25. Al-Furqan (The Criterion)

This sūrah takes its name from the word Al-Furqan (The Criterion, the Book that distinguishes between truth and falsehood) in the first of its 77 verses. The sūrah was revealed in the mid-Makkan period. It negates the doubts that were voiced by the Makkan polytheists concerning the Divine origin of the Qur’ān, and the Prophethood of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. It also propounds the moral excellence of the believers vis-à-vis their enemies, and states that the Divine Message elevates its followers intellectually, morally, and spiritually.

In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

1. Blessed and Supreme is He Who sends down the Criterion in parts on His servant so that he may be a warner to all conscious beings (against the consequences of misguidance), 

2. He to Whom belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; and He has taken to Himself no child, nor has He any partner (in His dominion or any aspect of His being God); and He creates everything and determines its destiny.1

3. Yet some choose to take, apart from God, deities that create nothing but are themselves created, and have no power to avert harm from, or bring benefit to, even themselves (so that they can give harm or bring benefit to their worshippers), and they have no power over death, nor over life, nor over resurrection.2

4. Those who disbelieve say: “This (Qur’ān) is but a fabrication which he (Muhammad) himself has invented, and some others have helped him with it, so they have produced a wrong and a falsehood.”

5. They also say: “(It consists of) only fables of the ancients which he has got written. They are being read to him in the early mornings and evenings (while people are at home).”3

6. Say: “(It is a Book full of knowledge, revealing many secrets such as no human being could in any wise discover by himself:) He Who knows all the secrets contained in the heavens and the earth sends it down (to teach you some of these secrets and guide you in your life so that you may attain happiness in both worlds). He surely is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.”

7. Again, they say: “What sort of Messenger is this? He eats food and goes about in marketplaces (like any other mortal). Why is an angel not sent down to him so that he may act as a warner in his company (and help him to persuade the people)?”

8. Or: “Why is a treasure not cast down upon him from the heaven (so that he should no longer need to go about in marketplaces to earn a living)?” Or: “Why does he not have a garden (granted to him miraculously) to obtain his food from?” And so these wrongdoers say (to the believers): “You are following only a man bewitched!”

9. See how strangely they invent comparisons about you. They have so strayed and are no longer able to find a way (to the truth).

10. Blessed and Supreme is He Who, if He wills, can grant you (O Messenger) better than all that (they propose)— gardens through which rivers flow— and grant you palaces.

11. But they deny the Last Hour (and this is why they invent such pretexts for their denial of your call. However,) We have prepared a Blaze for whoever denies the Last Hour.

12. When the Blaze sees them (even) from a far-off place, they will hear it raging and roaring.4

13. And when they are flung, chained together, into a narrow place in it, they will pray there for extinction.

14. (They will then be told) “Today, you will not pray to die only once; instead, you will pray to die many times (but it will be of no avail).”

15. Say (O Messenger): “Is this or is the Garden of life everlasting, which has been promised to the God-revering, pious, better to prefer?” It will be for them a reward and a final destination.

16. For them, there will be therein all that they desire, themselves abiding (in it).5 This is a promise which your Lord has bound Himself to fulfill.

17. A Day (will come) when God will gather them together (all the unbelievers), and all those whom they worship (apart from God: angels, Prophets, saints, and others, and idols), and He will ask them: “Was it you who led these servants of Mine astray, or did they themselves stray away from the right way?”

18. They will say: “All-Glorified You are! It was not for us to take for friends other than You (so they had no right to take us as such and make us objects of their worship). But (the truth is that, out of Your grace) You lavished on them and their forefathers ease in life, but they ( being ungrateful) forgot all remembrance of You (and paid no heed to the warning Message Your Messengers brought to them). They were people (corrupt and) doomed to perdition.”

19. (God will say:) “So they have denied you (who falsely worship them) in all that you assert regarding them, and you can neither ward off (your due punishment) nor obtain any help (from those you falsely deified and worshipped while in the world).” (O people!) Whoever commits the greatest wrong (by associating partners with God), We will cause him to taste a great punishment.

