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Surah Taha (4)
Qur'anic Exegesis
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

یَعۡلَمُ مَا بَیۡنَ اَیۡدِیۡهِمۡ وَ مَا خَلۡفَهُمۡ وَ لَا یُحِیۡطُوۡنَ بِهِ عِلۡمًا (110) 1

This verse has been explained under the throne verse of Surah al-Baqarah. The implication is that God’s knowledge is all embracing. None else can grasp the extent of God’s knowledge. When this is the case, who can add to His knowledge and on this basis intercede before Him for someone? God does not need to find out the details about the character of a person. This issue has been discussed under verse 87 of Surah Maryam too. Readers can look it up.


وَ عَنَتِ الۡوُجُوۡهُ لِلۡحَیِّ الۡقَیُّوۡمِ وَ قَدۡ خَابَ مَنۡ حَمَلَ ظُلۡمًا (111)2

The word عنو means to express humility and meekness and the word ظُلۡم means polytheism, as has been explained at a number of instances.

This verse strikes another blow at the advocates of the wrong conception of intercession. About their alleged intercessors, they thought that they held a very high status with God. They could coax and cajole Him to accept whatever they wanted. They could ask Him with full courage, confidence and insistence to fulfil their desires. Such was the affection God had for them that He would necessarily accept their wishes and intercession. The verse negates this concept in an emphatic way.

Here from among the attributes of God, the ones referred to are الۡحَیُّ and الۡقَیُّوۡمُ. They have a special significance. It is known about the Idolaters of Arabia that they did believe in God but because of their polytheistic beliefs, they had relegated him to the status of a helpless elder of a house who had delegated all his responsibilities to others and secluded himself in isolation. This conception of God had made them totally indifferent to His existence and made them trust and depend on their alleged deities and intercessors. Here the Qur’an has also criticized this view by informing them that God is a living God Who is overseeing the matters of His creatures. He has not left them at the mercy of others and it should not be thought that as the first cause has no role in their lives.

The word ظُلۡم refers to polytheism and it is not defined to signify the fact that in whatever form a person indulges in it will not be acceptable to God in the Hereafter. Here it needs to be kept in mind that polytheism is not merely idol-worship; it has some very subtle and blatant forms and each leads to ruin in the hereafter. I have been referring to its various types during the course of this tafsir and have also penned an independent tract on this subject: Essence of Polytheism.


وَ مَنۡ یَّعۡمَلۡ مِنَ الصّٰلِحٰتِ وَ هُوَ مُؤۡمِنٌ فَلَا یَخٰفُ ظُلۡمًا وَّ لَا هَضۡمًا (112)3

When ظُلۡم and هَضۡم occur together the way they have in this verse, the former refers to usurpation of rights and the latter to embezzlement and injustice. In the first, a person does not fulfil his rights towards others and in the second a person is guilty of extorting from others.

The previous verse pointed out that doomed is the person who indulges in any form of polytheism. Here it is said in parallel that he who does righteous deeds and is also a believer, will be fully rewarded and should not fear any appropriation or extortion.

The condition of being a believer shows that the person is doing righteous deeds while adhering to monotheism; if these deeds are contaminated with polytheism in any way, they will not carry any weight before God.


وَ کَذٰلِكَ اَنۡزَلۡنٰهُ قُرۡاٰنًا عَرَبِیًّا وَّ صَرَّفۡنَا فِیۡهِ مِنَ الۡوَعِیۡدِ لَعَلَّهُمۡ یَتَّقُوۡنَ اَوۡ یُحۡدِثُ لَهُمۡ ذِکۡرًا (113)4

This verse is coordinated to what is said earlier from where this subject was brought up. In verses 99-100 it was pointed out that God has specially revealed this reminder from Himself: those who turn away from it will carry a heavy burden on the Day of Judgement. After that a warning was sounded regarding the advent of the Day of Judgement. After this mention, the previous subject is taken up with a new introduction and more details.

It is stated that for this purpose of reminder the Qur’an has been revealed: the necessary consequences of denying it are explained in it so that if people want to adopt the path of piety and God-consciousness, they are afforded this opportunity; if they do not do so, then they shall stand fully cognizant of the fact that if they are seized by God, then they do not have any excuse to offer for their attitude.

The assertion of revealing the Qur’an in Arabic has been made as a favour to the Arabs and also as a means of conclusive communication of the truth. In other words, it is a great blessing of God that this Book has been revealed in their own language to remind them and convey the truth to them in this way. Now, they cannot present the excuse that if a messenger had come to with a book in their language, they would have been the foremost in accepting faith. The Qur’an has done away with this excuse.

The word تصريف means to explain something in a multiple and a variety of ways, as has been indicated at various instances. The implication is that in the first case, the Book has been revealed in their language and in the second place not left any ambiguity in stating the consequences of evading it: they have been fully elucidated on the basis of knowledge, intellect, history as well as on the basis of the signs found within human beings and those around him. If even after this elaborate arrangement, these people do not mend their ways, who is to blame?

The purpose of all this arrangement is to create piety and God-consciousness. If they do not understand this, then at least they should know the purpose of being sent to this world and what they, on the contrary, are guilty of. It may be kept in mind that the Qur’an has once again reminded the Arabs of the part of their history in which their forefathers Abraham (sws) and Ishmael (sws) had made them inhabit the land of Arabia. The word احداث is pointing to this aspect. The expression احداث ذكر means to once again remind people of some anecdote.


فَتَعٰلَی اللّٰهُ الۡمَلِكُ الۡحَقُّ وَ لَا تَعۡجَلۡ بِالۡقُرۡاٰنِ مِنۡ قَبۡلِ اَنۡ یُّقۡضٰۤی اِلَیۡكَ وَحۡیُهُ وَ قُلۡ رَّبِّ زِدۡنِیۡ عِلۡمًا (114) 5

In order to understand the correct meaning of this verse, readers are advised to look up what is written under verses 64-65 of Surah Maryam. The sole weapon of the Prophet (sws) against the onslaughts of his rivals was the Qur’an. Thus, he was naturally anxious to receive it. It would guide him in his hardships, assure him in his travails and provide him with decisive answers to the never ending sequence of demands and questions posed to him. For this reason, he would always be waiting for new guidance from God much like a soldier waiting for fresh supplies to combat a huge army. To allay these worries, he is assured that he should not demand a hasty revelation of the Qur’an. The exalted God knows what benefits there are in its piece-meal revelation; He is the real king of the universe and the reminder sounded by him to people is His decree. It is not a request or a pleading. Regardless of the people’s response to this Book, the Prophet (sws) should continue to recite it to them in the gradual sequence it is being revealed. God fully knows the wisdom of the time span He has allocated for it. He should not ask to have it hastily sent down before this time frame and on the contrary keep praying that his Lord may increase his knowledge.

