15. Al-Hijr (The Rock)
This sūrah, consisting of 99 verses, was revealed in Makkah. Its main theme is the evidence of God’s Existence and Oneness, and the Divine authorship of the Qur’ān. It mentions some of the exemplary events of previous peoples. It derives its name from the name of the Arabian region mentioned in verse 80, Al-Hijr (The Rock), where the people of Sālih, upon him be peace, lived.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. Alif. Lām. Rā. These are the Revelations of the Book, a Qur’ān clear in itself and clearly showing the truth.
2. Again and again will those who disbelieve wish that they had been Muslims.
3. Leave them that they may continue to eat and enjoy themselves, and (let) that hope (for a long, easy life) distract them (from considering their main duty in life and considering their end). In time, they will come to know (the truth).
4. And We did not destroy any township unless it had a known and recorded decree.1
5. No community can ever hasten on the end of its term, nor can they delay it.2
6. They say: “O you, on whom the Reminder (the Book of advice, warning, and instructions) is sent down, truly you are a madman!
7. “Why do you not bring down the angels to us if you are truthful (in your claim)!”
8. We do not send down the angels save with the truth (for a just reason and with wisdom, not to satisfy vain caprice or curiosity, and once the angels are sent down, the matter is decided, and) then they are allowed no (further) respite.
9. Indeed it is We, We Who send down the Reminder in parts, and it is indeed We Who are its Guardian.3
10. Certainly We sent Messengers before you among the communities of old.
11. And there never came to them a Messenger but they did mock him.
12. Thus, do We cause it (the Qur’ān) to pass unheeded through the hearts of the disbelieving criminals.
13. They do not believe in it: for certain, the pattern of life of the (sinful) peoples of old times has already passed.
14. Even if (as a miracle to convince them of the truth of God’s Message) We opened to them a gate in heaven and they kept ascending through it all the while,
15. They would say, “Our eyes are but spellbound; rather, we have been bewitched!”4
16. (As evidence for a people open to belief) We have assuredly set in the heaven great constellations, and We have made it (the heaven) beautiful for those beholding;
17. And We have made it secure against every satan rejected (from God’s mercy),
18. Excepting one who listens by stealth, and is pursued (and destroyed) by a shooting-star clear to see.5
19. And the earth – We have spread it out and set therein firm mountains, and caused to grow therein of every kind in balance and proportion (and in a measured quantity);
20. And We have provided means of livelihood therein for you, and for those for whom you do not provide (such as beasts, birds, and fish).
21. There is not a thing but the stores (for its life and sustenance) are with Us, and We do not send it down except in due, determined measure.
22. And We send the winds to fertilize,6 and so We send down water from the sky, and give it to you to drink (and use in other ways); it is not you who are the keepers of its stores (under earth).
23. Surely it is also We, We Who give life and cause to die, and We are the Inheritors (it is We Who remain after all others have passed away).
24. And well do We know those of you who have gone before and those who are to come later.
25. And your Lord – He will surely raise to life and gather them together (on Judgment Day). He is All-Wise, All-Knowing.
26. Assuredly We have created humankind from dried, sounding clay, from molded dark mud.
27. And the jinn We had created before, from smokeless, scorching fire penetrating through the skin.7
28. And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “I am creating a mortal from dried, sounding clay, from molded dark mud.
29. “When I have fashioned him in due proportions and breathed into him out of My Spirit, then fall down prostrating before him (as a token of respect for him and his superiority).”8
30. So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together,
31. But Iblīs did not; he refused to be among those who prostrated themselves.9
32. (God) said: “O Iblīs! What is the matter with you that you are not among those who have prostrated?”
33. (Iblīs) said: “I am not one to prostrate myself before a mortal, whom You have created from dried, sounding clay, from molded dark mud.”
34. (God) said: “Then get you down out of it; surely You are one rejected (from My mercy).
35. “And cursing is upon you until the Day of Judgment.”
36. (Iblīs) said: “Then, my Lord, grant me respite till the Day when they will all be raised from the dead!”
37. (God) said: “You are of the ones granted respite,
38. “(But) until the Day of the appointed time known (to Me) (i.e. the Last Day).”
39. (Iblīs said:) “My Lord!10 Because You have allowed me to rebel and go astray, I will indeed deck out as appealing to them on the earth (the worldly, material dimension of human existence and the path of error), and I will surely cause them all to rebel and go astray,
40. “Except Your servants from among them, endowed with sincerity in faith and Your worship.”
41. (God) said: “This (path of sincerity in faith) is a straight path that I have taken upon Myself (to lead to Me).
42. “My servants – you shall have no authority over any of them, unless it be such as follow you being rebellious (against Me, as you are).”11
43. And for all such (rebellious people), Hell is the promised place.
44. It has seven gates, with an appointed group of them for each gate.12
45. The God-revering, pious ones are surely in Gardens and water-springs,
46. (And it is said to them): “Enter you here in peace, perfectly secure!”
47. We strip away whatever there is in their bosoms of rancor and jealousy (which they may have felt against each other while in the world). As brothers face to face, (they take their ease) on couches raised.
