11. Hud (Hūd)
This sūrah was revealed in Makkah, and it consists of 123 verses. It takes its name from the story of the Prophet Hūd (Hud, The Holy Prophet), upon him be peace, and it has special importance here due to the topics dealt with. Like Sūrah Yūnus, this sūrah deals with the essentials of faith, including in particular the Divine origin of the Qur’ān, and it mentions the stories of the Messengers (narrated also in Sūrat al-A‘rāf), giving details that pertain to the main themes and the conditions that prevailed at the time it was revealed. As the sūrah begins with the Divine Names the All-Wise and the All-Aware, the stories in it can also be approached from this perspective.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. Alif. Lām. Rā. A Book whose Revelations in verses have been made firm (absolutely free of doubt, alteration, or annulment) and full of wisdom, and arranged in sequence and distinctly detailed. It is from One All-Wise, All-Aware.
2. So that you worship none but God. (Say, O Messenger:) “Surely I am a warner for you (O people, against the evil consequences of all kinds of misguidance), and a bearer of glad tidings (of prosperity in return for faith and righteousness).”
3. And that you ask your Lord for forgiveness (for the sins you have so far committed), then turn to Him repentant and sincerely, so that He may enable for you a good life for a term appointed, and bestow His grace and bounty more abundantly on whoever is more advanced in virtue and devotion. But if you turn away, then surely I fear for you the punishment of a mighty Day.
4. To God is your final return. He has full power over everything.
5. Beware! surely they (who associate partners with God) lean over their breasts (as if in respect for you, but in reality they are) seeking to hide (from God the unbelief and hostility) in their hearts. Beware! at the very time that they cover themselves with their garments (or hide themselves in their houses behind shut doors and curtained windows), God knows well all that they keep concealed, as well as all that they disclose. Surely God has full knowledge of what lies hidden in the bosoms.
6. No living creature is there moving on the earth but its provision depends on God,1 and He knows its every lodging and disposition (every stage of its life), and the duration of its stay, and the moment of its transition therefrom. All is in a Manifest Book.
7. He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth in six days – His Supreme Throne was upon the water 2– that He might make trial of you to manifest which of you is best in conduct. Yet, if you say (to people), “(Your proper abode is the Hereafter, where you will be either in bliss or suffering according to your conduct in the world. That is why) you are bound to be raised after death,” those who persist in unbelief will say: “This is clearly nothing but an enchanting delusion.”
8. Seeing that We postpone the punishment (with which We threaten them) until an appointed term, they are sure to say (in mockery): “What detains it that it does not come?” Beware! on the Day when it befalls them, it will not be averted from them, and that which they have been mocking at will overwhelm them.
9. If We let human taste some mercy from Us, and then take it away from him, he becomes hopeless and thankless (forgetting all Our favors to him).
10. And if We let him taste ease and plenty after some hardship has visited him, he says: “Gone is all affliction from me!” Surely he is prone to vain exultation and self-glorifying.
11. Except those who are persevering and patient (neither despairing in affliction, nor exultant and self-glorifying in success), and do good, righteous deeds; it is they for whom is forgiveness and a great reward.3
12. Now it may be that you (O Messenger) are drawn to abandon some part of what is revealed to you (such as the verses concerning your Messengership), and your breast is constricted thereby, on account of their saying: “Why has a treasure not been sent down upon him, or an angel accompanying him (visible to us)?” But you are only a warner. It is God Who has everything in His care and under His control.
13. Or they say (about the Messenger): “He fabricates it (the Qur’ān)”? Say (to them): “Then produce ten invented sūrahs like it (in eloquence, meaningfulness and truth), and call to your aid whomever you can, apart from God, if you are truthful (in your claim, not deluded or just making up excuses to justify your unbelief).4
14. “If they (whom you call to your aid) cannot answer your call, then know that it (the Qur’ān) is sent down based on God’s Knowledge, and that there is no deity save Him. Will you, then, submit to God as Muslims?”
15. Whoever desires the present, worldly life and its outward shows, We recompense them for all that they do therein, and they are not deprived of their just due therein.
16. It is they for whom there is nothing in the Hereafter but the Fire. All that they produced in it (this world) has come to nothing, and all that they were doing is fruitless, vain.
17. So, (how can you compare others with) one who stands on a clear evidence from his Lord (the Qur’ān), and is supported by a witness guided by Him,5 and there was (revealed) before it the Book of Moses (confirming it) as a guide and mercy? Those (who make and understand the comparison) believe in it (the Qur’ān); while whoever from the diverse parties (belonging to different nations and faiths, knowingly) disbelieves6 in it – the Fire will be their promised place. And so you should not have the least doubt of it (being revealed by God). Surely, it is the truth from your Lord, though most of the people do not believe.
18. Who is greater in doing wrong than he who fabricates falsehood in attribution to God? Such will be brought before their Lord, and the witnesses will say, “Those are they who lied in attribution to God. Surely it is the due of the wrongdoers that God has excluded them from His mercy.”
19. The ones who bar people from God’s way and seek to make it crooked (wishing they could distort it);7 and they, they are those who persistently disbelieve in the Hereafter.
20. Those can never frustrate on earth (whatever God wills for it), nor can they find any guardians, apart from God, able to protect them against God. For them, the punishment will be doubled (in the Hereafter). (Having wasted the faculties of hearing and seeing that God granted them), they have no longer been able to listen to (the revealed truths), nor have they any longer had sight to see.
21. Such are they who have ruined their selves, and all that they fabricated (by way of false deities to worship besides God) have failed them.
22. Without doubt, in the Hereafter they will be the greatest losers.
23. As for those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, and have humbled themselves before their Lord, they are the companions of Paradise; they will abide therein.
24. These two classes of people are like the blind and deaf, and the seeing and hearing. Can they be likened to each other? Will you not, then, reflect and be mindful?
25. And, assuredly, We sent Noah to his people as Messenger (with the same message that he preached): “Surely, I am for you a plain warner (advising you for your good):
26. “That you worship none but God. Indeed I fear for you the punishment of a painful Day!”
27. The leading ones who disbelieved from among his people said: “We do not see you but as a mortal like ourselves, and we do not see that any follow you save those who are but the lowliest of us, without an opinion worthy of consideration; and we do not see you (and your followers) having any superiority over us;8 rather, we take the view that you are liars.”
28. Noah said: “O my people! What do you think – if I stand on a clear evidence from my Lord, and He has granted me a mercy9 from His Presence to which you have remained blind – can we force you to accept it when you are averse to it?
29. “O my people! I ask of you no wealth for it (for conveying the Message to you); my wage is due only from God. I will not drive away those who believe; they are destined to meet their Lord (Who will treat them as they should be treated) – whereas I see you as a people acting in ignorance.