This subject is discussed in the Qur’an at many instances and everywhere with this background. Our exegetes have confined its meaning to a certain understanding. They contend that when Gabriel recited the revelation to the Prophet (sws), he would show haste in acquiring it and was hence stopped from doing so. This, in itself is correct. Intense interest does make a person impatient. When a much awaited letter arrives, we try to read it in one go. This is a natural sentiment and the Prophet (sws) must have had it for the Qur’an as well. However, it is not correct that the Prophet (sws) has been stopped on expressing this. The real background has already been referred to. This subject is also brought up at other instances in the Qur’an and if they are read together, the whole matter will become evident.


وَ لَقَدۡ عَهِدۡنَاۤ اِلٰۤی اٰدَمَ مِنۡ قَبۡلُ فَنَسِیَ وَ لَمۡ نَجِدۡ لَهُ عَزۡمًا (115) 6

The expression عَهِدَ اِلٰی means “to impose a responsibility on someone.”

In the previous verse, the Prophet (sws) has been stopped from showing haste regarding the Qur’an. Here, in this verse in order to explain the harms of haste, the incident of Adam (sws) and Satan is referred to: it was this hastiness that made Adam (sws) commit a mistake. Satan took advantage of this weakness found in human nature and enticed Adam (sws): he disobeyed God’s directive regarding the forbidden tree. The result was that Adam (sws) was expelled from Paradise and made to inhabit the earth, as a place of his trial and test. The purpose of citing this incident is that haste never pays. Earlier, in the account of Moses (sws), it was also shown that his hastiness did not produce good results and his nation was afflicted with a grave trial. In the background of these incidents, the Prophet (sws) is instructed that he too should not be impatient in his preaching: he should do whatever is being revealed to him a gradual way. If he shows impatience, it may result in some lacunae in the training of his people, even if his intention and objective is good. It may well be that some devil or Samiri take advantage of this and lead them astray.

The words مِنۡ قَبۡلُ (before this) refer to the past episode of Adam (sws) and Satan. In other words, just as the Prophet (sws) is being asked not to show haste, Adam (sws), his forefather and that of all mankind, was given this directive but he could not comply with it. The result was that Satan succeeded in deceiving him. Since past experiences, especially if they relate to one’s own lineage are a means of guidance for present and future generations, it was said that the Prophet (sws) was to keep them in mind.

The word نَسِیَ refers to something slipping the mind. In other words, the directive given to Adam (sws) slipped his mind once he was overcome with impatience even though it was transient. He was not able to maintain his resolve. Details of the directive given to him and the nature of his mistake are coming up. This verse merely says that all emotions are part of human nature but must be confined within limits. If they remain within these limits, they produce great benefits for individuals and for societies. However, if they are unbridled, they are a great danger to both. People must inculcate in themselves the traits of patience and resolve to keep these emotions in check. In the absence of this control, an emotion can wreak havoc any time. Haste is an emotion among others and it is found in human nature. In verse 37 of Surah al-Anbiya’ and in verse11 of Surah Bani Isra’il, it is thus respectively stated: خُلِقَ الإنْسَانُ مِنْ عَجَلٍ (human beings are made from the substance of haste) and كَانَ الإنْسَانُ عُجُوْلًا (human beings are impatient). This emotion is advantageous for people only if it is controlled by patience and resolve otherwise it will jeopardise their life.

The last part of the verse is meant to point to the impatience shown by Adam (sws) and inform the Prophet (sws) of its consequences.


وَ اِذۡ قُلۡنَا لِلۡمَلٰٓئِکَةِ اسۡجُدُوۡا لِاٰدَمَ فَسَجَدُوۡا اِلَّاۤ اِبۡلِیۡسَ اَبٰی (116) 7

In the previous verse the part of the incident of Adam (sws) and Satan has been referred to which was needed for the specific objective it was cited. Now the actual incident is described. By summarizing an incident before it is actually mentioned, it becomes very helpful in understanding the coherence of a discourse. The Qur’an has adopted this style at various instances. In the incident of the seven sleepers in Surah al-Khahf too this style has been adopted.

The incident of Adam (sws) and Satan has also been discussed in the tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah and Surah al-A‘raf. Repeating it here would be needless. Readers may look up what is written under verses 30-39 of Surah al-Baqarah and verses 11-14 of Surah al-A‘raf. The wisdom behind this directive, the nature of prostration, the reason for including both the jinn and angels in the directive and the arrogance of Satan, all have been explained to the best of my understanding.


فَقُلۡنَا یٰۤـاٰدَمُ اِنَّ هٰذَا عَدُوٌّ لَّكَ وَ لِزَوۡجِكَ فَلَا یُخۡرِجَنَّکُمَا مِنَ الۡجَنَّةِ فَتَشۡقٰی (117)8

Not only did Satan refuse prostration, in a frenzy of jealousy, he also challenged God, as has been explained under verses 14-22 of Surah al-A‘raf. He claimed that if he was given respite, he would prove that that neither are human beings worthy of any superiority over him nor do they deserve Paradise; most of them would become his followers. On the one hand, God gave him the respite and warned him that He would cast him and all his followers in Hell and on the other hand, informed Adam (sws) that he should stay in Paradise but should remember that Satan is his eternal enemy. He should stand guard against him lest he lead them astray and have him expelled from Paradise and he end up in deprivation and despair.


اِنَّ لَكَ اَلَّا تَجُوۡعَ فِیۡهَا وَ لَا تَعۡرٰی (118) وَ اَنَّكَ لَا تَظۡمَؤُا فِیۡهَا وَ لَا تَضۡحٰی (119)9

In these two verses, a very comprehensive picture of the Paradise in which Adam (sws) had been placed is depicted. What is said here is that he will neither face the hardships of cold nor of hot weather.

