27. An-Naml (The Ant)

Revealed in the middle Makkan period, this sūrah has 93 verses, and derives its name from the word An-Naml (The Ant) in verse 18. It emphasizes that only those who accept the truths expounded in the Qur’ān and order their lives according to God’s commandments can truly benefit from this Revelation. One of the basic obstacles to adopting the way of the Qur’ān is the denial of the Hereafter, which usually makes one irresponsible and a slave to one’s carnal desires. This sūrah gives examples from history of those who stubbornly resisted God’s Message and those who accepted it – the Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, and the Queen of Sheba, even though they were the most powerful rulers of their time. It expounds many truths that prove God’s Oneness and the Hereafter and, through a number of questions, it establishes the falsehood of polytheism.

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

1. Tā. Sīn. These are the Revelations of the Qur’ān, (and) a Book clear in itself and clearly showing the truth;1

2. Guidance and glad tidings for the believers,

3. Who establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions and pay the Prescribed Purifying Alms, and in the Hereafter, they have certainty of faith.

4. As for those who do not believe in the Hereafter, We have surely decked out their deeds to be appealing to them (because of their unbelief),2 and so they wander in anxiety (about their worldly lives, with deadened hearts).

5. Those are the ones for whom is the worst of punishment (in the world and in the Hereafter), and they will be the greatest losers in the Hereafter (as they will be left with no good deeds forwarded for acceptance).3

6. And to you (O Messenger), the Qur’ān is being conveyed from the Presence of One All-Wise, All-Knowing.4

7. (Remember and recount to them) when Moses (while traveling in the desert saw a fire and) said to his family: “I perceive a fire far off. (Wait here,) I will bring you from there some information (about where we are and the way we should take), or bring you at least a burning brand so that you may (kindle a fire and) warm yourselves.”

8. When he came to it, he was called: “Blessed is he who is at the fire and those who are around it; and All-Glorified is God (above having any resemblance with the created), the Lord of the worlds.5

9. “O Moses! It is I, God, the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise.

10. “Now, throw down your staff.” (He threw it, and) when he saw it (as a big snake) slithering (so swiftly) as if a small snake, he turned his back to flee. “O Moses, have no fear. The Messengers (those who enjoy nearness to Me and, therefore, absolute security) do not (have any reason to) feel fear in My Presence.

11. “Only those who have done wrong (should fear). But if (they repent and) substitute good in place of evil – surely I am All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.

12. “Put your (right) hand into your bosom: it will come forth shining white without flaw. It is (one) among the nine signs (miracles6 for you to show) to the Pharaoh and his people. Surely, they are a transgressing people.”

13. But when Our signs came to them in plain sight and clear enough to have opened their eyes to truth, they said: “This is clearly nothing but sorcery.”

14. They rejected them out of mere iniquity and self-exaltation, although their consciences were convinced of their being true. So, see what was the outcome for those given in to spreading disorder and corruption.

15. (On the other hand, We saved the Children of Israel whom the Pharaohs had persecuted for centuries, and granted them great triumph. And in time,) We granted David and Solomon (special) knowledge. Both used to thank and praise God, saying: “All praise and gratitude are for God, Who has favored us more than many of His believing servants.”7

16. Solomon succeeded David. He would say (citing in gratitude God’s favors to him): “O people! We have been taught the language of birds,8 and we have been granted (some portion) of everything (which God provides for His servants). Surely this is a conspicuous favor.

17. One day his hosts of jinn, and of men, and of birds were assembled before Solomon (upon his command), and were led forth under full control,

18. Until, when they reached a valley of ants, one of the ants said: “O you ants! Get into your dwellings lest Solomon and his army crush you unawares.”

19. Smiling at her words (in humble contentment with God’s favors to him), he said: “My Lord! Inspire and guide me so that I may thank You for Your favor which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and so that I may act righteously in a manner that will please You; and include me (out of Your mercy) among Your righteous servants.”

20. (On another occasion,) he inspected the birds and said: “How is it that I cannot see the hoopoe? Or is he among the absentees?

21. “I will certainly inflict a severe punishment on him, or maybe even kill him, unless he comes to me with a convincing reason (for his absence).”

22. Before long, the hoopoe came up and said: “I have obtained (some important information) which you do not have, and have come to you from Sheba9 with reliable news.”

23. “I found there a woman ruling over them, one who has been granted everything (that a ruler is expected to have), and who has a mighty throne.

24. “However, I found her and her people prostrating to the sun rather than God. Satan has decked out their deeds to be appealing to them, and thus has barred them from the (unique straight) way, so they are not rightly guided,

25. “So that they do not prostrate before God, Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth (Who brings into the light of existence all things and beings in the heavens and the earth from the veil of non-existence), and knows what you keep secret and what you disclose.

26. “God – there is no deity but He, the Lord of the Mighty Throne.”10

27. (Solomon) said: “We will see whether you are speaking the truth or are one of the liars.