20. (O Messenger!) We never sent any Messengers before you but they surely ate food and went about in the marketplaces (to meet their needs). We cause you (O humankind) to be a means of testing for one another. Will you show good patience and perseverance (in the face of Our decrees, and remain steadfast in Our way)? Your Lord is All-Seeing.

21. Those who (being unbelievers) do not expect to meet Us (in the Hereafter) say: “Why are no angels sent down on us, or (why) do we not see our Lord?” Assuredly, they are far too arrogant of themselves (demanding what is impossible for them), and exceed all bounds (in their presumption).

22. The Day when they see the angels – there will be no good tidings on that Day for the disbelieving criminals, and they will cry out to the angels in fear: “Keep away, away from us!”

23. And We will turn to deal with all the (supposedly good) deeds that they did (in the world), and will reduce them all to dust particles scattered about.

24. Whereas the companions of Paradise will, on that Day, have appointed for them the best abode and the fairest place of repose.

25. On that Day, the heaven will split asunder with the clouds (covering it), and the angels will be made to descend in a majestic descending.

26. The sovereignty on that Day will absolutely belong to the All-Merciful (which He will exercise then with no intermediary veil of cause and effect).6 It will be a hard day for the unbelievers.

27. On that Day, the wrongdoer will bite at his hands, saying (with remorse), “Oh, would that I had taken a way in the company of the Messenger.

28. “Oh, woe is me! Would that I had not taken so-and-so for a friend!

29. “Indeed, he led me astray from the Reminder (the Qur’ān) once it had come to me. Satan has proved to be a betrayer of humankind.”

30. And the Messenger says: “My Lord! Surely my people have made this Qur’ān something worthy of no attention.”

31. So, for every Prophet, We have made an enemy (band) from among the disbelieving criminals committed to accumulating sins. But Your Lord is sufficient as a guide (to truth and the right course of action) and a helper (against the plots and practices of your enemies).

32. Those who disbelieve say (by way of yet another false argument for unbelief): “Why has the Qur’ān not been sent down on him all at once?” (We send it down in parts) so that We may (impress it on your mind and) establish your heart with it, and We are conveying it distinctly and gradually (one part supporting the other, and providing guidance and instruction for emerging occasions).

33. And also, they never come to you with any (false) argument (to taunt and provoke you) but that We provide you with the truth (to counter their false arguments) and a better exposition (which enables and deepens understanding).7

34. Those who will be gathered in Hell upon their faces: such represent the evil side in standing, and are further astray from the right way.

35. (Examples from history:) Assuredly We granted to Moses the Book and appointed his brother, Aaron, with him as a helper.

36. Then We said: “Go both of you to the people who deny Our signs (in the universe and within their own selves that demonstrate Our Existence and Oneness). Then (after they had been warned), We destroyed them utterly.

37. And the people of Noah – when they denied (Noah and, thereby, meant to deny) the Messengers, We drowned them, and made them a sign (of warning and instruction) for humankind. We have kept ready a painful punishment for the wrongdoers.

38. And the Ād and Thamūd, and the people of ar-Rass,8 and many other generations that lived between these (and the people of Noah).

39. To each (of them) did We explain the truth in diverse ways and with warning examples (from history), and each (of them) did We annihilate utterly.

40. And they (in Makkah, who now persist in unbelief) have surely come across the land (of the Prophet Lot), upon which was rained a rain of evil. Have they, then, never seen it (with an eye to take heed)? No, they have no expectation of being raised after death (and so they pay no heed to any warning).

41. Whenever they see you (O Messenger), they take you for nothing but a mockery (saying): “Is this the one whom God has sent as Messenger?

42. “Indeed, he would almost have led us astray from our deities, had we not persevered in our attachment to them.” But in time, when they see the (promised) punishment, they will come to know who it was that strayed too far from the right way.