In cold weather, hunger and shelter are needed and in hot weather protection from the sun and water for drinking are needed. Those who are aware of classical Arabic literature know that they refer to the pangs of hot and cold weather by mentioning these aspects. Some people are of the view that it would have been more apt to mention thirst with hunger and the heat of the sun with shelter. In our opinion, this is the result of a deprivation of literary flair for Arabic.


فَوَسۡوَسَ اِلَیۡهِ الشَّیۡطٰنُ قَالَ یٰۤـاٰدَمُ هَلۡ اَدُلُّكَ عَلٰی شَجَرَةِ الۡخُلۡدِ وَ مُلۡكٍ لَّا یَبۡلٰی (120) 10

Though Satan had been expelled from Paradise for showing arrogance and disobeying God, he had sought respite from Him until the Day of Judgement to entice Adam (sws) and his progeny. Thus, he came to him even in Paradise to whisper his suggestions to him cited in the verse. He tried to entice Adam (sws) into eating the forbidden fruit by telling him that this would ensure his eternal stay in Paradise. In the first place, human beings have this weakness to do the very thing they have been stopped from; in the second, Adam (sws) did fear that he may be asked to go out of Paradise because God had warned him that Satan was his eternal enemy and may have him driven out of Paradise. Satan perceived this fear found in Adam (sws) and was successful in convincing him that if he wanted eternal life and an eternal kingdom, he should taste the fruit. Being overwhelmed with the desire to live eternally, Adam (sws) forgot that God had warned him about the enmity of Satan. He regarded his enemy to be his well-wisher and was deceived by him.

It is evident from this that though Satan is an eternal enemy of Adam’s progeny, his most successful line of attack is the one he adopts in the garb of being a well-wisher and friend. He comes in this garb and makes people realize that the secret to their cultural and social development lies in the very things God and His Messenger have disallowed to them. Even in current times, we can see that this precisely is the greatest argument presented by the agents of Satan to inveigle themselves into the lives of human beings.

In verse 20 of Surah al-A‘raf, the topic discussed in this verse is stated thus: مَا نَهٰىكُمَا رَبُّكُمَا عَنْ هٰذِهِ الشَّجَرَةِ اِلَّا٘ اَنْ تَكُوْنَا مَلَكَيْنِ اَوْ تَكُوْنَا مِنَ الْخٰلِدِيْنَ   (your Lord has only stopped you from this tree lest you become angels or that you may acquire immortality). Here the question arises that in the verse under discussion, the words used are مُلۡكٍ لَّا یَبۡلٰی (eternal kingdom) and in Surah al-A‘raf, the words are اَنْ تَكُوْنَا مَلَكَيْنِ (lest you make become angels). Though these may not be two contradictory statements, they sure are different. How can they be reconciled? In order to do away with this discrepancy, some people have read the Surah al-A‘raf verse as اَنْ تَكُوْنَا مَلَكيِنِ (lest you become kings). However, in the first place, this reconciliation is not very sound and in the second the mutawatir reading is the one only found in the mushaf and non-mutawatir readings are not acceptable.

In my view, the answer to this question is that Satan tried to entice Adam (sws) and Eve in various ways. At times, he told them that eating this fruit would turn them into angels and at times he told them that they would gain an eternal kingdom. The basis of my view is that it is explicitly mentioned in verse 22 of Surah al-A‘raf that Satan had tried hard to inveigle himself into the mind of Adam (sws). He had to give him a lot of assurances in order to win him over. While explaining the afore-mentioned verse, I had written that the expression فَدَلّٰىهُمَا بِغُرُوۡرٍ means to gradually entice and lead a person away. It is thus evident that Adam (sws) did not succumb to Satan with just one of the outcomes he had mentioned. It is only after he had led Adam (sws) to believe in various fantastic outcomes and that too at different instances that this happened. The purpose was to somehow deceive him.


فَاَکَلَا مِنۡهَا فَبَدَتۡ لَهُمَا سَوۡاٰتُهُمَا وَ طَفِقَا یَخۡصِفٰنِ عَلَیۡهِمَا مِنۡ وَّرَقِ الۡجَنَّةِ وَ عَصٰۤی اٰدَمُ رَبَّهُ فَغَوٰی (121)11

This verse has been explained in Surah al-Baqarah and in verse 22 of Surah al-A‘raf too.

The word غَوٰی means “to go astray.” The implication of the verse is that Adam (sws) was deceived by Satan and tasted the forbidden fruit. As a result, he was deprived of his attire of Paradise about which it was mentioned in verse 118 that God had promised never to deprive him. Adam (sws) and Eve began covering their bodies in embarrassment and uneasiness. They had taken this step to acquire eternal life in Paradise but the result was that they even lost what they had.


ثُمَّ اجۡتَبٰهُ رَبُّهُ فَتَابَ عَلَیۡهِ وَ هَدٰی (122)12

Here اجۡتَبي is mentioned before Adam (sws) repented and his repentance was accepted. Thus this word means giving Adam (sws) the urge to repent and giving him the words of repentance. In verse 37 of Surah al-Baqarah, the words used are: فَتَلَقّٰۤی اٰدَمُ مِنۡ رَّبِّهِ کَلِمٰتٍ فَتَابَ عَلَیۡهِ ؕ اِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِیۡمُ (Thus Adam learnt some words from his Lord and repented; so, his Lord accepted his repentance; indeed, He is one who graciously accepts repentance and is very merciful). In verse 23 of Surah al-A‘raf, the words of repentance are cited thus: قَالَا رَبَّنَا ظَلَمۡنَاۤ  اَنۡفُسَنَا ٜ وَ  اِنۡ  لَّمۡ تَغۡفِرۡ لَنَا وَ تَرۡحَمۡنَا لَنَکُوۡنَنَّ مِنَ الۡخٰسِرِیۡنَ (They prayed: Lord! We have been unjust to our souls and if you do not forgive us and have mercy on us, we would end up in loss). It is evident from this that Adam (sws) was very ashamed at his mistake and it is God’s law that if a person realizes his mistake, he is blessed with the urge to repent from God and God makes him even more close to Him. It is this status which is called اجۡتَبي in this verse. There is no doubt that very fortunate is the person who besides realizing his error and having the urge to repent is revealed words of repentance by God.

