‘Ād and Thamūd
A careful analysis of the detailed account of the
destruction of ‘Ād as depicted in the holy Qur’ān does not leave one deny the
fact that the winds sent on them worked along with winter clouds that always
accompany thunder and lightning. Wherever the Qur’ān mentions their destruction
it mentions dry clouds and winds as well as thunder. Consider this verse from
Then, when they saw a cloud traversing the sky, coming
to meet their valleys, they said: “This cloud will give us rain!” Nay, it is
that which you were asking to be hastened! – A wind wherein is a grievous
penalty! Everything will it destroy by the command of its Lord. (46:24-5)
Obviously these are the signs of winter. In this season the
searing cold northern winds enter Arabia, spreading dryness, famine, and
destruction everywhere. Sūrah Qamar puts this clearly: “For We sent against them
a furious wind, on a day of violent disaster,” (54:19). The same thing is
presented in Sūrah Ḥ-M Sajdah: “So We sent against them a furious wind through
days of disaster,” (41:16). Such cold searing winds, as we have told earlier,
appear in winter and this is the time they prove most disastrous. Laylā al-Akhīlah,
the famous poetess of the pagan era, says:
Walā ta’khudhu al-kūmu al-jalādu
Li tawbata fī ṣirr al-shitā’i al-ṣanābirī
(Freshness of strong she-camels and cold
winds of winter do not hinder the slaughter.)
Another famous poet Farazdaq says:
Ba‘athtu lahū dahmā’a laysat bi nāqatin
Tadurru idhā mā habba naḥsan ‘aqīmuhā
(I sent for him a brown healthy camel that gave milk during
searing winds of winter.)
These cold wintery winds accompany layers of red clouds,
thunder, and lightning. Arabic literature contains various proofs which can be
adduced to provide a detailed account of these winds. Some important points in
this regard have been discussed in section two.
Sūrah H-M Sajdah mentions thunder and lightning in
connection with the divine punishment meted out to ‘Ād: “But if they turn away,
say you: ‘I have warned you of a stunning punishment like that which overtook
the ‘Ᾱd and the Thamud!’ (Q. 41:13)
This verse makes it quite clear that they were crushed
through heavy thunders. Allah punished them through the clouds, cold winds and
thunder. The actual destruction was brought through the winds. However, it can
be said that Allah sent on Thamūd a kind of layered clouds in which a frightful
lightning and a deafening cry was hidden. It is just like He sent thunder and
lightning over the ‘Ād. Thamūd were destroyed by lightning as depicted in Sūrah
al-Qamar: “We sent against them a furious wind, on a day of violent disaster,”
(54:19). Therefore, a mention of the lightning has been considered enough.
Clouds have not been highlighted though the subsequent events prove that clouds
were also involved. Likewise, in the story of ‘Ād, winds have been frequently
mentioned while clouds have not been mentioned except on one occasion. It is a
characteristic of the Qur’ān that for the sake of brevity it avoids details.
This fact has been mentioned in the fourteenth section.
The People of Noah
The present sūrah does not detail the story of
punishment meted out to the people of Noah (sws). It merely says that Allah
seized and punished the people of Noah (sws) just as He punished other nations
for their sins. But the punishment story of the People of Noah (sws) as
described in the Torah and other sūrahs of the holy Qur’ān makes it quite clear
that they too were destroyed through winds. Allah says in Sūrah ‘Ankabūt: “We
sent Noah (sws) to his people, and he tarried among them a thousand years less
fifty: but the ṭūfān overwhelmed them while they persisted in sin,”
Here the word ṭūfān is noteworthy. The word
ṭūfān is derived from a root that means to encircle or to wind. Arabs use
this word for whirlwind. A pagan poet Ra‘ī lauds his she-camel in these
tumsa idhā al-‘īsu adraknā
kharqā’a ya‘tāduhā al-ṭūfānu wa al-zu’ud
(She (the she-camel) enters evening
(sturdily) while the best breeds of camels reach us about to having consumed
their last bit of power to go on. She is quick in her pace and familiar with
whirlwinds and troubles.)
Such terrible winds are called girdbād in Persian,
cyclones in English, and Bagolās in Hindi. Egyptians worshipped a god of winds.
They called it taifūn. Such winds are distinguished from others because
they bring heavy rain with them. Thus they cause the sea water to rise. I myself
have witnessed such a scene when living in Karachi. A hurricane started from the
eastern part of the Indian Ocean and passed to the West. It caused a mighty
rain. Ships crashed on mountains causing great causalities. The details of the
hurricane which destroyed the people of Noah (sws) as described in the Torah and
holy Qur’ān are similar to the one I witnessed in Karachi. Allah Almighty says
in Sūrah Qamar: “So We opened the gates of heaven, with water pouring forth. And
We caused the earth to gush forth with springs; so the waters met [and rose] to
the extent decreed,” (54:11-2). Genesis 7:11 recounts this story as follows: “On
that very day, all the springs of the great abyss broke through. The windows of
the sky were opened.” The holy Qur’ān says: “So the Ark floated with them on the
waves like mountains,” (11:42). People who experience sea voyage know that
currents rise to the mountains only when a whirlwind is at work. So the presence
of tides in the Noachian flood indicates that the tornado was already blowing.