28. “Go with this letter of mine, and drop it to them; then draw back from them and see how they will deal with it among themselves, and return.”11

29. She (the Queen, when the letter reached her) said: “O you nobles! See, an honorable letter has been cast to me.

30. “It is from Solomon, and it is: ‘In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

31. ‘Do not act towards me in defiance, but come to me in submission.’

32. “O you nobles! Let me have your counsel in this matter. (You know well that) I never conclude a decision on a matter unless you are present with me.”

33. They said: “We dispose great power and we dispose great daring but the decision is yours, so consider what you will command.”

34. She said: “When kings enter a country, they cause destruction and corruption in it, and make the noble (ones of its inhabitants) abased. This is what they really do.

35. “Now I will send them a present and see with what (answer) the envoys return.”

36. When he (the envoy with the present) came to Solomon, he (Solomon) said: “Do you mean to help me with wealth? What God has granted me (of Prophethood, kingdom, and wealth) is much more and better than all that He has given you. It is only (people such as) you who would rejoice in this gift of yours.

37. “Go back to them (who sent you, and inform them that, if they do not come to us in submission), we will certainly come upon them with hosts which they have no power to resist. We will assuredly drive them from there in disgrace, and they will be humbled.”12

38. (The Queen, having received his message, decided to visit Solomon (at his home). Knowing of her journey,) Solomon said (to his council): “O you nobles! Who among you can bring me her throne before they come to me in submission?”

39. One strong and cunning among the jinn said: “I can bring it to you before you rise from your council. Surely I have the strength and skill to do so and I am trustworthy.”

40. And one who had some knowledge of the Book said: “I can bring it to you in the twinkling of your eye.” When Solomon saw the throne set in his presence, he said: “This is out of the pure grace of my Lord that He may try me whether I give thanks or act with ingratitude. Whoever gives thanks, gives thanks only for (the good of) his own soul; and whoever acts with ingratitude – (let him be aware that) my Lord is surely All-Wealthy and Self-Sufficient, All-Munificent.”13

41. He said: “Disguise her throne, and let us see whether she is able to find guidance or remains one of those who are not guided.”14

42. When she (the Queen) arrived, she was asked: “Is your throne like this?” She said: “It is as if it were the same. We were given knowledge (about the magnificence of Solomon’s rule and his extraordinary power) before all this (we have seen here), and we have already decided to submit.”

43. That she had been worshipping other than God kept her back (from the Straight Path); for she belonged to a disbelieving people.15

44. It was said (to her): “Enter the palace.” When she saw it, she thought it was a pool of water and bared her calves (in order to hold her robes above the water). He (Solomon) said: “This is a palace paved with crystal.” (Having now concluded that Solomon must truly be a Prophet,) she said: “My Lord, surely I have wronged myself (by worshipping false deities). But now I submit myself, in Solomon’s company, to God, the Lord of the worlds.”16/17

45. And certainly We sent to the Thamūd their brother Sālih (with the message): “Worship God alone.” (When he conveyed the Message,) they split into factions in dispute with each other.

46. He (Sālih) said (to them): “O my people! Why do you seek to hasten the coming (upon you) of evil instead of good? Why do you not seek God’s forgiveness for your sins so that you may be shown mercy (to be granted a good, virtuous life in the world and eternal happiness in the Hereafter)?”

47. They said: “We augur ill of you and those who are with you.” (Sālih) answered: “What you describe as augury is (something ordained) by God. But the truth is that you are a people who are being tried.”18

48. There were nine ringleaders in the city, causing disorder and corruption in the land and not setting things right.

49. They said, swearing in God’s Name: “We will certainly swoop on him and his family by night suddenly and kill them all. Then we will assuredly say to his heirs that we did not witness the destruction of his family (nor of Sālih himself); indeed we speak the truth.”

50. And so they devised a scheme, and indeed We put Our will into force (to give them their just deserts), while they were not aware.

51. So, see what was the end of their scheme! We utterly destroyed them and their people all together.

52. Those then are their houses, all lying in utter ruins because they were lost in wrongdoing. Surely in this is a sign (an important lesson) for a people seeking knowledge.19

53. And We saved those who believed and kept from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety.

54. We also sent Lot as Messenger. He warned his people: “Will you do that abhorrent indecency in plain view (of one another)?

55. “What! will you continue to come with lust to men in place of women? You are indeed an ignorant people with no sense (of decency and right and wrong).

56. But his people’s only reply was nothing but to say (to one another): “Expel Lot’s family (as well as himself) from your land. They are a people who make themselves out to be pure!”

57. Then We saved him and his family except his wife. We decreed that she should be among those who stayed behind (and were destroyed).

58. We poured upon them a (destructive) rain (of stones). How evil was the rain of those who had been warned!20

59. Say: “All praise and gratitude are for God, and peace be upon those of His servants whom He has chosen (and made pure).” Is God better or all that they associate as partners (with Him)?

60. Or He Who has created the heavens and the earth, and sends down for you water from the sky? –We cause to grow with it gardens full of loveliness and delight: it is not in your power to cause their trees to grow. Is there another deity besides God? No, but they are a people who veer away (from truth). –

61. Or He Who has made the earth as a fixed abode, and has caused rivers to flow in its fissures, and has set for it firm mountains, and has placed a barrier between the two large bodies of water?21 Is there another deity besides God? No, but most of them do not know.

