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)
فَاِنۡ لَّمۡ تَفۡعَلُوۡا وَ لَنۡ تَفۡعَلُوۡا فَاتَّقُوا النَّارَ الَّتِیۡ وَقُوۡدُہَا النَّاسُ وَ الۡحِجَارَۃُ ۚۖ اُعِدَّتۡ لِلۡکٰفِرِیۡنَ ﴿۲۵﴾
فَإِن لَّمۡ تَفۡعَلُواْ وَلَن تَفۡعَلُواْ فَٱتَّقُواْ ٱلنَّارَ ٱلَّتِي وَقُودُهَا ٱلنَّاسُ وَٱلۡحِجَارَةُۖ أُعِدَّتۡ لِلۡكَٰفِرِينَ
a. 3:11; 66:7. (close)
45. The word "fuel" may be taken in a figurative sense, meaning that the punishment of Hell is caused by idol-worship. So the idols are like fuel for hell-fire being a means of bringing it into existence. Or, "stones" mean idols which the idolaters worship as gods, the idea being that the idolaters will be humiliated by witnessing that their gods were cast into the fire. (close)
46. The words an-Nas (men) and al-Hijarah (stones) may also be taken as indicating two classes of inmates of Hell; an-Nas may denote those disbelievers who retain something of the love of God, and al-Hijarah (stones), those who have no love left for God in their hearts. Such men are indeed no better than stones. The word is plural of Hajar which means, a stone; a rock; gold, and also one unequalled, i.e. big man; a leader (Lane). (close)
31. Important Words:
الحجارة (stones) is the plural of الحجر (a stone) which is derived from the verb حجر which means, he or it prevented or hindered or resisted. A stone is called حجر because it resists pressure owing to its hardness. الحجر also means, a rock or a great mass of stone; a metal as gold and silver which both together are sometimes called الحجران i.e. the two metals (Lane). Thus coal (not charcoal) would also be looked upon as حجر. The word حجارة may also be used metaphorically for idols made of stone or metal (Kashshaf).
اعدت (prepared) is derived from اعد which again is derived from عد which means, he considered or he counted. اعد means, he prepared a thing and made or kept it ready (Aqrab).
The verse says that if the opponents of Islam are not able to produce the like of the Quran as demanded in the previous verse, they should understand that it is the word of God and that they are not opposing a man but God Himself; they should, therefore, be ready to suffer the lot of those who oppose Divine will.
The clause, and never shall you do it, signifies that the disbelievers knew that the idols had no power of revealing anything; so they would never call upon the idols to help them.
The word "fuel" may also be taken in a figurative sense, in which case the meaning would be that the punishment of Hell is caused by idol-worship. So the idols are like fuel for hellfire, being a means of bringing it into existence. The words الناس (men) and الحجارة (stones) may also be taken as indicating two classes of inmates of Hell. The word الناس (men) which, according to its root, signifies love, has been used to denote those disbelievers who may be called human in so far as they still retain something of the love of God which distinguishes human beings from stones. But the other disbelievers are called الحجارة (stones), for they have no love left for God. Such men are indeed no better than stones.
Though this verse speaks of fire and stones, it should be remembered that what is called the next world is not a material world. In fact, expressions used in the Quran to denote rewards and punishment should not be taken literally but metaphorically. It should also be noted that the punishment of the next world is not everlasting. According to Islam, Hell is not eternal. It is only a reformatory. The subject will be discussed later in its proper place. (close)
وَ بَشِّرِ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ عَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ اَنَّ لَہُمۡ جَنّٰتٍ تَجۡرِیۡ مِنۡ تَحۡتِہَا الۡاَنۡہٰرُ ؕ کُلَّمَا رُزِقُوۡا مِنۡہَا مِنۡ ثَمَرَۃٍ رِّزۡقًا ۙ قَالُوۡا ہٰذَا الَّذِیۡ رُزِقۡنَا مِنۡ قَبۡلُ ۙ وَ اُتُوۡا بِہٖ مُتَشَابِہًا ؕ وَ لَہُمۡ فِیۡہَاۤ اَزۡوَاجٌ مُّطَہَّرَۃٌ ٭ۙ وَّ ہُمۡ فِیۡہَا خٰلِدُوۡنَ ﴿۲۶﴾
وَبَشِّرِ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَٰتِ أَنَّ لَهُمۡ جَنَّـٰتٖ تَجۡرِي مِن تَحۡتِهَا ٱلۡأَنۡهَٰرُۖ كُلَّمَا رُزِقُواْ مِنۡهَا مِن ثَمَرَةٖ رِّزۡقٗا قَالُواْ هَٰذَا ٱلَّذِي رُزِقۡنَا مِن قَبۡلُۖ وَأُتُواْ بِهِۦ مُتَشَٰبِهٗاۖ وَلَهُمۡ فِيهَآ أَزۡوَٰجٞ مُّطَهَّرَةٞۖ وَهُمۡ فِيهَا خَٰلِدُونَ
a. 3:16, 134, 196, 199; 4:14, 58, 123; 5:13, 86; 7:44; 9:72, 89, 100; 10:10; 13:36; 22:15, 24; 25:11; 2:18; 47:16; 58:23; 61:13; 64:10. (close)
b. 3:16; 4:58. (close)
46A. The Qur’an teaches that every created thing stands in need of a mate for its full development. In Paradise righteous men and women will have pure mates for perfecting their spiritual development and completing their happiness. What kind of mates these will be, will be realized only in the Hereafter. (close)
47. This verse gives a brief description of the rewards which the believers will have in the next world. Critics of Islam have raised all sorts of objections to this description. The criticism is based upon a complete misunderstanding of the Islamic teaching about heavenly blessings. The Qur’an emphatically declares that it is beyond human mind to comprehend their nature (32:18). The Holy Prophet is reported to have said: "No eye has seen them, nor has any ear heard of them, nor can the mind of man conceive of them" (Bukhari). The question naturally arises, why have the blessings of Heaven been given the names used for material things in this world? This is because the address of the Qur’an is not merely to those people who are intellectually advanced. Therefore, it has used simple words which can be understood by all. While describing the heavenly blessings, the Qur’an has used the names of things generally looked upon as good in this world, and believers are told that they would get all these things in a better form in the next world. It is to bring out this important contrast that familiar words have been used; otherwise there is nothing common between the joys of this world and the blessings of the next. Moreover, according to Islam, the next life is not spiritual in the sense that it will just consist of a mental state only. Even in the next life the human soul will have a kind of body, but that body will not be material. One can form some idea of this from the phenomenon of dreams. The scenes which a man witnesses in a dream cannot be called purely mental or spiritual, because in that state also he has a body and finds himself sometimes in gardens with streams, and eats fruits and drinks milk. It is difficult to say that the contents of dreams are only mental states. The milk enjoyed in a dream is no doubt a real experience, but no one can say that it is the material milk, found in this world which he drinks. The spiritual blessings of the next life will not be a mere subjective realization of the gifts of God which we enjoy in this world. What we have here is just a representation of the real and true gifts of God which man will find in the next world. Moreover, "gardens" represent faith; and "streams" good actions. Gardens cannot prosper without streams, nor can faith without good actions. Therefore, faith and actions are inseparable for the attainment of salvation. In the next world, gardens will remind the believers of their faith in this life and streams will remind them of their good works. They will know, then, that their faith and good works have not gone in vain. It is wrong to conclude from the words, this is what was given us before, that in Heaven the believers will be given such fruits as they had enjoyed in this world, because, as already explained, the two are not identical. The fruits of the next world will, in fact, be the images of the quality of their own faith. When they will eat them, they will at once recognize and remember that they are the fruits of the faith they had in this world; and it will be out of gratitude for this that they will say: This is what was given us before. This expression may also mean, 'what was promised to us.'