30. “O my people! Who could help me against God were I to drive them away? Will you not then reflect and be mindful?
31. “And I do not say to you that with me are the treasures of God, nor do I know the Unseen (what is stored in the future), nor do I say that I am an angel, nor do I say of those, whom your eyes hold in contempt, that God will not grant them some good. God knows best whatever is in their bosoms (what kind of people they are in their inner worlds). (If I drove them away or spoke ill of them,) then I would indeed be among the wrongdoers.”
32. They said: “O Noah! You have argued with us and have prolonged your arguments; so stop arguing with us and, if you are telling the truth, bring upon us what you have been threatening us with!”
33. Noah said: “Only God can bring it upon you, if He wills; and you can never be frustraters (of His will).
34. “My counsel – much as I would counsel you – will not benefit you, if God has willed that you be and remain misguided. He is your Lord, (Who created you, and nurtures, sustains and protects you,) and you are on the way to return to Him.”
35. Do they (the idolaters) say (of you, O Messenger): “He has fabricated it (invented all those stories and the Qur’ān containing them)?” Say: “If indeed I fabricate it, then upon me falls my sin, but (as you are slandering me to excuse your own willful persistence in unbelief, know that) I am free of the sins you have been committing.”
36. And it was revealed to Noah (by Us): “Never will any of your people believe except those who have already believed. Then, do not be distressed because of what they have been doing.
37. “Build the Ark (which We have described to you) under Our eyes, and in accordance with Our instructions to be revealed (to you), and do not plead with Me for those who have persisted in wrongdoing. They are bound to be drowned.”
38. And so Noah set to building the Ark. And every time the leading ones among his people passed by him, they mocked at him. He said: “Now you are mocking us, but (a day will come when) we mock you just as you mock us.
39. “And so shall you know upon whom will come a punishment which will disgrace him, and upon whom will alight a lasting punishment (in the Hereafter).”
40. (And so it went on) until the time when Our command came, and the boiler started boiling over.10 We said (to Noah): “Embark in it a pair of each kind (of living creature), and your family, except those against whom Our sentence has already been passed, and those who believe.” And those who believed with him were few.
41. Noah said, “Board it!” (and all the people and the pairs of creatures God willed should be saved were settled in the Ark). “In God’s Name be its course and its mooring. Surely my Lord is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.”
42. So the Ark floated with them amid waves like mountains, and Noah cried out to a son of his who was standing apart: “Embark with us, my son, and do not be with the unbelievers!”
43. He said: “I will betake myself to a mountain that will protect me from the waters!”11 He (Noah) said: “Today there is no protection from God’s judgment except for him on whom He has mercy.” And the waves came between them, and he (the son) was among the drowned.
44. And it was said: “O earth, swallow up your waters! And, O sky, cease (your rain)!”12 And the waters were made to subside, and (by God’s will) the affair was accomplished. Then the Ark came to rest on al-Jūdī, and it was said: “Away with the wrongdoing people!”
45. Noah called out to his Lord, saying: “O my Lord, my son was of my family (as a believer), and Your promise is surely true (for my believing family members), and You are the Most Just of judges.”
46. (God) said: “O Noah! He (being an unbeliever) is not of your family. He is one of unrighteous conduct (which embodied his unbelief). So do not ask of Me what you have no knowledge of. I admonish you so that you do not behave as one among the ignorant.”13
47. (Noah) said: “O my Lord! I seek refuge in You, lest I should ask of You what I have no knowledge of. And unless You forgive me and have mercy on me, I will indeed be among the losers.”
48. He was told: “O Noah! Get you down in peace and safety from Us, and with blessings upon you and upon the communities (of believers) who are with you (and those to descend from you and them). (There will also be other) communities (of unbelievers) – We will provide for them to enjoy themselves for a term, and then there will visit them from Us a painful punishment.”14
49. Those are accounts of some exemplary events of the unseen (a time and realm beyond any created being’s perception) that We reveal to you, (O Messenger). Neither you nor your people knew them before this.15 Then (seeing that there is no substantial difference between the conditions in which the Messengers carried out their missions, and the reactions they encountered) be patient (with their reactions and their persistence in unbelief). The (final, happy) outcome is in favor of the God-revering, pious.
50. And to (the people of) ‘Ād, We sent their brother Hūd. He said: “O my people! Worship God alone: you have no deity other than Him. You are only fabricators of falsehood (in attributing partners to Him).
51. “O my people! I ask of you no wage for it (for conveying the Message to you); my wage is due from only Him Who originated me with a unique individuality. Will you not reason and understand?
52. “O my people! Implore your Lord to forgive you (for the sins you have so far committed), and turn to Him repentant that He may cause the sky to pour down upon you abundant rain, and add strength to your strength. So, do not turn your backs (on this message that I convey to you), as disbelieving criminals!”
53. “O Hūd!” they said: “You have brought us no clear sign (– a miracle to prove your Messengership). We are not going to forsake our deities on your mere saying so, the more so as we do not believe you.
54. “We say only that some of our deities have possessed you with evil.” Hūd said: “Surely I call God to witness, and you, too, be witnesses, that I am free of what you associate (with God as partners with Him),
55. “Apart from Him (I only take Him as Deity and Lord). So, scheme against me all together, and then give me no respite!
56. “I have put my trust in God, my Lord and your Lord. No living creature is there but He holds it by its forelock and keeps it under His complete control. Surely, my Lord is on a straight path (He governs all that exists, and carries out His decrees rightly and with absolute justice).
57. “If you turn your backs (on the Message I convey to you, know that) I have conveyed to you what I was sent with to you. My Lord will (if you continue in your rejection) cause another people to take your place, whereas you cannot harm Him in the least. Surely my Lord keeps watch and record of all things.”
58. And when Our judgment came to pass (because the people of ‘Ād did continue in their rejection), We saved Hūd and those who believed with him out of a mercy from Us (because of their faith, righteousness and patience): We saved them from a harsh punishment.
59. Such were the ‘Ād. They obstinately rejected the Revelations of their Lord (the signs and miracles proving His Oneness, and all other essentials of faith) and they rebelled against His Messengers (by rejecting the Messenger – Hūd – sent to them), and followed every stubborn tyrant.
60. And a curse was made to pursue them in this world, and on the Day of Resurrection. Beware! The ‘Ād disbelieved in their Lord with ingratitude; so away with the ‘Ād, the people of Hūd!
61. And to (the people of) Thamūd, (We sent) their brother Sālih (as Messenger to convey the same message): “O my people! Worship God alone: you have no deity other than Him. He has raised you from the earth and settled you in it, enabling your dignity and prosperity. So, ask forgiveness of Him (for the sins you have so far committed), and turn to Him repentant. Assuredly, my Lord is All-Near, All-Responsive (to the call of all beings that call upon Him).”