Mentioning an effect leads one to the cause. This literary technique has been
applied in the holy Qur’ān in more than one place. It has jointly mentioned the
winds and the sea currents so as to show that both are interdependent. Both work
together to create the meaning. For example the Almighty says: “He it is Who
enables you to traverse through land and sea; so that you even board ships;-
they sail with them with a favorable wind, and they rejoice thereat; then comes
a stormy wind and the waves come to them from all sides,” (10:22).
Another important and noteworthy fact is that the words:
“So the Ark floated with them” prove that winds were blowing. We know that the
holy Qur’ān, at another occasion, has clarified that had God stopped the airs,
the arks would have stood still. The Almighty says: “And among His signs are the
ships, smooth-running through the ocean, as mountains. If it be His will He can
still the wind: then would they become motionless on the back of the ocean,” (Q.
42:32-33). Elsewhere, the holy Qur’ān says: “Among His signs is this, that He
sends the winds, as heralds of glad tidings, giving you a taste of His mercy, --
that the ships may sail by His command.” (30:46).
This explanation shows that the source of punishment for
the People of Noah (sws) was a hurricane that brought heavy rains. Water from
the sea nearby gushed and heavy floods sprang from everywhere. In this
hurricane, the ark of Noah (sws) stopped at the mountain Jūdī. It is important
to note here that the interpreters of the Torah have committed a blunder.
Genesis 8:1 says: “And He made a wind pass over the earth, and the waters began
to subside. The springs of the abyss were stopped up, and so were the windows of
the sky. The downpour from the sky was checked.” Apparently it means that God
sent normal wind to stop the cyclone but this is not true. The more probable
interpretation is that it was merely the command of God. This we understand in
the light of Sūrah Hūd: “Then the word went forth: “O earth! Swallow up thy
water, and O sky! Withhold!” And the water abated, and the matter was ended,”
This misinterpretation owes itself to the fact that the
order was first recorded in Hebrew. In Hebrew, order and command and winds are
expressed by a single common word. The holy Qur’ān has corrected this
misinterpretation is this verse. The holy Qur’ān often mentions the
misinterpretations given by the people of the book and corrects it. We have
already discussed it at length.
Sequence of the Stories, their relation with the oaths and
These stories are obviously related with the
oaths sworn in the beginning of the sūrah. We have already explained
this. However, it requires a detailed analysis. The stories of the Qur’ān
contain different aspects of advice and admonition as well as proofs and
arguments. This makes it possible to alter the sequence of the stories to suite
the themes discussed. We will discuss briefly the order in which the stories
have been put in this sūrah.
One aspect of the order in the stories described here is
quite clear. The story of Moses (sws) and Lot (sws) very clearly contain both
the glad tiding and the admonition. If we ponder over the issue we learn that
the same is the case with the winds. They sometimes appear as a blessing and at
another occasion as a source of punishment. This explains why the story of
Abraham (sws) prefaces the rest of the stories.
It is followed by the story of Lot (sws) considering the
fact that Arabs frequently passed through the trade routes where the remains of
the destroyed towns were found. The addressees of the Qur’ān were therefore able
to witness these signs with their very eyes. The sūrah opens with an
oath by the winds which scatter dust, then carry the burden. It refers to the
function of the winds employed in the destruction of the people of Lot (sws):
For they were crushed through stifling winds that covered their abodes with sand
and stone pebbles. These were so heavily piled that the whole town was buried
Furthermore, as has been explained earlier, the Divine
statement that “On the earth are signs for those of assured faith,” has a clear
proof in the story of Lot (sws). This has been fairly detailed in an earlier
In short, these are the four reasons that the story of Lot
(sws) has sequential preference.
The next story is that of Moses (sws). Firstly, this story
has been related many times in the holy Qur’ān. It contains many valuable signs
and morals. Secondly, it has a deep connection with the second portion of the
muqsam bihī, that is “and those that lift and bear away heavy weights, and
those that flow with ease and gentleness” as discussed earlier.
There is point to be noted here. This story and the
previous one start with the name of the prophets. It gives a slight hint that
the aspect of blessing is prominent in these stories. The later stories start
with the name of the nation of the respective prophets showing that the aspect
of punishment is dominant. In this regard, ‘Ād and Thamūd are specially
mentioned. This is well understood that the source of punishment inflicted on
them (ie. By the rippled clouds) was rippled clouds. A little more deliberation
will take us to the conclusion that the sequence adopted in the oaths is also
kept up while relating the stories of parallel nations. In the mention of ‘Ād
and Thamūd, the former has been preferred. The reason is that they were
destroyed first. Another reason is that the source of their destruction was a
combination of winds and the clouds.
At the end, comes the story of Noah (sws). It presents an
everlasting portent of Allah’s blessing on all the nations and ummahs.
The following verse hints towards this reality: “When the water overflowed
beyond its limits, we carried you in the floating Ark that We might make it a
reminder to you, and that bearing ears retain it,” (69:11-2). We have seen in
the previous discussion that in this story, the earth, heaven, wind, clouds,
boat and water, in short, all the signs of God have been put together. This
quality has made the story a collection of internal as well as external signs
and arguments. This makes this story correspond to the oaths by the winds in the
beginning and also for the conclusion. However, it has been mentioned after the
portents of the earth and the heaven along with the mentioned arguments. Thus in
a way this story befittingly recapitulates the previously mentioned arguments.