The words "mutually resembling" refer to the resemblance between the acts of worship performed by believers in this world and the fruits thereof in Heaven. The acts of worship performed in this life will appear to believers as fruits in the next. The more sincere and the more appropriate a man’s worship, the more will he enjoy his portion of the fruits in Paradise and the better in quality will they be. It, therefore, lies in one’s own power to improve the quality of one’s fruits as one likes. The verse also signifies that the spiritual food for believers in Heaven will be suited to the taste of each and every individual and to his stage of progress and degree of spiritual development.
The words, they will abide, signify that the believers in Heaven will not be subject to any change or decay. Man dies only when he cannot assimilate food or when someone kills him. But since the food of Paradise will be perfectly suited to every individual and since man will have pure and peaceful companions, death and decay will automatically disappear.
The Faithful will also have pure mates in Heaven. A good wife is a joy and a comfort. The Faithful try to have good wives in this world, and they will have good and virtuous mates in the next. Yet these Joys of Heaven are not physical. For a fuller description of the nature and reality of the blessings of Paradise see also Chapters At-Tur, Ar-Rahman and Al-Waqi‘ah. (close)
a. 3:16, 134, 196, 199; 4:14, 58, 123; 5:13, 86; 7:44; 9:72, 89, 100; 10:10; 13:36; 22:15, 24; 25:11; 32:20; 47:16; 58:23; 61:13; 64:10. (close)
32. Important Words:
بشر (give glad tidings) is derived from بشر (bashshara), i.e. he gave glad tidings, which again is derived from بشر(bashara). They say بشر i.e. he laid bare its skin. Thus البشرة means, the outer and visible part of the skin. So بشر(bashshara) means, he gave or imparted news which changed the colour of the listener. The word has generally come to be used in connection with good or happy news. But it is also sometimes used in connection with bad news (e.g. 3:22). بشیر means, one who announces good news to a people or a person. All Prophets are spoken of as بشیر and نذیر i.e. givers of good news to those who believe in them and givers of bad news to those who reject them (Aqrab & Mufradat).
الصالحات (good works) is the plural of الصالحة which is derived from the verb صلح (the opposite of فسد) meaning, he or it became good or suitable and proper. ھذا الشیء یصلح لك means, this thing is suitable to you or is fit or meet for you (Aqrab). So الصالحات would be used about all those deeds and actions which are not only good intrinsically but are also meet and suitable. See also under 2:12.
جنات (gardens) which is the plural of جنة (a garden) is derived from جن meaning, it veiled, concealed, or covered a thing. So جنة means, any garden having trees by which the ground is covered or concealed; an orchard or garden having luxuriousness and denseness of verdure (Aqrab & Lane). Heaven has been called جنة or garden, because: (1) the mercy of God will 'cover' its dwellers just as trees in an orchard cover the ground thereof; or (2) because the blessings of Heaven are 'hidden' from the eyes of man"; or again (3) because Heaven is like a garden in which the trees represent good faith and the streams good actions.
الانھار (streams) is the plural of نھر (nahr) or نھر (nahar). They say نھرالماء i.e. the water flowed on the earth and cut out a channel for itself. Thus نھر (nahr) or نھر (nahar) means, a channel through which a stream or a river flows; a stream or river itself. نھر (nahar) also means, abundance (Aqrab).
ازواج (mates) is the plural of زوج which signifies, anything that is one of a pair or couple; it does not mean a pair but only one of a pair, whether male or female (Aqrab). The word زوج also means, a comrade (Lane).
خالدون (shall abide) is derived fromخلد which means, he remained and lived on. خلدبمکان means, he stayed or abided in a place. خلود means, staying on, or living without change or deterioration for a long time but not necessarily forever (Aqrab & Mufradat).
This verse gives a brief description of the rewards which the believers will have in the next world.
Critics of Islam have raised all sorts of objections to this description. They say that: (1) The promise of such rewards is only an appeal to greed and a faith based upon greed is not worth the name. (2) The Quran promises material rewards to the believers and this is objectionable. (3) If the rewards of the next world are going to be material, then it must be supposed that the same body which one has in this life will be resurrected after death and this is against all reason, because this body perishes and the particles of one body are used in the making of several other bodies. To whom and to how many will then the same body be given in the next world? (4) Believers are promised wives in Heaven which shows that sex relations will continue in the next world. An appeal to sex is very objectionable for spiritual ends. Sex relations are necessary only for the continuation of the race in this world. Why should there be such a thing in the next? (5) The Quranic Paradise appears to be a place of luxury and sensual pleasures. There is thus nothing spiritual about the Islamic conception of the next life.
This criticism is based on a failure to understand the real Islamic teaching. The Quran has made it clear that in this life it is not possible for man to comprehend the nature of the rewards of the next. It says: No soul knows what joy of the eyes is kept hidden for them, as a reward for their actions (32:18). That is to say, whatever the Quran says about Heaven and Hell is only metaphorical. The descriptions are not to be taken in the sense in which they are ordinarily taken in this world. The Holy Prophet says of the blessings of the next world: "No eye has seen them, nor has any ear heard of them; nor can the mind of man form any conception of them" (Bukhari). If the blessings of the next life are to be like the joys of this life, we should be able to form some idea of them, no matter how remote they may be. The blessings of the next life, therefore, must be quite different from the blessings of this life.
At another place in the Quran we read: The similitude of the Heaven promised to the God-fearing is that through it flow streams; its fruit is everlasting, and so is its shade. That is the reward of those who are righteous, and the reward of the disbelievers is Fire (13:36). Now the fruit of this world is not everlasting, so in order to be everlasting the fruit of the next world as well as its streams will have to be taken as something other than material. Again we read: A similitude of the Paradise promised to the righteous: Therein are rivers of water which corrupts not; and rivers of milk of which the taste changes not; and rivers of wine, a delight to those who drink; and rivers of clarified honey (47:16). There is nothing material in this. About the wine of Heaven we read: Wherein there will be no intoxication, nor will they be exhausted thereby (37:48). Again, And their Lord will give them to drink a beverage that is pure (76:22). Thus, wine in Heaven will not only be pure itself but will purify the drinkers as well. Elsewhere the Quran says that the pure wine of Paradise will be tempered with Tasnim (83:28), which means 'abundance' and 'height '. In the cup of wine that will pass from hand to hand in Heaven God says there will be neither vanity nor sin (52:24). As against this, the wine of this world is described in the Quran as: Wine and the game of hazard and idols and divining arrows are only an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So shun each one of them that you may prosper. Satan desires only to create enmity and hatred among you by means of wine and the game of hazard and to keep you back from the remembrance of Allah and from Prayer (5:91, 92). This proves that the wine of the next world is quite different; it is pure and purifying and nothing material.
The blessings of Heaven have indeed nothing in common with their counterparts of this world except the name. Ibn ‘Abbas, the Prophet’s cousin, also says the same thing (Jarir).
Now the question arises: Why have the blessings of Heaven been given the names used of material things in this world? This is so because Islam is meant for all kinds of people. It does not address only the intellectually advanced but also all others. Therefore it uses simple words which can be understood by all. The disbelievers used to say that the Prophet disallowed the good things of the world, and his followers were thus deprived of all blessings. Therefore, while describing the blessings in store for the Muslims, God used the names of things generally looked upon as good in this world and told the believers that they would get all these things in a better form. The water of this world spoils, but believers would have water in the next which will not spoil. Gardens are blessings but they decay; so believers will have gardens which will last forever. The unbelievers drank intoxicating wine which made them drunk and which dulled their senses; but the wine which the believers will get in Heaven will be pure and purifying. It is to bring out this important contrast that familiar words are used; otherwise there is nothing common between the delights of this world and the blessings of the next.