43. Do you ever consider him who has taken his lusts and fancies for his deity?9 Would you then be a guardian over him (and, thereby, assume responsibility for guiding him)?

44. Or do you think that most of them (really) hear or reason and understand? They are but like cattle, (following only their instincts). No, they are more heedless of the right way (and, therefore, in greater need of being led than cattle).

45. Have you considered your Lord – how He spreads the shade? If He willed, He would surely make it stationary, but We have made the sun its pilot.

46. And then (as the sun rises), We gradually draw it back up towards Us.10

47. And He it is Who has made the night a garment for you, and sleep a rest. And He has made the day a time of rising to life and going about (for daily livelihood).

48. And He it is Who sends forth the (merciful) winds as glad tidings in advance of His mercy. And We cause pure water to descend from the sky,

49. So that We may revive through it a dead land and give it for drink to many beings among Our creation, beasts as well as humans.

50. Assuredly We distribute it among them (without depriving any) so that they may remember and so be mindful. But most of humankind obstinately refuses to do anything except show ingratitude.

51. Had We so willed, We could certainly have raised up a warner in every township.

52. (But We have willed, instead, that you are the last Messenger whose mission is universal.) So pay no heed to (the desires of) the unbelievers, but engage in a mighty striving against them by means of it (the Qur’ān).

53. And He it is Who has let flow forth the two large bodies of water, one sweet and palatable, and the other salty and bitter; and He has set a barrier and an insurmountable, forbidding ban that keeps them apart.11

54. And He it is Who from a fluid has created human and made it (a male and female and, through them,) into a population through descent and marriage. And Your Lord is All-Powerful.12

55. And yet they (the polytheists) worship, apart from God, that which can neither benefit them nor harm them. The unbeliever is ever prone to make cause (i.e., to back everyone and every movement) against his Lord.

56. Yet, We have not sent you (O Messenger) but as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner (; you are not accountable for their straying or sinning).

57. Say: “I ask of you no wage for this (conveying of the Message to you), except that whoever so wills may take a way leading to his Lord.”13

58. Put your trust in the All-Living Who does not die, and glorify Him with His praise (proclaiming that He is absolutely above having any partners, and that all praise is due to Him). He suffices as One Who is ever-aware of the sins of His servants –

59. He Who has created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in six days, and then established Himself on the Supreme Throne.14 That is the All-Merciful (with absolute Will, Power, and Knowledge), so ask Him about it (the truth about Him and creation) as All-Aware (and ask Him for whatever you will ask for).

60. When they are told, “Prostrate before the All-Merciful (to express your submission to Him),” they say: “What is the All-Merciful? Shall we prostrate before whatever you command us?” Your call but increases them in (their haughty) aversion.

61. Blessed and Supreme is He Who has set in the sky great constellations, and placed in it a (great, radiant) lamp15 and a shining moon.

62. It is He Who has appointed the night and the day to succeed one another, providing a sign for whoever desires to reflect and so be mindful, or desires to be thankful.

63. The (true) servants of the All-Merciful are they who move on the earth gently and humbly, and when the ignorant, foolish ones address them (with insolence or vulgarity, as befits their ignorance and foolishness), they respond with (words of) peace (without engaging in hostility with them);

64. And (those true servants of the All-Merciful are they) who spend (some of) the night (in worship) prostrating before their Lord and standing;

65. And who entreat (whether after the Prayers or at other times): “Our Lord! Ward off from us the punishment of Hell; its punishment is surely constant anguish:

66. “How evil indeed it is as a final station and permanent abode!”;

67. And who, when they spend (both for their own and others’ needs), are neither wasteful nor niggardly, and (are aware that) there is a happy mean between those (two extremes);16

68. And who invoke no other deity along with God, and do not kill any soul – which God has made forbidden – except by right (for just cause and after due process), and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. Whoever commits any of these will face a severe penalty.