Besides, the ‘Ād and Thamūd were given the rule on the
earth later than Noah (sws). It entails that the story of Noah (sws) is
mentioned after the 'Ad and Thamūd. Another example of this type of ordering
themes is found in the following verse: “And that it is He Who destroyed the
ancient ‘Ad [people]; and the Thamūd nor gave them a lease of perpetual life.
And before them, the people of Noah (sws), for that they were most unjust and
most insolent transgressors,” (Q. 53:50-3). Since this story is well known and
famous the holy Qur’ān merely gave a passing reference to it. Also it has been
mentioned as a final story.
Besides, it is an outstanding form of brief introduction
and a change of style that illustrates that it has a greater importance for its
special and permanent connection with the past events. Therefore, the word wa
fī nūḥin has not been used as is the case with the story of Moses (sws),
‘Ad and Thamūd. That is why this story does not come with connection to the
story of Abraham (sws).
Relation of the Passage 47-51 with the Succeeding Verses
Islamic teachings are based on three fundamental articles.
These include tawḥīd, the Last Judgment and risālah. Because these three
beliefs are strongly interrelated, these are often mentioned together. Sometimes
the discourse suddenly shifts from one of these to another.
We have clarified in the beginning of the eighth section
that all proofs for the Day of Judgment and the risālah basically appear
as the necessary and substantial result of belief in the unicity of God. The
first two are considered branches of tawḥīd. This general reality made
it possible that proofs for tawḥīd have been given just after mentioning
the reward and punishment to close the argument. The style of expression adopted
here is so outstanding that the discourse is never broken. However, it continues
shifting from one point to another giving a slight indication of the belief in
risālah. The holy Qur’ān says:
Text and Translation 51:
وَالسَّمَاء بَنَيْنَاهَا بِأَيْدٍ وَإِنَّا لَمُوسِعُونَ
وَالْأَرْضَ فَرَشْنَاهَا فَنِعْمَ الْمَاهِدُونَ وَمِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَا
زَوْجَيْنِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ فَفِرُّوا إِلَى اللَّهِ إِنِّي لَكُم مِّنْهُ
نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ وَلَا تَجْعَلُوا مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَهًا آخَرَ إِنِّي لَكُم
مِّنْهُ نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ t
With power and skill did We construct
the firmament: We have boundless power. And We have spread out the earth: How
excellently We do spread out! And of everything We have created pairs: That you
may receive instruction. Hasten you then to Allah. I am from Him a Warner to
you, clear and open! And make not another object of worship with Allah. I am
from Him a Warner to you, clear and open! (51:47-51)
Explanation of Words and Ta’wīl of Sentences and Phrases
This part of the discourse is joined to the evidences given
above regarding reward and punishment. Thus the adduced evidence follows
The phrase ayyadahū means: He lent power to him. The
Qur’ān reckons it at another occasion that the sky is a symbol of God’s
invincible power and strength and His abounding wisdom: “What! Are you the more
difficult to create or the heaven? He has constructed it,” (79:27).
having boundless power
God’s power is boundless. One cannot deny the fact that the
maker of the sky has boundless power. He has vast choices. This becomes obvious
if one observes the vastness of the sky, its height, its beauty, and its
spread it out
Allah made the earth the floor for His creatures. Elsewhere
the holy Qur’ān says: “Who has made the earth your couch,” (2:22). It declares
at another occasion: “Have We not made the earth as a wide expanse?” (78:6) At
another occasion, the Almighty says: “It is He Who has made the earth manageable
for you, so traverse you through its tracts,” (Q. 67:15).
The context and placement of the verse shows that the
heightening of the heaven and the spreading of earth is also included in the
meaning of creation (khalaqnā). In considering this aspect, the whole
verse can be paraphrased as follows: He raised the heaven and unfolded the earth
and created a countless number of benefits out of it. Likewise, He has made
everything in pairs so that you know that the Last Judgment will be held and
learn that He alone is the provider of every creature. He is above every
creature. He is powerful, merciful and wise. This will be discussed in next
chapter in detail.
The word zawj implies two significations. Firstly,
it connotes that one part complements the other. The one suits and corresponds
to the other. Both cooperate to produce a common result. It is clear from the
following verse: “We made his partner suit him,” (Q. 21:90). Secondly, each part
of the pair parallels and contrasts the other. For instance: “And have sent down
water from the sky. With it have We produced diverse pairs of plants each
separate from the others,” (20:53). At another place the holy Qur’ān says: “And
We produced therein every kind (zawj) of beautiful growth,” (50:7).
minhu nadhīrun mubīn:
from Him a Warner
Minhu in this phrase means: from him. This is not a
preposition used with the word nadhīrun. The Arabic word andhara
does not require a preposition. The verb attaches a direct object. It is said
andharahū iyyāhū. A warned B of something. It is not said: andharahū
A number of such examples can be found in the holy Qur’ān.
The phrase minhu nadhīrun mubīn occurs twice in this passage. It is not
repetition. The phrase in both of its occurrences delivers a different message.
In the first instance of its use here it implies encouragement. It shows that
Allah has sent the Warner with His special blessing to stop you from ignorance
and to urge you upon seeking His nearness. In the second instance, it has been
used as a warning. It conveys that polytheism is a great sin which is
unforgivable. So He sent a Warner whose duty is to inform you of the severe
consequences of this great sin so that you could avoid it.