Consider the expression وَ هَدٰی فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ. The preposition عَلٰي evidences the fact that it encompasses the meaning of رحم ie., he once again received God’s mercy and guidance. I have referred to this in verse 37 of Surah al-Baqarah as well. The word ہَدٰی refers to the fact that God guided him in his future phases so that he could combat the onslaughts of Satan.

This verse also refutes the Christian belief of original sin and also of those who regard Adam (sws) to be the father of human kind only but not a prophet of God. The words of this verse signify that he was a prophet and sense and reason too demand that God gave him a shari‘ah to guide him and his progeny. The next verse explains this.


قَالَ اهۡبِطَا مِنۡهَا جَمِیۡعًا بَعۡضُکُمۡ لِبَعۡضٍ عَدُوٌّ فَاِمَّا یَاۡتِیَنَّکُمۡ مِّنِّیۡ هُدًی فَمَنِ اتَّبَعَ هُدَایَ فَلَا یَضِلُّ وَ لَا یَشۡقٰی (123)13

This verse has been explained from various aspects under verse 36 of Surah al-Baqarah and verse 24 of Surah al-A‘raf. I have also tried to explain under these verses the wisdom behind Adam (sws) coming into this world and facing the challenge of Satan. I have further explained that these verses do not address Adam (sws) and Eve; the address is towards Adam (sws) and Satan in the capacity of two groups.

The words بَعۡضُکُمۡ لِبَعۡضٍ عَدُوٌّ refer to the fact that Satan will be their enemy and they too should treat him as their enemy if they want to regain Paradise and end up successful in the Hereafter. This is because every sensible person regards his enemy to be his enemy and is always on guard against him. Only foolish people befriend their enemies and follow their advice.

 Those who regard the dual form mentioned here to imply Adam (sws) and Eve as being addressed here are grossly mistaken. In the first place, exactly the same statement is cited in Surah al-Baqarah in plural form. Secondly, if the dual form occurs here in the verse under discussion, it is also qualified by the word جَمِیۡعًا (all). If Adam (sws) and Eve are addressed here, then this word is absolutely needless. Thirdly, the natural relationship between Adam (sws) and Eve is not of enmity: it is of love. If there is some hostility between a husband and wife, it is not because they are enemies of one another; it is because of Satan’s enticement. However, the enmity between Satan and between Adam (sws) and Eve is natural and extends until the Day of Judgement. The enmity of Satan is based on jealousy and he had openly declared this basis. As far as a human being’s enmity for him is concerned, every sane person should remember that he has been sent out of Paradise to combat this enmity. If he befriends Satan, it will mean that he is calling for his own doom at the hands of his enemy.

Consider next the last part of the verse: “Thus if there comes to you guidance from Me, then he who follows My guidance will neither go astray nor will be deprived.” This actually is the weapon which God had blessed Adam (sws) and his progeny with. Since human beings have been sent in this world to combat a very clever foe, it was the will of God that He not only guide them through their nature and intellect but also through divine revelation so that they could fight Satan with double the might and power.

Two things are clearly proven from this verse:

Firstly, the sole means to remain secure from the onslaughts of Satan in this world is the Book of God. He who is deprived of this light will always remain vulnerable to the enticement of devils found both among the jinn and humankind.

Secondly, Adam (sws) was a prophet. He was sent to this world to counter the onslaughts of Satan for which God’s guidance for both Adam (sws) and his progeny is essential. Thus, God must have revealed a shari‘ah to him according to the circumstances. I have referred to some directives of his shari‘ah under the incident of Abel and Cain in verse 31 of Surah al-Ma’idah


وَ مَنۡ اَعۡرَضَ عَنۡ ذِکۡرِیۡ فَاِنَّ لَهُ مَعِیۡشَةً ضَنۡکًا وَّ نَحۡشُرُهُ یَوۡمَ الۡقِیٰمَةِ اَعۡمٰی (124)14

The expression مَعِیۡشَۃً ضَنۡکًا refers to a life devoid of peace of mind and inner satisfaction.

There is a vacuum in a human being which is only filled by faith in God. So, unless he has this faith in him nothing else can give him peace of mind and assurance. Other things, however grand and attractive they may be, can provide temporary joy but they cannot give relief to the anxiety found in the heart and soul of a person. When a child cries because of hunger, it can be appeased for a little while through a nipple or a soother but it receives satisfaction only when a mother feeds it. Without this arrangement, the child remains restless. Similar is the case with a human being. He may provide himself with various means and resources but if he is deprived of faith in God he will remain dissatisfied, hesitant, fearful, unstable and in a state of spiritual crises however much he may try to hide this. The kingdom of the satisfied soul is acquired by true and firm faith. اَلَا بِذِكْرِاللّٰهِ تَطْمَئِنَّ الْقُلُوْبُ (Listen! It is only through God’s remembrance that hearts receive assurance).

A question may arise here: there are many people who lay claim to faith but they spend their lives in great worries and straitened circumstances; on the other hand, there are so many who regard faith in God to be a hoax but they lead very comfortable and happy lives. The answer to this question is that in the first place here the discussion is not with those who merely lay claim to faith but with those who have true faith. Secondly, we only see the apparent splendour of those whom we regard to be very happy even though they are indifferent to God. If we were able to creep into their hearts, we would be able to see so many threats, doubts and fears concealed in them but they are not apparent to everyone. Only they themselves can see them or those who have the insight of faith in them.

The verse goes on to say that those who evade God’s remembrance will be resurrected blind on the Day of Judgement. The reason is that it is this remembrance which removes hurdles from the faculties of sight, hearing and intellect. The Qur’an has specified that he who evades this remembrance is blind, deaf and intellectually deprived in spite of having the afore-mentioned faculties. As a punishment of grossly disrespecting His favours, God will raise such foolish animals as blind. These favours were not given to people so that they become slaves of what is palpable and tangible; on the contrary, they were given to them to observe signs that are etched in every nook and corner and every particle of this universe. If a person sees but cannot see what is most obvious, then he may see everything but understands nothing.