62. Or He Who answers the helpless one in distress when he prays to Him, and removes the affliction from him, and (Who) has made you (O humankind) vicegerents of the earth (to improve it and rule over it according to God’s commandments)? Is there another deity besides God? How little you reflect!

63. Or He Who guides you through the veils of the darkness of land and sea, and Who sends forth the (merciful) winds as a glad tiding in advance of His mercy? Is there another deity besides God? Absolutely exalted is He above all that they associate with Him as partners.

64. Or He Who originates creation in the first instance and then reproduces it,22 and Who provides you from the heaven and the earth? Is there another deity besides God? Say: “Produce your evidence, if you are truthful!”

65. Say: “None in the heavens and on the earth knows the Unseen (all that lies in the hidden realms and beyond any created being’s perception), but only God knows it. Neither do they (or their false deities) know when (the world will be destroyed and) they will be raised to life (after their death).”23

66. No, indeed. Their knowledge does not attain to the Hereafter (as they have desired only the worldly life and wasted their faculties of learning in pursuit of worldly knowledge).24 No, indeed, for (despite being informed about it through Revelation) they remain in doubt about it. No, indeed, for they remain blind to (all the arguments about) it.

67. Those who obstinately persist in unbelief say: “What! Is it when we have already become dust – is it then that we and our forefathers will be brought forth (to a new life)?

68. “We have certainly been threatened with this before, we and our forefathers. This is nothing but fables of the ancients!”

69. Say: “Go about the earth and see what was the outcome for the disbelieving criminals!”

70. Do not grieve over them (because of their negative response toward your mission), nor be distressed because of all that they scheme (to void your mission and bar people from God’s way).

71. They also say: “(So tell us) when is this threat to be fulfilled, if you are truthful?”

72. Say: “It may well be that something of that which you ask to be hastened has already drawn quite near behind you.”

73. Indeed, your Lord is gracious and bountiful for humankind, but most of them do not give thanks.25

74. Your Lord certainly knows whatever their bosoms conceal and whatever they disclose.26

75. There is nothing hidden (from them as from all creatures) in the heaven or on the earth but is in a Manifest Book.27

76. Surely this Qur’ān explains to the Children of Israel most of the matters on which they differ.28

77. And, most certainly, it is guidance (in all matters) and mercy (full of blessings) for the believers.

78. Indeed, your Lord will judge between them (the believers and the unbelievers) according to His decree. He is the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Knowing.

79. So put your trust in God. You surely stand on the truth, which is clear and doubtless.

80. Indeed you cannot make the dead hear, nor can you make the deaf hear the call once they have turned their backs, going away.

81. Nor can you guide the blind out of their error. You can make none hear save those who (being unprejudiced, are willing to) believe in Our Revelations and signs (in the outer world, as well as in their inner world), and are (,therefore,) ready to submit (to the truth).

82. When the time for the fulfillment of the word (of punishment) about them comes, We will bring forth for them a living creature from the earth who will speak to them – that people have no certainty of faith in Our signs and Revelations.29

83. A Day (will come) when We will raise up and gather from every community a host of those who denied Our Revelations and signs (which establish the truth of all the essentials of faith), and they will be set in array (and driven to the place of reckoning),

84. Until they arrive there, when He will say to them: “Did you deny My Revelations and signs, even without having full, certain knowledge about them? If that is not so, what else were you doing?”

85. The word (of punishment) will be fulfilled against them because they did wrong (including, especially, associating partners with God). They will then not (be able to) speak (a single word of excuse or defense).

86. Have they not noticed that We have made the night so that they may rest in it, and the day sight-giving (for them to work in)? Surely in this are signs for people who will believe.

87. On the Day when the Trumpet is blown,30 all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth will be stricken with shock and terror, except those whom God wills to exempt. All will come to His Presence, utterly humbled. 

88. You see the mountains, thinking them to be firmly fixed, but in reality, they (are in constant motion) and pass by (with the movement of the earth) like the passing of the clouds. (And so will they be crumbled on Doomsday, so as to take on the form particular to the other world.) This is the pattern of God Who has perfected everything. He is fully aware of all that you do.

89. Whoever comes (on Judgment Day) with good (and purified of sin) will have better than its worth, and such will be safe from any shock and terror on that Day.

90. But whoever comes with (unforgivable) evil, such will be flung down upon their faces into the Fire. “Are you recompensed for anything but what you used to do?”

91. (Say, O Messenger:) “I am ordered only to worship the Lord of this city (Makkah, where the first house of worship dedicated to God was built and), which He has made sacred, and to Whom all things belong. And I am ordered to be of the Muslims (those who submit to Him in all His orders).

92. And (I am ordered) to recite the Qur’ān (to convey His messages). Whoever, therefore, chooses to follow the right way, follows it but for (the good of) his soul. And if any wills to go astray, say: “I am but one of the Messengers sent to warn.”