Creation in Pairs and Tawḥīd, Risālah and Day of Judgment
The belief in tawḥīd is very natural and clear to
the human intellect. It does not need proofs. That is why most of the worldly
religions teach belief in one God. It is a universally accepted reality. This
wide universe and its contents distinctly witness His existence. It is
impossible to deny the belief in tawḥīd. Conflicts and dissention are
based on the way of accepting God instead of His acceptance or rejection. People
believe in Allah but do not do so as they should. Consequently, they are
considered as rejecters in spite of their belief in His existence. The holy
Qur’ān has described this reality in these words: “And most of them believe not
in Allah without associating other as partners with Him!” (12:106). Therefore,
whenever the holy Qur’ān calls human beings to believe in Allah, it adopts such
a style which negates polytheism. It aims at removing the basis of the evil. It
also explains that tawḥīd, risālah and the Day of Judgment are a
necessary corollary of belief in God. The holy Qur’ān adopts this manner of
argument in brief as well as in concise descriptions. But finding no time to go
into details we will lean on necessary points only.
Creation of everything in pairs has two different aspects.
Both the aspects come from different meanings of the same word ie. al-zawj.
1. The first aspect is that, the whole universe, in spite
of its vastness and the differences of its contents, witnesses that its Creator
is one and only. He, alone, is managing this universe. He alone is its occupant
and owner. If each part of it had a different creator or manager, it would have
been impossible to make these different things cooperate with each other. These
different classes of creations could never agree to work for a shared result
that is not to their personal benefit. Whereas on the other hand, we find all
parts of the universe always ready for the service to the rest.
A group of atheists and philosophers think that the
germination or development and completion of everything are resulting from
forces working hidden within the things. Those forces create suitable parts for
a thing and fulfill all of its needs. We don’t consider this to be the right
thinking. If the development of everything is based on the movement or
instruction of its inner forces, how can these forces make it compatible with
other objects which are far away from its needs or knowledge? The compatibility
of one part of a pair with its other part is clear evidence that their creator
is an entity totally different and above them who knows their benefits and makes
each part of a pair suitable for the other.
Furthermore, it should not be ignored that this world is a
unit as a whole. Many of its aspects seem to be faulty and its existence is
dependent on a complement entity that could bring it to perfection such that it
is no more suffering from these faults and is able to fulfill its purposes. This
very thing is called the Day of Judgment.
Looking carefully into this reasoning leads us to two great
Firstly, it proves the existence of a powerful and wise
creator, who made one thing a complementing counterpart of another so that both
works united for the benefits of human beings.
Secondly, it supports that a resurrection and Day of
Judgment function as a pair of this temporary world. For more detail on this
aspect, see my commentary of Sūrah Shams.
2. The second aspect of the argument is that God has
created numberless creations. The created things differ with each other in many
aspects despite their unity of origin. This proves that there is a Creator who
manages the system of this universe. He is taking care of the needs of these
things. Necessarily He is alone and above these created things. That is why, in
spite of the differences between the objects, He manages the system in such a
way that none of the parts clashes with the others and the whole system of the
world is working harmoniously.
As much as it proves that Allah has no partner to share His
power, dominion, knowledge and wisdom, it also establishes that He will deal
with everything on merit. He will not deal with the pious and sinners, and the
obedient and the arrogant, in the same way. This is a clear and manifest
argument for reward and punishment. This has been expressed numerous times in
the holy Qur’ān. We need not detail it here.
This argument regarding the creation of everything in
pairs, in both of the aspects, leads to the conclusion that the universe has a
creator who alone is managing the universe. It also proves that the Creator is
kind and loving. His knowledge and mercy enshrouds everything. Everything from
the heaven to the earth is in His shelter and possession. He has put the created
things in service to human beings.
Since His mercy and power cover everything He is the only
source of help and support. In His hands is all good. It is only by His
permission that any harm comes to those who disobey Him and seek help from other
than Him. This has been openly explained in many places in the holy Qur’ān. The
Almighty, for example, says:
What Allah out of his Mercy does bestow on mankind there
is none that can withhold: what He does withhold, there is none that can grant,
apart from Him: and He is the Exalted in Power, full of Wisdom. O men! Call to
mind the grace of Allah unto you! Is there a creator, other than Allah, to give
you sustenance from heaven or earth? There is no god but He: how then are you
deluded away? (35:2-3)
The implication is that how, then, are you turning away
from Him, Who is your refuge and protector while you find His blessings abundant
and His mercy boundless.
The best expression of His mercy is the fact that He sends
messengers and prophets for the guidance of human beings. They are sent to warn
people from the way of the sinners who turn their face from their real Creator
and go astray. The main duty of the divine messengers, therefore, is to invite
people to adopt the path leading to their real Lord and to admonish them of the
painful doom nearing them every second.
A person rejecting the advice of these messengers, who come
with clearly established evidence, leads himself into destruction. He himself is
to be blamed for the unfortunate consequences. This is because firstly he flees
from His Lord. Secondly, he does not accept what His messengers tell him.
Thirdly, he rejects all the painful inflictions waiting for him as a result of
his wrongdoings. The last three verses guide us to these three things. These
invite to the belief in tawḥīd in a way that includes belief in risālah and the
Day of Judgment. These verses also reveal that believing in the Divine
Messengers and the Resurrection is a necessary corollary of belief in the most
kind, powerful and wise God.