62. They said: “O Sālih! Before this, you were a source of hope among us. Would you now seek to prevent us from worshipping what our forefathers used to worship? Indeed we are in real doubt concerning what you call us to.”
63. He said: “O my people! What do you think – if I stand on a clear evidence from my Lord, and He has granted me a mercy from Himself – who could help me against God were I to disobey Him? You would add to me nothing but ruin.
64. “O my people! This is the she-camel from God as a sign for you (of the kind you demand to see before you believe). So leave her alone to pasture on God’s earth, and touch her with no evil, lest an imminent punishment should seize you.”
65. But (unable to bear to see her as an evidence of the truth of Sālih’s message) they cruelly slaughtered her. Then he (Sālih) said: “Enjoy the life in your habitations three days more, (then will be your ruin). This is a threat that will not be proved false.”
66. So when Our judgment came to pass, We saved Sālih and those who believed with him out of mercy from Us (because of their faith, righteousness, and patience), from the ignominy of that day. Surely your Lord is the All-Powerful, the All-Glorious with irresistible might.
67. And the awful blast seized those who committed the greatest wrong (by associating partners with God), so that they lay prostrate lifeless in their very dwellings,
68. As though they had never lived there in prosperity. Beware! The Thamūd disbelieved in their Lord (and were ungrateful for His favors), so away with the Thamūd!
69. And Our (heavenly) envoys came (in human form) to Abraham with glad tidings. They said “Peace!” and he (returning the greeting) said, “Peace!” Without delay, he brought them a roasted calf.
70. But when he saw that their hands did not reach out to it, he was doubtful of them (deeming their conduct strange) and became apprehensive of them.16 They said: “Do not fear! We have been sent to the people of Lot.”
71. Meanwhile his (old, infertile) wife, standing by, felt she was menstruating (and smiled);17 and We gave her the glad tidings of (the birth of) Isaac and, after Isaac, of (his son) Jacob.
72. She said: “Oh, woe is me! Shall I bear a child, now that I am an old woman, and this, my husband, is an old man? That would be a strange thing indeed!”
73. They (the envoys) said: “Are you surprised at God’s command? The mercy of God and His blessings be upon you, O people of the house! Surely He is All-Praiseworthy (as the Lord, Who meets all needs of His servants), All-Sublime.”
74. So when the apprehension left Abraham and the glad tidings were conveyed to him, he began to argue with Our envoys to plead with Us on behalf of the people of Lot.
75. Abraham was indeed most clement, tender-hearted, ever-turning to God with all his heart.
76. “O Abraham! Cease from this! For sure, the command of your Lord has already gone forth; and there is coming upon them a punishment not to be turned back.”18
77. And when Our envoys came to Lot, he was troubled on their account and felt himself powerless to protect them, and he said: “This is a distressful day.”
78. His people came rushing to him, driven by their perverted desire, as they had before that been committing such abominations. Lot said: “O my people! Here are my daughters; they are utterly clean for you (to satisfy your desires in wedlock). Have fear of God, and do not disgrace me in respect of my guests. Is there not among you one right-minded man?”
79. They said: “You know well that we have no claim on your daughters; and you surely know well what we desire.”
80. He said: “O! Would that I had power to resist you, or that I could lean upon some strong support!”
81. They (the envoys) said: “O Lot! We are envoys of your Lord. They will not reach you. So, set out with your family in a part of the night, and let no one among you turn round – all save your wife, for that which is to befall them will befall her as well.19 Their appointed time is the morning. Is the morning not near?”
82. So when Our judgment came to pass, We overturned (those sinful towns), and rained down on them stones of baked clay one after another,
83. (Each stone) marked out by your Lord (for a particular individual). And they are never far from wrongdoers (in all times and places).20
84. And (to the people of) Midian, (We sent as Messenger) their brother Shu‘ayb. He said (conveying the same message): “O my people! Worship God: you have no deity other than Him. Do not give short measure and weight (in your dealings). Surely I see you affluent (in wealth, which you have gained in unlawful ways), and I fear for you the punishment of an all-encompassing Day.
85. “O my people! Give full measure and weight, with perfect equity, and do not wrong people by depriving them of what is rightfully theirs, and do not go about acting wickedly in the land, causing disorder and corruption.
86. “What God leaves with you (as lawful profit) is better for you, if you are believers.21 I am not a keeper and watcher over you.”
87. They said: “O Shu‘ayb! Does your Prayer-rite command you that we should forsake all that our forefathers used to worship, or that we should cease doing whatever we wish with our property? Surely you are one mild-mannered, and one right-minded.”
88. He answered: “O my people! What do you think – if I stand on a clear evidence from my Lord, and out of His provision He provides for me? I do not (in hope of worldly gain and provoking disorder) act in opposition to you (myself doing) what I ask you to avoid. What I seek is only to set things right so far as I am able. My success in my task depends on God alone. In Him have I put my trust, and to Him do I always turn with all my heart.
89. “O my people! Let your dissent from me not cause you to sin so that there befall you the like of what befell the people of Noah, or the people of Hūd, or the people of Sālih. And the people of Lot (who were subjected to the same doom) did not live far from you.
90. “Implore your Lord to forgive you (for the sins you have so far committed), and turn to Him repentant. Surely my Lord is All-Compassionate (especially towards His servants who turn to Him), All-Loving.”
91. “O Shu‘ayb!” they said: “We do not understand much of what you say, and we see you indeed as a weak one among us. And, were it not for your tribe (esteemed among us), we would most certainly have stoned you to death. Know well that we do not hold you in esteem as having power over us.”
92. He replied: “O my people! Do you hold my tribe in greater esteem than God, that you take Him as something to cast behind you and forget? But surely my Lord encompasses (with His Knowledge and Power) all that you do.
93. “O my people! Do, then, all that may be within your power, while I am at work (doing my task). In time, you will come to see and know who it is that will be visited by a punishment to disgrace him, and who it is that speaks falsehood and will be contradicted in his speech. Wait and watch, then, and I am watching with you!”
94. And so, when Our judgment came to pass, We saved Shu‘ayb and those who believed in his company out of a mercy from Us (because of their faith, righteousness and patience), and the awful blast seized those who acted wrongly to their own ruin, so that they lay prostrate lifeless in their own dwellings,
95. As though they had never lived there in affluence. So, away with the (people of) Midian, just as the Thamūd have been done away with!
96. And We indeed sent Moses with Our clear signs (miracles to support him), and a manifest authority (from Us),
97. To the Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they (his chiefs, his own people, and many among the Children of Israel) followed the rule of the Pharaoh; and the rule of the Pharaoh was by no means a guide right and just (and no tyrant in the mould of the Pharaoh has ever done differently).22
98. He will go before his people on the Day of Resurrection and lead them to the Fire (as cattle are led to water)! How evil a “watering-place” to be led to!