69. His punishment will be greater on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide in it in ignominy,17

70. Except he who gives up his way in repentance and believes (without associating partners with God), and does good, righteous deeds – such are those whose (past) evil deeds God will efface and record virtuous deeds in their place (and whose faculties which enabled the evil deeds He will change into enablers of virtuous deeds). God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.

71. Whoever repents and does good, righteous deeds (and who has, therefore, shown that he has renounced his evil ways for good) – such a one has surely turned to God with true repentance.

72. And (those true servants of the All-Merciful are they) who do not take part in, or bear witness to, any vanity or falsehood (and who will not deem anything true unless they know it to be so for certain), and when they happen to pass by anything vain and useless, pass by it with dignity;

73. And who, when they are reminded of the Revelations of their Lord (and His signs in the creation as well as in their inner world, as a basis of advice or teaching or discussion), do not remain unmoved as though deaf and blind;

74. And who say: “Our Lord! Grant us that our spouses and offspring may be a means of happiness for us, and enable us to lead others in piety (to become a means of the promotion of piety and virtue).”

75. Such (illustrious) ones will be rewarded with the loftiest mansion (in Paradise) for their steadfastness (in their obedience to God and in their cause in spite of all adversities and persecutions), and they will be met therein with a greeting of welcome and peace,

76. Therein to abide. How good it is as a final station and permanent abode.

77. Say: “My Lord would not care for you were it not for your prayer.18 Now that you have denied (His Message), the inescapable punishment will cleave to you.”


The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

1. As explained in several places (sūrah 4: 79, note 18; sūrah 6: 59, note 13; sūrah 7: 173, note 43; sūrah 11: 6, note 1; sūrah 13: 39, note 13; sūrah 17: 14, note 10, and Appendix 7), there are various aspects of destiny. Here, destiny means a certain, exact measure, form and size; the potentials, attributes, characteristics, and functions that are particular to a being; the limits of its growth and development; as well as all other details that pertain to it and its life.

2. All creatures, including human beings, even though they are endowed with better developed faculties and potentials than other creatures, are essentially weak. Human beings have no power to decide whether they will come into existence or not; maintain their lives; decide on their physical attributes; choose the date and place of their birth or death; decide who will be part of their families; nor determine what is harmful or beneficial to them. Neither do they have control over the operation of the heavens and the earth, not even of their own bodies, nor can they control their vital needs, such as hunger, thirst, and sleep. Even if all humans were to come together and were supported by all other beings, they would not be able to create even a blade of grass.

If humankind is weak and limited to such degree, then there is no other kind of mortal being that can be man’s owner, creator, or governor. Only One Who has absolute knowledge of the universe in its entirety, with whatever is in it, including the relation of everything with everything else and with the universe as a whole, and a knowledge of each being with all its particularities and needs, and Who has absolute power to create, while Himself is not created, and to give or avert harm and benefit, and to deal out death, give life and raise the dead, can be the Creator, Owner, and Governor of all beings, including humankind.

3. Such baseless allegations are no different from those which the orientalists raise against the Qur’ān. The only difference is that those who made these allegations during the Prophet’s time were more honest than their contemporary counterparts. Unlike current orientalists, they never claimed that the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had acquired the essence of his teaching from Bahīrā, whom he met in his childhood during his travels. Nor did they assert that he was taught by the Christian or Jewish scholars during these same travels. They were well aware that the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, made these journeys during his childhood and youth along with the caravans, and they also knew that those who were with him would have refuted such claims. In addition, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declared his Messengership many years after his travels. Among the many false objections they raised, they also claimed that, at times when people were at home, some relatively more knowledgeable people in Makkah would secretly recite to him from some old books so that he might have these ideas written down, subsequently conveying these to other people during the day. No one ever believed these baseless allegations. Even those who fabricated them did not truly believe them, and they soon started to make many other allegations.