48. No sense of fatigue ever touches them, nor are they ever asked to leave.
49. Inform, (O Messenger,) My servants that I surely am the All-Forgiving, the All-Compassionate,
50. And that My punishment – it is indeed the painful punishment.
51. Inform them about the guests of Abraham.
52. They presented themselves before him and bade him peace. Abraham said: “We are apprehensive of you.”
53. They said: “Do not be apprehensive. We have brought you the glad tidings of a boy to be endowed with profound knowledge.”
54. He said: “Do you bring me glad tidings when old age has overtaken me? Then how can you bring me such glad tidings?”
55. They said: “We have brought you the glad tidings with truth, so be not of those who despair.”
56. He said: “Who would despair of his Lord’s mercy, other than those who are astray?”13
57. He said: “Then (after that), what is your concern, O you (heavenly) envoys?”
58. They said: “Indeed, we have been sent to a people who are all criminals,
59. “Except for the family of Lot – we are surely to save them all,
60. “Except his wife – about her God has decreed that she shall be among those who stay behind (and are destroyed).”
61. And when the envoys came to the family of Lot,
62. He said: “You are people unknown (here).”
63. They said: “No (do not be afraid)! We have come to you concerning that which they have persistently disputed (the inevitable consequence of their way of life).
64. “We have brought you the truth, and we are most certainly speaking the truth.
65. “So, set forth with your family in a part of the night, with yourself following them in the rear, and let no one among you turn round, but proceed whither you are ordered.”
66. We made clear to him in that decisive decree, that the root of those (sinful people) was to be cut off in the morning.
67. The people of the city came rejoicing at the news (that some handsome guests had arrived).
68. Lot said: “They are my guests; so do not put me to shame.
69. “Have fear of God, and do not disgrace me!”
70. They said: “Have we not forbidden you to offer protection and intercede for anyone in the world?”
71. Lot said: “Here are my daughters (whom you might lawfully take in marriage), if you have to be doing (something of that sort)!”
72. By your life (O Muhammad), they moved blindly and wildly in their delirium (of perversion).
73. The awful blast seized them at the sunrise,
74. And We turned them (the sinful towns) upside down, and rained down on them stones of baked clay.
75. Surely in this are signs (lessons and messages) for those who can read the signs (so as to understand the inner meaning of things and events).
76. They (the traces of those destroyed towns) stand by a road that still exists.
77. Surely in that there is a manifest sign for the believers (for the truth of God’s decree, and the way He enjoins, and the call to it).14
78. And the people of al-Aykah were also wrongdoers (who associated partners with God).15
79. So We inflicted Our retribution on them (which they deserved), and both (of these sinful communities) lived by a highway plain to see.
80. And most certainly the people of al-Hijr denied the Messengers (by denying the Messenger sent to them).
81. So We presented to them Our signs (including miracles, and sent Our Revelations), but they turned away from them in aversion.
82. They hewed out dwellings in the mountains, feeling themselves secure (against any calamity).
83. But the awful blast seized them in the morning.
84. All (the wealth and power) that they acquired was of no avail to them.16
85. We did not create the heavens and the earth and all that is between them save with truth (meaningfully, and with definite purpose, and on solid foundations of truth); and the Last Hour is surely bound to come.17 So, overlook (the faults of the people, O Messenger) with a gracious forbearance.18
86. Surely, your Lord is He Who is the Supreme Creator, the All-Knowing.
87. And, indeed We have granted you the Seven Doubly-Repeated (Verses) and (built on it) the Grand Qur’ān.19
88. Do not strain your eyes toward what We have given some groups among them (the unbelievers) to enjoy (in the life of this world), nor grieve over them (because of their attitude toward your mission); and lower your wings (of compassion and protection) for the believers.20
89. And say (to those coming to Makkah from neighboring towns): “Surely I, I am the plain warner (against a punishment to be sent down).”
90. —Just as We have sent down on those who make divisions.
91. [Those who make divisions as they please are] those who have broken the Qur’ān into fragments (as they please).21
92. So, by your Lord, We will surely question them all
93. About what they have been doing.
94. So from now on, proclaim what you are commanded to convey openly and in an emphatic manner, and do not care (whatever) those who associate partners with God (say and do).22
95. We suffice you against all those who mock,
96. Those who adopt some deity along with God. In time, they will come to know.
97. We certainly know that your breast is constricted by the (blasphemous) things that they say.
98. But glorify your Lord with His praise (proclaim that He is absolutely above having any partners, and that all praise belongs to Him exclusively), and be one of those who prostrate themselves before Him (regularly in the Prayer, which strengthens their humility).
99. And (continue to) worship your Lord until what is certain (death) comes to you.
1. That is, its people were made well aware of what they would meet in consequence of the way they chose to follow, and the period of respite allowed them was determined and laid down by God.
2. For an explanation of this verse, see 7: 34, note 10.
3. The text of the Qur’ān was preserved in four different ways during the lifetime of the Messenger of God, upon him be peace and blessings:
- The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, had the whole text of the Divine Messages, from the beginning to the end, committed to writing by the scribes of Revelations.
- Many of the Companions learned the whole text of the Qur’ān, every syllable, by heart.
- All the illustrious Companions, without exception, had memorized at least some portions of the Holy Qur’ān, for the simple reason that it was obligatory for them to recite it during worship.