It may be added here that, according to Islam, the next life is not spiritual in the sense that it will just consist of a mental state and nothing else. Even in the next life the human soul will have a kind of body; only, it will not be material. One can glean some idea of this from the phenomenon of dreams. The Quran says: Allah takes the souls of human beings at the time of their death; and (He also takes the souls of), those that have not died, during their sleep. Then He retains those against which He has decreed death, and sends (back) the others till an appointed term. In that surely are signs for a people who reflect (39:43). Death and sleep resemble each other, the difference being that whereas in death the human soul is completely and permanently severed from the body, in sleep the severance is only temporary and partial. Now the scenes which a man witnesses in a dream cannot be called purely mental or spiritual, because he has a body also in his dreams and finds himself sometimes in gardens and streams, and eats fruits and drinks milk. It is hard to say that the contents of dreams are only mental states. The milk enjoyed in a dream is no doubt a real experience, but no one can say that it is the material milk found in this world. Dreams have a meaning of their own. For instance, eating mangoes in a dream symbolizes a righteous child or a righteous heart; eating grapes signifies love and fear of God; and eating bananas, a good and lawful subsistence which is also easy of attainment. In short, the spiritual blessings of the next life will not be a mere subjective realization of the gifts of God with which we become familiar in this world. As a matter of fact, what we enjoy here is just a representation of the real and true gifts of God which man will find in the next world.
Again, gardens represent faith; and streams, good actions. Gardens cannot prosper without streams, nor faith without good actions. Therefore faith and actions are inseparable for the attainment of salvation. In the next world, gardens will remind the believers of their faith in this life and streams will remind them of their good works. They will know, then, that their faith and good works have not gone in vain.
The flowing of streams or rivers beneath the gardens also implies that every person in Heaven will have a free and unrestricted enjoyment of his portion. In this world, a single stream often serves several gardens and there is the possibility of a quarrel over it; but in Heaven each garden will have its own stream exclusively meant for itself. See also 10:10.
It is wrong to conclude from the words, This is what was given us before, that in Heaven the believers will be given such fruit as they will have enjoyed in this world, because, as already explained, the two are not the same. The fruit of the next world will, in fact, be the image of the quality of their own faith. When they will eat it, they will at once recognize and remember that it is the fruit of the faith they had in this world; and it will be out of gratitude for this that they will say: This is what was given us before.
The expression rendered as, was given us, may also mean, 'was promised us'; and in this sense it would mean, this is what was promised to us in the world.
The word متشابھا (mutually resembling) refers to the resemblance between the acts of worship performed by believers in this world and the fruits thereof in Heaven. The acts of worship performed in this life will appear to believers as fruit in the next. The more sincere and the more appropriate a man’s worship, the more will he enjoy his portion of the fruit in Paradise and the better in quality will it be. It, therefore, lies in one’s own power to improve the quality of one’s fruit as one likes.
The expression, mutually resembling, also implies that in Paradise one spiritual food will completely harmonize with the other, so that the possibility of spiritual disease will be eliminated altogether. It also means that the food in Heaven will be suited to each and every individual and to his stage of progress and degree of development.
The words, they will abide, signify that the believers will go on abiding in Heaven and will not be subject to any change or decay. Man dies only when he cannot assimilate food or when someone kills him. But since the food of Paradise will be perfectly suited to every individual and since man will have pure and peaceful companions, death and decay will automatically disappear.
The Faithful will also have pure mates in Heaven. A good wife is a joy and a comfort. The Faithful try to have good wives in this world, and they will have good and virtuous company in the next. Yet these joys of Heaven are not physical.
A typical Christian comment on this subject is made by Sir William Muir: "It is very remarkable that the notices in the Coran of this voluptuous paradise are almost entirely confined to a time when, whatever the tendency of his desires, Mohammad was living chaste and temperate with a single wife of three score years of age. It is noteworthy that in the Medina Surahs, that is, in all the voluminous revelations of the ten years following the Hegira women are only twice referred to as constituting one of the delights of paradise and on both occasions in these simple words: 'And to them (believers) there shall be therein pure wives'. Was it that the soul of Mohammad had at that period no longings after what he had then to satiety the enjoyment of? Or that a closer contact with Jewish principles and morality repressed the budding pruriency of the revelation, and covered with merited confusion the picture of his sensual paradise which had been drawn at Mecca?" (Muir, page 76).
It is amazing how these Christian critics with pretensions to culture and learning will draw on sheer speculation to attack the honour of a Teacher who is held in the deepest reverence and devotion by many millions of men and women all over the world. They seem emboldened to do so, because Christians today hold political sway over the Muslims. A few centuries of power have made them forget that Muslims ruled over Christendom for a full 1,000 years, and during this time they never said anything unbecoming about Jesus. They respected Christian susceptibilities when Christians were quite unprotected and were much weaker than Muslims are today. Would to God Christians did not feel so elated!
Sir William conveniently ignores the fact that there are other things besides women which are mentioned in the Meccan chapters and to which there is no reference in the Medinite chapters. We read in the Meccan chapters that there will be wine, honey and rivers of milk in Paradise. Was the Holy Prophet deprived even of these things at Mecca that he should have compensated himself by imagining them in Paradise? Nothing could be more absurd than this. Personally the Holy Prophet was much better off at Mecca than he was at Medina. His rich wife Khadijah was then alive and she had placed all her wealth at his disposal. By the time he reached Medina, most of this wealth had been spent in good works and the Holy Prophet was left a poor man with little to live on. If the picture of Paradise was an imaged compensation for his wants, it should have emerged at Medina instead of at Mecca.
Supposing Sir William is right, cannot critics of Christianity say justifiably that Jesus imagined himself the king of the Jews because he was persecuted everywhere? Could they not also say that as Jesus saw nothing of sex life in this world, he remained obsessed with the idea of a second advent and imagined himself a bridegroom taking no less than five virgins for wives? In the words of the New Testament, he is reported to have said: "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For the foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps…And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are going out. But the wise answered, saying, Peradventure there will not be enough for us and you: go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went away to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut" (Matt. 25:1-10). A bridegroom surrounded by a bevy of virgins—is not this the Heaven of Jesus’ imagination?
But to revert to the subject; the disbelievers at Mecca used to taunt the Muslims about their poverty, saying they had nothing of the good things which they had, so God took over their own phrases and said that the rewards which believers would have in Paradise would be even better. When Islam was established at Medina, the disbelievers gave up their taunts. So God also dropped the earlier descriptions of Paradise. The descriptions in their deep significance, however, hold for all time.
At Mecca, moreover, it was necessary to explain and emphasize the basic belief of Islam. Therefore, greater detail of doctrine is found in the Meccan chapters, and as Paradise, the abode of believers in the afterlife, is an important item of belief, it is dealt with in detail in them. At Medina, on the contrary, practical matters like personal ethics and social legislation became more important. Therefore, greater attention was given to them in the Medinite chapters. The Meccan Surahs also abound in descriptions of Hell. What are they a compensation for?