Here a question arises. In verse 22 of Surah Qaf, it is stated: فَکَشَفۡنَا عَنۡكَ غِطَآءَكَ فَبَصَرُكَ الۡیَوۡمَ حَدِیۡدٌ (so, now We have removed that veil which covered you; thus sharp is your eyesight today). On the other hand, it is stated here that God will raise up that person as blind. How can this discrepancy be reconciled? The answer is that there is no discrepancy. In Surah Qaf, the subtle implication is that people remain slaves to their faculties in this world; not only do they not realize their blindness, they in, fact, regard themselves to be intellectuals; however, on the Day of Judgement, they will realize their blindness. Today such is the case that in spite of the fact that the eyes of our scientists are fully equipped with telescopes and microscopes, they are unable to see with their own eyes. Yet a day will come when everything will become evident and no will be able to deny the reality. It is this revelation that the verse of Surah Qaf points to.


قَالَ رَبِّ لِمَ حَشَرۡتَنِیۡۤ اَعۡمٰی وَ قَدۡ کُنۡتُ بَصِیۡرًا (125) قَالَ کَذٰلِكَ اَتَتۡكَ اٰیٰتُنَا فَنَسِیۡتَهَا وَکَذٰلِكَ الۡیَوۡمَ تُنۡسٰی (126) 15

The word نسي here means “to ignore.”

The implication of this verse is that if they had been given eyes, why did they not get opened in spite of reminders and warnings? The punishment of such eyes is that they remain shut. Their complaint is of no use. Just as they had ignored God’s revelations, they deserve to be ignored themselves.


وَ کَذٰلِكَ نَجۡزِیۡ مَنۡ اَسۡرَفَ وَ لَمۡ یُؤۡمِنۡ بِاٰیٰتِ رَبِّهِ وَ لَعَذَابُ الۡاٰخِرَةِ اَشَدُّ وَ اَبۡقٰی (127)16

The word إسراف means “to exceed the limits.” The expression مَنۡ اَسۡرَفَ refers to people who wasted their talents in the very things they had to abstain from and ignored things they were required to do.


اَفَلَمۡ یَهۡدِ لَهُمۡ کَمۡ اَهۡلَکۡنَا قَبۡلَهُمۡ مِّنَ الۡقُرُوۡنِ یَمۡشُوۡنَ فِیۡ مَسٰکِنِهِمۡ ؕ اِنَّ فِیۡ ذٰلِكَ لَاٰیٰتٍ لِّاُولِی النُّهٰی (128) 17

The correct meaning of اَفَلَمۡ یَہۡدِ لَہُمۡ would be “was not such and such a thing enough to open their eyes and give them guidance?”

This is an answer given to those who were demanding a sign for the punishment. Were not the ruins of the destroyed nations like the ‘Ād and the Thamud they passed by in their trade journeys sufficient to open their eyes? Arab poets have versified the destruction of their cities. Those cities were situated along the main trade-routes. In the presence of those blatant signs, what more did they want? A sensible person is one who learns from the fate of others and not when his own fate stares him in the eye. If human beings adopt this attitude, what difference is there between them and animals?


وَ لَوۡ لَا کَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتۡ مِنۡ رَّبِّكَ لَکَانَ لِزَامًا وَّ اَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّی (129) 18

The expression اَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّی is coordinated to کَلِمَۃٌ. This verse answers the demand of showing a sign of punishment. In other words, if this punishment is not visiting them, it is because its time is fixed according to God’s established practice and prescribed law. No one should think that this is a bluff or God does not have the resources to bring it about. This subject is brought up in the Qur’an at a number of instances. Thus in verse 14 of Surah of Surah al-Shura, it is stated: وَ لَوۡ لَا کَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتۡ مِنۡ رَّبِّکَ اِلٰۤی اَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّی لَّقُضِیَ بَیۡنَهُمۡ.19 It is evident from this that God has appointed a day of accountability for the deniers. For this reason, in spite of the haste shown by the hasty, God is giving them respite. Unfortunate are the people who instead of benefitting from this respite become even more rebellious.

The word کَلِمَۃٌ here refers to the fact that God has already fixed a time of punishment and the expression اَجَلٌ مُّسَمًّی is pointing to the fact that a certain time of its advent has been prescribed; its time of arrival is not ambiguous or vague in any way. In God’s calendar, its time of arrival is fixed to the second.


فَاصۡبِرۡ عَلٰی مَا یَقُوۡلُوۡنَ وَ سَبِّحۡ بِحَمۡدِ رَبِّكَ قَبۡلَ طُلُوۡعِ الشَّمۡسِ وَ قَبۡلَ غُرُوۡبِهَا وَ مِنۡ اٰنَآیِٔ الَّیۡلِ فَسَبِّحۡ وَ اَطۡرَافَ النَّهَارِ لَعَلَّكَ تَرۡضٰی (130) 20

 The Prophet (sws) is now urged to exercise patience at the nonsense he is facing from his adversaries and to do this he is asked to be diligent in the prayer as much as he can. Patience is based on the belief that whatever happens, happens with God’s will, which is based on the greater good of everyone. The greatest and most effective means to fully implant this belief in one’s mind is the prayer.

Consider now the expression: وَ سَبِّحۡ بِحَمۡدِ رَبِّکَ. The general meaning of tasbih is God’s remembrance and this is required all the time. However, here its mention is qualified by time. For this reason, it refers to the prayer. The word hamd is mentioned right after it to delineate the true form of God’s remembrance. While the dominant element in tasbih is to absolve God from all negative attributes, the dominant element in hamd is to affirm all positive attributes in God. If any of these aspects is not kept in mind, the true conception of God is sacrificed, as a result of which the whole system of person’s life is ruined. Some religions gave so much importance to the first aspect that God became aloof and inaccessible to them. As a result, they ended up needing mediators and intercessors. In order to safeguard people from this trial, the Qur’an has directed people to keep in mind both aspects so that their relationship with God is established on the right footing. Without this relationship, a person cannot adhere to the right path.