- A considerable number of the literate Companions kept a private record of the text of the Qur’ān and satisfied themselves as to the purity of their record by reading it out to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.
There are many incidents during the Messenger’s lifetime that prove that there were also copies of the parts of the Qur’ān that had been revealed up until the time of the recording. For example, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, provided visitors to Madīnah, who came to learn about Islam, with copies of chapters of the Qur’ān to read and learn. To cite just one example, a Tradition from Sahīh Muslim (“Kitāb al-‘Imārah,” 24) states that Ibn ‘Umar was asked by the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, not to take the Qur’ān on a journey with him, for he was afraid that it might fall into the hands of the enemy.
Following the death of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, when numerous memorizers of the Qur’ān were martyred at the Battle of Yamāmah, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb made a request to the Caliph Abū Bakr that they should have an “official” collection of the Qur’ān, since the memorizers of the Qur’ān were being martyred in the battles. Zayd ibn Thābit, one of the leading scholars and memorizers of the Qur’ān at that time, was chosen for this task. After meticulous work, Zayd prepared the official collection, which was called the Mushaf.
During the time of ‘Uthmān, the 3rd Caliph, some Companions appealed to him to have new copies of the Mushaf produced so that they might be sent to the provinces. So ‘Uthmān ordered Zayd ibn Thābit, ‘Abdullāh ibn az-Zubayr, Sa‘īd ibn al-‘Ās, and ‘Abdurrahmān ibn Hārith ibn Hishām to produce new copies of the Mushaf.
According to Jalālu’d-dīn as-Suyūtī, a fifteenth-century scholar of Egypt, five copies of the Qur’ān were made at the time of ‘Uthmān. This excludes the copy that ‘Uthmān kept for himself. The cities of Makkah, Damascus, Kūfah, Basrah, and Madīnah each received a copy.
Al-Kindī (d. around 236/850) wrote in the early third century that the copy sent to Damascus was still kept at his time in Malatya, Turkey. Ibn Battutah (779/1377) said that he had seen copies made from the copies of the Qur’ān prepared under ‘Uthmān in Granada, Marrakesh, Basrah, and other cities.
Ibn Jubayr (d. 614/1217) saw the Madīnah manuscript in the Mosque of Madīnah in the year 580/1184. It remained in Madīnah until the Turks took it from there in 1334/1915. It has been reported that this copy was removed by the Turkish authorities to Istanbul, from whence it went to Berlin during World War I. The Treaty of Versailles, which concluded that war, contains the following clause:
Article 246: Within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, Germany will restore to His Majesty, King of Hedjaz, the original Koran of Caliph ‘Uthman, which was removed from Madina by the Turkish authorities and is stated to have been presented to the ex-Emperor William II (Israel, Fred L. [ed.]: Major Peace Treaties of Modern History, New York, Chelsea House Pub., 2: l418).
As for the “Imām” Manuscript, which is the name used for the copy which ‘Uthmān kept himself, and which he was reading when he was killed, the Umayyads took it to Andalusia, from where it went to Morocco and, according to Ibn Battutah, it was there in the eighth century after the Hijrah, with traces of blood still on it. From Morocco, it might have found its way to Samarkand. There is presently a copy in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). It may be the Imām Manuscript, or one of the other copies made at the time of ‘Uthmān.
This copy came to Samarkand in 890 Hijrah (1485) and remained there until 1868. Then it was taken to St. Petersburg by the Russians in 1869, where it remained until 1917. A Russian Orientalist gave a detailed description of it, saying that many pages were damaged and some were missing. Some 50 facsimiles of this mushaf were produced by S. Pisareff in 1905. A copy was sent to the Ottoman Sultan, ‘Abdul Hamid, to the Shah of Iran, to the Amīr of Bukhārah, to Afghanistan, to Morocco, and to some other important Muslim personalities. One copy can now be found in the Columbia University Library (U.S.A.). (The Muslim World, Vol . 30 , pp.357–358.)
The manuscript was afterwards returned to its former place and reached Tashkent in 1924, where it has remained ever since. Apparently, the Soviet authorities made further copies, which are presented from time to time to visiting Muslim heads of state and other important personalities. In 1980, photocopies of such a facsimile were produced in the United States, with a two-page foreword by M. Hamidullah. Makhdūm, the writer of the History of the Mushaf of ‘Uthmān in Tashkent, gives a number of reasons that support the authenticity of this manuscript. They are, excluding various historical reports which suggest this, as follows:
- The fact that the mushaf is written in the script that was used in the first half of the first century of the Hijrah.
- The fact that it is written on parchment made from gazelle, while later copies of the Qur’ān were written on paper-like sheets.
- The fact that it does not have any diacritical marks, these having been introduced around the eighth decade of the first century; hence, the manuscript must have been written before that.
- The fact that it does not have the vowel symbols introduced by Abu’l-Aswad ad-Du‘alī, who died in 68 Hijrah; hence, it is earlier than this.
In other words: two of the copies of the Qur’ān which were originally prepared in the time of Caliph ‘Uthmān are still available to us today, and their text and arrangement can be compared, by anyone who cares to, with any other copy of the Qur’ān, be it in print or manuscript, from any place or period of time. They will be found to be identical.
