وَ اِذَا لَقُوا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا قَالُوۡۤا اٰمَنَّا ۚۖ وَ اِذَا خَلَوۡا اِلٰی شَیٰطِیۡنِہِمۡ ۙ قَالُوۡۤا اِنَّا مَعَکُمۡ ۙ اِنَّمَا نَحۡنُ مُسۡتَہۡزِءُوۡنَ ﴿۱۵﴾
وَإِذَا لَقُواْ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ قَالُوٓاْ ءَامَنَّا وَإِذَا خَلَوۡاْ إِلَىٰ شَيَٰطِينِهِمۡ قَالُوٓاْ إِنَّا مَعَكُمۡ إِنَّمَا نَحۡنُ مُسۡتَهۡزِءُونَ
a. 2:77; 3:120; 5:62. (close)
32. Shayatin means, ring-leaders (Ibn-e-‘Abbas, Ibn-e-Mas‘ud, Qatadah and Mujahid). The Holy Prophet is reported to have said: 'A single rider is a Shaitan, a pair of riders is also a pair of Shaitans, but three riders are a body of riders (Dawud). The tradition lends support to the view that Shaitan does not necessarily mean a devil. (close)
b. 9:64-65. (close)
a. 2:77; 3:120; 5:62. (close)
b. 9:64, 65. (close)
21. Important Words:
خلوا (they are alone) is derived from خلا i.e. he was alone. They say خلا الرجل i.e. the man was alone in a place. خلا المكانmeans, the house became empty and untenanted. خلا الشیء means, the thing passed away. خلا الیه or خلا به or خلا معه means, he was alone with him; he met him in private (Aqrab). خلا فلان means, he died (Lisan).
شیاطین (ringleaders) is the plural of شیطان (satan) which is either derived from (1) شطن or (2) شاط (Mufradat). شطن عنه means, he was or became distant or remote from him or it. شطن صاحبه means, he opposed his comrade and turned him from his intention or course (Aqrab). Derived from this root the word شیطان would mean, the being who is not only himself far from truth but also turns others away from it.
The other derivation is from شاط which means, he burnt: he perished. Derived from this root the word شیطان would mean, the being who burns with hate and anger and is lost.
In common usage the word شیطان means: (1) the wicked or Evil Spirit, i.e. Satan; (2) anybody who greatly transgresses the proper limits and is excessively proud and rebellious; (3) serpent (Aqrab); (4) any blamable power or faculty or propensity like anger, etc. (Mufradat); (5) any painful condition like excessive thirst, etc. (Lane). In its wider sense, the word has also come to be used about anything which is harmful and injurious and is likely to cause suffering.
مستهزءُون (mocking) is derived from استهزاء which again is derived from ھزأ, both having the same meaning. ھزء به and استهزأ به mean, he laughed at, or mocked or scoffed at, or derided him; he made light of him. ھزأ also means, he died suddenly; he put it (camel, etc.) in motion. ھزأ and ھزوا are infinitive nouns from ھزأ and mean: (1) mocking or scoffing or jesting, etc.; (2) object of mocking, etc. (Aqrab & Kashshaf).
The context of the verse makes it clear that by شیاطین here is meant not evil spirits but rebellious ringleaders among the disbelievers and the hypocrites who were proud and haughty and ready to transgress all limits. Reference to such leaders has been made in 33:68 where God says, And they (the people of Hell) will say, 'Our Lord, we obeyed our chiefs and our great ones and they led us astray from the way.' These were the men who egged on the hypocrites to mischief and who were ever burning with jealousy and hate at seeing the Muslims prosper and who had gone far astray from truth.
Some Christian writers have rendered the word شیاطین in this verse as "satans" or "devils", and then charged the Quran with reviling idolaters, Jews and Christians. The charge is groundless; for, as already explained, the word شیاطین does not here mean "satans" but simply proud and mischievous ringleaders. In fact, as shown above, the word شیطان has a very wide significance in Arabic. The Holy Prophet once said to his Companions, "A single rider is a shaitan, a pair of riders also is a pair of shaitans, but three riders are a body of riders" (Dawud). The meaning here is that one rider is exposed to mischief and danger and so are two riders, but three riders travelling together form a safe company. Christian critics, ever keen on finding fault with the Quran, forget the New Testament passages (Mark 8:33; 8:38 & Matt. 3:7; 23:33) where Jesus calls a disciple satan and his opponents serpents and a generation of vipers, etc.
This meaning of the word شیاطین i.e. ringleaders from among disbelievers and hypocrites, is supported by eminent Muslim scholars like Ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah, Mujahid, and ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud (Jarir). (close)
اَللّٰہُ یَسۡتَہۡزِئُ بِہِمۡ وَ یَمُدُّہُمۡ فِیۡ طُغۡیَانِہِمۡ یَعۡمَہُوۡنَ ﴿۱۶﴾
ٱللَّهُ يَسۡتَهۡزِئُ بِهِمۡ وَيَمُدُّهُمۡ فِي طُغۡيَٰنِهِمۡ يَعۡمَهُونَ
d. 6:111; 7:187; 10:12. (close)
33A. The words do not mean that God grants the hypocrites respite to let them increase in their transgression. Such a meaning is contradicted by (35:38), where it is stated that God grants disbelievers respite that they should reform themselves. (close)
34. ‘Umyun is the plural of A‘ma which is derived from al-‘Ama. Al-‘Amah means, mental blindness and al-‘Ama means, both mental and physical blindness (Aqrab). (close)
a. 9:79; 11:9; 21:42. (close)
b. 6:111; 7:187; 10:12. (close)
22. Important Words:
یستهزئ (will punish mockery). See 2:15 and also commentary below.
یمدھم (He will let them continue) is derived from مد. They say مدہ meaning, he let him continue in a course, or he granted him a delay or respite. Literally مد means, he spread, or he stretched, or he made a thing extend (Aqrab).
طغیان (transgression) is derived from طغی which means, he exceeded the proper limits. طغی فلان means, he was excessive in sin and transgression. طغی الماء means, the water was in flood (Aqrab).
یعمھون (wandering blindly) is derived from عمه which means, he was or became confounded or perplexed and was unable to see his way, and went to and fro in confusion (Aqrab). عمه is like عمی; but whereas عمی is wider in its significance, being used for blindness both physical and mental, عمه is confined to mental blindness only (Kashshaf). عمه also means, it (the place) lost all marks or signs helpful for identification or for finding a way through it (Aqrab).
In this verse the word یستھزئ (lit. will mock) has been used for God, and this has occasioned the criticism that the God of the Quran is given to mocking. The criticism is due to the utter ignorance of Arabic idiom and usage. In Arabic, punishment for an evil is sometimes denoted by the term used for the evil itself. For instance, in 42:41 we read وجزاء سیئة سیئة مثلھا i.e. the penalty for an evil is an evil the like thereof, whereas the penalty of an evil is not an evil. Again in 2:195 the word اعتداء (transgression) is used for the punishment of transgression. Similarly, the well-known pre-Islamic Christian poet, ‘Amr bin Kulthum says:
الا لایجھلن احد علینا
فنجھل فوق جھل الجاھلینا
"Beware! Nobody should employ ignorance against us; or we will show greater ignorance in return;" i.e. we will severely avenge such ignorance (Mu‘allaqat).
Thus the expression الله یستھزئ بھم does not mean, Allah shall mock at them, but that Allah will punish them for their mocking. The former meaning, followed by some translators, is absolutely inconsistent with the spirit of the Quran which condemns jest and ridicule as marks of ignorance (2:68). How, then, can God attribute to Himself what He declares to be a practice of the ignorant?
The clause, Allah will let them continue in their transgression, should not be understood to mean that God grants the hypocrites respite to let them increase in transgression. Such a meaning is contradicted by verses 6:111 and 35:38, where it is clearly stated that God grants the disbelievers respite with the sole object of reforming them but they unfortunately only increase in transgression.
