30. Ar-Rum (The Romans)

This sūrah of 60 verses was revealed about six or seven years before the Hijrah. Ar-Rum (The Romans) takes its name from the Byzantine Romans mentioned in the second verse. The Byzantines were Christians who had a Divine Scripture and who believed in God without worshipping idols. This is why the Muslims in Makkah felt close to them, while the pagan Quraysh sympathized with the Persians, who they thought would vindicate their opposition to belief in One God. At a time when the Muslims were a very small minority subject to persecution in Makkah, this sūrah consoled them by predicting the unexpected victory of the Romans against the Persians only nine years after a great defeat. Through this prediction, the sūrah also implies the future victory of the Muslims, which was soon to occur. In addition, this sūrah puts forward a multitude of evidence in favor of faith in One God and the Hereafter, and against associating partners with Him.

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

1. Alif. Lām. Mīm.

2. The Byzantine Romans have been defeated,

3. In the lands close-by; but they, after their defeat, will be victorious,

4. Within a few (nine) years – to God belongs the command (the absolute judgment and authority) both before and after (any event) – and at the time (when the Romans are victorious), the believers will rejoice,

5. Because of God’s help leading them to victory. He helps whom He wills to victory. He is the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Compassionate (especially towards His believing servants).

6. (This is) God’s promise. God never fails His promise, but most people do not know this (as they have no true knowledge about God).1

7. They only know (what reaches to their senses from) the outward aspect of the life of this world, but they are heedless and unaware of (what lies beyond it and) the Hereafter.

8. Do they not reflect upon themselves (even once)? God has not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them save with truth (meaningfully and for definite, wise purposes, and on solid foundations of truth), and for an appointed term. But surely many among the people are in unbelief about the meeting with their Lord.

9. Have they never traveled about the earth and seen what was the outcome for those before them (who also obstinately disbelieved in Our signs)? They were greater than them in power. They cultivated the soil and mined it (for minerals and water resources), and built it up more and better than these have done. And, in time, their Messengers came to them with clear proofs of the truth (which they rejected to their own doom). God would never wrong them, but it was they themselves who were wronging themselves.

10. In consequence, the outcome for those who were lost in evil was evil, as they denied God’s Revelations and signs, and were mocking them.

11. God originates creation in the first instance, and then reproduces it2 (and will bring it back in the Hereafter), and then you will be returned to Him.

12. When the Last Hour stands forth and the Judgment is established, the disbelieving criminals will be plunged into despair.

13. They will have no intercessors in the beings whom they associate (as partners with God), and they will no longer believe in their being partners with God.

14. When the Last Hour stands forth (and the Judgment is established) – on that Day, all people will be separated from one another.

15. As for those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, they will be honored and made happy in a delightful Garden.

16. But those who disbelieve and deny Our Revelations and the final meeting (with Us) in the Hereafter, such will be arraigned for punishment (in Hell).

17. So glorify God when you enter the evening and when you enter the morning—

18. And (proclaim that) all praise and gratitude in the heavens and on the earth are for Him – and in the afternoon, and when you enter the noon time.3

19. He brings forth the living out of the dead, and brings the dead out of the living, and revives the earth after its death. It is in this way (that He revives the dead earth) that you will be brought forth from the dead.4

20. And among His signs is that He created you from earth, and (since) then, you have grown into a human population scattered widely.

21. And among His signs is that He has created for you, from your selves, mates, that you may incline towards them and find rest in them, and He has engendered love and tenderness between you. Surely in this are signs for people who reflect.

22. And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your languages and colors. Surely in this are signs indeed for people who have knowledge (of the facts in creation, and who are free of prejudices).

23. And among His signs is your sleeping at night and in the day, and your seeking (livelihoods) out of His bounty. Surely in this are signs for people who listen (to God’s messages in creation, and His provision for all creatures).

24. And among His signs is His displaying before you the lightning, giving rise to both fear (of being struck) and hopeful expectation (of rain), and that He sends down water from the sky, and revives with it the earth after its death. Surely in this are signs for people who will reason and understand.