4. Although some commentators take the phrase, the Blaze sees them, for a metaphorical description, it may well be literal and mean that Hell is not devoid of life and consciousness. In verse 65 of Sūrat al-‘Ankabūt (29), it is stated that, the abode of the Hereafter is truly alive. We cannot measure that life in the terms and scales known to us in this world. For this world is the abode of Wisdom, where God operates from behind the veil of matter and causality. But the Hereafter will be the abode of Power, where God will operate without any veil.

As reported by at-Tabarānī from Abū Umāmah, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declared: “Whoever attributes to me any word which I did not say should prepare himself for his place between the two eyes of Hell.” When asked whether Hell had eyes, he recited this verse and added: “If it did not have eyes, how could it see?” (Yazır, 5: 3576)

5. Paradise is the abode of absolute purity, and believers will enter it after attaining purity by passing through all the realms of the Hereafter. These realms will serve as a means of purification until they are fit for Paradise. So they will desire there only the things that one who is absolutely pure is expected to desire, and which are to be found in Paradise in accordance with God’s approval.

6. The attributive Name of God that is used in this verse and which has been translated as the All-Merciful is ar-Rahmān. As explained while interpreting the Basmalah at the very beginning of this study, it is not possible to render ar-Rahmān in its exact meaning in another language. It implies God’s all-inclusive, universal manifestation throughout the universe and, although derived from rahmah (mercy), and implying One Who gives life, maintains, provides, and equips all beings with the necessary capacities, it also refers to God as the All-Majestic One and is, therefore, the origin of God’s Attributes of Majesty, such as the All-Compelling, the All-Overwhelming, the All-Glorious with irresistible might, and the One Who punishes. For this reason, His punishing is also included in His Mercy. God’s pure mercy, which is required to reward, forgive, and pity, is necessitated by, or is the manifestation of, His being ar-Rahīm (the All-Compassionate). This explains why the All-Merciful is preferred in this verse. In the Hereafter, God will manifest Himself first of all as ar-Rahmān (the All-Merciful), the All-Majestic One Who both rewards and punishes out of mercy. As ar-Rahmān, He will exercise His Will in the Hereafter without the veil of cause and effect or any law (as He exercises it in the world). For this reason, it is said that the Hereafter is the abode of Power, while the world is the abode of Wisdom.

7. Said Nursi explains certain inimitable aspects of the Qur’an in the following way:

Although the Qur’ān was revealed in parts over 23 years, for different needs and purposes, it has such a perfect harmony that it is as if it were revealed all at once.

Although the Qur’ān was revealed over 23 years, on different occasions, its parts are so mutually supportive that it is as if it were revealed all at once.

Although the Qur’ān came in answer to different and repeated questions, its parts are so united and harmonious with each other that it is as if it were the answer to a single question.

Although the Qur’ān came to judge diverse cases and events, it displays such a perfect order that it is as if it were a judgment delivered on a single case or event.

Although the Qur’ān was revealed by Divine courtesy in styles varied to suit innumerable people from different levels of understanding, moods, and temperament, its parts exhibit so beautiful a similarity, correspondence, and fluency that it is as if it were addressing one degree of understanding and temperament.

Although the Qur’ān speaks to an infinite variety of people who are remote from each other in time, space, and character, it has such a simple way of explanation, pure style, and clear description that it is as if it were addressing only one homogenous group, with each different group thinking that it is being addressed uniquely and specifically.

Although the Qur’ān was revealed with various purposes for the gradual guidance of different peoples, it has such a perfect straightforwardness, sensitive balance, and such a beautiful order that it is as if it were pursuing only one purpose (The Words, “The 25th Word,” 433).