To sum up, God Almighty has guarded the Qur’ān against any corruption. The Qur’ān that we have now, anywhere in the world, has remained exactly the same over the last fourteen centuries, and there is not the slightest difference between the one that was recited during the earliest period of Islam and any other one which is printed and recited now in any part of the Muslim world. (For the preservation of the Qur’ān, also see Foreword, “The Recording of the Qur’ān and Its Preservation.”)
4. As we have pointed out in some places of this commentary (sūrah 2: 7, note 7; 2: 22, note 16; 5: 115, note 24), the main reasons for unbelief are conceit, self-pride, wrongdoing, misjudgment, incorrect viewpoints, deviation in thought and action, and indulgence in carnal appetites. Demanding different kinds of miracles from the Messengers is only an excuse for persistence in unbelief. Instead of presenting the miracles to view, the Qur’ān, as will be mentioned below, draws attention to God’s works and acts in the universe, each of which means more than a miracle for one who has “eyes” to see with, “ears” to hear with, and “hearts” to perceive and believe with.
For another explanation of unbelief and the cardinal reasons for it, and for the arguments in favor of belief in the Qur’ān, see 6: 73, note 15.
5. The original of constellation – burj – means stronghold, citadel, or tower. It also means the constellations, which are the names of some fixed star-groups. During its annual revolution around the sun, the earth passes through this belt of constellations (familiarly called the “Zodiac”). It has been widely accepted from ancient times that this has some effect upon the world and those living in it. Although there may be some truth in this claim, it has been carried to such a point that fortune-telling has arisen from this belief. The misuse of astrology has also contributed to such beliefs.
In some types of fortune-telling, the contact between fortune-tellers and the jinn and/or satans (devils) has a certain place. The jinn and/or satans sometimes attempt to rise to the heavens to eavesdrop on the angels’ conversations about human beings and their future. But they have never succeeded in doing this. Rather, they whisper some things to those who have contact with them, as if they had been able to overhear the conversation of the angels, and as if they had some information about the future. Yet God never allows them to steal information from the heavens. For a detailed explanation of this point and of these jinn and satans being repelled with meteors, see 67: 5 and the corresponding note.
We should add here that the jinn live much longer than human beings. Also, due to the refinement of the matter of which they are created, they can move much more speedily and communicate to those who are in contact with them some information about history and what is taking place in other parts of the world. This is also true for mediums and similar types of people. But neither the jinn nor medium-like people can ever be trusted; the unbelieving jinn set out to deceive people. For every truth they utter, they tell hundreds of lies. None of them have any true knowledge about the future.
6. Some interpreters of the Qur’ān hold that this reference points to how winds fertilize plants by carrying and spreading pollen. This is true. However, it is clearer in the verse that the winds fertilize through their action on the clouds, that is, through their role in the formation of rain. Ibn Jarīr at–Tabarī (244/839–310/923), one of the most outstanding figures in Islamic jurisprudence, history, and Qur’ānic interpretation, mentioned this and wrote about how the winds fertilize the clouds so that rain falls.
Scientists recently discovered that clouds are charged with electricity, and that rain forms only when the positive and negative poles in the clouds form a circuit, which is brought about by means of the winds.
God causes rain to be held in reservoirs or water sources under the earth. It is cleaned by passing through salts and soil, and is then presented to living beings to drink and use in other ways.
7. The Qur’ān has many references to the creation of humankind from clay or earth, both of which signify the lowly material of our origin, as well as the fact that the human body is composed of elements that are derived from the earth, air, and water. This in part implies that the true value of humankind lies in the immaterial dimension of our existence. As for the jinn, beings that resemble humankind, in that they have free will and powers of intellect, anger, and lust, their origin is mentioned in the Qur’ān as being smokeless fire that penetrates through the skin. Some interpret this fire as something that resembles energy or X-rays, or the high-temperature fire that fuses things together (55: 16). Jinn are described as the beings which caused sedition and bloodshed on the earth before the creation of humanity.
The following reflections, written by Bediüzzaman Said Nursi at the beginning of the 1930s, give us much insight into the origin and creation of angels, jinn, and humankind:
Life perfects a thing’s existence, for life is the real basis and light of existence. Consciousness, in turn, is the light of life…. Since life and consciousness are so important, and a perfect harmony prevails over all creation, the universe displays a firm cohesion. As our small rotating planet is full of countless living and intelligent beings, those heavenly castles and lofty constellations must have conscious living inhabitants unique to themselves. Just as fish live in water, those spirit beings may exist in the heat of the sun. Fire does not consume light; rather, fire makes light brighter. We observe that the Eternal Power creates countless living beings from inert, solid substances, and transforms the densest matter into subtle living compounds with life. Thus, It radiates the light of life everywhere in great abundance, and furnishes most things with the light of consciousness.
From this, we can conclude that the All-Powerful, All-Wise One would not make such subtle forms of matter as light and ether, which are close to and fitting for the spirit, without life and consciousness. He creates countless animate and conscious beings from light and darkness, ether and air, and even from meanings (conceived) and words (uttered). As He creates numerous animal species, He also creates different spirit creatures from subtle forms of matter. Some of these are angels, various spirit beings, and the jinn (The Words, “The 29th Word,” 528).