The word یعمھون (wandering blindly) is derived from the root عمه which, as explained above, signifies, besides other meanings, the absence of signs or marks; The meaning here would, therefore, be that the hypocrites persist in their wickedness without care or consideration, as if the way they are travelling has lost all signs, leaving the traveller without any sense of distance or direction. (close)
اُولٰٓئِکَ الَّذِیۡنَ اشۡتَرَوُا الضَّلٰلَۃَ بِالۡہُدٰی ۪ فَمَا رَبِحَتۡ تِّجَارَتُہُمۡ وَ مَا کَانُوۡا مُہۡتَدِیۡنَ ﴿۱۷﴾
أُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱشۡتَرَوُاْ ٱلضَّلَٰلَةَ بِٱلۡهُدَىٰ فَمَا رَبِحَت تِّجَٰرَتُهُمۡ وَمَا كَانُواْ مُهۡتَدِينَ
a. 2:87, 176; 3:178; 14:4; 16:108. (close)
35. (1) They have given up guidance and taken error instead; (2) both guidance and error were offered to them but they preferred error and refused guidance. (close)
23. Important Words:
اشتروا (have taken in exchange) is derived from اشتری which again is derived from شری both having the same meaning, i.e. he purchased a thing or became owner of a thing by purchase. The word also sometimes gives the meaning of باع i.e. he sold a thing. The word اشتری is also used of a person who gives up one thing and lays hold on another (Aqrab).
The expression, who have taken error in exchange for guidance, means (1) that they have given up guidance and taken error instead; or (2) that both guidance and error were offered to them but they preferred error and refused guidance. Both these meanings apply here. According to the first, the verse would mean that originally everybody is endowed with a pure nature and the best of capacities (30:31; 95:5), but, owing to wrong training or wrongdoing, the original nature and capacities become lost. In this case "guidance" would mean the nature or capacities with which every man is endowed by God, and "exchange" would mean that, through improper use, people lose the God-given guidance, landing themselves in error instead. According to the second meaning, the verse would signify that through His Messengers, God communicates to man only truth and guidance, whereas Satan presents to him his own evil teaching. Wrong choice by man results in hisacceptance of error instead of guidance.
This traffic, however, brings the hypocrites no gain. They believe that by preferring the promptings of Satan to the guidance of God, they would reap a good profit in this life. But, says God, they will reap no such profit. On the contrary, they will be the losers and will suffer humiliation through their own wrong choice.
The words, nor are they rightly guided, point to yet another consequence of the wrong choice of hypocrites. They will not only suffer loss and humiliation in this life, but will also suffer punishment in the life to come, for being deprived of guidance they will not reach the goal. Thus the words, their traffic has brought them no gain, refer to the benefits that accrue to one in this life, and the words, nor are they rightly guided, refer to the end they will meet in the life to come.
The verse teaches an important truth. Every action of man is attended by two kinds of results, one immediate and the other deferred. A person who is detected in theft suffers punishment and humiliation in this life. This is the immediate consequence of his action. The deferred consequence is that, by the same action, he reduces his ability to find and accept the truth and guidance. Similarly, when a person does a good deed, the immediate result is that he is pleased with himself and rises in the estimation of others. The deferred consequence is that he increases his power of finding and accepting truth and guidance. It is the deferred consequences that are referred to in the expression, nor are they rightly guided. (close)
مَثَلُہُمۡ کَمَثَلِ الَّذِی اسۡتَوۡقَدَ نَارًا ۚ فَلَمَّاۤ اَضَآءَتۡ مَا حَوۡلَہٗ ذَہَبَ اللّٰہُ بِنُوۡرِہِمۡ وَ تَرَکَہُمۡ فِیۡ ظُلُمٰتٍ لَّا یُبۡصِرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸﴾
مَثَلُهُمۡ كَمَثَلِ ٱلَّذِي ٱسۡتَوۡقَدَ نَارٗا فَلَمَّآ أَضَآءَتۡ مَا حَوۡلَهُۥ ذَهَبَ ٱللَّهُ بِنُورِهِمۡ وَتَرَكَهُمۡ فِي ظُلُمَٰتٖ لَّا يُبۡصِرُونَ
36. The word "fire" is sometimes used for war. "The kindler of fire" in the verse may signify either the hypocrites who conspired with disbelievers to wage war against Islam, or the Holy Prophet who under God’s command kindled a Divine light. He is reported to have said: 'My example is like that of a person who kindles a fire' (Bukhari). (close)
b. 6:40, 123; 24:41. (close)
37. The expression signifies that the hypocrites fomented wars in order to re-establish their lost influence but the actual result of these wars was the exposure of their hypocrisy and their consequent confusion and perplexity. The word Zulumat has always been used in the Qur’an in the plural, signifying moral and spiritual darkness. Sin and vice never exist in isolation. One vice attracts another and one misfortune draws another. The meaning is that the hypocrites are overtaken by manifold dangers and calamities. (close)
a. 6:40, 123; 24:41. (close)
24. Important Words:
مثل (case) gives a number of meanings: (1) likeness or similitude; (2) state or condition; (3) reason or argument; (4) proverb, etc (Aqrab)..
اضاء (it lighted up) is derived from ضاء i.e. it or he became bright or lit up. اضاء is used both transitively and intransitively. Used transitively it means, it lit up or lighted up (the surroundings, etc.), and used intransitively it means, it became bright or lit up. الضیاء or الضوء means, light (Aqrab). In the verse under comment the word has been used transitively.
ظلمات (darkness or lit. darknesses), which is the plural of ظلمة i.e. darkness or absence of light, is derived from ظلم i.e. it became dark. The word ظلمة is also used figuratively to signify ضلالة i.e. error or ignorance, just as the word نور i.e. light is sometimes used to signify ھدایة i.e. guidance (Aqrab). ظلمة also means, affliction, hardship and danger. In the verse the word ظلمات has been used in the plural form in order to signify that the position or place spoken of is not only wanting in light, but is also ful1 of various dangers. In the Quran the word is always used in the plural and denotes different kinds of darkness, physical, moral or spiritual. In the moral and spiritual sense the plural form also signifies that sins and evil deeds do not stand alone, but grow and multiply, one stumbling leading to another.
The verse speaks of hypocrites who were unbelievers at heart but outwardly formed part of the Muslim community. The light of the Holy Prophet or the light of Islam touched their outside, but owing to the diseased condition of their hearts it could not penetrate their inside, which is essential for true religious conversion; so they remained virtually deprived of that light. "The kindler of fire" in the verse can mean either: (1) the class of hypocrites who kindled a fire for themselves, i.e. they accepted the light of Islam but when the light grew in intensity and lit up the surroundings, their hidden disease got the better of them and they lost the light and were left in utter darkness. In this case the Arabic text would read somewhat like this: مثلھم كمثل الذین استوقدوا نارا فلما اضاءت ماحولھم۔الخ i.e. their condition is like the condition of those who kindle a fire, etc. This reading would be quite correct according to Arabic idiom and the style of the Quran itself. Or, (2) it may mean the Holy Prophet of Islam who, under God’s command, kindled a fire or a light but then the class of hypocrites came into being, whom the light touched but did not penetrate. Though apparently in light, they were really deprived of it, and owing to the disease of their heart their deprivation grew as the light increased. In this case the Arabic text would read somewhat like this: مثلھم كمثل بعض اصحاب الذی استوقد نارا فلما اضاءت ماحوله۔الخ i.e. their condition is like the condition of some of those surrounding a person who kindles a fire, etc. This reading is also correct according to the Arabic idiom. In either case the people deprived of light are the hypocrites.
By 'a fire' is meant, the light of divine teaching and heavenly signs. This is corroborated by other passages in the Quran. In 28:30, 31, it is said that Moses saw a fire near Mount Sinai and, approaching it, he heard a voice, saying, O Moses, verily I, even I, am Allah, the Lord of the worlds. Elsewhere in the Quran divine revelation is compared to "fire" and it is stated that some human beings possessing extraordinary spiritual potency are near to being lit up even without divine revelation (24:36). Thus, according to the Quran, the word "fire" sometimes signifies the light of divine teaching and heavenly signs, and in the present verse the word has been used in this very sense.
According to Arab usage, the word "fire" is sometimes also used for war. In 5:65 the Jews are said to have lighted the fire of war. In this sense, the verse would mean that hypocrites conspired with disbelievers to wage war against Islam. But the war only served to increase the power of Islam, leaving the hypocrites utterly confounded.