8. We have no definite knowledge about the identity of the people of ar-Rass. Ar-rass means a well. Some scholars are of the opinion that it was the name of a river. Some others point out that a town of that name exists to this day in the central Arabian province of al-Qasīm. It seems to have been inhabited by descendants of the Nabataean tribe of the Thamūd (at-Tabarī) (The Message of the Qur’ān, 554, note 33). Another opinion is that those people were called the people of ar-Rass because they threw the Messenger, upon him be peace, who was sent to them down a well.

9. Deifying one’s lusts and fancies means pursuing one’s lusts and fancies at all costs and making the satisfaction of them the goal of one’s life. The greatest obstacle to believing in God or being attached to His Religion is one’s carnal soul prompting one to pursue the satisfaction of lusts, whether lawfully or unlawfully. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, warned: “Of all the false deities that are worshipped under the sky, the worst in God’s sight is one’s carnal, evil-commanding soul” (atTabarānī, vol. 8, hadīth no: 7502).

10. These verses, up to verse 50, draw attention to God’s acts in the universe as evidence of His Existence, His Oneness, His absolute authority over creation, and the revival after death.

As we know, the lengthening and shortening of shadows depends on the movement and position of the earth in respect to the sun. If there were no shadows, or if shadows were stationary, no life or vegetation would be possible on the earth. Life on earth requires the heat and light of the sun, but constant exposure to its heat and light would destroy everything. For a further explanation about shadows, see 13: 15, note 7; 16: 49.

The statement, We gradually draw it back towards Us, expresses the fact that nothing disappears into non-existence. Every thing and every event ends “in” God or returns “to” Him.

As explained in the interpretation of the verses of sūrah 7: 55–58 (note 14), the Qur’ān mentions “natural” phenomena along with sociological events and those that pertain to human spiritual life in such a way that one provides an example for the other. So, behind the apparent meaning of these verses concerning shadows and the sun as their pilot, there is the suggestion that the dark shadow of ignorance and unbelief depends on the sun of guidance in terms of lengthening and shortening. As this sun rises, the shadows of ignorance and unbelief vanish away gradually (not abruptly). So, if Muslims desire these shadows to disappear, they should support the sun of guidance, which has appeared finally and universally in the person of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.

11. Wherever a large river flows into the sea, we can encounter the phenomenon described here. There are springs of sweet water at several locations in different seas where the sweet water remains separate from the salty water. Seydi Ali Reis, a Turkish admiral of the 16th century, mentions in his work, Mir’āt al-Mamālik, one such place in the Persian Gulf. He writes that he found springs of sweet water under the salty water of the sea, and drew drinking water from them for his fellow sailors (al-Mawdūdī, 7: 32, note 68).

The French marine-scientist Jacques Cousteau discovered that the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean have different chemical and biological constitutions. After conducting undersea investigations in the Straits of Gibraltar to study this phenomenon, he concluded that unexpected fresh water springs issue from the southern and northern coasts of Gibraltar. These waters gush forth toward each other at an angle of 45°, forming a reciprocal dam that acts like the teeth of a comb. Due to this fact, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean cannot intermingle. 

In addition to this meaning, commentators on the Qur’ān also derive from this verse a meaning that is applicable to all the pairs of “seas” or realms, i.e., the spiritual and material, the figurative and actual, the realms of the human spirit and the carnal self, and of the Lordship and servanthood. Also included are the spheres of belief and unbelief, righteousness and transgression, necessity and contingency, as well as this world and the Hereafter (including this visible, corporeal world and all unseen worlds).

12. Just as sweet water can exist side by side with salty, bitter water, humankind also form a population by the combination of the two sexes – male and female. They are similar in nature and composition, but different in psychology and certain physiological features. It is by the union of these two that God has produced ties of kindred, creating love and compassion toward one another, and multiplied human populations.

13. One of the basic purposes for God’s sending the Prophets and Islam’s order for jihād and communicating Islam to people is to show people the way that leads to God and to remove the obstacles on this way or those between God and those who want to reach Him.