99. And a curse was made to pursue them in this world, and on the Day of Resurrection. How evil is the gift offered!
100. That is something of the accounts of some townships (that were destroyed in the past). We relate it to you (O Messenger). Among them are some still standing, and some extinct like a mown field.
101. We did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves. When the judgment of your Lord came to pass, their deities which they used to invoke apart from God proved of no avail to them, and they increased them not save in ruin.
102. That is how your Lord seizes the townships when He seizes them when they are wrongdoers. His seizing is indeed painful, severe.
103. Surely in that is a sign (lesson and warning) for those who fear the punishment of the Hereafter. That is a Day when all humankind will be gathered together, and that is a Day bound to be witnessed (experienced by all living creatures in their whole being).
104. We do not postpone it beyond a term already appointed (by Us).
105. On the Day when it comes, no one will speak unless by His leave. Among those (gathered together), some are wretched and some happy.
106. As for those who will be wretched (on that Day, on account of the deeds they have earned), they will be in the Fire, wherein moaning and wailing will be their lot,
107. Abiding there so long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord wills. Surely your Lord is the Sovereign Doer of what He wills.
108. And as for those who are happy (having been blessed by God with faith and good deeds), they will be in Paradise, abiding there so long as the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord wills24 – as a gift unceasing.
109. So do not be in doubt of anything that those (misguided people) worship. They but worship as their forefathers worshipped in times past; and We will most certainly pay them their due in full, undiminished.
110. And, indeed, We granted Moses the Book, and discord arose about it (just as your people, O Messenger, differ concerning the Book We are revealing to you. So do not be grieved). Had it not been for a decree already issued by your Lord (postponing the final, decisive judgment until an appointed term),25 it would indeed have been judged between them. They (your people) are surely in serious doubt, truly uncertain, concerning it (the Qur’ān).
111. And surely for each of them – your Lord will certainly pay them in full for their deeds. He is indeed fully aware of all that they do.
112. Pursue, then, what is exactly right (in every matter of the Religion), as you are commanded (by God), and those who, along with you, have turned (to God with faith, repenting their former ways, let them do likewise); and do not rebel against the bounds of the Straight Path (O believers)! He indeed sees well all that you do.
113. And do not incline towards those who do wrong (against God, by associating partners with Him or transgressing against His commands, or against people, by violating their rights), or the Fire will touch you. For you have no guardians and true friends apart from God; (but if you should incline towards those who do wrong,) you will not be helped (by Him).
114. Establish the Prayer (O Messenger) at the beginning and the end of the day, and in the watches of the night near to the day. Surely good deeds wipe out evil deeds.26 This is advice, and a reminder for the mindful who reflect.
115. And be patient, persevering (in doing good, avoiding mistakes, and against all kinds of persecution you are made to suffer in God’s cause), for surely God never leaves to waste the reward of those devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them.
116. If only there had been among the generations before you (of whom some We destroyed) people with lasting qualities (such as faith, knowledge, virtue, and good deeds, whose goal was what is lasting with God, the eternal life of the Hereafter, and) who would warn against disorder and corruption on earth! Among them only a few, included among those whom We saved, did this. But those who did wrong (against God by associating partners with Him, or against transgressing His commands, or against people by violating their rights) were lost in the pursuit of pleasures without scruples, and were criminals committed to accumulating sins.
117. And it has never been the way of your Lord to destroy the townships unjustly while their people were righteous, dedicated to continuous self-reform and setting things right in the society.
118. If your Lord had so willed (and withheld from humankind free will), He would have made all humankind one single community (with the same faith, worldview, and life-pattern). But (having free choice) they never cease to differ (and follow diverse paths, diverging from the Straight Path),
119. Save those on whom your Lord has mercy (and guides to the Straight Path because of the merits they have).27 It is for that He created them. And, thus, the word of your Lord will have been fulfilled: “I will fill Hell with all those (deserving it) among the jinn and humankind.”28
120. All that We relate to you of the exemplary narrative of (the lives of some of the earlier) Messengers is in order that whereby We make firm your heart. In all these accounts, there comes to you the truth, as well as an instruction and a reminder for the believers.
121. Say to those who do not believe: “Do all that may be within your power, while we too are doing (our task).
122. “And wait on; we, too, are waiting.”
123. To God belongs (absolute dominion and full knowledge of) the unseen of the heavens and the earth, and to Him alone is the whole matter referred (for final judgment). So worship Him, and put your trust in Him. Your Lord is by no means unaware and unmindful of what you do.
1. God has (pre-)ordained the provision each living being will consume during the life which He has appointed for it, and He has bound Himself to supply it. The plants have no power to move from one place to another; in other words, they are wholly submitted to God, their provision being ready beneath their feet. Animals labor to find their provision which has been (pre-)assigned for them, and when they are too young to do this, they are fed by their mothers. As for newborn human beings, their provision is likewise sent to them through the breasts of their mothers by the Hand of Mercy. From the time when they begin to feel strong enough to find their own provision, they labor to procure it. No living being can obtain more than what was assigned for him or her by the All-Providing, nor does anyone die without having consumed it all.
It is a fact that one who works gains, while another who is lazy suffers deprivation. But this is not contrary to God’s (pre-)assignment of every being’s provision. For Destiny takes the cause and effect into consideration together. That is, God destines that a particular effect will come into being as a result of a particular cause. In any case, God has bound Himself to provide the essential, vital provision for every being.
It is also important to point out that although the explanations for Destiny and human free will are enough to convince human reason, the matter of Destiny and provision are not purely rational or scientific. This matter has a deep dimension of mystery relating to the Divine Being which cannot be perceived by reason. One can catch some glimpses of it only after having a certain degree of knowledge of God (ma‘rifah) and spiritual experiences. Destiny and human free will mark the farthest point of perfect belief and submission, and relate to the inner experiences and spiritual states of the believers. Humanity has not been given the equipment with which to perceive every matter concerning the Divine Essence. If this had been the case, then the line between Divinity and humanity, or between the Creator and the created, would not have existed. So such matters as Destiny and provision have dimensions that pertain solely to God as two of His mysteries, and human beings can have knowledge about them only to the extent that is needed to convince their reason.
2. For the creation of the heavens and the earth and the nature of the Supreme Throne, see sūrah 2: 28, note 28; sūrah 7: 54, note 13.