Consider now the words: قَبۡلَ طُلُوۡعِ الشَّمۡسِ وَ قَبۡلَ غُرُوۡبِهَا. Before sunrise and sunset come the prayers of fajr and ‘asr. This is also mentioned in a narrative in the Al-Jami‘ al-sahih of al-Bukhari. The reason that both these prayers are mentioned the foremost is their importance in religion.

The words فَسَبِّحۡ وَ مِنۡ اٰنَآیِٔ الَّیۡلِ refer to the night prayers. One of them is isha’ and the other is tahajjud. The verb is repeated here for emphasis. The emphasis laid is because both these prayers need extra effort.

The words وَ اَطۡرَافَ النَّہَارِ point to the three prayers on the boundaries of the day: chasht, zuhr and maghrib. It is very evident that both chasht and maghrib are at the boundaries of the day. Deliberation shows that zuhr too is at the boundary since the day is divided into two by it. Its time is at the last edge of the first part of the day and at the opening edge of the second part.

This verse clearly negates the view of those who claim that the timings of the prayer are not mentioned in the Qur’an. Not only does the Qur’an mention the obligatory prayers, it also mentions the tahajjud and ishraq prayer. The Prophet (sws) has crystallized these timings through his own practice. He has also determined the forms of the prayers and also designated the obligatory and the optional ones. Obviously, it was his task to delineate all these details and to determine the extent and limits of each prayer. This is because he was not merely a person who was to recite the Qur’an to people; he was also its teacher.

Here it may be kept in mind that the prayer is stressed upon as a means to acquire perseverance. These verses were revealed in the very tough phase of the struggle between truth and evil. In them, the Prophet (sws) and through him all the ummah are informed of a measure that will make them persevere in trying circumstances and make them worthy of God’s help as well. In such circumstances, it is not merely the obligatory prayers which are needed; to be diligent in the optional ones is also required. This view of ours is corroborated by the Qur’an, the sayings of the Prophet (sws) and the practice of the righteous. In general circumstances, the prayers of tahajjud and ishraq are optional prayers but in challenging and difficult circumstances, whether they are individual or collective, these prayers must be adhered to as well.

This issue will insha’Allah be discussed in detail in Surah al-Muzzammil and at an appropriate instance also shed light on the wisdom behind the timings of the prayers.

Consider next the last expression of the verse: لَعَلَّكَ تَرۡضٰی (so that you are showered with favour). In verse 5 of Surah al-Duha, it is similarly said: وَ لَسَوۡفَ یُعۡطِیۡكَ رَبُّكَ فَتَرۡضٰی21

Concealed in the two words of the verse under discussion is a world of meaning. The implication is that the Prophet (sws) should adhere to his stance and be diligent in offering the prayer; as a result, God will bless him with so many successes of this world and the next that he will be inundated by them. Found in these prayers is everything that he needs and there is no need for him to look to anyone else.


وَ لَا تَمُدَّنَّ عَیۡنَیۡكَ اِلٰی مَا مَتَّعۡنَا بِهِ اَزۡوَاجًا مِّنۡهُمۡ زَهۡرَةَ الۡحَیٰوةِ الدُّنۡیَا لِنَفۡتِنَهُمۡ فِیۡةِ وَ رِزۡقُ رَبِّكَ خَیۡرٌ وَّ اَبۡقٰی (131)22

In this verse, the Prophet (sws) has been stopped from pampering and showing concern for the rich and affluent of his nation. The affluent elements of a nation are responsible for its development or decadence. If they become corrupt, the whole nation follows suit and if they remain upright, uprightness of the whole nation can be expected. For this reason, it has remained the established practice of the prophets of God that they address the elders and chiefs of their nations the foremost. Until and unless they lose hope in them due to their stubbornness and obduracy, they continue to reform them. As per this established practice, Muhammad (sws) too first called upon the leaders and the affluent elements of the Quraysh. Prophets reckoned that if the rich accepted the truth, their influence and resources would significantly help the cause and also the poor among the Muslims. This desire was solely based on the sincere well-being of the affluent elements and to keep aloft the word of God. However, when the attitude of these elements showed that their hearts would not melt by the truth, the Almighty stopped the Prophet (sws) from being worried and concerned about them. He was told to not the slightest care about their wealth; his preaching had its own means and resources and God would provide for him and his companions. If those people did not side with the truth, it was their own deprivation. God did not need their wealth and resources.

The words “and do not even glance at the resources of worldly pleasures” refer to the groups of the Quraysh who held political authority in Makkah and Ta’if. Obviously, the Prophet (sws) did not look towards their wealth because of any greed. In fact, the affluent people of those cities were prepared to offer a lot of wealth to the Prophet (sws) on the condition that he desist from his preaching. However, instead of accepting it, he recited before them some verses of the Qur’an calling them to faith. Prophets of God have never given any importance to the wealth and resources of people who have not consigned their hearts to God. If a sensible person sees that someone is wasting the vigour of his youth and all his abilities to realize a wrong objective, he yearns to see this young foolish man give due importance to his abilities. In a similar way, the Prophet (sws) too desired that the affluent elements of his nation give due importance to the blessings and favours they had received from God and not squander their wealth and abilities to realize the mission of Satan. This desire had its roots in sympathy and concern for others. It had not the slightest semblance of any greed in it. However, sincerity and concern should have a limit. As soon as it was reached, the Almighty stopped the Prophet (sws) from it.

When the verse says that these favours have been given to the groups by the Almighty, it expresses a fact. If someone has wealth and resources in this world, it is neither because of the inheritance he receives from his forefathers nor the because of his intelligence; they are God’s bestowal and by it, He sees whether a person is grateful or ungrateful. Foolish is the person who does not understand the actual reality and uses God’s favours to rebel against Him.

The expression زَهۡرَةَ الۡحَیٰوةِ الدُّنۡیَا is an accusative of state from the genitive pronoun in بِہٖۤ. Such accusative of states are common in eloquent Arabic and many examples of it have been pointed out in this exegesis. The implication is that the wealth and resources God has blessed them with are transient. If there is any use of them, it is to earn for the Hereafter. Its brightness will whither away soon and leave it scarred.