Half a century later, nearly 300 animal species, almost all of them previously unknown, were discovered living around the hydrothermal vents that form when sea-water leaks through the ocean floor, where the spreading ridges are heated by the underlying magma which rushes into the cold ocean. Verena Tunniclife writes:
All life requires energy, and nearly all life on the earth looks to the sun as the source. But solar energy is not the only kind of energy available on the earth. Consider the energy that drives the movement and eruption of the planet’s crust. When you look at an active volcano, you are witnessing the escape of heat that has been produced by radioactive decay in the earth’s interior and is finally reaching the surface. Why should there not be biological communities associated with the same nuclear energy that moves continents and makes mountains? And why could not whole communities be fueled by chemical, rather than, solar energy?
… Most of us associate the escape of heat from the interior of the earth with violent events and unstable physical conditions, with extreme high temperatures and the release of toxic gasses –circumstances that are hardly conducive to life. The notion that biologic communities might spring up in a geologically active environment once seemed fantastic. And until recently, few organisms were known to survive without a direct or indirect way to tap the sun’s energy. But such communities do exist, and they represent one of the most startling discoveries of 20th-century biology. They live in the deep ocean, under conditions that are both severe and variable (American Scientist, 1995).
This startling discovery contains clues to other realities that science should consider. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, states that angels are created from light. We read in the Qur’ān that God created man from dried clay, and then made him a khalīfah (vicegerent: one who comes after [to rule according to God’s commandments]) for this planet). Many interpreters of the Qur’ān have concluded from this that jinn once ruled the earth and were succeeded by human beings.
Starting from the clues above, it should be possible to conduct formal studies to determine the worth of such conclusions as the following:
God first created light (in the meaning of nūr in the Qur’ān), and He created living beings out of it. The process of creation followed a gradual, regular accumulation of identities and/or a saltational sequence of abrupt leaps. Fire followed light in the “kneading” of the universe, and then came water and soil, when it was the turn of the earth to come into being. God spread one existence through another, compounding and interweaving, and created living beings appropriate for each phase of creation. When the earth was in a state of smokeless fire, He created appropriate life forms, which the Qur’ān calls the jinn. When the soil became suitable for life, He created (appropriate) plants, animals, and humanity. He adorned every part and phase of the universe with creatures, including living ones, appropriate for that part and phase.
Finally, just as He created innumerable beings out of light, ether, air, fire, water, and soil, and He creates innumerable beings from words spoken, and even from meanings, so, too, does He create our stations or mansions Paradise or Hell out of each of our words and deeds. In other words, just as He causes a tree to grow from a tiny seed through particles of soil, air, and water, so, too, will He build the other world out of the material of this world, including Paradise and Hell, by adapting or transforming it for the other world during the convulsions of the Day of Judgment. (See also 2: 30, notes 31-32.)
8. As mentioned before, the honor of humankind lies in our spiritual potential; this is what causes us to have the greatest rank among all created beings. God attributes it to Himself by saying, “My Spirit.” The “spirit” is the source of both material and spiritual life, and, therefore, is not something material; rather, it is directly from God. Just as God mentions such ordinary things as earth, clay, and mud as being the material origin of humankind, and draws attention to the baseness of the material dimension of their existence, in order to present to view where the real value of humanity lies, He mentions spirit and attributes it to Himself. This also means, as Bediüzzaman Said Nursi said, that the Almighty drew, so to speak, an allegorical line before all His Names and created humanity. That is, all of God’s Names which have given existence to the whole universe are manifested in humanity to certain, varying degrees. This is why, unlike animals, human beings have consciousness, will-power, conscience, a well-developed power of learning, complex feelings, intellect, a power of reasoning, an ego and ego-consciousness, and the feeling of freedom and independence.
Human beings also have, unlike the angels, a carnal soul and the capacity for spiritual progress as a result of the struggle they undergo. In short, it is humankind that is the most polished and perfect mirror to God. It is for this reason that God expresses this dimension of the existence of humanity as His breathing into it out of His spirit. This point is clear in 2: 31–34; (notes 32–34). This expression can in no way be interpreted to mean that God has a body and a spirit. God addresses Himself to the understanding capacity of human beings; therefore, He describes the most subtle matters and abstract truths through parables, metaphors, similes, personification, and the like. But in its descriptions, the Qur’ān sets forth for God’s Names and Attributes the most beautiful and highest parables and comparisons (16: 60), and we must never forget that nothing is like Him (42: 11), for He is absolutely different from everything else.
9. Iblīs is not among the angels; he belongs to the jinn. For a detailed explanation, see 2: 34, note 36.
10. The obstinate unbelief of Satan is of great significance. He knows God and he knows that it is He Who creates, nourishes, maintains, and rears His creatures. He also knows that a Day will come when all conscious, responsible beings will be ordered to account for what they have done in the world. However, his knowledge does not suffice for him to overcome his ego, haughtiness, and obstinacy, so as to believe in God and to submit to His commands.