The statement, His Supreme Throne was upon the water, is either a continuation of He has created the heavens and the earth in six days; or adds an additional meaning to it; or it has both functions, which seems to be more befitting of the Qur’ān’s matchless eloquence. In the first case, the meaning is: He has created the heavens and the earth in six days, and His Supreme Throne was upon the water. When considered together with, We have made every living thing from water (21: 30), this verse is indicating the stage where the heavens and the earth were created and the earth was made ready for life, denoting that it is water which lies at the essence of every thing and being. As is known, the main element in all things, including solid objects, is water. In a prayer recited by God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, it is said: “All-Glorified is He Who has laid soil upon a fluid solidified.” This means that rocks and mountains were formed as a result of this solidification, and their crumbling into parts over time has formed the stratum of soil.
In the second case, the meaning is: He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth in six days while His Supreme Throne was upon the water. This denotes that there was water before the creation of the heavens and the earth. Considering that the Qur’ān sometimes uses the word mā (water) to mean fluid and liquid, the water here may mean a fluid substance which was the origin of both the heavens and the earth. According to some physicists, this substance is ether. The Prophetic Tradition, “God’s Will and Favoring was upon amā both below and above of which there was no air,” (at-Tirmidhī, “Tafsîr Hūd,” HN: 3108) clarifies this point. It is possible that amā may be ether (Tereddütler 1: 219).
3. God wills good for humankind, but humankind incurs evil. For an explanation, see Appendix 7.
4. At a time in history when eloquence was most highly prized, the Qur’ān of miraculous exposition was revealed. Just as God Almighty had endowed Moses and Jesus, upon them be peace, with the miracles which were most suitable to their times, He used eloquence as the most notable aspect of the Qur’ān, the chief miracle of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. At the time that the Qur’ān was revealed, it first challenged the literary figures of the Arabian Peninsula, and then all people throughout the ages, at every level of knowledge and understanding, until Judgment Day. For more detail about the challenges issued and some aspects of its miraculousness, see Appendix 6.
5. Although there have been different views concerning the evidence and the witness, what is meant by “evidence” may be said to be the Qur’ān, and what is meant by “witness” may be said to be a person or persons who are learned in the Divine Books. Verse 3: 18, which states that God, the angels, and those possessed of knowledge bear witness that there is no deity but He, and verse 46: 10, which states that a witness – ‘Abdullāh ibn Salām – from among the Children of Israel bears witness to Muhammad’s Prophethood and the Divine origin of the Qur’ān, corroborate this meaning.
This meaning is also corroborated by the verse to come. It mentions the witnesses who testify against the unbelievers on Judgment Day. Verse 4: 41 also mentions such witnesses: How, then, will it be (with people on the Day of Judgment) when We bring forward a witness from every community (to testify against them and that God’s Religion was communicated to them), and bring you (O Messenger) as a witness against all those (whom your Message may have reached)? Although the witnesses mentioned here may be the individual Messengers sent to their respective peoples, it also confirms the general meaning that any witness mentioned in the Qur’ān with such import is a learned one, whether he is a Prophet or not.
6. The word translated as “disbelieving” is kufr, which means to cover. So, kufr in Islamic terminology means covering the truth knowingly: that is, covering the truth while under the influence of different factors, such as carnal desires, personal interests, prejudices, incorrect view-points, incorrect judgments, arrogance, ill intentions, and wrongdoing. Secondly, in order to judge someone as a kāfir (unbeliever), the truths of faith should have been conveyed to this person to the extent that, left to their (carnal) soul and conscience, he or she could make a free choice between belief and unbelief; or, this person should be in such a position that he or she could make the necessary investigations, thereby becoming aware of belief and unbelief. The Islamic term for this action of conveying the truths of faith is tablīgh, meaning conveying a message fully and as clearly as possible. Those whom the Qur’ān condemns as unbelievers and the eternal inhabitants of the Fire are the people to whom the truths of faith have been thoroughly conveyed, to the extent that they have been convinced, yet they still prefer unbelief freely, being under the kinds of influences mentioned above.
7. God’s way is a straight path that has been established by Him. What human beings must do is to know this path well in all its aspects and principles, and to infer new rules in the secondary matters of law, which are subject to change in parallel with the change of time and place, according to the main, unchangeable principles of this path. But those who do not believe in it and the hypocrites have always wished that this path were crooked, in accordance with their desires, and in order to serve their interests. So, to attempt to make changes in this path (Islam) or to make it appear different from how it really is, so that its enemies may approve of it – such attempts, however intensive or extensive, have always been in vain –amounts only to a betrayal of the path.
8. Throughout history, it has been typical of all disbelieving opponents of the Divine Religion that they have always seen the believers as being devoid of knowledge and thought, while they have acclaimed themselves as being intelligent and knowledgeable. This is partly because of their arrogance and self-pride, which, is in fact, a reflection of an inferiority complex from which they have never been able to escape, and partly because the viewpoint of the unbelievers, based on material goods, personal interests, and this fleeting world, has always been different from that of the believers, which is established by God and based on belief in and worship of One God, and belief in the Unseen and the other pillars of faith, and universal moral values. The status of such unbelievers, as derives from their posts, positions, and wealth, as well as their worldly interests, have blinded them to the Divine truths, and they have always acted vainly and from the arrogance that arises from their riches and positions. For such people, superiority lies in wealth, higher position, race, color, or physical constitution. However, in the end, it has always been clear that it is the believers who hold the true viewpoint, who think correctly, and who are truly superior to the others; for them, superiority lies in consciousness of God, true knowledge, and moral values.
In order to make a brief comparison between the civilizations set up by the believers and unbelievers, the following points need to be focused on:
The civilization of unbelievers is mostly founded upon five negative principles: it is based upon power, and power is inclined toward oppression; it seeks to realize individual self-interest, even though this causes people to rush about madly trying to earn possessions; it considers life as a struggle, which causes internal and external conflict; it unifies through national and/or racial separatism, and feeds this selfish solidarity by swallowing the resources and territories of “others,” both of which engender terrible conflict; and it strives to satisfy novel caprices or aroused desires (whether the satisfaction is real or not), and so brutalizes people’s tastes and aspirations.
Islamic civilization rests upon right (not power), which requires justice and balance; it encourages virtue, which spurs mutual affection and love; it considers life as consisting of mutual help, which leads to unity and solidarity; it unifies people through a common religion in a common state, leading them to internal peace, and brotherhood and sisterhood; and it creates a willing self-defense against external enemies, guiding people to the truth. It elevates people, through knowledge and moral perfection, to higher ranks of humanity.
If we compare a believer with an unbeliever, the following additional points come to our attention:
Haughty, refractory unbelievers, such as those (we see) opposing the Messengers, are usually Pharaoh-like tyrants, yet they abuse themselves by bowing in worship before the meanest things if they perceive it to be in their interest to do so. They are stubborn, misleading, and unyielding, but so wretched that they accept endless degradation for the attainment of one pleasure; they are unbending, but so mean as to kiss the feet of evil people for a base advantage. They are conceited and domineering, but, unable to find any point of support in their hearts, are utterly impotent and vainglorious tyrants. Such people are nothing less than self-centered egoists who strive to gratify their material and carnal desires, pursuers of personal interests and certain national interests.