The words لِنَفۡتِنَهُمۡ فِیۡهِ refer to the established practice of God. It has been explained under 40 verse of this very surah. God blesses people with favours in this world and also makes them pass through calamities. When He inflicts them with hardship, the purpose is to test their patience and when He blesses them with favours, the purpose is to test how grateful they are. In other words, if God blessed these groups with favours, it was not because they had a right to them but to try them. If the actual right they had recognized was to show ingratitude, they would soon see its fate.

The words “and your Lord’s sustenance is better and lasting” inform the Prophet (sws) that he does not need the patronage of these ingrates for his preaching. What he and his companions will soon receive from God will be a thousand times better and lasting too. What these arrogant people have will last and shine for a few days only but what God will bestow will be everlasting. It will never fade away. It may be noted that the plant of piety grows from the elixir God has revealed for its nourishment. If someone tries to nurture it through stagnant water then, in the first place, it is against its nature to grow because of filthy water and in the second, if it seemingly does grow, it will bear fruits of vice and not virtue.


وَ اۡمُرۡ اَهۡلَكَ بِالصَّلٰوةِ وَ اصۡطَبِرۡ عَلَیۡهَا لَا نَسۡـَٔلُكَ رِزۡقًا نَحۡنُ نَرۡزُقُكَ وَ الۡعَاقِبَةُ لِلتَّقۡوٰی (132) 23

The word اَہۡل is not used merely for the family of the Prophet (sws). In Arabic, it has a wider connotation. For example, it is used thus in ، اهل الكتاب ، اهل الإنجيل ، اهل القرية ، اهل القرون ، اهل الله اهل الحديث. It is mentioned in the Lisan al-‘arab: اهل الرجل أخص الناس به (the expression اهل الرجل refers to people who have a specific relation to a person). It similarly records اهل كل نبي امته (the expression اهل نبي refers to the nation of a prophet).24 It is narrated from Abu Bakr (rta) that when on the day of Judgement his Lord will ask him as to who he made in charge of the Muslims, he will reply:25و ليت عليهم خير اهلك (I made the best اهل (ahl) as the ruler). In verse 55 of Surah Maryam, about Ishmael (sws), it is stated: وَكَانَ يَأْمُرُ أَهْلَهُۥ بِالصَّلَوٰةِ وَٱلزَّكَوٰةِ (He would direct his اهل (ahl) to the prayer and the zakah). Obviously, the wife and children cannot be implied by the word اهل (ahl) here; all those associated to him are meant.

In the verse under discussion too, the word اهل refers to all those who professed faith in Muhammad (sws) whether they were specifically related to him or were other Muslims regardless of belonging to the Quraysh or the Hashimites or slaves or free men and women. All these are called اهل of the Prophet (sws). This is because all those who profess faith in a prophet in fact become his family; at the same time, a prophet is concerned about them just as he is concerned about his own family. Deliberation shows how much the use of the word اهل increased the respect and status of poor Muslims. The Almighty included those in the Prophet’s family who until then had no one to depend upon.

Thus, the verse asks the Prophet (sws) to direct his followers to offer the prayer and adhere to it himself as well. The prayer here refers to the same prayer mentioned in the previous verse: the Prophet (sws) should vigilantly and diligently adhere to it and also ask his followers to do the same so that this creates patience and perseverance. The true meaning of the expression وَ اصۡطَبِرۡ عَلَیۡہَا is that just as a farmer tills his soil, sows deeds, waters it and continues to guard it, the Prophet (sws) too should tend to his land, and then see the blessings it produces. Such will be these blessings they he will feel satiated by them and not need to look up to others in this matter.

The words “it is We Who shall provide sustenance to you” imply that the Almighty will provide livelihood to the Prophet (sws) and his followers and they are not required by Him to make any effort in this regard. He should continue with his task and show vigilance in the prayer and not worry about this. Pointing towards this reality, Jesus (sws) is reported to have said: “The labourer is worthy of his hire.” (Luke, 10:7)

Readers must keep the singular pronoun in نَرۡزُقُکَ in mind. It was not said: “We will provide for you and your followers.” It was said: “We will provide for you.” This address to the Prophet (sws) is in his capacity of the head of the Islamic family and its sustainer. When the promise is being made to the head of the family, obviously it includes the whole family, i.e. all Muslims. In the Islamic political system, the ruler is the provider for his whole Islamic family. For this reason, he is concerned about every individual the way the head of a family is concerned about his wife and kids. If I go into the details of how Abu Bakr (rta) and ‘Umar (rta) maintained this standard, the discussion will be prolonged. In current times, we do find many people wailing publicly while grieving for the masses but there are none like ‘Umar (rta) who thought that if even in the farthest corners of his kingdom a dog died of hunger, he was responsible and did not merely express these emotions but took practical steps to prevent this from happening; so much so that this intense sense of accountability made him ignore even his own wife and children.

Consider next the words: “and success in the end is for piety.” In the previous part of the verse, promise for worldly sustenance was made; now glad tidings of success in the hereafter are given: none except the pious will succeed.

It may have looked odd to those who are slaves to the apparent as to how the prayer can guarantee sustenance for a person. It is true that those who are neither aware of the real essence of the prayer nor aware of those who offer such prayers cannot be made to understand this; this thing can only be known and felt. Only experience can convince a person about its truth. Only those who taste the true flavour of the prayer know what is concealed in it. Readers should not regard this statement to be a claim made by me. I am not that practicing a Muslim. However, I have seen with my eyes both in real life and in pages of history people whose foreheads gleam with the signs of prostrations. Such is their glitter that they even overshadow the sun’s brightness. And such is the extent of their seeking forgiveness of God that the greatest treasures of earth have not the slightest weight before them.


وَ قَالُوۡا لَوۡ لَا یَاۡتِیۡنَا بِاٰیَةٍ مِّنۡ رَّبِّهِ اَوَ لَمۡ تَاۡتِهِمۡ بَیِّنَةُ مَا فِی الصُّحُفِ الۡاُوۡلٰی (133)26

When the Prophet’s adversaries felt helpless and cornered in countering him through arguments, as a last resort, they demanded a sign of him being God’s envoy. A sign meant a miracle and also the torment that the Qur’an had promised them in case they denied him. The People of the Book were more responsible for raising this question. Just as in those times they implanted many questions in the minds of the Idolaters whose examples can be seen the previous surahs, they would also advise them to demand a sign from Muhammad (sws) like the previous messengers. As per own their knowledge, the People of the Book claimed that the nations of the previous messengers were inflicted with punishments, why could not this messenger show such miracles? The Qur’an has answered this question and while answering it, also kept in consideration those who were implanting it and those also who were presenting it. In this verse, the first group is answered and in the next verse the second.