Coherence and Context 51: 47-51
The above proves that the basic thrust of these
verses is to invite the unbelievers towards Allah, who provides them with food
and shelter. These verses employ natural evidence. These also tell us that the
disobedient to God and the rejecters of the admonition of His Messenger are
awaited by a horrible treatment. These verses warn people that if they follow
the path of such unfortunate folks, they would meet the fate of their leaders.
The holy Qur’ān says:
But if they turn away, tell them: “I have warned you of
a stunning punishment like that which overtook the ‘Ad and the Thamūd!” (41:13)
These verses also clarify that there is no God but Allah
who alone provides His servants with shelter. He protects all, but is not
protected. Everything in the universe evidences His blessings, power, knowledge
and wisdom. So worship Him and listen to the advice of His Messengers who have
been sent to ask people to follow the way of virtue and do good deeds so that He
might forgive them. The same message was delivered by Noah (sws) to his people.
The holy Qur’ān says in this regard:
We sent Noah (sws) to his People [with the command[: “Do
warn your people before there comes to them a grievous penalty.” He said: “O my
People! I am to you a warner, clear and open: “That you should worship Allah,
fear Him and obey me: “So He may forgive you your sins and give you respite for
a stated term.” (71:1-4).
If we carefully analyze this passage it becomes clear that
it mixes warning with encouragement. This is not the only instance that the
Qur’ān mixes warning and glad tidings. Indeed most of the stories of the Qur’ān
combine the two. For example, the story of Abraham (sws) and Lot (sws) in Sūrah
Ḥijr starts as follows:
Tell My servants that I am indeed the Oft-forgiving,
Most Merciful; And that My penalty will be indeed the most grievous penalty.
Tell them about the guests of Abraham (sws). (15:49-51)
Likewise, the stories of ancient people related here do not
only warn the people but draw their attention towards the beneficent and
After a mention of the three basic articles of faith i.e.
tawḥīd (unicity of God), ma‘ād (Resurrection) and the risālah
(the institution of prophecy), the discourse turns to console the holy Prophet (sws).
This consolation also has some meaningful aspects. This consolation has been
repeated throughout the holy Qur’ān. Sometimes it is put at the end of surāhs.
Some examples have been cited in the commentary on the previous sūrah. On
this basis, this sūrah also concludes in consolation to the Prophet (sws).
Here it adopts a style which is so precise that it covers most of the important
aspects in this regard. The Almighty says:
Text and Translation 51: 52-60
كَذَلِكَ مَا أَتَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِم مِّن رَّسُولٍ
إِلَّا قَالُوا سَاحِرٌ أَوْ مَجْنُونٌ أَتَوَاصَوْا بِهِ بَلْ هُمْ قَوْمٌ
طَاغُونَ فَتَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ فَمَا أَنتَ بِمَلُومٍ وَذَكِّرْ فَإِنَّ الذِّكْرَى
تَنفَعُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
مَا أُرِيدُ مِنْهُم مِّن رِّزْقٍ وَمَا أُرِيدُ أَن يُطْعِمُونِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ
هُوَ الرَّزَّاقُ ذُو الْقُوَّةِ الْمَتِينُ فَإِنَّ لِلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا ذَنُوبًا
مِّثْلَ ذَنُوبِ أَصْحَابِهِمْ فَلَا يَسْتَعْجِلُونِ فَوَيْلٌ لِّلَّذِينَ
كَفَرُوا مِن يَوْمِهِمُ الَّذِي يُوعَدُونَ
Similarly, no apostle came to the
peoples before them, but they said in like manne: “A sorcerer, or one
possessed”! Is this the legacy they have transmitted, one to another? Nay, they
are themselves a people transgressing beyond bounds! So turn away from them: not
yours is the blame. But teach for teaching benefits the believers. I have only
created the Jinn and men, that they may serve Me. No sustenance do I require of
them, nor do I require that they should feed Me. For Allah is He Who gives
sustenance,- powerful, mighty. The wrong-doers are granted a respite similar to
the one granted to their fellows: then let them not ask Me to hasten that! Woe,
then, to the unbelievers, on account of that day of theirs which they have been
Explanation of Words and Ta’wīl of Sentences and
Phrases 51: 52-60
This word introduces a new independent passage. This means
that it is a totally new discussion. This word ie. kadhālika beckons to
the rejection of the Prophets (sws) by the people of earlier nations. The whole
message can be paraphrased as follows:
Every nation that rejected the messengers raised among them
did so after the fashion of the above mentioned people. Therefore, you do not
have to worry over their deeds. Do not let the delay of domination of the truth
overcome you and do not hurry towards the day of triumph.
Qālū sāḥirun aw majnūn: they
said: a sorcerer, or possessed
The comment of Pharaoh has been discussed above where the
Almighty says: “But [the Pharaoh] turned back with his chiefs, and said, “A
sorcerer, or one possessed!”” (51-39). The same words were used for other
prophets of the past. The Qur’ān points out that the holy Prophet (sws) received
the same response. The above phrase refers to the response of the addressees of
the Prophet (sws).
Atawāṣaw bihī bal hum qawmun ṭāghūn: Is this the legacy they have
transmitted, one to another? Nay, they are themselves a people transgressing
The question here implies an exclamation. The conjunction bal draws the
attention of the listener to the reality. The whole sentence can be interpreted
as follows: Their statement that the divine Messenger is a sorcerer or possessed
one is utterly against reality. It seems that their ancestors advised this to
them and that is what they followed. They have been utterly blind refusing to
use their brains. It also draws their attention towards the fact that what they
say is based on their pride and ignorance.