93. Also say: “All praise and gratitude are for God. Soon He will show you His signs (which will prove that whatever He has decreed is true), and you will come to know them.” Your Lord is never heedless and unmindful of whatever you do.

The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

1. The Qur’ān mentions a Manifest Record (36: 12), and in several of its verses (such as 6: 59, 10: 61, and 11: 6) refers to a Manifest Book (for explanations of both, see 6: 59, note 13; 13: 39, note 13; 17: 14, note 10). In several other verses (5: 11; 12: 1; 26: 2; 28: 2), it refers to a Book clear in itself and which clearly shows the truth.

The Manifest Record is the Original Register which comprises the originals of everything to come into existence and every event to happen, in the Divine Knowledge, together with the causes and laws to accompany them. As for the Manifest Book, it is the Book of Creation manifesting whatever of the Manifest Record or the Original Register which the Divine Will wants to bring into the realm of creation, and in which everything in creation, down to the sayings and deeds of every human being and jinn, is being recorded. It may be said that the Qur’ān, which is referred to as the Book clear in itself and which clearly shows the truth, is identical with the Manifest Record with respect to the eternal existence of both in God’s Knowledge, and with the Manifest Book with respect to their existence in the realm of creation. However, the Qur’ān is also different from both. It is different from the Manifest Record with respect to the fact that while the Manifest Record exists in the Divine Knowledge or is even identical with It in one respect, the Qur’ān is also related with the Divine Speech. As for its difference from the Manifest Book, the Qur’ān issues or has been revealed from God’s Attribute of Speech, and is a Book which is read and stored in writing, whereas, the Manifest Book is the Book of Creation that emanates from the Divine Attributes of Will and Power. (God knows best.)

2. That God decks out one’s deeds to be appealing to oneself means that, as a result of the laws and rules He has established for human life and of the nature of unbelief, those who do not follow God’s Religion are usually haughty and approve of their own deeds, whereas true believers are always self-critical, fearful about whether they will be able to accomplish whatever needs to be done in order to obtain God’s approval.

Some verses state that Satan decks out their deeds to be appealing to the unbelievers. What Satan does is that it whispers to humans and invites them to do an evil deed which he tries to persuade them it is good. He has no power to compel them to do something.

3. In the Hereafter, people will find themselves at different levels, as they are in the world, according to their level of belief or unbelief, their good or bad deeds, their sincerity in carrying out these deeds, their sacrifices along God’s way, or their efforts to bar people from this way. Because of this, both Paradise and Hell will have stations for people at each level.

4. Because of this, the Qur’ān is an embodiment of perfect wisdom and knowledge.

5. As stated in Sūrat al-Qasas (28), the voice of God Almighty called out to Moses, upon him be peace, from behind a tree (28: 30). We explained in note 5 to sūrah 20 that this type of Divine calling is one of the three types of Divine Revelation. The Qur’ān clarifies that God addresses human beings either from behind a veil, or by putting the meaning into the heart (as a special kind of Revelation), or by sending an angel (42: 51). In order not to provide any grounds for anthropomorphism, as well as to mark the significance of the particular event, the Qur’ān uses the expression, All-Glorified is God, the Lord of the worlds, meaning that God is absolutely above having any resemblance with the created.

The valley in which this event took place was the “sacred valley of Tuwā” in Sinai (for the sacredness of this valley, see 20: 12, note 5). God blessed the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, (who was at the fire when this event took place) with Messengership and His speech to him, and also his family (who were around the fire) because of Moses, upon him be peace. He also blessed the region around this place, which is the land of Damascus, including Palestine; here He has produced many blessings for all people (7: 137; 17: 1; 21: 71, 81). He has also blessed the Prophets and their followers who have lived in this region (as well as in other regions).

6. For the nine signs, see 7: 133; 17: 101, note 37.

7. David and Solomon, upon them be peace, were among the great Messengers of God, each of whom God distinguished with many special favors. First of all, both were Message-bearing Prophets. God granted Caliphate to David and kingdom to Solomon, upon them both be peace. Both were granted special knowledge, wisdom, sound judgment, and the ability to distinguish between right and wrong (21: 79). Mountains and birds glorified God with David, upon him be peace; he was taught how to smelt iron and make armor, while Solomon, upon him be peace, was able to employ the jinn and the devils, to understand the language of the birds and ants, and to travel on wind. Despite all these blessings, these Prophets remained perfectly humble. David, upon him be peace, earned his living by manual labor. They attributed to God whatever they enjoyed. So they recognized that their being more favored, as compared with many of God’s believing servants, was not a blessing that they had deserved or some privilege to rejoice in and be proud of; rather, they perceived it as a means of their being tested, that required praise and thankfulness.

8. The verses, We have been taught the language of birds (27: 16) and The birds assembled (38: 19), indicate that Almighty God bestowed on the Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, the knowledge of language of the birds and the language of their abilities (how they could be of benefit), as well as pointing out David’s glorification of God with the birds. Given this, and also taking into account that the earth is the laden table of the All-Merciful, set up in our honor, most animals and birds that benefit from this table may serve us. God uses small animals, like honeybees and silkworms, through the guidance of His special inspiration, to benefit humankind.