The words, Allah took away their light, may mean that the wars tore away from the hypocrites the bright mantle of Islam with which they had disguised themselves. The wars not only failed to bring the expected victory to the disbelievers, but also helped to expose the hypocrites who betrayed themselves by failing to join up with the Muslims and share the perils of the wars with them. The gradual extension and elaboration of the teachings of Islam also helped the exposure. The more commands there were to obey, the more burdensome did obedience prove to the hypocrites.
The expression, left them in thick darkness; they see not, means that the hypocrites had fomented the wars in order to re-establish their influence but the actual result of these wars was the exposure of their hypocrisy and their consequent confusion and perplexity.
If the word "fire" means the light of Islam, the verse would signify that though the light of Islam touched the hypocrites on the outside, yet their hearts remained unaffected by it. God deprived them not only of the light of revelation with all its blessings but also of the light of conscience which He has implanted in the nature of man. (close)
صُمٌّۢ بُکۡمٌ عُمۡیٌ فَہُمۡ لَا یَرۡجِعُوۡنَ ﴿ۙ۱۹﴾
صُمُّۢ بُكۡمٌ عُمۡيٞ فَهُمۡ لَا يَرۡجِعُونَ
c. 2:172; 6:40; 7:180; 8:23; 10:43; 11:25; 17:98; 21:46; 27:81; 30:53-54; 43:41. (close)
38. As they turned a deaf ear to the Prophet’s admonition and did not express their doubts to have them dispelled and had become insensitive to the progress that Islam was making before their very eyes, they are spoken of as deaf, dumb and blind. (close)
a. 2:172; 6:40; 7:180; 8:23; 10:43; 11:25; 17:98; 21:46; 27:81; 30:53, 54; 43:41. (close)
25. Important Words:
صم (deaf persons) which is the plural of اصم (a deaf man) is derived from صم. They say صم القارورة i.e. he put a stopper into the mouth of the bottle. صم means, his ear became closed up, or he became deaf, or he had a heaviness of hearing. اصمmeans, one who has a stoppage of the ear and heaviness of hearing. رجل اصم also means, a man whom one does not hope to win over and who will not be turned back from the object of his desire. The word also signifies one who persists in his evil course (Aqrab).
بكم (dumb persons) which is the plural of ابكم (a dumb man) is derived from بكم (bakima), i.e. he became dumb. بكم(bakuma) means, he kept silent intentionally. ابكم means, one who is dumb either by natural conformation or from inability to express himself; or, one not having ability to find words, though possessing the faculty of speech (Taj).
عمی (blind persons) which is the plural of اعمی (a blind person) is derived from عمی i.e. he became totally blind. اعمی means, one physically blind of both eyes; or one blind in respect of mental vision (Aqrab). See also 2:16.
The verse aptly describes the mental condition of the class of hypocrites mentioned in the previous verse. The first cause of their going astray was that they had turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of the Prophet. Secondly, they did not give straightforward expression to their doubts to have them dispelled. Exaggerated pride and self-esteem prevented them from asking questions. Lastly, they had become insensitive to the progress Islam was making and the change it had effected in its followers. As they made no use of their ears, their tongues and their eyes, they are spoken of as deaf, dumb and blind.
The words, they will not return, point to an important truth. Man is born with a pure nature—the nature of Islam—and it is only by his evil deeds that he corrupts himself. So the words, they will not return, allude to the fact that these men have strayed away from their original good nature, and though God is calling them back to the pristine purity of their nature, they will not return. (close)
اَوۡ کَصَیِّبٍ مِّنَ السَّمَآءِ فِیۡہِ ظُلُمٰتٌ وَّ رَعۡدٌ وَّ بَرۡقٌ ۚ یَجۡعَلُوۡنَ اَصَابِعَہُمۡ فِیۡۤ اٰذَانِہِمۡ مِّنَ الصَّوَاعِقِ حَذَرَ الۡمَوۡتِ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ مُحِیۡطٌۢ بِالۡکٰفِرِیۡنَ ﴿۲۰﴾
أَوۡ كَصَيِّبٖ مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ فِيهِ ظُلُمَٰتٞ وَرَعۡدٞ وَبَرۡقٞ يَجۡعَلُونَ أَصَٰبِعَهُمۡ فِيٓ ءَاذَانِهِم مِّنَ ٱلصَّوَٰعِقِ حَذَرَ ٱلۡمَوۡتِۚ وَٱللَّهُ مُحِيطُۢ بِٱلۡكَٰفِرِينَ
39. Sama’ means, anything which hangs overhead and gives shade; the sky or the heaven; a cloud or clouds (Lane). (close)
b. 13:13; 24:44; 30:25. (close)
40. This and the preceding verses refer to two classes of hypocrites: (1) Disbelievers who posed as Muslims; and (2) believers, bad in faith and worse in works, with leaning towards disbelief. The purport of the verse seems to be that the condition of the latter class of hypocrites is like that of those timorous people who, at a mere shower of rain with thunder and lightning, become alarmed and fail to benefit by it. (close)
c. 13:13; 24:44; 30:25. (close)
26. Important Words:
او (or) is a conjunction signifying several meanings. Here it is used in the sense of "or". It does not, however, denote doubt but simply indicates the presentation of an alternative similitude.
صیب (heavy rain) is derived from صاب which means, it came down; it descended; or it poured forth. The word صیبmeans, clouds pouring down heavy rain; or heavy rain itself (Lane).
السماء (the clouds) is derived from سما i.e. he or it became high or towering. Thus السماء means, anything that hangs high over your head and covers you in its shade; the sky; any canopy, ceiling or roof; a cloud (Aqrab).
رعد (thunder). رعدالسحاب means, the cloud thundered. رعد لی فلان means, he threatened me. رعد therefore means, thunder of clouds; or thunder of war, etc. In the present verse it is used figuratively, meaning, weighty commands; or prophecies relating to coming disasters; or injunctions relating to war, etc.
البرق (lightning) is derived from برق i.e. it shone or gave out light. برق السماء means, the sky shone with lightning. برق الشیءmeans, the thing shone with light. البرق therefore means, lightning or gleaming in the clouds (Aqrab). In this verse it is used figuratively, meaning, victories in wars; or spoils of war; or clear signs of truth, etc.
الصواعق (thunderclaps) is the plural of الصاعقة (a thunderclap) which is derived from صعق (sa‘iqa) or صعق (sa‘aqa). They say صعقت السماء القوم i.e. the sky hit the people with lightning. صعق الرعد means, the thunder grew louder. صعق الرجل means, the man fell down in a swoon; he died; he lost the power of thinking owing to some great and sudden noise accompanying a calamity. الصاعقة means: (1) lightning that descends from the thundering clouds and burns what it smites; (2) any destructive calamity or punishment; (3) death and destruction; (4) noise or report accompanying a divine punishment like an earthquake, etc.; (5) swoon and unconsciousness (Aqrab & Lane).
الموت (death) is from مات i.e. he died (in various senses); he became as if dead; he slept. موت is the opposite of حیاة (life) and means death or lifelessness. Like life, death is also of several kinds: (1) Stoppage of the power of growth (50:12). (2) Deprivation of sensation or consciousness (19:24). (3) Depri-vation of the faculty of intellect and understanding (6:123). (4) To be, as though, dead with grief or sorrow or fear (14:18). (5) Spiritual death (3:170). (6) Sleep, which the Arabs call a light sort of death (Mufradat). (7) Stillness or motionlessness. (8) Being reduced to poverty. (9) Becoming worn out. (10) Becoming base, abject, vile and despicable. (11) Becoming destitute of cultivation or of inhabitants (Lane). According to Lisan موت (death) also signifies any painful condition such as poverty, humiliation, dotage, sinfulness, etc.
This verse refers to the second class of hypocrites, viz. those who, though not quite insincere in their belief, were yet weak in their faith and practice and became upset whenever there was a threat of attack by the enemy or whenever a situation arose demanding some sacrifice. These people feared the oppression of men more than the punishment of God, and tried to maintain good relations with disbelievers by secret correspondence and by supplying information about the believers. They consoled themselves with the thought that as Islam was a true religion from God, its victory was assured in spite of anything they might do, and hence it was not proper for them to expose themselves to unnecessary danger.