11. The Qur’ān describes this event regarding the ontological nature of humankind in considerably different words and expressions, and from various viewpoints, in many of its sūrahs. This is done because what is important in an event is its meaning and the lessons it teaches. This is why the Qur’ān presents the characters and the essence of the event in all the aspects that are fitting for the context of each chapter. This is why different words and expressions are required.
For other accounts of this event, similar in some ways while differing in others, see sūrah 2: 30–34, notes 30-36; and 7: 11-18, notes 2-3.
12. The Qur’ān uses seven different names for the places or types of punishment in the Hereafter: Jahannam (Hell), Nār (Fire), Sa‘īr (Blaze), Jahīm (Blazing Flame), Hutamah (Consuming Fire), Saqar (Scorching Fire), and Lazā (Raging Flame). Most probably, these are the levels or degrees of punishment, each prepared for those who deserve it, and each having a gate.
13. As the Qur’ān mentions (11: 75), and as indicated elsewhere (5, note 25), the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, was exceptionally clement and tender-hearted, and constantly turning to God with all his heart. By saying, “Who would despair of his Lord’s mercy, other than those who are astray?” he stresses God’s particular mercy and favor for each of His creatures. As a manifestation of His being ar-Rabbü’r-Rahmān (the All-Merciful Lord), He embraces all of His creatures together; but being ar-Rabbü’r-Rahīm (the All-Compassionate Lord) He has particular mercy and favor for each of them. Everyone has their own particular relationship with God, and according to the nature and depth of this relationship, God favorably inclines towards each person and shows special mercy for him or her. As the All-Compassionate Lord (Sustainer, Upbringer, Protector) of each one, God is always nearer to His creatures than they are to themselves. Everyone can build a special relationship with God and turn to Him without needing any intermediary, and no one needs to feel that God is like a “father.” He is infinitely more compassionate toward His servants than their fathers, and perceiving Him to be like a father means reducing God to a mortal, helpless, material, needy being, while He is infinite in all His Attributes, All-Powerful, and eternal. He is One who has no needs at all, and Who is exalted above having any human deficiencies.
14. The Qur’ān narrates historical events from different perspectives, in all its different aspects, according to the purpose it pursues in narrating them, and within the framework of the context. For the accounts of the heavenly envoys’ visit to the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, and the destruction of Lot’s people, both of which have already been mentioned, see sûrah 7: 80–84, note 18; and 11: 69–83, notes 16–19.
15. Some commentators are of the opinion that the people of al-Aykah and the people of Midian were the names of the same people to whom the Prophet Shu‘ayb, upon him be peace, was sent as Messenger, and about whom information was given in 7: 85–93 (see note 19) and 11: 84-95. However, the Qur’ān uses the phrase “their brother” for the Messengers sent to their people, meaning that both they and their people were of the same tribe. It uses the same phrase while recounting Shu‘ayb’s experience with the people of Midian (7: 85), but while narrating his experience with the people of al-Aykah, it does not (26: 177). The punishment that the peoples of Midian and al-Aykah were subjected to also seems to be different (7: 91; 11: 94; 26: 189). Based on these differences, other commentators are of the opinion that the people of Midian and al-Aykah were two separate branches of the same tribe. The territory of Madyan (Midian) lay to the north-west of Hijaz and south of Palestine on the coast of the Red Sea and the Gulf of ‘Aqabah, with part of the territory stretching to the northern border of the Sinai Peninsula. Midian was the capital of the territory, and al-Aykah was located a five-day journey from it. It is highly possible that al-Aykah was located in the present day ‘Aqabah. Its people bore the same characteristics and committed the same crimes as the people of Midian. So Shu‘ayb’s experiences here were almost identical to what took place between him and the Midianites. For a further account of the people of al-Aykah, see 26: 176–191.
16. For a more detailed account of the people of Sālih, upon him be peace, see sūrah 7: 73–79, note 17; and 11: 61–68.
17. God has definite purposes for the creation of the heavens and the earth. This is also true of the destruction that must take place in order to build the other world. In this world, humankind and the jinn, the two kinds of conscious beings that have willpower and who are, therefore, responsible for their deeds, will be called to account for their worldly lives. So God’s purposes for the creation of the heavens and the earth will be fulfilled completely only in the Hereafter.
The Majestic Lord and Ruler of this world has infinite Munificence and Mercy, and infinite Splendor and Majesty. His Munificence requires infinite giving, His Mercy requires favoring worthy of Itself, and His Majesty and Splendor require chastising those who disrespect them. As only a minute fraction of the manifestations of such Attributes is established and manifested in this impermanent world and passing life, there must be a blessed realm where these manifestations can be fulfilled fully. Denying such a realm means denying the Mercy so evident to us; this is no different from denying the existence of the sun, which enlightens every day. Death without resurrection would turn compassion into torment, love into the affliction of separation, blessing into a vengeful curse, reason into an instrument of wretchedness, and pleasure into pain. Such events would cause Divine Mercy to vanish.