If we could discover how to use other birds and animals, many species might be employed for important tasks, just as domestic animals are. Thus, the verses mentioned show the ultimate aim in subjugating and benefiting from birds. By specifying the greatest aim in this field, the verses urge humankind toward it.

In the same verses, God Almighty indicates:

So that his sinlessness as a Prophet, upon him be peace, and his justice as a sovereign might not be damaged, I subjugated to one of your fellow men, who was totally submitted to Me, the enormous creatures in My Kingdom and made them speak. I put most of My hosts and animals at his service. I have entrusted to each of you the Supreme Trust that the heavens and earth avoided undertaking, and have endowed you with the potential to rule on the earth according to My commands. Therefore, you should yield to the One in Whose Hand are the reins of all creatures. This will cause His creatures to yield to you, so that you may use them in the Name of the One Who holds their reins and rise to a position worthy of your potential. Most birds may be an intimate friend or an obedient servant, like Solomon’s hoopoe. They may entertain you and drive you with zeal toward the perfections and attainments of which you are capable, rather than causing you to fall from the position required by your humanity, as vain amusements do. (The Words, “The 20th Word,” 272)

9. Sheba (Saba’) was the famous trading nation of southern Arabia, which ruled for almost 1,000 years from around 1100 bc to around 115 bc. Their capital was Ma’ārib, located 55 miles north-east of San‘ā, the present capital of Yemen. They controlled the trade between East Africa, India, the Far East and Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece, and Rome. In addition to this, they had an excellent irrigation system which dotted the length and breadth of the country with dams. Their land was unusually fertile and lush. These explain their affluence. Greek historians called them the richest nation of the world (al-Mawdūdī, 7: 151, note 29).

10. Deluded by Satan and defeated by their carnal desires, many people stray from the Straight Path and live their entire life in misguidance. They cannot find the greatest and clearest truth, a truth even a bird knows with certainty. The Qur’ān draws attention to this fact in another verse as well: (He [Cain] did not know what to do with the dead body of his brother.) Then God sent forth a raven, scratching in the earth, to show him how he might cover the corpse of his brother. So seeing he cried: “Oh, alas for me! Am I then unable even to be like this raven, and so find a way to cover the corpse of my brother?” And he became distraught with remorse (5: 31).

Said Nursi reminds us of this fact in many places in his works, for example:

Furthermore, our nature and spiritual being demonstrate that we have been created to worship God. As for our physical powers and ability to live here, we are worse off than sparrows. But in respect to our knowledge, understanding our needs, and supplication and worship, which are necessary for our spiritual life and the life of the Hereafter, we are the king and commander of all animate creatures.

O my soul. If you consider this world as your major goal and work for it, you will remain only a soldier with no more control over your affairs than a sparrow. But if you move toward the Hereafter, considering this world to be a field to be sown, a preparation for the other world, and act accordingly, you become the ruler of the animal kingdom, a supplicant of Almighty God, and His favored or indulged guest in this world. You can choose either option. So ask for guidance and success in His way from the Most Merciful of the merciful. (The Words, “The 5th Word,” 29–30)

Your potential makes you superior to all animals. But even a sparrow can do a better job than you when it comes to satisfying your daily needs. Why do you not understand that your duty as a human being is to work for the real, everlasting life? You are not an animal! Most of your worldly concerns are trivial and useless matters from which you derive no benefit. And yet, leaving aside the most essential things, you spend your time acquiring useless information as if you had thousands of years to live.

As for the worldly, physical dimension of your being, you cannot compete with a bee or a sparrow, are weaker than a fly or a spider, and cannot achieve what they can. As for the second aspect of your being, however, you can surpass the mountains, the earth, and the heavens, for you can bear a burden that they cannot. Thus, your acts have a greater impact than theirs. When you do something good or build something, it reaches only as far as your hand and your strength. But your evil and destructive acts are aggressive and widespread.

We have been created in the best pattern. If we concentrate on this worldly life we are far lower than a sparrow, although we have far more developed faculties than any animal. (So our duty in the world is to find God, know Him and worship Him alone). (The Words, “The 23rd Word,” 335–336)

11. Although we ought to believe in a person’s verbal declaration, the hoopoe damaged his reputation for reliability by committing a grievous fault. He deserted the army without permission. The Qur’ān orders that any statement of a transgressor be tested (one known for his or her transgressions of the limits set by God), and that no one attempt to do anything based on the statement of such a person9: 6).

12. The Qur’ān never condones the mobilization of armies on others or the occupation of their territories for worldly reasons. It also forbids bloodshed, killing, and usurpation. In short, it condemns every kind of imperialism. What it reports from the Queen of Sheba in verse 34 is of this import. So, Solomon’s threat to the Shebans was not a threat of warlike aggression. It is quite clear in the verses that, as a Messenger, Solomon, upon him be peace, was never proud of his wealth or kingdom, and never had an eye on the wealth or lands of others. His only concern was to see that the true faith was embraced by more people, so they could attain true felicity in both worlds, or that others should submit to the system based on righteousness and justice in all its dimensions. Everybody should enjoy freedom from the shackles of servitude to human-made systems of oppression, and the obstacles put between them and their only Creator and Sustainer by those systems should be removed so that they can make a free choice.