Islam has no place for such weaklings. It is a religion of action and sacrifice. That is why, in the very beginning of the Quran, such people have been plainly told that God reckons them among the hypocrites and will deal with them accordingly. Islam teaches us not to spare any sacrifice to win the pleasure of God and one who is not prepared for such a complete sacrifice will not deserve the reward promised to Islam and Muslims.
This and the preceding verses refer to two classes of hypocrites: (1) disbelievers who posed as Muslims, and (2) believers bad in faith and worse in works––with leanings towards disbelievers. This is proved by the following considerations: (a) In verse 18 it is said that the hypocrites kindled a fire, but in the present verse there is no mention of the hypocrites kindling a fire. On the contrary, mention is made of signs or trials coming from heaven; (b) In the first simile it was said that when the fire illuminated its surroundings, the hypocrites were bereft of their sight. In the second simile embodied in vv. 20 & 21 it is said that when there is light, the people take advantage of it and begin to move;(c) In the first simile it was said that the people referred to were not believers. They were deaf, dumb and blind. But in the second simile it is only said that if God willed He would make these people deaf and blind, implying that they were not so already but would become so, if they continued to pursue the course they had adopted; and (d) The men in the first simile were said to be plotting against Islam and Muslims, whereas those in the second simile are not spoken of as plotting against Muslims, but simply as leaving them alone in times of danger. All these facts indicate that these verses refer to two separate classes of hypocrites and this is why the word او (or) has been placed between the two verses. They are two separate classes and not the same class.
The purport of the present verse is that the condition of the latter class of hypocrites is like that of those timorous people who, at a mere shower of rain with thunder and lightning, become timid and fail to benefit from the rain. Similarly, the coming of Islam is accompanied by trials and hardships. The true believer knows that these too have a purpose and is not upset. The trials serve only to increase his zeal.
Objection is sometimes taken against Prophets on the ground that their advent produces disorder and disunion in the earth. The verse provides an answer to this objection by pointing out that just as rain, which gives life to the earth, is accompanied by darkness and thunder and a temporary screening of the sun, even so the trials which accompany the advent of Prophets only presage the dawning of a new era in even greater splendour and effulgence.
The word صاعقة (thunderclap) is spoken of in the verse as making the hypocrites fearful of death. The verse suggests that such a fear is unreasonable because the thunder-clap which makes these people afraid comes after the lightning has actually struck. To slip one’s fingers into one’s ears can therefore serve no purpose. A state of war already exists between believers and disbelievers and this must entail some suffering and hardship. It is of no use to the hypocrites to try to escape the implications and consequences of war.
The words, Allah encompasses the disbelievers, at the end of the verse point to the unreasonableness of the fear entertained by the hypocrites. Since God has already decreed the defeat and destruction of the disbelievers, the hypocrites need have no fear of any serious harm from them. (close)
یَکَادُ الۡبَرۡقُ یَخۡطَفُ اَبۡصَارَہُمۡ ؕ کُلَّمَاۤ اَضَآءَ لَہُمۡ مَّشَوۡا فِیۡہِ ٭ۙ وَ اِذَاۤ اَظۡلَمَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ قَامُوۡا ؕ وَ لَوۡ شَآءَ اللّٰہُ لَذَہَبَ بِسَمۡعِہِمۡ وَ اَبۡصَارِہِمۡ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ عَلٰی کُلِّ شَیۡءٍ قَدِیۡرٌ ﴿٪۲۱﴾
يَكَادُ ٱلۡبَرۡقُ يَخۡطَفُ أَبۡصَٰرَهُمۡۖ كُلَّمَآ أَضَآءَ لَهُم مَّشَوۡاْ فِيهِ وَإِذَآ أَظۡلَمَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ قَامُواْۚ وَلَوۡ شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ لَذَهَبَ بِسَمۡعِهِمۡ وَأَبۡصَٰرِهِمۡۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيۡءٖ قَدِيرٞ
c. 4:73-74. (close)
41. The hypocrites, described as weak believers, are very near to losing their sight. They have not actually lost it, but if they are repeatedly confronted with situations demanding courage and sacrifice symbolized by lightning and thunder, they are very likely to lose it—their faith. But the mercy of God has so ordained that lightning is not always accompanied by thunderbolt. Often it is only a brilliant flash, which lifts the veil of darkness and helps the wayfarer to move on. In case Islam seems to make progress, these hypocrites make common cause with the Muslims. But when lightning is accompanied by thunder, i.e. when the situation demands sacrifice of life or property the world becomes dark to them; they become dumbfounded and stand still, refusing to move on with the Faithful. (close)
41A. Shai’ signifies that which is willed or desired. (close)
a. 4:73, 74. (close)
27. Important Words:
یخطف (snatch away) is derived from خطف meaning, he seized a thing quickly; he snatched it away خطف البرق البصر means, the lightning snatched away the sight (Aqrab).
شیء (thing or what one wills) is infinitive from شاء i.e. he willed or he intended. The word شیء is ordinarily translated as, a thing or anything or something; but as in Arabic the infinitive is sometimes used to give the meaning of a passive participle, the word may also be translated as, what is willed or intended or something that one wills or intends.
قدیر (has the power) is derived from قدر. They say قدر علیه i.e. he had the power to do it; or he possessed power over him or it. قادر means, powerful, possessing power over, or possessing power to do. قدیر is the intensive form of قادر and means, very powerful, most powerful, having or possessing full power.
The verse purports to say that these hypocrites—the hypocrites described as weak believers—are very near to losing their sight. They have not actually lost it, but if they are repeatedly confronted with situations demanding courage and sacrifice symbolized by lightning and thunder, they are very likely to lose their faith. But the mercy of God has so ordained that lightning is not always accompanied by a thunder-bolt. Often it is only a brilliant flash, which lifts the veil of darkness and helps the wayfarer to move on. In this case it symbolizes the dazzling power of Islam. On such occasions these hypocrites make common cause with the Muslims. But when lightning is accompanied by thunder, i.e.when the situation demands sacrifice of life or property, the world becomes dark to the hypocrites; they become dumb-founded and stand still, refusing to move on with the faithful.
The words, and if Allah willed, He could take away their hearing and their sight, indicate that the hypocrites referred to here had not been deprived of their hearing or sight till then. It was still open to them to submit to the teaching of the Quran completely and to accept the leadership of the Prophet in all sincerity. If, however, they continued in their present course and did not stop deserting the Muslims in difficult times, they would soon cease to have any connection with Islam and the Muslims—they would lose all sight and all hearing.
The words, surely, Allah has the power to do all that He wills, imply that the fear of the hypocrites lest they should come to harm at the hands of disbelievers has its origin in their want of faith in God and of a knowledge of His attributes. If they only knew that Allah had the power to do all that He willed and that He had decreed that Islam should triumph over all its enemies, they would not fear the disbelievers at all. Fear other than the fear of God is always due to a weakness of faith in God, and a lack of true knowledge of His attributes.
The statement that, Allah has the power to do all that He wills, also disposes of the question, sometimes very naively asked, whether God has the power to cause His own death or make an equal to Himself or to speak a lie, etc. As explained above, the word شیء means, something that is willed or intended, and as God never wills to cause His own death or to make an equal to Himself or to speak a lie, etc.—because these are signs of imperfection and God is perfect—so these and all similar questions, beside being foolish, are irrelevant and must not arise.
Lastly, it may be noted that this verse also serves as a warning to Muslims. One may be careful against drifting into a state of كفر(disbelief) or becoming a منافق (hypocrite) of the first class, but one may imperceptibly turn into a hypocrite of the second class without feeling the change in the beginning. A true Muslim should, therefore, be ever on his guard against that danger. He should not only hold the beliefs taught by Islam but should also act like a true Muslim and be ever prepared for all sacrifices in the cause of Islam. (close)
یٰۤاَیُّہَا النَّاسُ اعۡبُدُوۡا رَبَّکُمُ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَکُمۡ وَ الَّذِیۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِکُمۡ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ﴿ۙ۲۲﴾
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ ٱعۡبُدُواْ رَبَّكُمُ ٱلَّذِي خَلَقَكُمۡ وَٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُونَ
42. This verse contains the first commandment of God given in the Qur’an. As the words show the commandment is addressed to all mankind and not to Arabs only, which indicates that Islam, from the very beginning, claimed to be a universal religion. It abolished the ideal of national religion and conceived mankind as one brotherhood. (close)
a. 4:2, 37; 5:73, 118; 16:37; 22:78; 51:57. (close)
28. Important Words:
رب (Lord). For the meaning of this word see note on 1:2. In the present verse God Himself explains the meaning of the word رب by saying ربكم الذی خلقكم i.e. your Rabb is He Who has created you. This meaning, though absolutely correct, is not found in the ordinary lexicons, which interpret it simply as Lord and Sustainer. The full meaning of the word thus turns out to be "Lord, Creator and Sustainer".