On the other hand, the sincere believers are worshipping servants of God, but they do not degrade themselves by bowing in worship before even the greatest of the created. They are dignified servants who do not worship in order to obtain a benefit, even Paradise. They are modest, mild, and gentle, but only lower themselves voluntarily before their Creator, never exceeding what He has permitted. They are aware of their innate weaknesses and needs as created beings, but are independent because the Munificent Owner provides them with wealth. Relying on their Master’s infinite Power, they are powerful. They act and strive purely for the sake and pleasure of God, and so as to be graced with virtue (The Words, “The 12th Word,” 147).
9. Evidence here means the things which confirm the Divine Messengership, such as the Divine Book, miracles, and the Messengers’ laudable morals, and the special mercy granted to them. The special mercy granted to them constitutes Messengership, with all its attributes, such as absolute certainty in belief, truthfulness, trustworthiness, intelligence, knowledge, receiving Revelation, and being free from all kinds of intellectual and bodily defects.
10. Different comments have been made on fāra’t-tannūr, which literally means “the oven spurted out (of water).” Some commentators such as, Ibn Jarīr at-Tabarī and Ibn al-Kathīr, are of the opinion that since tannūr also means the surface of the earth, the expression literally means that water gushed over the face of the earth. According to Ibn Kathīr, the gushing waters turned the earth into springs. Elmalili Hamdi Yazır, a great Turkish interpreter of the twentieth century, deals with all such views from a linguistic viewpoint and concludes that fāra’t-tannūr marks the start of the Flood and, therefore, means that the oven or kiln of the Ark was heated to run the Ark.
This expression alludes to the notion that Noah’s Ark was powered by steam. It is this point which leads some modern commentators to think that fāra’t-tannūr cannot mean that the oven (functioning as a boiler) boiled over. They assert that it is impossible that a steam-powered ship was built at the time of Noah, upon him be peace. Modern historians and scientists tend to see the Flood as a legend, although this is contrary to the modern concept of science. Science requires that it should be investigated. In addition, an ark, which could accommodate one or two pairs from all animals, or at least from all domesticated animals, as well as Noah’s family and the believers, however few they were, and which was able to sail among mountain-like waves, as will be mentioned in the verse 42 below, could not be a mere sailboat or a simple vessel. According to some who base their theory on the fulk, the original word for Ark, also means fleet; therefore, Noah’s Ark may have been, in actual fact, a fleet. It was built under God’s “Eyes” and in accordance with His revealed instructions. Although it was Noah’s miracle, it also shows to what extent science and technology, especially engineering, had advanced during the time of this Prophet, upon him be peace.
11. This response is typical of a materialist or naturalist who does not believe in God and His supreme dominion over the entire universe, and displays the characteristic of Noah’s people with regards to the kind of unbelievers they were.
12. A word should be considered from the perspectives, “Who said it? To whom it was said?” and “Why was it said?” The one who can order the earth, “O earth, swallow up your waters!”, and the sky, “O sky, cease (your rain)!” can only be one who has absolute dominion over both the sky and the earth. This one can only be God. Such orders given by any other than God would be absurd. Both the sky and the earth are under God’s dominion, and since they obey Him alone and work under His absolute rule, they continue to exist in order and balance. Even if they sometimes are set to move because of the sins and wrongs of some people, the extent of the sins and wrongs committed has not yet reached the point of their destruction. When wrong, unbelief, and rebellion come to the point where they completely destroy the order and balance on earth, then it will be Doomsday.
The verse emphasizes that it was the sky which sent the rain and the earth which caused the waters to gush. Such a style is meaningful from two perspectives: one is that the entire universe obeys God as if it were a conscious being. The other is that the sky and the earth or, rather, the angels that represent these things before God and who are in charge of them, and other spirit beings that inhabit the heavens, became angry at the unbelief and rebellion of human beings. Verse 44: 29 states that neither the heaven nor the earth shed tears over the drowning of the Pharaoh and his army. It may also be that the sky and the earth, together with whatever there is in them, are affected in some way by the thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and actions of conscious beings living on the earth.
13. The Prophet Noah, upon him be God’s peace, is one of the five greatest Messengers mentioned in the Qur’ān (42: 13). He prayed to God to forgive him, his parents, and those who believed among his family, and all believers, men and women (71: 28). Just before the Flood started, as mentioned above (verse: 40), God ordered him to take into the Ark those who believed from among his family and other believers. He saw one of his sons standing aloof and he invited him to embark. He thought his son was a believer because he had not seen any signs of unbelief in him. We understand from his prayer that he was aware that there were some among his family who were not believers. For this reason, he essentially was praying not for all of his family but for only those who believed among them. It can easily be concluded from his prayer and his statement that, “My son was of my family,” that he thought of his son as a believer. His son was obviously a believer in appearance, but not in truth. He did not display any sign of the unbelief which he had concealed in his heart; that is, he was a hypocrite. This is also evident from the Almighty’s answer, “what you have no knowledge of.” In the original of Noah’s statement, which has been translated as “O my Lord, my son was of my family (as a believer), and Your promise is surely true (for my believing family members), and You are the Most Just of judges,” the parenthetical phrases (as a believer) and (for my believing family members) are not there, but they are implied. So his purpose for calling out in this way was to discover the Divine purpose for, or wisdom in, the drowning of a person whom he thought to be a believer. God Almighty informed him of the fact that his son was not a believer, and forewarned him against making any requests on behalf of a disbelieving one.
Though a miracle of eloquence, the reason why such a detail in the story of Noah should be included in the Qur’ān must be sought in its purpose for narrating the exemplary phases of the Messengers’ missions. When this sūrah was revealed, many families in Makkah were divided into believers and unbelievers. However important a blood relationship is with respect to certain mutual rights and matters of law, such as guardianship and inheritance, the relationship that emanates from faith is more important. Although it has no part in legal matters, such as inheritance, it forms the basic foundation upon which the relationship among believers is based. The blood relationship should provide a support for it. In addition, a difference in faith invalidates the legal rights or responsibilities, such as guardianship and inheritance. A disbelieving child cannot inherit from believing parents. And any disbelieving member of a family cannot be preferred over a believing one, even though the latter does not belong to that family (58: 22).
14. It is controversial whether the Flood stretched throughout the earth or it was localized. As far as we can understand from this verse, the Flood took place in the inhabited part of the world and encompassed all the existing people.