13. The verse describes the wonderful event of how the Queen of Sheba’s throne was brought to Solomon’s court. The verse suggests that things can be transported over long distances, either bodily or in their images. In fact, God Almighty bestowed this as a miracle upon Solomon, upon him be peace, who was honored with kingship as well as Divine Messengership, so that he could maintain his sinlessness and justice by being personally informed of all regions in his extensive realm, see his subjects’ conditions, and hear their troubles.

That means that if we rely on Almighty God and appeal to Him in the language of our potentials, as the Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, did in the language of his sinlessness, and if our acts conform to His laws in the universe and with what attracts His favor, the world may become like a town for us. The Queen’s throne was in Yemen, yet it was seen in (Jerusalem, in the region of) Damascus, either physically or as an image, as were the forms of the people around it, who were seen and heard.

This verse suggests the transportation of forms and the transmission of sounds over long distances. In effect, it says: “O rulers. If you wish to realize perfect justice, try to see and know your realm in all its details, as Solomon, upon him be peace, did. Only by rising to such a level can a just ruler, who cherishes his subjects, be saved from being held accountable. Only in this manner may he realize perfect justice.” What God Almighty is saying here is:

O humankind. I bestowed on My servant a vast realm. In order for him to realize perfect justice throughout it, I allowed him to know whatever was happening therein. Since I have created every individual with a capacity to rule according to My commands, I have also given him, as a requirement of My Wisdom, the potential to scan the face of earth and comprehend whatever is in it. Even if every individual cannot reach this point, humankind as a species may realize it. If you cannot achieve it physically, you can do it spiritually, like the saints. Therefore, you may benefit from this great blessing. Come on, and let Me see you do it. Fulfill your duties of worship. Strive in such a way that you turn the surface of the earth into a garden, so that you can see every part of it, and hear the sounds from every corner: Heed the decree of the All-Merciful: He it is Who has made the earth subservient to you (as if a docile animal), so go about through its shoulders (uplands) and eat of His provision; but (be ever mindful that) to Him will be the Resurrection. (67: 15)

Thus, the verse mentioned above marks the ultimate point in the transmission of images and sounds, which constitutes one of the latest and most significant developments in science and technology, and encourages humanity toward that furthest point. (The Words, “The 20th Word,” 270)

The Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, was a Prophet and a king. Since he fully submitted to God’s Will, he only cared for absolute justice and the good of people in both worlds. Therefore, he used whatever ability and favors God had bestowed on him in His way and for the people’s good. But other kings and/or governments, including the modern “democratic” ones that champion justice and fundamental human rights and freedoms, have used throughout history, and continue to use at the present time, all the powers they have, much in the way the Queen of Sheba described in the verse 34: When kings enter a country, they cause destruction and corruption in it, and make the noble (ones of its inhabitants) abased. This is what they really do.

14. The Queen and her people worshipped the sun; thus, her throne may have been decorated with images or figures that belonged to, and demonstrated, her faith. The Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, wanted to disguise it, most probably by obliterating the images on it and decorating it with inscriptions and images associated with the Divine Religion. By doing so, Solomon, upon him be peace, aimed at her conversion.

15. The Queen worshipped the sun, not as the result of willful choice or stubbornness on her part, but only as a tradition. She was born into an unbelieving nation and grew up as one who saw the sun being worshipped. Yet, she did not have such a character that would insist on misguidance due to reasons such as arrogance, submission to carnal desires, or stubbornness. When she became aware of the rule of the Prophet Solomon, upon him be peacer, she began to grasp the truth.

16. What the Queen witnessed concerning the character, manners, and rule of Solomon, upon him be peace, sufficed for her to conclude that he could be nothing but a Messenger of God and to understand all that he had derived from his faith and mission. This is the reason why she did not hesitate to accept the true faith and became a Muslim.

17. The Biblical account of the story of Solomon, upon him be peace, and the Queen of Sheba (2 Chronicles, 9: 1–12) is different from that found in the Qur’ān in many respects.

However, the rabbinical traditions of the Jews relate the story in terms and details that more closely resemble the Qur’ānic version, except for the fact that there are also calumnies against Solomon, upon him be peace, in the rabbinical texts. As does the Bible, they accuse him of violating the commandments of the Torah, of arrogance due to the power and size of his kingdom, of enjoying a luxuriant life-style, and even of adultery and polytheism (From The Jewish Encyclopaedia, 11: 439–441, 443, al-Mawdūdī, 7: 163, note 56).

The Qur’ān has restored both Solomon, upon him be peace, and all other Israelite Prophets, against whom many similar accusations are found in the Bible, to their rightful honored positions.