لعل (so that) is generally used to denote expectation, or doubt combined with expectation. That is why Christian translators have generally rendered it as, haply or peradventure or perhaps. But this rendering is clearly wrong in the present context; for, as explained by Lane, the word when used by God generally signifies not doubt but certainty. In fact, God’s announcements are in the nature of royal proclamations in which such words are used not to express doubt resulting from ignorance but to express hope born of certainty. The word has therefore been rightly rendered here as, that or so that. Sometimes it may be rendered as, may be.
As we have seen, the Quran began with the claim that the best Book of guidance can only come from a Being Who is All-Knowing and that such a being is Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of the world, Who has sent down the Quran for the guidance and perfection of mankind. This Book is (1) a perfect treasure-house of all that is good and valuable, (2) is free from all defects, and (3) does not stop short at any stage of spiritual progress but carries men and women of all grades of righteousness to higher and still higher stages, and so on to unlimited progress. Having made this claim, the Quran proceeds to give a brief description of the three classes: believers, disbelievers and hypocrites.
Attention is then drawn to the fact that as the Quran enables the righteous to make greater and greater spiritual progress, everybody should try to become one of the righteous and earn the spiritual benefits of the Quran. Says the Quran: O ye men! worship your Lord (i.e. enter into His service)…that you may become righteous.
Worship demands complete subjection, and the sense of subjection is generated in its perfection only when one and one’s forefathers are all under obligation. History tells us that lives have been sacrificed for the sake of cruel kings simply because the ancestors of those kings had done some good to the ancestors of the people making the sacrifice. The feeling of obligation becomes stronger as generation after generation is laid under obligation. Therefore, it is a perfectly natural appeal which is made in the verse in the words: O ye men, worship your Lord Who created you and those who were before you.
The verse then proceeds to make it clear that the object of worship is not merely recognising and acknowledging God. If it were so, the worship of idols, however unjust, would not be so injurious. God is worshipped for the sake of attaining righteousness and spiritual perfection. How can false gods make man perfect spiritually, when they have not created him and have no knowledge of his powers or limitations?
The words لعلكم تتقون (that you may become righteous) clearly point out that the command to worship is not for the benefit of God. It is for the benefit of man himself. Those who regard the Law as a curse look upon it only as a mere show of authority on the part of God. But the Quran clearly states that God’s commands are for the guidance of man. They help to nurture all his latent powers. Such a teaching cannot be a curse. He who warns a blind person of a pit lying in front of him does not curse him. A doctor who prescribes for a suffering patient does no wrong to him.
There is another point to be remembered. The word رب means, He Who creates and then develops by degrees. At the birth of man, the foundation is laid for his perfect future development. If worship, on his part, does not lead to the perfection of his latent powers, it is no worship at all. It is a mere facade or a lifeless form.
The clause لعلكم تتقون (that you may become righteous) teaches us to avoid not only those things which impair man’s relation with God but also those which impair the relation between man and man. He who regards God as his Creator and Sustainer will look to Him for his needs and will not cast greedy looks at the wealth of others. He can never be untrue to his fellow men, and will remain always at peace with them. The Companions of the Holy Prophet lived for God and looked up only to Him. The peace which the world witnessed in their time remains unparalleled. Indeed there can be no peace, unless we are devoted to God. If Europe had been so devoted, she would not have been suffering from the mortal disease now eating into her vitals—the hunger for land and wealth.
This verse contains the first command of God given in the Quran. As the words, O ye men, indicate, this command to worship God is addressed to all mankind and not to Arabs only, which shows that Islam, from the very beginning, claimed to be universal. It abolished the idea of national religion and conceived mankind as one brotherhood.
The question "Who is to be worshipped" is answered by the word رب (Creator) in order to disavow false gods who have created nothing and are themselves created.
Men are actuated either by love or fear. In this verse appeal is made to both motives. Love either springs from حسن i.e. beauty of the beloved, or from a feeling of احسان i.e. favour received from same one. God is beauty and the source of all beauty. One aspect of His beauty is that He creates man in a very low condition and then by degrees develops and raises him to the highest mark of perfection. The feeling of obligation is appealed to by saying "Your Lord is He Who created you and your fathers".
It is curious that when Jesus was asked, "Which is the great commandment in the law?" he said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment" (Matt. 22:36, 37). But this commandment which Jesus calls the great commandment in the Law is not presented in the beginning of the New Testament. It comes much later and then only when people asked Jesus about it, although as regards importance it should have been given the first place. In the Old Testament also this commandment occurs in later chapters. So is the case with other Scriptures. None gives it the first place. Only the Quran does so. (close)
الَّذِیۡ جَعَلَ لَکُمُ الۡاَرۡضَ فِرَاشًا وَّ السَّمَآءَ بِنَآءً ۪ وَّ اَنۡزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَآءِ مَآءً فَاَخۡرَجَ بِہٖ مِنَ الثَّمَرٰتِ رِزۡقًا لَّکُمۡ ۚ فَلَا تَجۡعَلُوۡا لِلّٰہِ اَنۡدَادًا وَّ اَنۡتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۲۳﴾
ٱلَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ ٱلۡأَرۡضَ فِرَٰشٗا وَٱلسَّمَآءَ بِنَآءٗ وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ مَآءٗ فَأَخۡرَجَ بِهِۦ مِنَ ٱلثَّمَرَٰتِ رِزۡقٗا لَّكُمۡۖ فَلَا تَجۡعَلُواْ لِلَّهِ أَندَادٗا وَأَنتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُونَ
b. 20:54; 27:62; 43:11; 51:49; 71:20; 78:7. (close)
c. 51:48; 78:13; 79:28-29. (close)
43. The expression suggests that just as a building or a roof is a means of protection for those living in or under it, similarly the remoter parts of the universe serve as a protection for our planet (earth); and those who have studied the science of the stars, the clouds and other atmospheric phenomena, know how the other heavenly bodies, running their courses through the boundless expanse rising high above the earth on all sides, make for its safety and stability. It is also hinted here that the perfection of the material world depends upon the co-ordination between earthly and heavenly forces. (close)
a. 20:54; 27:62; 43:11; 51:49; 71:20; 78:7. (close)
b. 51:48; 78:13; 79:28, 29. (close)
29. Important Words:
فراش (a bed) is derived from فرش. They say فرش الشیء i.e. he spread out the thing; he expanded it. فراش means, a thing that is spread upon the ground: a thing that is spread for one to sit or lie upon: a bed on which one sleeps; a wide or spacious plain or tract of land (Lane).
بناء (a roof) is derived from بنی meaning, he built; he constructed. So بناء means, a building; a structure; a thing that is built or constructed; also the roof or ceiling of a house or of a chamber or the like (Lane).
الثمرات (fruits) is the plural of ثمرة meaning, a fruit. The word is derived from the verb ثمر which means, the fruit became ripe. اثمر means, the tree, etc. produced fruit. The word ثمرة is also used figuratively, meaning, son or offspring; or profit of a thing (Taj).
