ibn Asākīr).