Sir William Muir also suggests that the Holy Prophet changed his views about Paradise under the influence of the Jews and the Christians of Medina. But he forgets that the stock criticism made by Christian writers is that some Christian slaves had taught the Holy Prophet the Christian scriptures, the substance of which was incorporated in the Quran. Sir William himself alleges that the Holy Prophetlearnt Christianity from Suhaib, a Roman slave at Mecca (The Life of Mahomet, p.67). If the Holy Prophet at Mecca already knew the Christian teachings, he need not have waited for their influence until his arrival at Medina. In point of fact, in the Jewish and the Christian scriptures, there are no descriptions of Paradise. The Jews and the Christians have remained so engrossed in the affairs of this life that their Books do not say much about the life to come. The promises made by their Prophets about the next life have always been taken by them to pertain only to this life. It cannot be imagined that anybody could be influenced by such a teaching. (close)
اِنَّ اللّٰہَ لَا یَسۡتَحۡیٖۤ اَنۡ یَّضۡرِبَ مَثَلًا مَّا بَعُوۡضَۃً فَمَا فَوۡقَہَا ؕ فَاَمَّا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا فَیَعۡلَمُوۡنَ اَنَّہُ الۡحَقُّ مِنۡ رَّبِّہِمۡ ۚ وَ اَمَّا الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا فَیَقُوۡلُوۡنَ مَا ذَاۤ اَرَادَ اللّٰہُ بِہٰذَا مَثَلًا ۘ یُضِلُّ بِہٖ کَثِیۡرًا ۙ وَّ یَہۡدِیۡ بِہٖ کَثِیۡرًا ؕ وَ مَا یُضِلُّ بِہٖۤ اِلَّا الۡفٰسِقِیۡنَ ﴿ۙ۲۷﴾
۞إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَسۡتَحۡيِۦٓ أَن يَضۡرِبَ مَثَلٗا مَّا بَعُوضَةٗ فَمَا فَوۡقَهَاۚ فَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ فَيَعۡلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ ٱلۡحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّهِمۡۖ وَأَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ فَيَقُولُونَ مَاذَآ أَرَادَ ٱللَّهُ بِهَٰذَا مَثَلٗاۘ يُضِلُّ بِهِۦ كَثِيرٗا وَيَهۡدِي بِهِۦ كَثِيرٗاۚ وَمَا يُضِلُّ بِهِۦٓ إِلَّا ٱلۡفَٰسِقِينَ
a. 33:54. (close)
b. 14:25; 16:76, 112; 47:4; 66:12. (close)
48. Darabal-Mathala means, he gave an illustration or a description; he made a statement; he propounded a parable (Lane, Taj & 14:46). (close)
48A. God has described Heaven and Hell in the Qur’an in metaphors and similes. Metaphors and similes express depths of meaning which cannot adequately be expressed otherwise, and in things of the spirit they provide perhaps the only method by which ideas can be properly conveyed. The words used for describing Heaven may be as inadequate and insignificant as a gnat; which is considered by the Arabs and, in fact is, a very, very weak creature. The Arabs say: Ad‘afu min Ba‘udatin, i.e. he is weaker than a gnat. Nevertheless they help to conjure up the picture. The believers know the words are only metaphorical and try to get to the depth of their meaning; but the disbelievers begin to find fault with them and increase in error and misguidance. (close)
48B. Fauq means, above and signifies both 'greater' and 'smaller' and is used in the sense which befits the context (Mufradat). (close)
c. 6:118; 7:187; 13:28; 16:94; 40:35. (close)
49. Adallallahu means, (1) God adjudged him to be in error; (2) God forsook or abandoned him so that he went astray (Kashshaf); (3) God found or left him in error or let him go astray (Lane). (close)
b. 14:25; 16:76, 113; 47:4; 66:12. (close)
33. Important Words:
یستحیٖ (disdains) is derived from حیی which means: (1) he lived or had life; (2) he felt or had a sense of shame or shyness or bashfulness. The infinitive حیاء means, sense of shame or modesty or shyness or bashfulness; or keeping back from a thing through fear of blame. استحیا means, he felt a sense of shame or shyness; he kept back, or he forbore, or he shrank from. استحیی من کذا means, he disdained it, or he refused to do it by reason of pride, or he kept far from it (Lane).
یضل (He adjudges to be erring) is from اضل which is derived from ضل which means, he went astray; he lost his way; he erred; he was lost; he perished. اضل is the transitive form of ضل. They say اضله i.e. he led him astray; he caused him to err; he lost him or it; he caused him to perish. اضله also means, he found him to be erring or straying or lost, etc. (Lane). اضله اللهmay also mean, (1) God adjudged him to be erring or He adjudged him to have gone astray; (2) God forsook or abandoned him and he went astray (Kashshaf). See also 1:7.
الفاسقین (the disobedient) is the plural of فاسق which is derived from the verb فسق which means, he left the right course, or he declined from the right path. فسق عن امرربه means, he departed from the command of his Lord; he disobeyed his Lord. فاسقis thus one who departs from the right course or from the way of truth, or from the limits of the law, or from the bounds of obedience. The word is generally applied to one who first takes upon himself to obey an authority or to observe the ordinances of a law and then falls short of it (Lane & Aqrab).
If, as described in the previous verse, there is not much in common between the gifts of this world and those of the next, why has the Quran given a description of Heaven at all? This question is answered in the present verse. Even if the picture of Heaven and Hell given in the Quran is not exact, it cannot be denied that the imagery used enlightens and helps us to form an idea of the next life. God has, no doubt, described Heaven and Hell by using metaphors and similes, but no one can say that they are useless. Metaphors and similes are used in all languages, and they express depths of meaning which cannot be reached otherwise, and in things of the spirit they afford perhaps the only method by which ideas can be conveyed. The words used for describing Heaven may be as inadequate and insignificant as a gnat; nevertheless they help to conjure up the picture. The believers know the words are only metaphorical and try to get to the depth of their meaning; but the disbelievers begin to find fault with them and increase in error and misguidance.
The words یضل به کثیرا (lit. many does He misguide) have been translated in the text as, many does He adjudge by it to be erring. This, as shown under Important Words above, is a perfectly correct rendering, for though misguidance springs from one’s own self, as the verse itself makes clear in the concluding clause, yet it is God, the final Judge, Who declares or adjudges the misguided to be so. (close)
الَّذِیۡنَ یَنۡقُضُوۡنَ عَہۡدَ اللّٰہِ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِ مِیۡثَاقِہٖ ۪ وَ یَقۡطَعُوۡنَ مَاۤ اَمَرَ اللّٰہُ بِہٖۤ اَنۡ یُّوۡصَلَ وَ یُفۡسِدُوۡنَ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ ؕ اُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الۡخٰسِرُوۡنَ ﴿۲۸﴾
ٱلَّذِينَ يَنقُضُونَ عَهۡدَ ٱللَّهِ مِنۢ بَعۡدِ مِيثَٰقِهِۦ وَيَقۡطَعُونَ مَآ أَمَرَ ٱللَّهُ بِهِۦٓ أَن يُوصَلَ وَيُفۡسِدُونَ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِۚ أُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلۡخَٰسِرُونَ
d. 2:101; 4:156; 5:14; 13:26. (close)
a. 2:101; 4:156; 5:14; 13:26. (close)
34. Important Words:
میثاق (having established it) is derived from وثق which means, it became firm and established. اوثقه means, he made it firm and fast; he bound or tied it firmly and strongly (Aqrab).
الخاسرون (losers) which is the plural of خاسر is derived from خسر which means, he lost; he suffered a loss; he went astray; he became lost; he perished. Thus خاسر means one who loses or suffers a loss, or one who goes astray (Lane). See also 6:13.
This verse gives some characteristics of فاسقین (the disobedient) mentioned in the previous verse. These characteristics are that: (1) they break the covenant made with God; (2) they cut asunder the relations which God commands to be strengthened; and (3) they create disorder and mischief in the earth.
Regarding the first, it should be remembered that the covenant which they break has been mentioned in the following two verses:
(a) And when thy Lord brings forth from Adam’s children—out of their loins—their offspring and makes them witnesses against their own selves by saying 'Am I not your Lord?' they say, 'Yea, we do bear witness.' This He does lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, 'We were surely unaware of this' (7:173).