انداد (equals) is the plural of ند which means, the like of a person or thing; or the like of a thing by participation of substance. It is a more specialised term than مثل which signifies alike by participation of anything. The word ند also means, a thing which does or may supply the place of another thing; or a like that is contrary or opposed to another thing; a thing taken as an object of worship instead of the true God (Lane). ند is to be distinguished from شریك; for whereas ند is the like of a thing, being contrary or opposed to it, شریك is simply a participant that shares the attributes or work of a thing (Aqrab under شریك and ند)
The subject matter of the last verse has been completed in this. It was said in that verse that رب should be worshipped because He is the Creator and He alone can foster man’s powers. In the present verse it is said that not only man but the heavens and the earth also have been created by God. It is evident that human actions depend upon environment. Trade, agriculture, industry, travel, etc. are made possible ultimately by the nature and influence of the heavens and the earth. So human actions can be guided aright only by a Being Who has made the heavens and the earth. It is only He Who can harness them for the use of man. None else has such knowledge, power or authority. So man should worship God alone.
The expression, and Who made the heaven a roof, suggests that just as a building or a roof is a source of protection for those living in or under it, similarly the remoter parts of the universe are a protection for our planet; and those who have studied the science of the stars, the clouds and other atmospheric phenomena know how the other heavenly bodies, running their courses through the boundless expanse rising high above the earth on all sides, make for its safety and stability.
In the clause, caused water to come down from the clouds, the word سماء has been used in the sense of "cloud", whereas in the preceding clause, and Who made the heaven a roof, it signifies "heaven". Had it meant the same thing in the two places, it would have been replaced in the second place by a pronoun. The repetition of the word is intended to convey a difference of meaning in the second place.
After making it clear that everything in this world is the creation of God, attention is drawn to the fact that God has no equal. There is nothing in the whole universe which can show any part of it to have been created by anyone other than God. Why, then, should man worship anyone else?
In this verse it is also hinted that the perfection of the material world depends upon a co-ordination of earthly and heavenly forces. When water is made corrupt by men on earth, fresh and pure water is supplied from heaven. Breathing makes the air foul but it is purified by nature. The eye is useful, but of what avail is it without the rays of the sun? In short, if the earth is a bed for man, the heaven is a roof. So is the case with the spiritual world. Man is gifted with reason but, like the eye, reason cannot function properly without the help of divine revelation. Human instincts are pure but they become polluted by greed, malice, etc. They can only be cleansed by the water of revelation. Hence man cannot attain to spiritual success without attaching himself to God. By showing material life to be dependent upon both earth and heaven, God points to a parallel in the spiritual world, and teaches that in spiritual matters also man should not trust earthly means alone. The intellect is not enough. Like the material world, the spiritual world also requires heavenly help. Just as there is a heaven above the earth, there is a heaven above the heart and brain of man. This is God’s guidance received through revelation.
An interesting question arises here. According to a widespread modern belief, the idea of God has evolved out of a primitive belief in spirits, ghosts and fairies. It is also said that in primitive times man worshipped beasts and poisonous insects and then gradually advanced to the idea of God. Modern critics appear to be in agreement that the idea of many gods has always preceded the idea of one God. The history of man’s beliefs is cited as evidence.
Some of those who hold such a view seem anxious to reconcile it with religion. They claim that their view does not go against religion. They say that God revealed the laws of nature by degrees; therefore there is nothing surprising if He should have revealed Himself also by degrees. Now, all religions base themselves upon revelation. And if the basis of religion is revelation, then the belief—that God revealed Himself by degrees and that He first guided the world to other gods, and then to Himself—at once falls to the ground. It is against all reason that God should first guide man to spirits, stones, rivers and snakes and then reveal Himself. What was there to hinder Him from guiding man to Himself from the very beginning? The living religions of the world have ever believed in revelation. Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Islam, all teach that revelation began with the creation of man. This being the case, there can have been no gradual evolution of the idea of God. Evolutionary accounts, therefore, conflict with religion. Those who hold them must deny revelation, the basis of religion.
The denial of revelation is, of course, very common in the Christian West. Christendom has failed for a long time to provide any examples of persons with revelation experience. Little wonder that those speculators, who have had no such experience themselves and who have not been made aware of such experience in others, should deny revelation outright. According to the Quran, however, God has spoken to man in all ages. The Quran itself is a record of revelation and, according to the Quran, the followers of Islam must continue to receive revelation. The recipient in our age is the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. Nobody who knows all this can be impressed by denials of revelation. He can only treat them as mere ignorant conjectures.
Evolutionary accounts have little foundation in fact. It is said that the idea of God found amongst uncivilised peoples of the world today is polytheistic, therefore the idea of one God must have originated in polytheism. But it is not realized that the uncivilized peoples of today are not samples of the earliest human beings. Civilization has known many ages. Greece, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, India and China were centres of civilization and culture in their own days, but now they seem engulfed in darkness and ignorance. If ignorance can grow out of civilization, why not polytheism out of monotheism? In India, Krishna preached the doctrine of the Unity of God, but after his time a wave of idolatry swept over the country; and when Muslims came here, they found idol-worship rampant throughout the land. In Judaism false gods have taken the place of Jehovah. Jesus preached a simple faith in One God, but Christendom now believes in Trinity. A lower conception can easily supplant a higher one. Islam is an historical religion. Even its enemies admit that it teaches belief in the pure Unity of God. But today even Muslims have degenerated to the worship of things other than God. These examples refute the doctrine that monotheism has necessarily grown out of polytheism.
Moreover, a study of primitive religion itself shows that among the primitive people the idea of a perfect Deity exists side by side with their worship of many deities. Only, God is known by different names among different peoples. There also exists among the primitives the idea of revelation; they hold it to be the medium through which they came to have a knowledge of God. (close)
وَ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ فِیۡ رَیۡبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلۡنَا عَلٰی عَبۡدِنَا فَاۡتُوۡا بِسُوۡرَۃٍ مِّنۡ مِّثۡلِہٖ ۪ وَ ادۡعُوۡا شُہَدَآءَکُمۡ مِّنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰہِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ صٰدِقِیۡنَ ﴿۲۴﴾
وَإِن كُنتُمۡ فِي رَيۡبٖ مِّمَّا نَزَّلۡنَا عَلَىٰ عَبۡدِنَا فَأۡتُواْ بِسُورَةٖ مِّن مِّثۡلِهِۦ وَٱدۡعُواْ شُهَدَآءَكُم مِّن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ إِن كُنتُمۡ صَٰدِقِينَ
d. 10:39; 11:14; 17:89; 52:35. (close)
44. The subject of the incomparable excellence of the Qur’an has been dealt with at five different places, i.e. in 2:24; 10:39; 11:14; 17:89 & 52:34, 35. In two of these five verses (2:24 & 10:39) the challenge is identical, while in the remaining three verses three separate and different demands have been made from disbelievers. At first sight this difference in the form of the challenge at different places seems to be incongruous. But it is not so. In fact, these verses contain certain demands which stand for all time. The challenge is open even today in all the different forms mentioned in the Qur’an as it was in the time of the Holy Prophet.
Before explaining the various forms of these challenges it is worth noting that their mention in the Qur’an is invariably accompanied by a reference to wealth and power, except in the present verse which, as already stated, does not contain a new challenge but only repeats the challenge made in 10:39. From this it may be safely concluded that there exists a close connection between the question of wealth and power and the challenge for the production of the like of the Qur’an or a part thereof. This connection lies in the fact that the Qur’an has been held out to disbelievers as a priceless treasure. When disbelievers demanded material treasures from the Holy Prophet (11:13), they were told that he possessed a matchless treasure in the form of the Qur’an; and when they asked, Wherefore has not an angel come with him (11:13), they were told in reply that angels did descend upon him, for their function was to bring the Word of God and the Divine Word had already been vouchsafed to him. Thus both the demands—for a treasure and for the descent of angels—have been jointly met by the Qur’an which is a matchless treasure brought down by angels, and the challenge to produce its like has been put forward as a proof of its peerless quality.