25. And among His signs is that the heaven and the earth stand firm (subsisting) by His Command.5 In the end, when He calls you forth from the earth (with a single, particular summons), then (at once) you will come forth.

26. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on the earth. All are obedient to Him in humble service.6

27. He it is Who originates creation in the first instance and then reproduces it (in the world), and will bring it back (in the Hereafter): and that (reproduction and bringing back) is easier for Him.7 Whatever attribute of sublimity there is (like existence, life, power, knowledge, munificence, and might, etc.) in the heavens and the earth, it is His in the highest degree, and He is the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise.

28. He strikes a parable from your selves: do you recognize for those, over whom you hold possession and authority (slaves or animals), a share in what We have provided for you, so that you and they have equal shares in it, and do you hold them in fearful respect as you hold each other in fearful respect?8 Thus, We set out in detail the signs (of Our Oneness) for people who will reason and understand.

29. No indeed! Those who do (the greatest) wrong (by associating partners with God) follow only their own lusts and fancies, without (basing on any) knowledge. Who has power to guide him whom God has led astray (on account of following merely his lusts and fancies)? And such have none to help them (to salvation).

30. So set your whole being upon the Religion (of Islam) as one of pure faith (free from unbelief, polytheism, and hypocrisy). This is the original pattern belonging to God on which He has originated humankind. No change can there be in God’s creation. This is the upright, ever-true Religion, but most of the people do not know.9

31. (Set your whole being, you and the believers in your company, on the upright, ever-true Religion) turning in devotion to Him alone, and keep from disobedience to Him in reverence for Him and piety, and establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions; and do not be of those who associate partners (with Him):

32. Those who have made divisions in their religion (whereas they must accept it in its totality), and become split into different factions (following different guides to falsehood), each party rejoicing in what (portion) it has.

33. When affliction befalls people, they invoke their Lord, turning to Him in contrition; then, no sooner does He favor them with a taste of mercy from Him than some of them associate partners with their Lord, (Who has created them, and sustains and cares for them).

34. Thus (do they behave) with disbelieving ingratitude for all that We have granted them. Then, enjoy (for a while the worldly favors He has granted you), but in time you will come to know!

35. Or have We sent down on them a document of authority which speaks in favor of their associating partners with Him?

36. When We favor people with a taste of mercy, they rejoice in it (without thinking of Him Who bestows it). But if an evil befalls them because of what they their hands have forwarded, then they immediately lose all hope!

37. Have they never considered that God enlarges provision for whom He wills, and straitens it (for whom He wills). Surely in this are signs for people who will believe and who will deepen in faith.

38. And so give their due10 to relatives, as well as to the destitute and the wayfarer. That is best for those who seek God’s “Face” (His approval and good pleasure); and those are they who are the prosperous.

39. Whatever you give to people in usurious hope that it may return to you increased through the goods of (other) people, will bring no increase in God’s sight. Whereas whatever you give in charity seeking God’s “Face” (His approval and good pleasure), for those there is increase (of recompense) multiplied.11

40. God is He Who creates you, then He sustains you (by providing for you), then He causes you to die, and then He will bring you to life again. Are there any among the partners you associate (with God) that do anything of that? All-Glorified He is, and infinitely Exalted above what they associate (with Him).

41. Corruption and disorder have appeared on land and in the sea because of what the hands of people have (done and) earned (of evil deeds). Thus He causes them to taste the consequence of some of what they have done, so that they may (take heed, repent and reform, and so) return (to the right way).12

42. Say: “Travel about on the earth and see what was the outcome for those who lived before you. Most of them were (obstinately given to) associating partners (with God).”

43. Set, then, your whole being on the upright, ever-true Religion before there comes a Day which God will not remove (from them) and none can prevent Him from bringing it. On that Day, they will be sundered apart.

44. Whoever disbelieves, his unbelief is charged against him. Whereas those who (believe and) do good, righteous deeds, they make provision for themselves (of a happy, everlasting life),

45. That He (God) will reward those who believe and do good, righteous deeds out of His bounty. He does not love the unbelievers.