(b) And remember the time when Allah took a covenant from the people through the Prophets, saying: 'Whatever I give you of the Book and Wisdom and then there comes to you a Messenger, fulfilling what is with you, you shall believe in him and help him.' And He said: 'Do you agree, and do you accept the responsibility which I lay upon you in this matter?' They said, 'We agree'; He said, 'Then bear witness and I am with you among the witnesses' (3:82).
Regarding the second characteristic, it should be remembered that love of God dies in their hearts and they do not try to establish any relation with Him; or if the relation has once been established, they allow it to be broken. Their love is confined to things of this world and all their attention is given to them.
Thirdly, the verse points out that even their love of the world is not sincere, for if it were so, they would protect it against disorder and mischief; but as matters stand, they themselves ruin it by creating disorder and mischief. So they are losers in every respect. (close)
کَیۡفَ تَکۡفُرُوۡنَ بِاللّٰہِ وَ کُنۡتُمۡ اَمۡوَاتًا فَاَحۡیَاکُمۡ ۚ ثُمَّ یُمِیۡتُکُمۡ ثُمَّ یُحۡیِیۡکُمۡ ثُمَّ اِلَیۡہِ تُرۡجَعُوۡنَ ﴿۲۹﴾
كَيۡفَ تَكۡفُرُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَكُنتُمۡ أَمۡوَٰتٗا فَأَحۡيَٰكُمۡۖ ثُمَّ يُمِيتُكُمۡ ثُمَّ يُحۡيِيكُمۡ ثُمَّ إِلَيۡهِ تُرۡجَعُونَ
50. Amwat is the plural of Mayyit which means, a thing dead, or without life. Thus the word is used both for a thing which so far has had no life and also for a thing which had life but is now dead and defunct. The word is also used about one who is dying or is nearing death but has not yet died (Lane). (close)
a. 19:34; 22:67; 30:41; 40:12; 45:27. (close)
51. Hayat signifies, (1) the faculty of growth; (2) of sensation; (3) of intellect; (4) freedom from grief or sorrow; (5) everlasting life in the world to come; (6) advantage or profit or a means thereof; (7) state of activity and power (Lane). (close)
52. The verse points to the supreme truth that man’s life does not end with the extinction and dissolution of his physical body, as it is pregnant with too big an import to end with the latter’s decay and death. If life had no great purpose God would not have created it and, after having created it, would not have made it subject to death unless there had been an afterlife. If death were the end of all life, then the creation of man would have been "a mere sport and pastime" and this would have constituted a great reflection on the wisdom of God. The fact that God, the Source of all wisdom and intelligence, has done all this shows that He has not created man to return to dust after a life of merely 60 or 70 years. On the contrary, He has created him for a better, fuller and everlasting life which he must live after he has shed the encumbrances of his physical tabernacle. (close)
53. After death the human soul does not go at once to Heaven or Hell. There is an intermediate state called Barzakh in which it is made to taste some of the good or bad results of its deeds; and Resurrection, which will herald a full and complete requital, will take place later. (close)
a. 19:34; 22:67; 30:41; 40:12; 45:27. (close)
35. Important Words:
اموات (without life) is the plural of میت which means: (1) a thing dead, or (2) a thing without life. Thus the word میت is used both for a thing which so far has had no life and for a thing which had had life but is now dead. The word میت is also used about one who is dying or is nearing death but has not yet died (Lane). See also 2:20.
احیا (he gave life) is derived from حیی which means, he lived or he had life. The transitive form احیا means, he gave life, he brought to life, he saved the life of (Aqrab & Lane).
حیاة (life) which is the opposite of موت (death) signifies: (1) the faculty of growth, as in an animal or a plant; (2) the faculty of sensation; (3) the faculty of intellect; (4) freedom from grief or sorrow; (5) everlasting life in the world to come; (6) advantage or profit or a means thereof; (7) state of activity and power (Lane).
تکفرون (you disbelieve) is derived from کفر (he disbelieved) already explained under 2:7. The infinitive form is کفر(disbelief). کفربالله (disbelief in Allah) means not only disbelieving in the existence of God but also denying His attributes and refusing to obey His commandments.
This verse reverts to the original subject of revelation. The question of the reward of believers and the punishment of disbelievers was only incidental. The real subject is that of revelation. In this verse the Quran explains why spiritual life would be impossible without revelation. Nobody can know anything about the next life without the help and guidance of God Who alone knows everything. The verse points out that when God provides for our physical needs, there is no reason why He should not provide for our spiritual needs, which are much more important.
God is Wise. If human life had no purpose, God would not have created it; having created it, He would not have made it subject to death, unless there had been an afterlife. If death were the end of all life, the creation of man would turn out to be mere sport. The fact that God does all this shows that He has created man not to return to dust after a life of 60 or 70 years but for a better, fuller and everlasting life, which he must live after death.
The word "then" in the clause, then to Him shall you be made to return, hints that after death the human soul does not at once go to Heaven or Hell. There is an interim period in which the soul is made to taste some of the good or bad results of its deeds. The resurrection which will herald a full and complete requital will take place later.
The mentioning of life twice (in the words احیا and یحیی) may also refer to the rise of Islam in this world, for Islam is the means of spiritual life. Islam had its first life in the time of the Holy Prophet; the second life was to come in the Latter Days. This is referred to in 62:4, where it is said that the Holy Prophet of Islam will make, as it were, a second appearance in the world. The promise has been fulfilled in the person of the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. (close)
ہُوَ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَ لَکُمۡ مَّا فِی الۡاَرۡضِ جَمِیۡعًا ٭ ثُمَّ اسۡتَوٰۤی اِلَی السَّمَآءِ فَسَوّٰٮہُنَّ سَبۡعَ سَمٰوٰتٍ ؕ وَ ہُوَ بِکُلِّ شَیۡءٍ عَلِیۡمٌ ﴿٪۳۰﴾
هُوَ ٱلَّذِي خَلَقَ لَكُم مَّا فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ جَمِيعٗا ثُمَّ ٱسۡتَوَىٰٓ إِلَى ٱلسَّمَآءِ فَسَوَّىٰهُنَّ سَبۡعَ سَمَٰوَٰتٖۚ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيۡءٍ عَلِيمٞ
b. 22:66; 31:21; 45:14. (close)
c. 7:55; 10:4; 41:10-13. (close)
54. Istawa means, he became firm or firmly settled. Istawa ilash-shai’ means, he turned to a thing or he directed his attention to it (Lane). (close)
55. Sawwa-hu means, he made it uniform or even, congruous or consistent in its several parts; he fashioned it in a suitable manner; he made it adapted to the exigencies, or requirements of its case; he perfected it; or he put it into a right or good state (Lane). (close)
56. In Arabic "seven" is generally used as a symbol of perfection and the word along with "seventy" or "seven hundred" signifies a large number. All these three words have been used in this sense in the Qur’an (9:80; 15:45). Elsewhere, the words "seven heavens" have been substituted by "seven stages" (23:18). (close)
56A. The sun, the moon and other heavenly bodies are of immense benefit to man. Modern science has made many discoveries in this connection—and many more may yet be made—all of which testify to the truth and comprehensiveness of the Quranic teaching. Science also continues to find more and more properties of things of this earth; many things which were formerly thought to be useless are now known to be highly serviceable to man. (close)
a. 22:66; 31:21; 45:14. (close)
b. 7:55; 10:4; 41:10-13. (close)
36. Important Words:
استوی (he turned) is derived from سوی meaning, it became straight and even and rightly set. استوی gives the same meaning as سوی. It also means, he became firm or was firmly settled. استوی علی ظھر دابة means, he became firmly seated on the horse or the like. استوی علی العرش means, he (the king) was or became firmly established on the throne. استوی الی الشیء means, he turned to a thing, or he directed his attention to it (Aqrab). استوی gives different meanings when used with regard to two or more things as opposed to when used with regard to one thing only. When used about more than one thing, it means, to be or to become equal; and when used about one thing only it means, to become straight and firm (Mufradat).