Now, take the different verses containing this challenge separately. The greatest demand is made in 17:89, where disbelievers are required to bring a book like the whole of the Qur’an with all its manifold qualities. In that verse disbelievers are not required to represent their composition as the Word of God. They may bring it forward as their own composition and declare it to be the equal of, or, for that matter, better than, the Qur’an. But as at the time when this challenge was made the whole of the Qur’an had not yet been revealed, the disbelievers were not required to produce the like of the Qur’an then and there; and the challenge thus implied a prophecy that they would never be able to produce the like of it, neither in the form in which it then was, nor when it became complete. Again, the challenge was not confined to the disbelievers of the Prophet’s time alone, but extended to doubters and critics of all time. The reason why the disbelievers in 11:14 have been called upon to produce ten Surahs and not the whole of the Qur’an is that the question in that verse did not relate to the perfection of the whole of the Qur’an in all respects, but to that of only a portion of it. The disbelievers had objected to some parts of it being defective. Hence they were not required to bring a complete book like the whole of the Qur’an, but only ten Surahs in place of those parts of the Qur’an which they deemed to be defective, in order that the truth of their assertion might be tested. As for the selection of the specific number 10 for this purpose, it may be noted that since in 17:89 the whole of the Qur’an was claimed to be a perfect Book, its opponents were called upon to produce the like of the whole of it; but as in 11:14 the point was that certain portions of it were objected to, so they were asked to choose ten such portions as appeared to them to be most defective and then produce a composition even like those portions. In 10:39 disbelievers were called upon to produce the like of only one Surah of the Qur’an. This is because, unlike the above-mentioned two verses, the challenge in that verse was in support of a claim made by the Qur’an itself and not in refutation of any objection of the disbelievers. In 10:38 the Qur’an claimed to possess five very prominent qualities. In support of this claim, verse 10:39 throws out a challenge to those who deny or doubt it to produce a single Surah containing these qualities in the same perfect form in which they are contained in the 10th Surah. The fifth challenge to produce the like of the Qur’an is contained in the verse under comment (2:24) and here also, as in 10:39, disbelievers have been called upon to bring forward a single Surah like that of the Qur’an. This challenge is preceded by the claim that the Qur’an guides the righteous to the highest stages of spiritual progress. The disbelievers are told that if they are in doubt about the Divine origin of the Qur’an, then they should bring forward a single Surah that may be comparable to it in the spiritual influence it exercises over its followers. See also "The Larger Edition of the Commentary," pp. 58-62.
The above explanation will show that all these challenges calling upon disbelievers to produce the like of the Qur’an are quite distinct and separate one from the other, and all of them stand for all time, none of them superseding or cancelling the other. But as the Qur’an comprises sublime and lofty ideas, it was inevitable that a most beautiful diction and the chastest style should have been employed as the vehicle for the expression of those ideas; otherwise the subject-matter was liable to remain obscure and doubtful and the perfect beauty of the Qur’an would have been marred. Thus, in whatever form and in whatever respect disbelievers have been challenged to produce a composition like the Qur’an, the demand for beauty of style and elegance of diction comparable to that of the Qur’an also forms a part of the challenge. (close)
a. 10:39; 11:14; 17:89; 52:35. (close)
30. Important Words:
عبد (servant). For the root meaning of the word see note under 1:5. As explained there, the verb عبد means, he showed complete submissiveness and humility; or he received the imprint of a thing. So عبد would mean a person who, through complete submission and humility to God, has become, as it were, an image of God. The word has been used here about the Holy Prophet by way of endearment and is expressive of the exalted position he holds in the sight of God.
شھداء (helpers) is the plural of شھید which is derived from شھد i.e. he was present; or he gave witness, etc. Thus شھیدmeans, one who is present; one who sees or witnesses; one who gives testimony or evidence; one who possesses much knowledge; one from whose knowledge nothing is hidden (Aqrab & Lane); also a helper (Mufradat). Following the last mentioned signification the word may also refer here to the Jews who were friends of the disbelievers (5:81) and spoke of the idolaters as being better guided in religion than those who believe (4:52).
In the preceding two verses the Quran gave its first commandment to the people. Having been thus directly addressed by God, the polytheistic disbelievers felt a natural reaction to repudiate the monotheistic teaching of the Quran, because they felt that its acceptance meant that they should give up their long cherished beliefs.
In the present verse God says that if the Quran created doubts and disquietude in their minds and is not worthy of acceptance, the disbelievers should produce one like it. If they cannot, then this very fact would prove them to be wrong.
The subject of the incomparable excellence of the Quran, has been dealt with at five different places in the Quran, i.e. in 2:24; 10:39; 11:14; 17:89; & 52:34, 35, and disbelievers have been challenged, to produce its equal.
In two of these five verses (2:24 & 10:39) the challenge is identical, while in the remaining three verses three separate and different demands have been made from disbelievers. Thus, to begin with the largest demand in 17:89, disbelievers are challenged to produce the like of the whole Quran, and they have been told that even if all jinn and men should join together, they would not be able to produce it. In 11:14 the challenge is limited to the production of ten chapters. In 2:24 and 10:39, however, it has been confined to one Surah only; while in 52:34-35, the condition of even one Surahhas been omitted and disbelievers have been given the option of producing even a single narration similar to any one narration (i.e. announcement) of the Quran. On the face of it, this difference in the form of the challenge at different places seems to be incongruent and to spring from a lack of harmony in the Quran. Some commentators have endeavoured to explain away this seeming incongruity by saying that it was due to the challenge having been made at different times. At first disbelievers were called upon to produce the like of the whole Quran. When they failed to do so, the challenge was whittled down to the production of the like of any ten chapters. When, however, they were unable to produce even ten chapters, the challenge was further reduced to the production of a single chapter; and, lastly, disbelievers were asked to produce even a single narration like any narration of the Quran. This explanation, however, does not seem to be satisfactory. The different Surahs containing these different challenges were revealed, in the following order: (1) 52:34, 35; (2) 17:89; (3) 11:14; (4) 10:39; (5) 2:24 (Rodwell). Now in Surah 52, the first to be revealed, the challenge is not qualified by any condition as regards size, disbelievers having been given the choice of producing even one single narration similar to any narration of the Quran. It is very strange that, whereas at first the challenge was unqualified and disbelievers were called upon to produce something comparable to any narration of the Quran, later it began to be hedged round by conditions and stipulations, first requiring disbelievers to produce the like of the whole book, then reducing the challenge to ten Surahs, and last of all reducing it to a single chapter. The order is most unnatural.
Moreover, some of the Surahs which contain this challenge were revealed on occasions so close to one another that some commentators have found it difficult to fix their order of priority with certainty. Hence it is unwise to settle this question on the basis of the chronological order of the Surahs containing this challenge.
Another point worth considering in this connection is that the verses in question do not mention any historical event but contain only a general challenge which stands for all time. Now the question is, in what form should the challenge be delivered to the world? Should disbelievers be called upon to produce the like of the whole Quran, or to produce ten Surahs like any ten Surahs of the Quran, or should they be called upon to bring forward the like of one Surah only or the like of any single piece of the Quran? If it is enough to make a demand for the like of a single piece of the Quran, why should a demand for the like of a Surah be made, and if it is enough to make a demand for the like of one Surah, the demand for the production of ten Surahs or, for that matter, for the whole of the Quran seems extravagant.
The fact is that these verses contain certain demands which stand for all time, and there is no need to enter into the question of their chronological order. The challenge can be made even today in all the different forms mentioned in the Quran as it was made at the time of the Holy Prophet.
Before explaining the various forms of these challenges it is worth noting that mention of them in the Quran is invariably accompanied by a reference to wealth and power, except in 2:24, which, as already stated, does not contain a new challenge but only repeats the challenge made in 10:39. From this it may be concluded that there exists a close connection between the question of wealth and power and the challenge for the production of the like of the Quran or a part thereof. This connection lies in the fact that the Quran has been held out to disbelievers as a priceless treasure. When disbelievers demanded material treasures from the Holy Prophet and asked, Wherefore has not a treasure been sent down to him (11:13), they were told in reply that he possessed a matchless treasure in the Quran. The same reply was repeated when disbelievers asked, Wherefore has not an angel come with him? (11:13). They were told in reply that angels did descend upon him; for their function was to bring the word of God, and the Divine Word had already been vouchsafed to him. Thus both the demand for a treasure and the demand for the descent of angels have been jointly met by offering the Quran as a matchless treasure brought down by angels, and the challenge to produce the like of the Quran has been put forward as a proof of its peerless quality.