18. The peoples to whom Messengers were sent usually accused the Messengers of causing them evils. God sent the Messengers (i) to illuminate the way for humankind; (ii) to guide them to the service of God; (iii) to teach them God’s laws; (iv) to be examples for them to follow in their lives; (v) to establish balance between the material and spiritual life, the reason and the soul, this world and the next, and indulgence and abstinence; and (vi) to be God’s witnesses so that people will not be able to plead ignorance in the Hereafter (The Messenger of God, 23–32). They were the perfect teachers and educators. A human being is like raw material that needs to be worked on; each has the potential to develop. The Messengers developed this potential so that they were able to rise to the rank of perfection. Testing is an indispensable dimension and requirement of this education. Therefore, God tests people in many ways and on many matters; we may perceive these as being good or bad.

When a Messenger came to a people, they were tested in different ways. The Qur’ān declares: And We did not send a Prophet to a settlement but We seized its people with distress and hardship so that they might (wake from heedlessness and) be humble (invoking Us for forgiveness and turning to the truth) (7: 94). This is also true for a human being or a community that has newly accepted God’s Religion. Nevertheless, many people in history have accused their Prophets of being the cause of these evils, while they attributed to themselves whatever good they were favored with, as pointed out in verse 7: 131: But whenever prosperity came their way, they would say: “This is but our due and by our deserving,” and whenever evil befell them, they would attribute it to the evil auspices (they alleged) of Moses and whoever was in his company. Beware! their auspice (whether evil or good) was decreed by God, but most of them did not know (being ignorant of true knowledge).

Sālih’s answer is the same as that in verses (17: 13–14): Every human being’s fate, We have fastened around his neck, and We will bring forth for him on the Day of Resurrection a book which he will see spread open. “Read your book! Your own self suffices you this day as a reckoner against you.” For a detailed explanation, see the corresponding note 10.

19. For other accounts of the story of Sālih and his people, see 7: 73–79; 11: 61–68; 26: 141–159.

20. For other accounts of the story of the Prophet Lot, upon him be peace, and his people, see 7: 80–84; 11: 77–83; 15: 58–76; 21: 74–75; 26: 160–174.

21. For an explanation of the barrier between the two large bodies of water, see 25: 53, note 11.

22. Life is the greatest evidence of God’s Unity and the source of His bounty, a most subtle manifestation of His Compassion, and the most hidden and delicate embroidery of His art. Life is so mysterious and subtle that even the life of plants, the simplest level of life, and the awakening of a seed’s life-force at the beginning of a plant’s life, is still not fully understood. Although such an event is now considered to be commonplace, it has remained a mystery from the time of Adam, upon him be peace, for the human mind remains unable to fathom the nature of life.

Life, in both its outer or material and inner or immaterial aspects, is pure. While the Divine Power usually employs natural causes to create things, so that human beings, unable to discern Divine Wisdom in some events, do not attribute to Him that which they consider unpleasant, It creates life directly without the participation of causes. So, life is a direct gift of God Almighty.

A. C. Morrison writes:

Life is a sculptor and shapes all living things; an artist that designs every leaf of every tree, that colors the flowers, the apple, the forest, and the plumage of the bird of paradise. Life is a musician and has taught each bird to sing its love song, the insects to call each other in the music of their multitudinous sounds.

Life has given to man alone mastery over combined sound vibrations and has furnished the material for their production.

Life is an engineer, for it has designed the legs of the grasshopper and the flea, the coordinated muscles, levers and joints, the tireless beating heart, the system of electric nerves of every animal, and the complete system of circulation of every living thing.

Life is a chemist that gives taste to our fruits and spices and perfume to the rose. Life synthesizes new substances which Nature has not yet provided to balance its processes and to destroy invading life… Life’s chemistry is sublime, for not only does it set the rays of the Sun to work to change water and carbonic acid into wood and sugar, but, in doing so, releases oxygen so that animals may have the breath of life.

Life is a historian, for it has written its history page by page, through the ages, leaving its record in the rocks, an autobiography which only awaits correct interpretation.

Life protects its creations by the abundance of food in the egg and prepares many of its infants for active life after birth, or by conscious motherhood, storing food in preparation for her young. Life produces life—giving milk to meet immediate needs, foreseeing this necessity and preparing for events to come.

Matter has never done more than its laws decree. The atoms and molecules obey the dictates of chemical affinity, the force of gravity, the influences of temperature, and electric impulses. Matter has no initiative, but life brings into being marvelous new designs and structures.

What life is, no man has yet fathomed; it has no weight or dimensions… Nature did not create life; fire-blistered rocks and a saltless sea did not meet the necessary requirements. Gravity is a property of matter; electricity we now believe to be matter itself; the rays of the Sun and stars can be deflected by gravity and seem to be akin to it. Man is learning the dimensions of the atom and is measuring its locked-up power, but life is illusive, like space. Why?