سواھن (perfected them) is derived from سوی (Sawwa) which is the transitive form of سوی (sawiya) for which see above. سویmeans, he made it uniform or even; he made it congruous or consistent in its several parts; he fashioned it in a suitable manner; he made it adapted to the exigencies, or requirements, of its case; he perfected it; he made it in a right or good manner; or he put it into a right or good state (Aqrab & Lane).
Whatever is on the earth is created by God for the benefit of man. Elsewhere we read, And He has subjected to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, all from Himself. In that surely are signs for a people who reflect (45:14). The sun, the moon, and other heavenly bodies are of immense benefit to mankind. Modern science has made many discoveries in this connection and more may yet be made, all of which testify to the truth and comprehensiveness of the Quranic teaching. Science also continues to find more and more the properties of things of this earth; many things which were formerly thought to be useless are now known to be highly serviceable to man.
Again, of all creatures man alone has the knowledge to profit by the things of the world. When so many things have been created to promote the comfort of man and to extend the field of his activities, and when such unlimited provision has been made for his material advance, it cannot be said that there is no purpose in the creation of man or no provision for his spiritual advance.
The verse also hints that the world is the common inheritance of mankind. It should not become the property of one man or one nation. By ignoring this great truth, Europe is now going to rack and ruin.
If the teachings of the Quran are acted upon, envy and malice between individuals and nations will disappear. The ordinances of Islam regarding charity and Zakah are also based upon this conception of the world being the common inheritance of all men. Islam does not disallow the right of private ownership but this is not to be exercised so as to deprive others of their right to the common inheritance.
It should also be noted that, according to most religions, this world is not a desirable place for man. Salvation, according to them, lies in killing desire or escaping from evil and suffering. The Jews, on the other hand, make this world the sole end of life. It is Islam alone that teaches man to use rightly the gifts and opportunities which this world affords and to make them a means of attaining success and salvation in the next.
The words, He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth; then He turned towards the heaven, do not refer to the creation of the earth or the heavens. The verse only purports to say that whatever has been created in the earth is for the benefit of man. Then it goes on to say that those who make good use of the gifts of God will advance to higher and still higher stages of spiritual progress. The words "seven heavens" signify seven stages of spiritual progress, the figure seven, according to Arabic idiom, standing for perfection and completeness. So God has not omitted to provide a place of everlasting spiritual progress, viz. Paradise of the next world.
With this verse concludes the present discussion about the necessity of revelation. The way God has created the universe points to the necessity of revelation. If man is not destined for unlimited spiritual progress for which revelation is the only effective means, there was no need to create the heaven and the earth and whatever is in them for his benefit, nor were the powers and capabilities, with which he has been equipped, necessary for him. All this is to enable him to make endless progress. (close)
وَ اِذۡ قَالَ رَبُّکَ لِلۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ اِنِّیۡ جَاعِلٌ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ خَلِیۡفَۃً ؕ قَالُوۡۤا اَتَجۡعَلُ فِیۡہَا مَنۡ یُّفۡسِدُ فِیۡہَا وَ یَسۡفِکُ الدِّمَآءَ ۚ وَ نَحۡنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمۡدِکَ وَ نُقَدِّسُ لَکَ ؕ قَالَ اِنِّیۡۤ اَعۡلَمُ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۳۱﴾
وَإِذۡ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلۡمَلَـٰٓئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٞ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ خَلِيفَةٗۖ قَالُوٓاْ أَتَجۡعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفۡسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسۡفِكُ ٱلدِّمَآءَ وَنَحۡنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمۡدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَۖ قَالَ إِنِّيٓ أَعۡلَمُ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ
57. Qala is a common Arabic word meaning, he said. Sometimes, however, it is used in a figurative sense when, instead of a verbal expression, a state or condition amounting to a verbal expression is meant. The expression Imtala’ul-Haudu wa Qala Qatni (the tank became full and said, 'that will suffice') does not mean that the tank actually said so; only its condition implied that it was full.
The conversation between God and angels need not be taken in a literal sense as actually to have taken place. As stated above the word Qala is sometimes used in a figurative sense to convey not actually a verbal expression, but simply a state or condition amounting to a verbal expression. The verse may thus simply mean that the angels by their state or condition implied a reply that has been here ascribed to them in words. (close)
57A. Mala’ikah which is the plural of Malak is derived from Malaka which means, he controlled, or from Alaka meaning, he sent. The angels are called Mala’ikah because they control the forces of nature or because they bring Divine revelations to Heavenly Messengers and Reformers. (close)
a. 7:130; 10:15; 15:29; 24:56; 38:27. (close)
58. The angels did not object to God’s purpose or claimed superiority over Adam. Their question was prompted by God’s announcement of His plan to appoint a vicegerent. A vicegerent is needed when order has to be maintained and laws enforced. The seeming objection of the angels meant that there would be people on earth who would create disorder and shed blood. Man having been endowed with great powers to do good and evil, the angels spoke of the darker side of his character but God knew that he could rise to such moral heights as to become the mirror of Divine attributes. To this bright side of his character the words "I know what you know not" refer. (close)
59. The question of the angels was not by way of finding fault with God’s work, but by way of seeking greater knowledge of the nature and wisdom of the appointment. For the meaning of Nusabbihu see 2981. (close)
60. Whereas Tasbih (glorifying) is used with regard to God’s attributes, Taqdis (extolling His holiness) is used concerning His actions. (close)
61. Adam, who lived about 6000 years ago, is popularly believed to be the first man created by God upon earth. This view, however, is not corroborated by the Qur’an. The world has passed through different cycles of creation and civilization, and Adam, the progenitor of the present human race, is only the first link in the present cycle, and not the very first man in God’s creation. Nations have risen and fallen, civilizations have appeared and disappeared. Other Adams may have gone before our Adam; other races may have lived and perished, and other cycles of civilization may have appeared and disappeared. Muhy-ud-Din Ibn-e-‘Arabi, the great Muslim mystic says that once he saw himself in a dream performing a circuit of the Ka‘bah. In the dream a man who claimed to be one of his ancestors appeared before him. "How long is it since you died," asked Ibn-e-‘Arabi. "More than forty thousand years," the man replied. "But this period is much more than what separates us from Adam," said Ibn-e-‘Arabi. The man replied, "Of which Adam are you speaking? About the Adam who is nearest to you or of some other?" "Then I recollected," says Ibn-e-‘Arabi, "a saying of the Holy Prophet to the effect that God had brought into being no less than a hundred thousand Adams, and I said to myself, "perhaps this man who claims to be an ancestor of mine was one of the previous Adams" (Futuhat, ii, p.607). (close)
37. Important Words:
قال (said) is a common Arabic word meaning, he said. Sometimes, however, it is used in a figurative sense when, instead of a verbal expression, a state or condition amounting to a verbal expression is meant. For example, the expression امتلأالحوض وقال قطنی i.e. the tank became full, and said, 'that will suffice', does not mean that the tank actually said so; it simply means that its condition implied that it was full. The word is also used in the sense of holding a view. We say فلان یقول بقول ابی حنیفة i.e. that man holds a view similar to that of Abu Hanifah. Again, the word is sometimes used to denote something not yet spoken but still in the mind. We say: فی نفسی قول لم اظھرہ i.e. there is something in my mind which I have not yet disclosed (Lisan & Mufradat).