It has been pointed out before (sūrah 7, note 15) that the Flood took place in Iraq and neighboring regions. However, there are some differences of opinion about the mountain upon which the Ark came to rest. According to the Bible, it was Mt. Ararat. The Qur’ān names it as al-Jūdī. Al-Jūdī means the heights, and this does not contradict the statement that it was Mt. Ararat. On the other hand, there is a mountain located south of Lake Van in Turkey that rises to a height of 7,700 feet which is known as Mount Judi. The local tribesmen there maintain that the Ark drifted to a high point on the Judi mountain chain, and that the remains of it are still located at the top.
Mt. Judi overlooks the all-important Mesopotamian plain and is notable for the many archaeological ruins found in and around it. There are also many references to this mountain in ancient history. Sennacherib (700 bc), the Assyrian king, carved reliefs of himself in the rock on the side of the mountain. The Nestorians (a Christian sect) built several monasteries around the mountain, including one at the summit, known as “The Cloister of the Ark.” It was destroyed by lightning in 766 ad. In 1910, Gertrude Bell explored the area and found a stone structure still at the summit in the shape of a ship, which was known by the locals as, “Sefīne-i Nebī Nuh” (The Ship of Noah). Bell also reported that on September 14 every year, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sabaeans and Yezidis gathered on the mountain to commemorate Noah’s sacrifice. As late as 1949, two Turkish journalists claimed to have seen the Ark on this mountain, a ship measuring 500 feet in length!
There is also another mountain in Turkey called Judi, which is located 32 kilometers from Mount Ararat. In the January 16, 1994 issue, The Observer (London) published the news that a team of scientists had found Noah’s Ark on that mountain. Some investigators, both Muslims and Christians, are of the opinion that the Ararat mentioned in the Bible is the name of, not a mountain, but the region where Mount Ararat is located, and, therefore, the Ark having come to rest upon al-Jūdiyy, or on Ararat, is not contradictory.
15. From one perspective, the Qur’ān presents a lot of history of bygone nations and predictions about the near or distant future. Some of its predictions are explicit, while some others are implicit or alluded to. It is impossible to contradict its accounts of historical events; therefore, whatever it predicts either has come true or will come true when its time is due. What researchers should do is to carry out studies in the light of the Qur’ān.
As pointed out in the verse, it was impossible for God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to know the histories of the Prophets and their peoples. But, based on Divine Revelation and with utmost confidence in his mission, he conveyed both the histories of bygone nations and many predictions concerning future important events. This is a challenge to all ages and peoples, including historians and other researchers, and is one of the undeniable proofs of His Prophethood.
16. According to the existing traditions where the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, lived, if a guest held back from eating food that was offered, it meant that that person had an evil intention. That is why the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, became apprehensive of the guests.
17. The verse used (ḌaḤiQa) means both menstruating and smiling. So, Fethullah Gülen and aṭ—Ṭabāṭabāī, two renowned contemporary scholars, opine that since, despite her old age, she felt menstruating, she smiled in shyness. (Kur’an’dan İdrake, 1: 196)
18. While narrating some important episodes from the earlier Prophets’ lives in connection with the main themes of this sūrah, the Qur’ān of miraculous expression includes this episode from the life of Abraham, upon him be God’s peace. This hints that even amid the greatest destruction, there is always a hope for the future of belief, like a seed destined to grow into a great tree. While many people were destroyed because of their stubborn unbelief, evil deeds, and immoralities, and the unrest and corruption they caused on earth, Abraham, upon him be peace, begat two sons – Ishmael and Isaac, upon them be peace – from whom two branches would issue bearing Messengers, and by whose grace human history would enter a completely new phase. So, with this episode from the life of Abraham, upon him be peace, the father of all the great Messengers to come after him, the Qur’ān both consoles the Last Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and his friends, all of whom suffered great persecutions at the hands of the Makkan polytheists, and gives glad tiding of a new seed which had already germinated under the earth to grow into a magnificent tree. This is true for all similar periods until the Day of Resurrection.
19. Noah’s son and Lot’s wife were among the unbelievers who were destroyed. This is an extremely significant warning for all people. In order to be saved, we must always seek refuge in God and implore Him to protect our hearts from all kinds of deviation from the Straight Path.
20. The Qur’ānic presentation of the destruction of ancient peoples, especially those of Lot, upon him be peace, points to calamities which we today label as “natural” and which we think we understand and attribute to nature. It seems as if the people of Lot, upon him be peace, were destroyed by a terrible volcanic eruption, probably in conjunction with a severe earthquake. The land where those people lived sank into the earth; it could be said that the site was wiped clean.
Whatever the calamity was with which they were destroyed, it is God Who judged their destruction and Who brought it about. But since the world is the realm of wisdom and human beings are equipped with free will, God acts behind the veil of causes. Angels represent His acts in the world and act as His “officials.” Every occurrence in “nature” is connected with an angel, to the extent that even a rain drop falls with the angel in charge of it. Nothing can be attributed to chance, for God’s all-inclusive Will prevails. It is He Who creates everything, and nothing occurs without His control or permission.
One of the reasons why God acts in this world behind the veil of causes or causes-and-effects is that human reason cannot see the ultimate beauty in some happenings, such as death, illnesses, and misfortunes. If God were directly involved in such happenings, people might attribute to Him the apparent ugliness inherent in them, and, therefore, more readily commit great sins. But, as God has mercy on us, He has put causes between Him and the happenings and saved us from falling into such error. People ascribe to certain causes such seemingly ugly happenings as death, illnesses, and misfortunes. But this should not prevent us from searching for the Divine purpose behind all these happenings, in order to ask God for forgiveness for our sins and pray to Him to receive blessings.
As with the peoples mentioned in the Qur’ān, if an evil encompasses all people, God may destroy them. However, in many cases we see that, rather than the unbelievers, it is the believers who are subjected to the Divine punishment that arises in the form of calamities that we unthinkingly attribute to nature. This is because major cases and great crimes are referred to and tried and judged by high courts, while minor ones are decided in ordinary ones. Similarly, the punishment for the greater part of the sins of unbelievers has been postponed to the Last, Supreme Judgment, while the believers are mostly punished in this world as an atonement for their sins and failures in following God’s laws of religion and life. However, as with the peoples mentioned in the Qur’ān, if the sins and crimes committed exceed certain limits, God may punish the unbelievers in this world as well. The two world wars may be interpreted as being such punishments.
God does not usually choose between the good and the evil, or the innocent and guilty, in disasters that result from the wrongdoing of the majority, in such calamities as earthquakes or floods that come as a form of destruction. Such calamities befall everyone, for they are part of the tests and trials prepared for us. We are tested in this world, where God opens the door to reason, in order for us to know and believe in Him; but since He has given free will to humankind, He never acts in a way that would compel us to believe. If He were to choose between the believers and unbelievers in every calamity, this would be as if He had written His Name in the sky with the stars, and everyone would feel obliged to believe. But it is very important that everyone should believe of their own free will.