Life is fundamental and is the only means by which matter can attain understanding. Life is the only source of consciousness, and it alone makes possible knowledge of the works of God which we, still half blind, yet know to be good. (Morrison, 31–36)

Like life, death also demonstrates God’s Existence and Unity. For example, by showing the sun’s image through reflection, bubbles on a mighty river, sparkling in the sun, as well as transparent objects glistening on the face of the earth, testify to the existence of the sun. Despite the bubbles’ occasional disappearance (e.g., when they pass under a bridge), the splendid continuation of the manifestations of the sun and the uninterrupted display of its light on successive bubbles proves that the images of the sun, the lights that appear and disappear, sparkle and die away and are then renewed, come from an enduring, perpetual, single sun that manifests itself from on high. Therefore, by their appearance, these sparkling bubbles demonstrate the sun’s existence, and by disappearing and ceasing to exist, they display its continuation and unity.

In the same way, beings in continuous flux testify through their existence and life to the necessary Existence and Oneness of the Necessarily Existent Being. They testify to His Unity, Permanence, and Eternity through their decay and death. Beautiful, delicate creatures that are renewed and recruited along with the alternation of day and night, summer and winter, and the passage of time show the Existence, Unity, and Permanence of an Everlasting One with a continuous display of beauty. Their decay and death, together with the apparent causes for their lives, demonstrates that the (material or natural) causes are only veils. This fact decisively proves that these arts, inscriptions, and manifestations are the constantly renewed arts, changing inscriptions, and moving mirrors of an All-Beautiful One of Majesty.

23. The absolute knowledge of the Unseen or all that lies behind human perception is with God only. Those who have some partial knowledge of it, such as the Prophets, can have it only through being taught by God. This point is of great significance concerning God’s Existence and Unity and absolute sovereignty over creation. Even humankind, equipped with the greatest faculties to learn, cannot acquire perfectly accurate knowledge of the past, of what is happening in the present, or of the future. Moreover, human capacity is also insufficient to have full, accurate knowledge of itself. It is unable to conclude even where its benefit or harm lies. In addition, as declared in the previous verse, every living being needs provision, and it is God Who provides us with it. It is clear that nothing, including humankind, has determined its own needs and how these should be met. There must be One Who has full knowledge of every being, with all its needs, and how these can be met, and Who has full power to design the “natural” environment as a food store from which living beings can procure their provision. All these facts explain why human beings cannot order their life exactly as it should be ordered, based on absolute justice and for their benefit, even in this world. When the afterlife is taken into consideration, they are completely unable to decide what they should do. So there must be One Who has full and accurate knowledge of every member of humankind; of where each one’s benefit and harm lie; of the past, present, and future; of the hidden reality underlying the observable and unobservable dimensions of existence and events; and of the future, eternal life. In short, like every other being, a human being is in absolute need of God. As it is God Who informs humankind of all these things through Messengership, we have an absolute need for the Messengers and the Divine Books.

24. See 53: 29–30.

25. If God gives people respite, despite their stubborn insistence on associating partners with Him and their wrongdoings, this is because of His bountifulness for humankind. Although we must appreciate this and thank Him in return (by acknowledging His bounties and living in faith and obedience to Him), many insist on unbelief and disobedience.

26. That is, His postponing their punishment is not because He is unaware of their state, for He knows even what they keep concealed in their bosoms. Also, there may be hearts which are apt to believe, so they should be given a certain respite. Moreover, He is fully aware of whatever schemes they conceive of. Again, those things which human beings keep concealed in their bosoms are not always the same as that which they disclose. But God knows whatever lies in their bosoms and whatever they disclose. So whatever God decrees and does is absolutely what is required to be decreed and done and full of wisdom.

27. For the Manifest Book, see this sūrah, verse 1, note 1; 6: 59, note 13; 13: 39, note 13.

28. The Children of Israel and, following them, the Christians, have differed in many matters such as Divinity, the Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace, Mary and Jesus, upon him be peace, and many other things concerning other Prophets. The Qur’ān has clarified the truth, particularly in matters which are of particular significance concerning faith and its essentials.

29. Some Traditions have been reported about this verse and especially, about the moving creature to be brought forth near the end of time. Several opinions have been expressed. The gist of the matter is as follows:  particularly through scientific developments, God will display His signs in the outer world and within people themselves, until it is clear to people that the Qur’ān is true. That is, with all their features, humankind and the universe will appear as an assemblage of proofs for the truth of whatever the Qur’ān declares, but immersed in the satisfaction of their carnal desires and deluded by the achievements with which God will favor them, people will stubbornly insist on unbelief and wrongdoing. They will most probably cause a species of small (microscopic) animals or moving things (mechanical beings) of some other kinds to grow which will harm them. It will become clear that, whether people believe it or not, all this is because of unbelief, wrongdoing, and leading an immoral, dissipated life.

30. For the Trumpet and its being blown, see 2, note 31; 6: 73, note 13; 39: 68, note 22. The Trumpet will be blown twice. The blowing mentioned in this verse is the second one which will cause the dead to be raised from their graves, look around in shock and terror, and rush toward God’s Presence utterly humbled. As for those whom God will exempt from the terror of that Day when the Trumpet will be blown, see 21: 101–103, and verse 89 below, in this sūrah. They will be those who will come on the Judgment Day with good (free from sins) and for whom the decree of ultimate good has already gone forth from God. All, without exception, will be brought into His Presence, but the distinguished servants of utmost sincerity will be exempted from being questioned (37: 128).

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