الملائکة (the angels) is the plural of ملك (an angel). Authorities differ as to the derivation of the word. Some derive it from ملك but the more commonly accepted derivation is from الك which is used in the sense of conveying a message, the word الوکة meaning 'a message' (Mufradat & Lane). This explains the object of the creation of the angels. They are meant to convey God’s message to men and to execute His will in the universe.
خلیفة (vicegerent) is derived from خلف which means, he came after, or stood in place of. The word خلیفة is used in three different senses: (1) one who comes after and stands in the place of someone, (2) an امام (Imam) or supreme religious head and (3) a sovereign or king or ruler (Aqrab). The word is also used for one who precedes someone and is followed by him (Qadir).
نسبح (we glorify) is derived from سبح i.e. he went or travelled far away. سبح عن الامر means, he got freedom from the affair, having completed it. سبح فی الماء means, he swam in the water. سبح فی الفلك means, the planet, etc. glided in the firmament. سبحmeans, he prayed. سبح الله or سبح لله means, he declared God to be free from all defects and weaknesses; he glorified God (Aqrab). The word is used about God and conveys the sense of glorifying Him and declaring Him to be free from all defects—anything that may detract from, and adversely affect, His attributes of Oneness, Knowledge, Power, Purity, etc. (Taj & Mufradat).
نقدس (extol holiness) is derived from قدس i.e. he became pure and blessed. قدس الله فلانا means, God purified and blessed him. قدس الرجل الله means, the man declared God to be holy and free from defects (Aqrab). The word thus has a meaning similar to the preceding word, i.e. nusabbihu, but it conveys the further sense of ascribing to God the positive attributes of Holiness, Majesty, etc. (Lisan & Mufradat).
This verse is important, and commentators have differed about its meaning. Who was Adam, where was he placed, why did God speak to the angels about his being appointed as khalifah, why did the angels object to this appointment, are some of the questions which arise here at once.
But before dealing with them, it is necessary to explain what connection this verse has with the preceding one, and why the Quran refers to Adam, while discussing the ministry of the Holy Prophet of Islam. If the Holy Prophet was a true Messenger of God, was he the first to receive a message from heaven or did similar messages precede his? If he was the first Messenger, did God neglect those of His countless creatures who lived before him? These questions make the subject of Adam’s ministry at once relevant. The verse is intended to convey that the Holy Prophet is not the first Prophet; others have gone before him and Adam was the first link of the chain. Thus, by making a reference to the ministry of Adam, God removes the doubt agitating the minds of disbelievers about the mission of the Holy Prophet. It does not matter, if they do not understand his mission; even the angels did not understand the purpose of prophethood at its inception.
Adam, who lived about 6,000 years ago, is popularly believed to be the first man created by God upon this earth. This view is, however, not corroborated by a close study of the relevant facts. The truth is that the world has passed throughdifferent cycles of creation and civilization, and Adam, the progenitor of the present human race, is only the first link in the present cycle, and not the very first man in God’s creation. Nations have risen and fallen, civilizations have appeared and disappeared. Other Adams may have gone before our Adam; other races may have lived and perished, and other cycles of civilization appeared and disappeared. This view has also been held by certain eminent Muslim savants. Muhy-ud-Din Ibn ‘Arabi, the great mystic, says that once he saw himself in a dream performing a circuit of the Ka‘bah. In this dream a man appeared before him and claimed to be one of his ancestors. "How long is it since you died?" asked Ibn ‘Arabi. The man replied, "More than forty thousand years." "But this period is much more than what separates us from Adam," said Ibn ‘Arabi. The man replied, "Of which Adam are you speaking? About the Adam who is nearest to you or of some other?" "Then I recollected," says Ibn ‘Arabi, "the saying of the Holy Prophet to the effect that God had brought into being no less than a hundred thousand Adams, and I said to myself, 'Perhaps this man who claims to be an ancestor of mine was one of the previous Adams' " (Futuhat, iii. 607).
If the period covered by the progeny of each Adam be taken to be of seven thousand years, on an average, then, on the basis of the Holy Prophet’s saying referred to above, the age of the human race, as such, works out to be 700 million years; and this is the age of the progeny only of Adams, which does not include such races as may have passed before the creation of the first Adam. As against this, modern science gives one million years as the age of the human race (Enc. Br. 14th Edition, xiv, 767).
It is not claimed that the race which lived before Adam was entirely swept away before he was born. Most probably, there had remained a small degenerated remnant of the old race and Adam was one of them. God then selected him to be the progenitor of a new race and the precursor of a new civilization. Created, as it were, out of the dead, he represented the dawn of a new era of life. In this connection we may well quote from one of the speeches of the Promised Messiah, Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement:
"We do not follow the Bible in holding that the world began with the birth of Adam six or seven thousand years ago, and that before this there was nothing, and God was, as it were, idle and without work. Neither do we claim that all mankind, who are now found in different parts of the earth, are the progeny of the selfsame Adam. On the contrary, we hold that this Adam was not the first man. Mankind existed even before him, as is hinted by the Quran itself, when it says of Adam, 'I am about to place a Khalifah in the earth.' As khalifah means a successor, it is clear that men existed even before Adam. Hence, we cannot say whether the original inhabitants of America, Australia, etc. are the progeny of this last Adam, or of some other Adam gone before him" (Al-Hakam May 30th, 1908).
The word khalifah used about Adam in the verse has, as pointed out above, a reference to the fact that he was a remnant or successor of the old race and was selected by God to bring into being a new race; it also means a vicegerent of God—an Imam or leader appointed by God to fulfil a special mission.
The question here arises, why did the angels object to Adam’s appointment as Khalifah? In this connection, it must be borne in mind that the so-called objection is not really an objection; it is merely a presentation of facts placed before God, not by way of objection but to gain knowledge and obtain enlightenment. In fact, whenever a new Prophet is raised, God intends to bring about through him a revolution in the world, a change in the existing system, an ushering in of a new era. This process naturally entails the destruction of the old system and the construction of a new one. This was to be particularly the case with Adam’s ministry, as he was the first Messenger of a new order.
The people before Adam were without Law and lived almost like savages. Law was to be introduced through Adam and with the introduction of Law was to come sin, for sin is nothing but the breaking of Law. The angels, with their limited knowledge and little insight into the future, were naturally perturbed at the idea that with the ministry of Adam, sin and disobedience would come into being, and people would thenceforward begin to be condemned and punished for acts against which there had previously been no bar. In the view of the angels, Adam was nothing but a Lawgiver who was to prescribe limitations for the actions of man and mete out punishment to those who transgressed. The future Khalifah was thus going to shed blood and create disorder in the earth by shaking the foundations of society.
The angels saw the darker side of the picture only, but God saw the brighter side. Adam was, in the sight of God, a trumpet through which His clarion call was going to be sounded to the people. The dead were going to be quickened and the slumberers awakened from their sleep. Henceforward, there were to come into being men who would know their God and manifest His attributes and lead pious and righteous lives.
God could not leave mankind in a state of spiritual death, just because one section would have to be dubbed as disobedient. One obedient soul was better in the sight of God than a million disobedient ones. Scattered spots of light with patches of darkness, however large, were better than a universal veil of gloom covering the entire earth.
Moreover, Adam and his message could not be held responsible for the recalcitrant spirits who rejected him. He was only a harbinger of mercy, and those who rejected him and, thereby incurred the displeasure of God were themselves to blame for their doom. The sun is not to be condemned for the shadows that must result from its light.