In return for undergoing such calamities, good and innocent people will receive a great reward in the Hereafter. For them, there is another kind of mercy: just as the lost property of the innocent becomes like alms given to the poor and, thereby, gains permanence, their death in a disaster may be regarded as a kind of martyrdom and, therefore, will gain them an eternal life of happiness. For this reason, having gained for them a great and perpetual profit from a relatively trivial and temporary difficulty or torment, such calamities are, for them, an instance of Divine mercy hidden within wrath. Nevertheless, it should also be stressed that sometimes God uses such calamities to punish people because they have not tried to enjoin what is good and prevent what is evil. In addition, most people may have participated in some of the sinful actions of the sinful majority, either actively or by giving them direct or indirect support, or in some other way.
In connection with the exemplary history of Lot’s people, we should also indicate that as a sinless Messenger of God, Lot, upon him be peace, was free of all sins, major or minor. The misconduct attributed to Lot, upon him be peace, in the Bible (Genesis, 19: 30–38) are monstrous absurdities, and contradicted by what the same text recounts – that he and his daughters, precisely because they were exemplary in their conduct, were saved from the destruction that befell the people on account of their sexual immorality.
21. Islam determines the lawful and the unlawful to order relationships among people. It is extremely careful of dealings between people, of not wronging others, gaining by lawful ways, and of absolutely refraining from gaining through unlawful ways, such as by deception, interest, lying, and all other kinds of corrupt practices. Although, in general terms, Islam allows prices to be determined by free and lawful marketing, it does not permit selling goods for a price grossly in excess of the normal market price. It strictly forbids any deception, or the giving of deficient measure or weight. Although people may think that they are profiting by gaining in such unlawful ways, in truth, they are in loss. Only one who acts in conformity with God’s laws has an advantage and, therefore, it is better for everybody to be honest in their dealings.
22. The subtle meaning discovered by the great Turkish interpreter of the Qur’ān, Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır, is quite beautiful. Since the title “the Pharaoh” is used in the first part of the verse, the pronoun “he” in reference to him is expected in the second part. But we see that the title “the Pharaoh” is repeated. So, the first mention of “the Pharaoh” refers to the Egyptian tyrant, to whom Moses, upon him be peace, was sent, while the second mention of “Pharaoh” is, rather than a proper name, a denomination referring to all Pharaoh-like tyrants and their administrations.
23. The verse compares the Pharaoh to a blind cowherd, and those who followed him blindly to cattle, and, thereby, warns us against blind imitation and not using our reason and free will to find and follow the right path. See also 7: 179.
24. The expression, except as your Lord wills, is included in the last two verses in order to stress that God is a (sovereign) Doer of whatever He wills, as mentioned in verse 107. No one can compel Him, nor is He Himself obliged to do anything. He does whatever He wills. If there is enduring bliss in Paradise, this is because God has willed it so; if there is enduring punishment in Hell, again, this is because God has willed it so.
As for the statement, so long as the heavens and the earth endure, this is an idiomatic statement in Arabic denoting eternity. On Doomsday, the earth will be transformed into another earth peculiar to the other world, and there will also be heavens there (14: 48).
25. This decree is that there will be for humankind on the earth, where they have been appointed as vicegerent to improve it, a habitation and provision until the Day of Resurrection (2: 36), and that recompense for obedience or disobedience to the Religion is generally deferred to the Hereafter.
26. In one respect, this verse circumscribes the five prescribed Prayers, although it does specify the exact time of each. The Prayers to be established at the beginning and end of the day may be seen as the Noon and Afternoon Prayers. If so, what is meant by day is broad daylight. The original word for “watches of the night near to the day” is zulef, which is in the plural. In Arabic, the plural must include at least three things, so it can be concluded that the word zulef refers to the three Prayers to be established during the night; i.e. the Evening, Late Evening, and Dawn or Morning Prayers. Although this is the apparent meaning of the verse, which indicates five times for Prayer in a day, these times may not be the exact times of the daily Prescribed Prayers. Praying five times a day was prescribed for the Muslims during the Messenger’s Ascension, in the eleventh year of his mission. Therefore, the five times mentioned in the verse may be only for the Messenger, and one of the three times in the night may be the time of Tahajjud, the Late Night Prayer which was prescribed for the Messenger, not the time of dawn or early morning.
The Prescribed Prayer is the pillar of the Religion and the best of good deeds. One who does not perform the Prescribed Prayer cannot construct the building of the Religion on the foundation of faith. A foundation on which a building has not been built is easily removed. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, taught that the Prayer is like a river running by one’s house. One who bathes in it five times a day is cleaned of all dirt (which may have attached to him or her during the intervening periods). He also taught that the Prescribed Prayers can serve as atonement for the minor sins committed between the times (Muslim, “Tahārah,” 16). The Qur’ān declares that the Prescribed Prayer prevents one from committing indecencies and other kinds of evil deeds (29: 45). Also, it serves as repentance and a means of asking God for forgiveness. Similarly, any good deed done just after an evil one may cause the evil one to be forgiven. So it is highly advisable that one should do good immediately after any evil committed. Of course, this does not mean that we may willfully do evil so long as we pray immediately afterwards. Rather, like the Prescribed Prayer, the doing of a good deed after an evil one is intended to train and restrain one from committing further evil. This is what is indicated to in the sentence, Surely good deeds wipe out evil deeds, in the verse.
27. God, as the All-Just, and more than that, the All-Merciful Whose Mercy encompasses everything, never wrongs His creatures, nor discriminates between them. Rather, He always wishes good for them. What we must do is to use our free will on the right course. Some virtues, such as truthfulness, modesty, humility, altruism, generosity, being free of prejudices, and keeping from such evils as lying, deception, wronging others, illicit sexual relations, and the like, are petitions presented to God for faith and salvation. On the other hand, vices such as wrongdoing, arrogance, being prejudiced, selfishness, miserliness, and indulgence in pleasures are obstacles before faith and salvation. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, replied to one of his Companions, who asked him about whether people would benefit from the good deeds they had done in the period of jāhiliyyah (pre-Islamic era), saying: “Why else do you think God has guided you to Islam?” (al-Bukhārī, “Zakāh,” 24).
For the conflicts among humankind, their meaning, and place in human life and history, and the Divine wisdom contained in them, see: 2: 213, note 143; 3: 19, note 4; 5: 48, note 11; and 10: 93, note: 14.
28. This word has already been given in 7: 18, with reference to Satan’s followers: He (God) said: “Go away from there, disgraced and disowned! Those of them that follow you, surely I will fill Hell with you all!” God will fill Hell with Satan and his followers among the jinn and humankind who have ultimately become “satanic.” Time has demonstrated that Paradise is not easy to deserve, nor is Hell useless.