The Majestic Being, Who manifests the sovereignty of His being Lord in the universe’s order, purpose, justice, and balance, will certainly show His favor to believers who seek the protection of His being their Lord and Sovereign, who believe in His Wisdom and Justice, and who act in conformity with these through faith and worship. There also must be a realm of punishment suitable for the Almighty’s Majesty and Glory. This world’s oppressors die with their oppressive power intact, while the oppressed die still subjected to humiliation. Such wrongs are necessarily deferred to a supreme tribunal; they are never ignored. Indeed, punishment is sometimes enacted even in this world. The torments endured by earlier disobedient and rebellious peoples show that we cannot escape whatever punishment God Almighty’s Splendor and Majesty choose to apply.
The world is adorned with so many beautiful objects; the sun and the moon serve as its lamps, and the planet’s surface teems with the finest varieties of sustenance – an overflowing feast of plenty, trees bearing fruit like so many dishes and renewed several times every year. All of this shows the existence of a great generosity and liberality.
Such inexhaustible treasures of Mercy require an everlasting abode of blissful repose that contains all desirable objects. They also require that those who enjoy them should dwell there eternally, without suffering the pain of cessation and separation. The end of pain is a sort of pleasure, and the end of pleasure is a sort of pain. As unlimited Generosity cannot allow such a thing, Paradise must be eternal, and its inhabitants must live therein eternally. Unlimited Generosity and Liberality desire to bestow infinite bounty and kindness, which require infinite gratitude. Thus, those who are to receive the blessings and give continual thanks for this ongoing bestowal of bounty must live forever. A slight contentment, spoiled by its brevity or cessation, is incompatible with unlimited Generosity and Liberality.
The Lord of infinite compassion and mercy, Who most compassionately fulfills the least need of even His lowliest creatures in the most unexpected fashion, Who answers the faintest cry of help of even His most obscure creature, and Who responds to all petitions, will never ignore the greatest desire and petition of the foremost among His creatures. The tender solicitude manifested in nurturing weak, young animals shows that the Sovereign Lord of the universe exercises His being Lord with infinite mercy. Is it conceivable that such Compassion and Mercy in the exercise of Lordship would refuse the prayer of the most valuable of all creation? Humankind petitions for so universal a need – immortality and an eternal life of bliss – that all inhabitants of creation share in it and silently affirm: “Accept that prayer, O Lord, because we also desire it.”
We see how the records of the lives of all spring flowers and fruits, the laws of their formation, and images of their forms are all inscribed within their minute seeds and preserved there. The following spring, those records are opened – a bringing to account as appropriate for them – and another vast world of spring emerges with absolute orderliness and wisdom. This shows the powerful and comprehensive exercise of the Divine Attribute of All-Preserving. Considering that the issue of such transient, commonplace, and insignificant things is preserved, how could our deeds not be preserved and recorded as a matter of high significance? God, Who is the All-Preserving and protects within absolute orderliness and equilibrium everything that exists, and sifts and takes account of their consequences, has the acts of His servants recorded, and He will not allow those acts of His noble vicegerent, who bears the Supreme Trust, to go unsifted, unaccounted, or unweighed in the balance of justice, unpunished or unrewarded as befits.
18. Based on this Islamic attitude, Fethullah Gülen writes:
Be so tolerant that your heart becomes wide like the ocean. Become inspired with faith and love for others. Offer a hand to those in trouble, and be concerned about everyone.
Applaud the good for their goodness, appreciate those who have believing hearts, and be kind to believers. Approach unbelievers so gently that their envy and hatred melt away. Like a Messiah, revive people with your breath.
Remember that you travel the best road and follow an exalted guide, upon him be peace and blessings. Be mindful that you have his guidance through the most perfect and expressive Revelation. Be fair-minded and balanced in your judgment, for many people do not enjoy these blessings.
Return good for evil, and disregard discourteous treatment. An individual’s character is reflected in his behavior. Choose tolerance, and be magnanimous toward the ill-mannered.
The most distinctive feature of a soul overflowing with faith is to love all types of love that are expressed in deeds, and to feel enmity for all deeds in which enmity is expressed. To hate everything is a sign of insanity or of infatuation with Satan.
Accept how God treats you. Make it the measure by which you treat others, so that you may represent the truth among them and be free from the fear of loneliness in either world.
Only those who do not use their reason, or who have succumbed to plain stupidity and desires of the flesh, are convinced that believing men and women might harm them. Apply to a spiritual master to stir up your heart, and fill your eyes with tears.
Judge your worth in the Creator’s sight by how much space He occupies in your heart, and your worth in people’s eyes by how you treat them. Do not neglect the Truth even for a moment. And yet, “Be a man or woman among other men or women!”
Take note of, and be attentive to, any behavior that causes you to love others. Then remind yourself that behaving in the same way will cause them to love you. Always behave decently, and be alert.
Do not allow your carnal soul to be a referee in any contention, for it will always rule that everyone but you is sinful and unfortunate. Such a judgment, according to the word of the most truthful, upon him be peace and blessings, signifies your destruction. Be strict and implacable with your carnal soul, and be relenting and lenient toward others.
In sum: in order to preserve your credit, honor, and love, love for the sake of the Truth, hate for the sake of the Truth, and be open-hearted toward the Truth (Pearls of Wisdom, 75–76).