14. For an explanation of this sentence, see 2: 28, note 28; 7: 54, note 13; 11: 7, note 2.

15. By depicting the sun as a lamp, the Qur’ān opens a window on a specific meaning: this world is a palace, and its contents are the food and necessities of life for humanity and other living things. The sun is a lamp that illuminates this palace. By making the Maker’s magnificence and the Creator’s favors comprehensible in this way, the sentence provides a proof for God’s Unity and declares the sun (which some polytheists of that time viewed as the most significant and brightest deity) to be a lifeless object, a lamp subdued for the benefit of living beings.

Thus, this verse deals with the sun and moon not in their own name, but in the Name of their Creator, and in a way that turns our attention to the Creator’s Unity as well as His acts and His favors to humankind. The vividness and extraordinariness of the styles of the Qur’ān sometimes entranced the Bedouins with just one phrase; they would then prostrate before even becoming a Muslim. Once, the statement, So from now on, proclaim what you are commanded to convey openly and in an emphatic manner (15: 94), (which, in the original Arabic, consists of only 3 words), engendered this very reaction. When asked if he had become a Muslim, the man thus affected, answered: “No. I prostrate before the eloquence of the phrase” (The Words, “The 25th Word,” 400; al-Ālūsī, 14: 85).

16. Spending must be either to meet a necessity or a need, or to satisfy a desire for lawful beauty. Eating to maintain life is a necessity; eating to be full – provided that one avoids excess – is a need; eating pleasant food satisfies one’s desire for beauty. Spending in order to meet a necessity is obligatory; meeting a need is commendable, while satisfying one’s desire for beauty may be harmless, according to the general conditions of the community and one’s income. Spending in order to obtain an easy life while the majority of the Muslims are in need is wasteful.

Spending on unlawful things, no matter the amount, and over-spending on lawful things, in the sense that one spends more than one can afford or aspires to a luxurious life, are also included under the idea of wastefulness. As for niggardliness, this means spending too little on the necessities and needs of oneself and one’s family, even though one has sufficient funds, or the refusal to spend on charity or for the cause of Islam.

17. It is certain that God does not forgive that partners be associated with Him. He will punish eternally only those who deny Him or associate partners with Him. However, less than that He forgives to whomever He wills (whomever He has guided to repentance and righteousness, either out of His pure grace or as a result of the person’s choosing repentance and righteousness by his free will) (4: 48). Killing a person unjustly and committing unlawful sexual intercourse, then, are sins that are not as grave as the association of partners with God.

Considering that this sūrah was revealed in Makkah, the penalty mentioned in verse 68 for the crimes in question may refer to their punishment in this world, rather than in the Hereafter. If He so wills, God may punish the association of partners with Him in the world in many ways, such as by sending afflictions, defeats, diseases, total destruction, and disasters. (The penalties for killing a person unjustly and that for indulging in unlawful sexual intercourse in the world were later established in Madīnah. For these punishments, see sūrah 2: 178–179, note 131; 194–95, note 140; sūrah 5: 45, note 10; sūrah 22: 60, note 16; sūrah 24: 2–3, note 1–6. However, punishment in the Hereafter for these cardinal crimes is always greater.

Repentance does not ward off the punishment inflicted by the worldly law, while God may forgive the repentant in the Hereafter.

18. Faith requires prayer as a means of attainment and perfection, and our essence desperately needs it, as explained by Said Nursi:

If people say that they pray many times, yet still their prayers go unanswered, despite the assurance given in the verse, Pray to Me, I will answer you (40: 60), we should point out that an answered prayer does not necessarily mean its acceptance. There is an answer for every prayer. However, accepting a prayer and giving what is requested depends upon the All-Mighty’s Wisdom. Suppose an ill child asks a doctor for a certain medicine. The doctor may give what is asked for, or prescribe something better, or nothing at all. It all depends upon how the medicine will affect the child. Similarly the All-Mighty, Who is the All-Hearing and the All-Seeing, answers His servant’s prayer and changes loneliness into the pleasure of His company. But His answer does not depend on the individual’s fancies; rather, according to His Wisdom, He gives what is requested, what is better, or nothing at all.