Fatawalla ‘anhum famā anta bimalūm: So turn away from them: not yours is the
Leave them for a considerable time so that they can revise their stance. Such
a command to the holy Prophet (sws) does not mean that he should let them go
astray but it contains the following pieces of advice.
First, they should be left alone for a short time so that their enmity loses
Second, their rudeness should be cured sympathetically. Their matter should
be left to God to decide. The holy Qur’ān asserts:
Therefore do give admonition, for you are one to admonish. You are not one to
manage [their] affairs. But if any turn away and reject Allah,- Allah will
punish him with a mighty punishment, for to Us will be their return; Then it
will be for Us to call them to account. (88:21-6)
At another place, the Qur’ān puts in: “Your duty is to make [the Message]
reach them: it is Our part to call them to account.” (13:40)
Thirdly, the messenger should not run after their addressees to make their
wish to convert them into Muslims come true and should not lose his energy for
their cause. This has been repeated many times in the holy Qur’ān. Consider the
following verse: “You would only, perchance, fret yourself to death, following
after them, in grief, if they believe not in this Message,” (18:6). At another
occasion it warns him [the Prophet] in the following words: “So let not your
soul go out in sighing after them: for Allah knows well all that they do!”
For these reasons, whenever the Qur’ān orders the Prophet (sws) to leave the
rejecters, it also conveys the following messages:
First, it threatens the rejecters.
Second, it promises divine help to the faithful.
Third, there is consolation to the Prophet stating that he has fulfilled his
duty. He needs not worry about the result.
Fourth, it advises the holy Prophet (sws) to remain steadfast in his belief
and to offer the prayer. It also advises him not to worry about the respite
given them and to accept Allah’s decision as He is the savior. He shows the
right path to whomever He chooses. He never hastens to punishment and gives a
chance to those who repent over their deeds. Therefore, it is a duty of every
Muslim and the messenger to show patience, and to tolerate the rejection and
wait for the triumph of the truth.
The holy Qur’ān presents clear evidences in support of this interpretation.
For example, it declares in Sūrah Muzzammil:
And have patience with what they say, and leave them with
noble dignity. And leave Me [deal with] those in possession of the good things
of life, who yet deny the truth; and bear with them for a little while. With Us
are fetters, and a fire, and a food that chokes, and a penalty grievous.
At another place, this theme has been put in as follows:
And turn away from those who join false gods with Allah.
For sufficient are We unto you against those who scoff,- Those who adopt, with
Allah, another god: but soon will they come to know. We do indeed know how your
heart is distressed at what they say. But celebrate the praises of your Lord,
and be of those who prostrate themselves in adoration. And serve your Lord until
there come unto you the Hour that is certain. (15:94-9)
Sūrah Sāffāt says:
Already has Our word been passed before to Our servants
sent, that they would certainly be assisted, and that Our forces,- they surely
must conquer. So turn you away from them for a little while, and watch them, and
they soon shall see! Do they wish to hurry on our punishment? But when it
descends into the open space before them, evil will be the morning for those who
were warned! So turn you away from them for a little while, and watch and they
soon shall see! (37:171-9)
The whole of Surāh Shu‘arā’ explicates aspects of this reality. It says that
although most of the rejecters do not accept the faith, Allah never rushes
towards the infliction of His doom. So the Messenger should not be disheartened
over the delay in appearance of divine judgment. To prove this point, the sūrah
presents the stories of the past people. Each story is followed by the verse:
“Verily, in this is a sign: but most of them do not believe. And verily, your
Lord is the one, exalted in might, Most Merciful.” (26:8-9, 103-4, 121-2,
139,40, 158-9, 174-5, 190-1)
Wa dhakkir: and warn
Besides ignoring the previously mentioned group of rejecters, you must
continue advising the general addressees. It is useful for them all. The wisdom
of the continuous reminder to the generality is explained in the following
Although the word is used for advice in general, here it refers to the
reminder of the Day of Judgment as is clear from the following verse from Sūrah
Ibrāhim: “And teach them to remember the days of Allah,” (Q. 14:5). We know that
in the holy Qur’ān the arguments for reward and punishment are mostly followed
by the verses which contain the word dhikrā as in: “Verily in this is a message
(dhikrā),” (Q. 39:21 and Q. 50:8). Elsewhere the words tabsiratan wa dhikrā
(there is a reminder and a message in it (50:8) have also been mentioned in the
Dhū al-quwwatin al-matīn:
Due to the stop at the word matīn, we cannot judge its right declension (i‘rāb).
Due to absence of any i‘rāb difference of reading and pronunciation of the
ending of the sentence is out of question. However, the scholars have differed
over the i‘rāb of the word. Some people consider it to be in the genitive (majrūr).
They hold that it is an adjective qualifying the preceding noun al-quwwah (might). Actually,
al-quwwah originally signified the strength of a rope. We
know that the word matīn and the word ḥabl collocate. This makes it more
probable that the word matīn here qualifies the noun al-quwwah. The word
is not used in the feminine form since it is formed after the formation fa‘īl
which is used both for the masculine as well as the feminine gender. For
instance, the holy Qur’ān says: “inna raḥmata Allahi qarībum (for the Mercy of
Allah is always near) to those who do good,” (7:56). In this sentence the
feminine word raḥmah has been described as qarīb which is masculine. Yet both
Some other scholars think that the word matīn is in the nominative (marfū‘).