19. The recitation of al-Fātihah (the first, opening chapter of the Qur’ān, which consists of seven verses) in all Prayers except the Funeral Prayer is obligatory; without it, the Prayer is not valid. It is obligatory in the first two rak‘ahs of the Prescribed Prayers. It is also narrated that it was revealed twice, unlike other sūrahs. That is, it is a revealed, repeated recitation.
Al-Fātihah is like the seed of the Qur’ān or its essence. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, described it as if the Mother of the Book (al-Bukhārī, “Kitāb at-Tafsīr,” 1). Like a seed which contains all that a tree will grow into in an encapsulated form, this sūrah alludes to all the principles set forth in the Qur’ān (Ishārātü’l-‘Ijāz, 14).
The Qur’ān is so wonderfully comprehensive in style and meaning that a single sūrah may contain the whole ocean of the Qur’ān, in which the universe is contained. One verse may comprehend that sūrah’s treasury, as if most of the verses are really small sūrahs, and most sūrahs are little Qur’āns. This miraculous conciseness is a great gift of Divine Grace with respect to guidance and easiness, for although everyone always needs the Qur’ān, not all people can read it at all times. So that they are not deprived of its blessings, each sūrah may substitute for a small Qur’ān, and each long verse for a short sūrah. This also serves to help relate the meaning of some Prophetic Traditions, for example, the fact that reciting Sūrat al-Ikhlās three times, or Sūrat al-Kāfirūn four times, may gain one the merit of having recited the whole of the Qur’ān. Moreover, scholars agree that the Qur’ān is contained in Sūrat al-Fātihah, which is itself contained in the Basmalah (In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate).
The Qur’ān contains references to all the knowledge needed by humanity, such as explanations, aspects, and varieties of true knowledge, commands and prohibitions, promises and threats, encouragement and deterrence, restraint and guidance, stories and parables, Divine Knowledge and commands, “natural” sciences, and the rules and conditions of our personal, family, social, economic, spiritual, and otherworldly lives. Moreover, it gives people whatever they need, so that the phrase: “Take from the Qur’ān whatever you wish, for whatever need you have,” has been widely circulated among truth-seeking scholars. Its verses are so comprehensive that the cure for any ailment and the answer for any need can be found therein. This must be so, for the Book that is the absolute guide of all perfected people, who move forward each day on the way of God, must be of that quality (The Words, “The 25th Word,” 413–416). What is important is to know how to approach and understand it, and how to benefit from it.
20. The life of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was so simple that once ‘Umar, upon seeing him lying on a rough mat, could not help but weep and say: “O Messenger of God, kings sleep in soft, feather beds, while you lie on a rough mat. You are the Messenger of God and thereby deserve an easy life more than anyone else.” God’s Messenger answered: “Do you not agree that the luxuries of the world should be theirs, and those of the Hereafter ours?” (al-Bukhārī, “Tafsīr,” 287; Muslim, “Talaq,” 31)
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, like all Prophets, expected no reward for performing his mission. He suffered hunger, thirst, and every other hardship and persecutions. He was forced into exile, and he was made the target of many assaults and traps, both from within and without, when he emigrated. He bore all of these simply for the good pleasure of God and the good of humanity. Abū Hurayrah once saw him performing the Prayer in a seated position and asked if he was ill. The Messenger’s reply caused Abū Huraryah to cry: “I am hungry, Abū Hurayrah. Hunger has left me no strength to stand up for the Prayer” (Abu Nu‘aym, 7: 107; al-Hindī, 1: 199).
Even though most of his Companions became wealthier in later years, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and his family never changed their very simple lifestyle.
In addition to receiving no worldly benefit, as mentioned above, God’s Messenger underwent much torture. He was beaten many times and left on the ground covered with dust, and only Fātimah, his daughter, ran to his aid. Once he was being beaten at the Ka‘bah; Abū Bakr ran to help him, shouting to those beating him: “Will you kill a man because he says: ‘My Lord is God?’ ” (al-Bukhārī, “Fadā’il as-Sahābah,” 5; Ibn Hanbal, 2: 205) (The Messenger of God, 89–90)
So, the meanings of such statements as Do not strain your eyes toward what We have given some groups among them (the unbelievers) to enjoy (in the life of this world), signify for the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings: We know that you never do so; rather, these verses address a warning to other believers. By “some groups” (azwāj), the verse actually refers to the social classes and class differences in non-Islamic societies.
21. People used to come to Makkah for several reasons, such as Pilgrimage and trade. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, conveyed his Message to them also. Hoping to prevent them from believing, some Makkan unbelievers took clay tablets of the Qur’ānic verses, which they regarded as product of magic or poetry, and delivered them to those people.
22. Until this order came, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had been communicating the Divine Message secretly and privately. When this order came, he began to proclaim it openly and insistently.
Constant striving is an essential feature of the delivering of the Message, as well as an important element of the Prophetic method. A Prophet is, so to speak, obsessed with how to perform his duty. With that goal always uppermost in mind, he considers all circumstances and does everything permitted. Throughout his life, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, grieved for the misfortunes of humankind. He ceaselessly called people to God’s way. During his years in Makkah, he walked the streets and visited the nearby annual fairs, always hoping to help a few people to convert. Insults, derision, and torture did not deter him even once (Ibid., 82).