The answer given to the first group – the People of the Book are asked whether it is not a sufficient sign for them that the last messenger whose advent was predicted in their scriptures had come and ratified all those prophecies? I have cited these prophecies in the exegesis of Surah al-Baqarah and Surah Āl-i ‘Imran. I have also attempted to explain that if Muhammad (sws) is called an attester of the previous scriptures, it means his advent had ratified all the prophecies made in his favour. This ratification is called بَیِّنَۃُ (sign) in this verse.


وَ لَوۡ اَنَّـاۤ اَهۡلَکۡنٰهُمۡ بِعَذَابٍ مِّنۡ قَبۡلِهِ لَقَالُوۡا رَبَّنَا لَوۡ لَاۤ اَرۡسَلۡتَ اِلَیۡنَا رَسُوۡلًا فَنَتَّبِعَ اٰیٰتِكَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِ اَنۡ نَّذِلَّ وَ نَخۡزٰی (143) 27

This verse gives an answer while keeping in view the Idolaters. The implication is that in order to do away with their excuse mentioned in the verse, God sent a messenger to them. The truth had been conclusively communicated to them. If even then they did not profess faith, the very thing they demanded would manifest itself.

The words ذلت and خزي are generally used synonymously but when they occur together the way they do here, there is a subtle difference between the two. In this case, ذلت refers to the humiliation which a person feels internally and خزي refers to one which is before others. Their implication was that they would neither have been disgraced before their own selves nor before others.


قُلۡ کُلٌّ مُّتَرَبِّصٌ فَتَرَبَّصُوۡا فَسَتَعۡلَمُوۡنَ مَنۡ اَصۡحٰبُ الصِّرَاطِ السَّوِیِّ وَ مَنِ اهۡتَدٰی (135)28

This verse sounds the last warning. The last two verses were indirect in their address. In this verse, the address has become direct to express the intensity of anger.

In this verse, because of concomitant indications, the parallel sentence is suppressed. Examples of such suppression can be seen in earlier surahs. I have translated the verse accordingly.

With these words, the explanation of this surah comes to its completion. May God forgive our errors and guide us to accept the truth.



25th January 1973







1. He knows all that is in front of them and behind them, and their knowledge cannot grasp Him.

2. Everyone’s faces will be bent down before the Ever-Living and Ever-Sustaining God. And he who is guilty of any form of polytheism will face humiliation.

3. And he who does righteous deeds and he is also a believer shall neither fear any injustice nor oppression.

4. And in this way We have revealed it in the form of an Arabic Qur’an and have mentioned My warning in it in various ways so that these people remain secure from God’s wrath or it may produce some insight in them.

5. Thus, you should not show haste in acquiring the Qur’an before its revelation is complete and keep praying: My Lord! Increase my knowledge further.

6. And before this, We had imposed the obligation of a promise on Adam, but he forgot. And We did not find him strong-willed.

7. And when We asked the angels: “prostrate before Adam,” they prostrated except Iblis. He refused to do so.

8. At this, We said: “Adam! He is an enemy to you and to your wife. So, he should not succeed in expelling you and your wife from this orchard so that you end up deprived.”

9.Here you have the comfort of not being hungry nor will you need any clothes; neither will thirst bother you nor will you feel the sun.”

10. But Satan tempted him. He said: “Adam! Should I inform you of a tree which has eternal life and of a kingdom which shall never perish?”

11. So, both ate that tree’s fruit. At this, their hidden parts became evident to them and they began covering themselves with the leaves of that orchard. And Adam disobeyed the directive of his Lord; he was thus led astray.

12. Then his Lord blessed him, graciously accepted his repentance and guided him.

13. He ordered: “All of you get down from here. You shall remain enemies of one another. Thus, if there comes to you guidance from Me, then he who follows My guidance will neither go astray nor will be deprived.”

14. And he who turns away from My reminder, for him is a life of affliction and on the Day of Judgement, We shall raise him as a blind person.”

15. He will say: “Lord! Why did you raise me blind? I was one who had eyesight?” God will reply: “Our revelations came to you in this world in this way; so you ignored them. Today you shall be ignored likewise.”

16. And in this way shall We treat him in exchange who exceeds the limits and does not profess faith in the revelations of his Lord and the torment of the Hereafter will be more severe and more lasting.

17. Was this not enough to guide them that We have destroyed many nations before them in whose settlements they walk about? Indeed, there are many signs in this for those who have intellect.

18. And had a matter not been decreed earlier by your Lord and there was not a prescribed time, a torment would have surely visited them.

19. And had not a thing been ascertained by God till an appointed term, He would have decided among them today.

20. So, show patience on whatever they say and keep extolling your Lord while glorifying Him before the sun rises and before it sets and glorify him in the night times too and on the margins of the day also so that you are showered with favours.

21. And your Lord will give you so that you shall be pleased.

22. And do not even glance at the resources of worldly pleasures We have given some of their groups in it for their trial, and your Lord’s sustenance is better and lasting.

23. And ask your people to offer prayer and adhere to it yourself also. We do not ask for any sustenance from you. It is We Who shall provide sustenance to you, and success in the end is for piety.

24. Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-‘arab, vol. 11, 29.

25. See: Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Halim ibn Taymiyah, Minjhaj al-sunnah al-nabawiyyah, 1st ed., vol. 7 (n.p: Mu’assasah Qurtubah, 1406 AH). 461.

26. And they say: “Why does he not bring a sign from his Lord for us?” Has not the testimony of what is written in their earlier scriptures reached them?

27. And if We destroyed them before this through some torment, they would have said: “Lord! Why did You not send a messenger to us that we may have followed Your revelations before being humiliated and disgraced?”

28. Say: Each one is waiting; so, you also wait. Soon you will know who is treading the right path and who the wrong one and who will reach the destination.

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