Thus they make it an adjective of the phrase dhu al-quwwah (the one possessed of
quwwah, strong). But this word (matīn) has not been used as an attribute of
Allah. Therefore, it seems better to consider that a pronoun hū (his) has been
left unstated. The proper construction would be al-matīn quwwatihī which means
the one whose power is matīn, i.e. strong. Thus both the views on the declension
of the word matīn do not affect the meaning.
Dhanūb is used for a filled bucket. An empty vessel is not called
From this signification this word has been used for fortune. Abu Dhu’ib says in
one of his verses:
La ‘amriki wa al-manāyā ghālibāt
Li kulli banī abin minhā dhanūb
(By your life! None can escape death. Every son born of a
father has a certain share (dhanūb) in it.)
‘Aqlamah b. ‘Abdah, in his laudatory remarks for Ḥarath, says:
Wa fī kulli qawmin qad khabaṭṭa bi ni‘mat
Fa ḥuqqa li Sha’sin min nadāka dhanūb
(You have honored every nation with your generosities and
Shāsh has a right to enjoy a share from it.5)
In the above verse, the word dhunūb has been used for a short respite granted
to the unbelievers. The holy Qur’ān says that whatever they want to enjoy from
the short life, let them do, until the time is over. Time and food destined for
them from Allah should reach them. Let them do whatever evil they want to
commit. They have to face a dreadful doom. Notice how the word dhunūb has
embellished the expression and lent great eloquence to it. The next verse
supports this interpretation. Many other verses can be found in the holy Qur’ān
supporting this point of view. For example, the verse:
But your Lord is Most forgiving, full of mercy. If He were to call them to
account for what they have earned, then surely He would have hastened their
punishment, but they have their appointed time, beyond which they will find no
In this verse, the promise signifies the exact time of punishment. Similarly,
dhunūb illustrates the life given to unbelievers by Allah. When they would have
used up the bounties of Allah destined for them and they would have finished
with what they wanted to do, their bowl will be filled ie. their time would be
Ta’wīl of the Last Three Verses
These three verses give a very important message. In these
verses, the purpose of the creation of human beings has been stated. These also
refer to the Last Judgment which is a necessary corollary of this purpose of
creation. These contain a glad tiding for the faithful and a threat for
the rejecters. Therefore, under this heading, we will discuss these things
connecting them with some other realities.
In the interconnection and coherence of these verses,
important evidence to the necessity of reward and punishment is buried. They
also clear the doubt of the disbelievers about the reward and punishment, who
infer from the delay in the seizure that the judgment might never come. This
aspect of these verses makes plain their relationship with the preceding and the
succeeding passages. I intend to highlight all these indications and discuss
these verses in detail.
The context of the verses clearly shows that their main
purpose is to express the wisdom behind the delay in the seizure of the
rejecters and the unbelievers. This theme has been clarified at different
occasions in the holy Qur’ān. However, these verses provide the clearest
evidence to the fact. In this context, they come as evidence to the fact
mentioned in the previous verses: fatawalla ‘anhum to al-mu’minīn (So
turn away from them: not yours is the blame. But teach [your Message] for
teaching benefits the Believers. (51:54-5)
The detail of the argument follows. Worldly masters put
their servants in service to them. They want them to be a source of provision of
food, or power and honor for them. Allah has, however, not created humans and
the jinn for such a purpose. He himself provides all the sources, including
sustenance and wealth to His creatures. He does not need their help in any
situation. But it does not mean that He has let the humans go free after
creating them nor that He does not have anything to do with them. Such a view is
sheer nonsense. There is no room to doubt that Allah has not created the human
beings for His personal benefit. He is above receiving help from others. He has
created them so that they can take benefit from His bounties, win His favor and
enjoy the blessing of this world as well as the Hereafter. Those who look into
the matter carefully cannot ignore that the perfect success for the human beings
lies in worshipping God, winning His favor and obeying His orders for He has
commanded them only that which brings success to them and lends them excellence
and perfection. They have been created to achieve such excellence and
perfection. The good things (khayrāt) are hidden. It is through the creation
that they become manifest. The potential materializes into reality. This gives
rise to further good. This way the created things develop and progress on the
plan of excellence and perfection. The holy Qur’ān says in this regard: “If any
do seek for glory and power,- to Allah belongs all glory and power. To Him mount
up all words of purity.” (35:10)
This reality gives rise to two important points. Firstly,
Allah never hastens to punish people for their misdeeds. He gives them respite
so that those capable of bringing a change in them should use this opportunity.
If Allah were to punish men for their wrong-doing, He would not leave on the
earth a single living creature: but He gives them respite for a stated term.
Secondly, when they do not abandon their evil activities even after Allah has
given His warnings, they are necessarily annihilated. In this regard, the holy
Qur’ān says: “Such were the populations we destroyed when they committed
iniquities; but we fixed an appointed time for their destruction.” (18:59)
The Qur’ānic words dhū al-quwwata al-matīn combine two points:
First, humans and the jinn are not related to Allah the way slaves are
related to their masters. Masters totally depend on their servants who are a
source of their sustenance, honour and dignity. If their servants rebel against
them, their high status is ruined. Allah is totally free of such need for help.