This is the deep truth underlying the story which the verse under discussion narrates to the world, and the verse has been very fittingly placed in the beginning of the Quran to serve as a warning and an eye-opener for those to whom the message of the Holy Prophet of Islam was addressed. The Prophet was bringing light from God and in the wake of his message was to come a gigantic process of destruction and construction for which mankind was to be prepared. Some were to be awakened from sleep and saved from fire, and others to be shaken out of slumber to commit yet more acts of mischief and fan the fire that was blazing. But the believers, however small in number, were far weightier in the sight of God than hosts of disbelievers who had brought destruction on their own heads. Nay, the Prophet taken singly was weightier than the whole of mankind put together. According to a hadith God said to the Holy Prophet لولاك لماخلقت الافلاك"But for thee, O Muhammad, I would not have cared to bring into being the whole universe." This is not an idle boast but a statement full of truth and wisdom. For, is not a grain of truth better than a whole mountain of falsehood? And the Prophet was not a grain of truth, but a whole mountain of it. In the verse under discussion, and for that matter, in the verses that follow, the conversation between God and angels need not necessarily be taken in a literal sense, i.e. it is not necessary that the dialogue should have actually taken place in so many words. As explained under Important Words, the word قال is sometimes used in a figurative sense to convey not actually a verbal expression, but simply a state or condition amounting to a verbal expression. In this sense, it would not be necessary to hold that God actually spoke the words ascribed to Him or that the angels actually replied in so many words. It may simply mean that the angels by their state or condition implied a reply that has been here ascribed to them in words.
Much has been said about the place where Adam was born or where he was raised as a Reformer. The popular view is that he was placed in Paradise but was later expelled therefrom and put somewhere on the earth. But the words in the earth belie this view. These words definitely prove that Adam lived on the earth and it was on the earth that he was raised as a Reformer. As to the place of Adam’s residence, it may be noted that a study of the relevant facts, into a detailed discussion of which we need not go here, indicates that most probably Adam was first made to live in Iraq but was later directed to move down to a neighbouring land.
As we have not held Adam—God’s vicegerent spoken of in this verse—to be the first man created by God, we will not enter here into the discussion as to how and when the first man was created. The subject of the initial creation of man will be dealt with under relevant verses. As will be noted, the word khalifah has been used in the verse under comment in the sense of a Prophet; for truly speaking Prophets are also the khalifas of God, manifesting the divineattributes in accordance with the requirements of their age. In fact, the word khalifah has been used in three senses:
Firstly, it is used to denote a Prophet of God. Prophets are, as it were, the images of God. Adam was a khalifah in this sense. David has also been called a khalifah in this sense in the Quran. Says God: (We said), O David, We have made thee a khalifah or vicegerent in the earth' (38:27).
Secondly, the word khalifah is spoken of a people who come after and stand in place of another. Thus, when a people decline or are destroyed and another people take their place, the latter are called their khalifahs as in 7:70 and 7:75.
Thirdly, the successors of a Prophet are also called khalifahs because they follow in his footsteps and enforce his Law and maintain unity among his followers. Such a khalifah may either be elected by the people or appointed by the Prophet or raised directly by God as a Prophet serving the cause of the preceding one. Abu Bakr was a Khalifah of the Holy Prophet elected by the people after him. Moses appointed Aaron as his khalifah when he went up the Mount, saying to him, Act for me (lit. be my khalifah) among my people in my absence, and manage them well, and follow not the way of those who cause disorder (7:143). Though Aaron was a Prophet himself, yet he also acted as a khalifah in the absence of Moses. In the same way, God sometimes raises a Prophet to reform the followers of another Prophet. Such a Prophet does not bring a new Law but only enforces the existing Law. As he carries on the work of his predecessor, he is called his khalifah or successor. He is neither appointed by his predecessor nor elected by the people but is directly commissioned by God. There have been many such khalifahs among the Israelites. They were Prophets of God but brought no new Law, simply serving the Law of Moses (5:45). Jesus was the last of these khalifahs. He brought no new Law as he himself says: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17, 18).
Muslims have been promised all these three kinds of khalifahs. Says the Quran: Allah has promised, to those among you who believe and do good works, that He will surely make them khalifahs in the earth, as He made khalifahs those who were before them; and that He will surely establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that He will surely change their condition, after their fear, into peace and security: They will worship Me, (and) they will not associate anything with Me. But whoso is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious (24:56). God made Muslims the inheritors of the earth in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet. Then after the Holy Prophet He established the Khilafat of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali. And finally now, according to the Ahmadiyya Movement, God has made Ahmad of Qadian a Khalifah of the Holy Prophet in the same sense in which He made Jesus a khalifah of Moses. Ahmad has attained to prophethood by following in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet and has brought no new Law. He has been raised to serve Islam and make it dominant in the world.
This is the first verse of the Quran which makes mention of angels, so a short note about them will not be out of place here.
As pointed out under Important Words, the word ملك has the literal meaning of a "message-bearer" or "agent". This explains the object of the creation of the angels. They bring messages of God and execute His will in the universe. This does not mean that God is not All-Powerful and All-Knowing and All-Encompassing and that He stands in need of any agents to execute His will or to carry His messages. But in His eternal wisdom He has decided to work with a system. Just as He has a system in the physical world, He has a system in the spiritual world also. The establishment of a system or a method of work is not due to any weakness in God but is, on the other hand, a sign of perfection. Thus angels are part of the system with which God executes His will in both the physical and the spiritual worlds. In the physical world they form the first link, with a number of physical links descending downwards but in the spiritual world they form a direct link between God and man. We may not quite understand the nature of their being, but we may well understand the object of their creation and the functions which they are meant to perform.
According to the teachings of Islam, there is quite a large number of angels, and they are divided into classes, each occupying a definite position and serving a definite purpose. They exercise their influence in their respective spheres and serve as agents for executing God’s will. In the physical world they remain, so to speak, behind the curtain and exercise their influence, through physical agencies working in the universe. It is only when we come to the final physical agency that the sphere of the angels begins. In the spiritual world, however, the influence of the angels is more evident. It is direct and works without any intervening agency. This is one of the reasons why Islam has included belief in angels among the fundamental articles of faith (2:286), because as matters stand, disbelief in angels would mean shutting off the whole avenue through which the light of God comes to man.
Angels are not visible to the physical eye. Yet they do sometimes appear to man in one form or another. This appearance, however, is not real but simply a sort of manifestation. This is why the appearance of the same angel at different times may assume different forms. The contact, however, is not imaginary but real, and exercises direct influence which is definitely felt and may even be tested through its results. There are several Ahadith to the effect that angels appeared to the Holy Prophet a number of times in one form or another. It must, however, be definitely understood that when we speak of an angel appearing to a human being, we do not mean his actual descending on the earth and leaving his fixed station in the heavens. We simply mean his manifestation by means of which he assumes a form which becomes visible to man. It must further be understood that an angel is not merely a force but a living being who executes the will of his Lord, wherever and in whatever manner demanded.
As for the functions of angels, the Quran enumerates a number of them, some of the more important being the following:
1. They are bearers of Divine Messages (22:76).
2. They inspire men to do righteous deeds, moving their hearts to virtue (91:9; also Tirmidhi, ch. on Tafsir).
3. They serve the Prophets and help their cause (15:30; 4:167); they also help believers (41:31, 32).
4. They bring punishment upon those who oppose the Prophets (6:159); and strike their enemies with fear and awe (3:125, 126).
5. They enforce the laws of nature and, as it were, bear the Throne of God on their shoulders (40:8).
The reason why angels have been mentioned in this verse in connection with the mission of Adam is that, as indicated above, one of the functions of the angels is to help the Messengers of God; so whenever a new Prophet is raised in the world, the angels are bidden to serve him by bringing into play the different forces of nature to help his cause. When, therefore, God decided to raise Adam as a Reformer, He informed the angels of His decision so that they should devote themselves to his service.
For a fuller discussion of the subject of angels the reader is referred to (1) Taudih and (2) A’inah by the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement and (3) Mala’ikah by Hadrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, the Second Khalifah of the Ahmadiyya Community. (close)