Moreover, prayer is a form of worship, and worship is rewarded mainly in the Hereafter. In essence, prayer is not performed for worldly purposes; rather, worldly purposes are the cause for prayer. For example, praying for rain is a kind of worship occasioned by the lack of rain. If rain is the prayer’s only aim, the prayer is unacceptable, for it is not sincere or intended to please God. Sunset determines the time for the evening prayer, while solar and lunar eclipses occasion two particular kinds of worship. Since such eclipses are two manifestations of the Divine Majesty, the All-Mighty calls His servants to perform a form of worship particular to these occasions. The prayer recited has nothing to do with causing the eclipse to end; the time this will occur has already been established through astronomical calculations. The same argument applies to drought and other calamities, for all such events occasion certain kinds of prayer. It is at such times that we are most aware of our innate weakness, and thus feel the need to take refuge in the high Presence of the Absolutely Powerful One through prayer and supplication. If a calamity is not alleviated, despite many prayers, we should not say that our prayer has not been accepted. Rather, we should say that the time for prayer has not yet ended. God removes the calamity because of His endless Grace and Munificence. The end of that event marks the end of that special occasion for prayer.

We must pursue God’s good pleasure through worship, affirm our innate poverty and weakness in our prayer, and seek refuge with Him through prayer. We must not try to interfere in His Lordship but rather let God do as He wills and rely on His Wisdom. In addition, we should not doubt His Mercy.

Every creature offers its own kind of praise and worship to God. What reaches the Court of God from the universe is, in fact, a kind of prayer.

Some creatures, like plants and animals, pray through the language of their potential, thus achieving a full form and then displaying and showing certain Divine Names (e.g., a plant’s seeds grow naturally into plants, and the semen and eggs of animals grow naturally into animals.) Since they have this potential, their natural disposition to mature is, in essence, a prayer. By doing so, they affirm the manifestation of such Divine Names as the All-Sustaining and the All-Forming.

Another kind of prayer is performed in the language of natural needs. All living beings ask the Absolutely Generous One to meet their vital needs, as they cannot do so alone. Yet another kind of prayer is done in the language of complete helplessness. A living creature in straitened circumstances takes refuge in its Unseen Protector with a genuine supplication, and turns to its All-Compassionate Lord. These three kinds of prayer are always acceptable, unless somehow impeded.

The fourth type of prayer is the one engaged in by human beings. This type falls into two categories: active and by disposition; and verbal and with the heart. For example, acting in accordance with causes is an active prayer. We try to gain God’s approval by complying with causes, for causes alone cannot produce the result – only God can do that. For example, plowing the soil is an active prayer, for this is nothing less than knocking at the door of the treasury of God’s Compassion. Such a prayer is usually acceptable, for it is an application to the Divine Name the All-Generous. Going to a doctor is also a prayer, as it means applying to the Divine Name, the All-Healing. It is God Who heals. We should not be content with plowing the soil or going to a doctor, but should combine our activities with verbal prayers.

The second type of prayer, recited by the tongue and the heart, is the ordinary one. This means that we ask God from the heart for something we cannot reach and put it into words. The most important aspect and finest and sweetest fruit of this type of prayer is that we know that God hears us, that He is aware of the contents of our heart, that His Power extends everywhere, that He can satisfy every desire, and that He comes to our aid out of mercy for our weakness and inadequacy.

We should never abandon prayer, for it is the key to the Treasury of Compassion and the means of obtaining access to the Infinite Power. We should hold on to It and ascend to the highest rank of humanity and, as creation’s most favored and superior member, include the prayer of the entire universe in our prayer. We should say, on behalf of all beings: From You alone do we seek help (1: 5), and become a beautiful pattern for all of creation. (See The Words, “The 23rd Word,” 333–334).