His kingdom is built on His own scheme. Neither is He in need of any help nor
does enmity of someone affect Him.
Second, the respite Allah Almighty gives to the rejecters does not mean that
they are beyond His control or that He will not hold them into account or that
they will always remain at large. No, they are always under His control. He can
seize them anytime. Confident in His power and strength, He leaves them for a
while as He knows no one can cross the boundaries He marks. This has been
explicitly mentioned in the succeeding verse (verse 59).
In the light of above discussion, we can see that the verses 56-58 bring two
things to light about the rejecters. Firstly, the rejecters are granted respite
to think over their issue and change their behavior. Secondly, if they do not
utilize the respite and persist in rejection of the truth they would be
executed. Similarly, these verses give the Prophet (sws) two messages. Firstly,
he should continue with his call to the faith. Secondly, he should not worry
about the response of the rejecters. He should spend his spare time in prayer
and singing hymns to God.
A parallel in the holy Qur’ān explains this topic in the following words:
“Enjoin prayer on thy people, and be constant therein. We ask you not to provide
sustenance: We provide it for you. But the Hereafter is for righteousness.”
If you consider both groups of the verses (20:132 and 51:56-8) you will learn
that both of them elucidate that Allah does not need any help from His human
servants. Worshiping and serving Him is their duty and to their benefit.
Similarly, at more than one place, advice has been given to offer prayer, to be
attentive to God and to leave the matter of the disbelievers to Allah. Here, it
has been told that we all are servants of God and all the systems are working
according to His schemes.
All this detail shows that in these verses some points of wisdom have been
discussed. Some of them are given below.
1. The purpose of the creation of mankind and the jinn is that they
should serve God.
2. Worship and service to the masters are different things. Allah
requires obedience from His servants, not service. It explains the nature and
reality of the lordship of God.
3. The purpose for which the mankind have been created and the
blessings of God require that the rejecters are not caught imminently for their
sins. They are given considerable time to mend their behavior to the truth.
4. The wisdom behind the creation of mankind and the divine attribute
of justice require that reward and punishment are applied and that the truth be
made to triumph over falsehood.
5. The faithful should not hurry for the triumph of truth over
falsehood. They should rather remain content with Allah’s decision. Whatever
happens is approved by the wise God. It is the demand of God’s wisdom, justice
6. The soul of all the worship rituals is the prayer and the
celebration of the praises of God for it implies submission (to God) as well as
reliance on Him.
The central theme (‘umūd) of these verses is the necessity of the Last
Judgment. The creation of mankind and the jinn for a specific purpose requires
that they should be held accountable for their deeds one day. It also entails
that this world is ephemeral and not everlasting. The humans and other creatures
must meet an end. Therefore, the truth will triumph over short-lived falsehood.
Several verses of the holy Qur’ān explain this reality. Consider the following
How many were the populations We utterly destroyed because
of their iniquities, setting up in their places other peoples? Yet, when they
felt Our punishment, behold, they flee from it. “Flee not, but return to the
good things of this life which were given to you, and to your homes in order
that you may be called to account.” They said: “Ah! woe to us! We were indeed
wrong-doers!” And that cry of theirs ceased not, till We made them as a field
that is mown, as ashes silent and quenched. Not for idle sport did We create the
heavens and the earth and all that is between! If it had been Our wish to take
just a pastime, We would surely have taken it from the ]things nearest to Us, if
We would do [such a thing]!
Nay, We hurl the truth against falsehood, and it knocks out its brain, and
behold, falsehood does perish! Ah! Woe be to you for the false things you
ascribe to Us. To Him belong all creatures in the heavens and on earth: Even
those who are in His [very] presence are not too proud to serve Him, nor are
they ever weary of His service: They celebrate His praises night and day, and do
not ever flag or intermit.” (21:11-20)
These verses clearly explain that Allah has been replacing
the cruel and miscreants with other people, for He had not created them to have
fun or make merry. He would not sit and watch them ignoring whatever good or
evil they do and not call them to account for their deeds. Allah is truth and He
loves the truth. Therefore, he distinguishes truth from falsehood. Everything
except God is false. If anything truly exists, it is only because it garments
itself in the truth by worshipping and submitting to God. All the respected
angels live only on account of their worship to God and submission before Him.
They worship Allah continuously and earn a right to living. One refusing to
enter Allah’s submission exposes himself to destruction and makes himself a
target of Allah’s wrath. All these things signify Allah’s greatness, His wisdom,
justice and His blessing. They bear a threat for the cruel reprobates and a good
tiding for the God-fearing and the pious.
The above discussion clearly shows that these nine verses
were revealed for the consolation of the holy Prophet (sws). But along with the
consolation, they carry a few other messages to him which follow:
1. Gossip and comments by the cruel and miscreants
should be ignored.
2. To have patience and wait for the victory of
3. Allah is wise, Just and Merciful.
4. Giving the cruel a delay is a part of the
5. Allah has set up a specific time for
6. Allah has created all the creatures for a
7. Essence of worship and reality of service are
totally distinct things.
8. The Last Judgment and resultant grant of reward
and infliction of punishment is inevitable.
All these themes have been put in a striking sequence. Each
among these proves and leads to the other. The discussion culminates in a
mention of the theme of the sūrah, that is, to admonition and threat (takhwīf)
so that the people can relent to their Lord.
(Translated by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)