Let us now take the different verses containing this challenge separately. The greatest demand is that made in 17:89, where disbelievers are required to bring a book like the whole of the Quran in all its manifold qualities. In this verse disbelievers are not required to represent their composition as the word of God. They may bring it forward as their own composition and declare it to be the equal of or, for that matter, better than the Quran. As, however, it was necessary to define in what respect the work to be produced was to resemble the Quran, the Quran says in the next verse, And of a truth We have (herein) set forth for mankind in various ways, all kinds of similitudes, but most of men would reject everything but disbelief (17:90), hinting thereby that if disbelievers reject the Divine origin of the Quran and believe it to be the work of the Prophet himself, then let them produce a book which, like the Quran, should possess the following excellences: (a) it should throw light on every essential subject pertaining to religion; (b) its discussion of these subjects should be exhaustive, offering detailed guidance on every question; (c) it should be free from all harm and contain nothing but good; and (d) it should aim not at the good of any particular people or community but at the well-being of all mankind, containing guidance for all temperaments and dispositions as well as for all circumstances and conditions. But as at the time when this challenge was made the whole of the Quran had not yet been revealed, disbelievers were not required to produce the like of the Quran there and then; and the challenge thus implied a prophecy that they would not be able to produce the like of it, neither in the form in which it then was nor when it became complete. Again, the challenge was not confined to the disbelievers of the Prophet’s time alone, but extended to doubters and critics of all times.
The second verse which contains a challenge is 11:14. In this verse the disbelievers’ objection that the Prophet had not come with a treasure, nor had an angel come to him, has been met by calling upon them to bring similar Surahswhich they should represent as the word of God. The latter demand, i.e. that pertaining to the representation of the required production as the word of God, has a reference to the objection of the disbelievers that no angel has come down to the Prophet. They are told that if no angel has really come to him and his claim to receive divine revelation through the medium of angels is false, then let them also produce ten Surahs, claiming, like him, that they have been brought down to them by angels, and then see what their end would be. If they had not the courage to forge a lie against God, how could they think that the Prophet could be guilty of such fabrication or, if he had dared to commit this forgery, why had he remained secure from God’s punishment?
The reason why the disbelievers in this verse have been called upon to produce ten Surahs and not the whole Quran is that the question here did not relate to the perfection of the Quran in all respects, but to that of only a portion of it. The disbelievers had objected to some parts of it being defective, as is evident from the words: They imagine that thou art now perhaps going to abandon part of that which has been revealed to thee (11:13). Hence, they have not been required here to bring a complete book like the whole Quran, but only ten Surahs in place of those parts of the Quran which they deem to be defective, in order that the truth of their assertion may be tested.
As for the selection of the specific number 10 for this purpose, it should be noted that in Arabic 10 represents a complete number. As the object was to refute the assertion of the disbelievers that certain portions of the Quran were defective, therefore the disbelievers were given the option of making as many as ten efforts to substantiate their claim. They were thus asked to produce ten Surahs not because they could produce less than that number but because the best way to refute their objection was to afford them several opportunities to substantiate the truth of their assertion. In short, since in 17:89 the whole Quran was claimed to be a perfect Book, its opponents were called upon to produce the like of the whole Quran; but since in 11:14 the point was that certain portions of it were objected to, so they were asked to choose ten such portions as appeared to them to be most defective and then, produce a composition even like those portions.
The third verse where the Quran has been declared to be matchless is 10:39. Here disbelievers have been called upon to produce the like of only one Surah of the Quran. This is so because, unlike the above-mentioned two verses, the challenge made in this verse is in support of a claim made by the Quran itself and not in refutation of any objection on the part of disbelievers. In the verses preceding 10:39, it was claimed that God possessed full authority over all things (see 10:32-36), and as a proof of this, in 10:38 the Quran was put forward as possessing the following excellences: (a) it contains teachings which could not be devised by man; (b) it has come in fulfilment of the prophecies contained in the previous Scriptures; (c) in it the imperfect teachings of the previous Scriptures have been perfected; (d) the word of God embodied in it has been made secure from being interpolated or tampered with by man; and (e) its teachings are meant for all men and all time. In support of this claim, verse 10:39 throws out a challenge to those who deny or doubt it to produce a single chapter containing these excellences in the same perfect form in which they are contained in this chapter, i.e. ch.10.
The verses 52:34, 35 contain the smallest of all demands. In these verses disbelievers are challenged to produce a single piece or a single announcement like any piece or announcement of the Quran. This demand also has been made in support of a claim made by the Quran itself and not in refutation of any objection on the part of disbelievers. Hence the smallness of the demand. The claim in question is made in the opening verses of chapter 52, i.e. Surah At-Tur, to the effect that the Quranic revelation which was promised to mankind through Moses on Mount Sinai, will continue to be written, read and published throughout the world and that its followers will continue to multiply and will comprise not only common men but persons of great spiritual and temporal eminence, and that the fountain of the new faith will continue to provide the water of eternal life to all the countries of the world so that the fulfilment of these prophecies will constitute a proof of the fact that there is a Day of Judgement. Thereafter the Quran proceeds in 52:34, 35 to challenge disbelievers that, if they look upon the revelation of the Quran to be a fabrication, then they should come forward and make a prophecy like the one made above. This challenge is unconditional and without qualification. Disbelievers are not required to represent what they produce as the word of God, nor is it laid down as a condition that their prophecy should be of their own devising. They may as they like either make a prophecy of their own devising or borrow it from any other Scripture. Again, disbelievers are not asked to bring forward as many prophecies as there are in the Quran—and these are legion—but to bring forward only one single prophecy similar to any one of the prophecies made in the beginning of the Surah. They are told that they will not be able to fulfil this demand, for such a prophecy could be made only by the Being Who is the Creator and Owner of the heavens and the earth, along with their treasures, and Who not only knows, but possesses mastery of, the unseen. This challenge also stands for all time.
The fifth challenge to produce a like of the Quran is contained in the verse under comment (2:24) and here also, as in 10:39, disbelievers have been called upon to bring a Surah like that of the Quran, not in refutation of any of their objections, but in support of a claim made by the Quran itself. In the case of the verse under comment this claim is stated in the beginning of the Surah in 2:3 which says: This is a perfect Book; there is no doubt in it; it is a guidance for the righteous. Similarly, 10:39 is also preceded with the words: there is no doubt about it (10:38). This shows that the challenge to produce a chapter like one of the Quran has special reference to the peculiarity which is described by the words, there is no doubt about it. The challenge given in the present Surah is preceded by the claim that the Quran is a guidance for those who fear God (2:3), which means that it guides the righteous to the highest stages of spiritual progress. Hence in the above challenge it has been declared that if disbelievers are in doubt as to the Divine origin of the Quran, then they should bring forward a Surah that may be comparable to the Quran in the spiritual influence it exercises over its followers.
One of the characteristics of the Quran is that, whatever chapter of it we may read, it casts a subtle and sublime spiritual influence over our minds. Thus, instead of creating doubts it dispels them and takes men to a stage where no doubt can possibly survive, which is the stage of communion with God. This stage can be attained only by the study of the Quran; no other Book can compare with it in this respect.
The above explanation will show that all these challenges calling upon disbelievers to produce the like of the Quran are quite distinct and separate one from another, and all of them stand for all time, none of them superseding or cancelling any other. The misconception that these challenges are one and the same seems to have arisen from the wrong notion that in all of them it is the elegance of the Quranic style and diction that has been held out as unique and incomparable and that it is such elegance of Arabic diction that disbelievers have been called upon to produce. But this is not the case. The challenges made in the five Surahs referred to above are not one or identical nor do they make the same demand; each has a distinct and separate demand of its own and it is in keeping with the nature of these demands that disbelievers have been called upon to produce the like of the whole Quran or a part of it.
The question now remains whether these demands also include a challenge to produce a work comparable to the Quran in elegance of style and diction. The answer is that they certainly do so, but only in an indirect way and not as a direct and fundamental demand, for sublime ideas can only be expressed in sublime language. As the Quran comprises sublime and lofty ideas, it was inevitable that the most beautiful diction and the most chaste style should have been employed as the vehicle for the expression of those ideas; otherwise, the subject matter was liable to remain obscure and doubtful and the perfect beauty of the Quran would have become marred. Thus, in whatever form and in whatever respect disbelievers have been challenged to produce a composition like the Quran, the demand for beauty of style and elegance of diction comparable to those of the Quran also forms a part of the challenge. (close)