46. Among His signs is that He sends forth the merciful winds as glad tidings so that He may favor you with a taste of His mercy, and that ships may sail by His command (according to the laws He has established), and that you may seek of His bounty, and that (in recognition of all these favors of His) you may give thanks (to Him).

47. Indeed, We sent before you (O Messenger, other) Messengers, each to his own people, and they came to them with clear proofs (of the truth of God’s Unity and Sovereignty). Then, We took retribution from those who disbelieved and were committed to accumulating sin. We have bound Ourselves to rescue the believers.

48. God is He Who sends forth the merciful winds, so that they set clouds to move, and He spreads them in the heaven in the manner that He wills, and makes them aggregated particles, and there! You see rain issuing from their midst! When He has caused it to fall on such of His servants as He wills, they rejoice,

49. Even though a short while before, just before it was sent down upon them, they had been in despair.

50. Look, then, at the imprints of God’s Mercy – how He revives the dead earth after its death: certainly then it is He Who will revive the dead (in a similar way). He has full power over everything.13

51. But if We send forth a scorching wind (against their land), and they see it (being dust-laden) as yellow, they begin, straight after that (joy), to show disbelieving ingratitude (as if God were obliged to always treat them with mercy and it were not God Who provides for them).

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

53. Nor can you guide the blind out of their error. None can you make hear save those who (being capable of reflection without prejudice) 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).

54. God is He Who creates you in a state of weakness, and then gives you strength after weakness, and then, after a period of strength, ordains weakness (of old age) and grey hair. He creates however He wills. He is the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful.

55. When the Last Hour stands forth and the Judgment is established, the disbelieving criminals swear that they stayed in the world no longer than a short while (of the day). Thus were they habitually turned away from the truth (having always depended on their sense-perceptions, false reasoning and defective knowledge).

56. But those who were endowed with knowledge (of the truth) and faith say: “For certain, you have stayed until the Day of Raising according to how God decreed in His Book (of Creation and Life). And now this is the Day of Raising, but you were (persistent in) refusing true knowledge (about it).

57. On that Day, their excuses will be of no avail to the wrongdoers (who denied God or associated partners with Him), nor will they be allowed to make amends (nor offer regrets to escape the punishment).

58. Assuredly, We have set forth for humankind in this Qur’ān all kinds of parables and comparisons (to help them understand the truth). Even though you bring them a miracle (of the kind they demand), those who (pay no heed to these parables and comparisons, and obstinately) disbelieve will certainly say (to the believers): “You are only seeking a false way.”

59. Thus does God seal the hearts of those who have no (attachment to) knowledge.

60. So be patient; surely God’s promise (that He will help the believers to victory) is true. And do not let those who lack certainty (of this truth) shake your firmness.14

The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

1. These verses contain important predictions. Some saintly scholars have arrived at many predictions based on these. For example, as reported by Abū Hayyān, a commentator from al-Andalusia, in his Bahr al-Muhīt, Abū al-Hakam ibn al-Barrajān predicted the recovery of Jerusalem by the Muslims from the Crusaders in 1187CE with its exact date. However, what is clear to everybody in these verses is that the Byzantine Romans who were defeated by the Persians would be victorious over them within nine years and in the same year, the Muslims would rejoice because of the victory which would be granted to them by God (Yazır, 6: 3802–3803).

In 615CE, when some Muslims were forced, by the persecution that they faced in Makkah, to migrate to Abyssinia, the Persians gained a victory over the Romans in the war that had begun in 613CE. The victory was so great that the total destruction of the Byzantine Empire seemed imminent. The sūrah decisively pronounced that within nine years from that time, the Romans would defeat the Persians. The war continued and the Persians advanced as far as Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), the capital of the Byzantines, in 617CE. No one thought that the Byzantines would be able to turn defeat into victory so soon in the future; when these verses were revealed, the pagan Makkans made fun of them and of the Muslims for believing in them.

However, in 622CE, just nine years after the beginning of this war, the tide began to turn in favor of the Byzantines. In that year, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings also emigrated to Madīnah. In 624CE, again nine years after the decisive victory of the Persians, the Byzantines gained the first victory over them and destroyed the birthplace of Zoroaster in Azerbaijan. It was in this year also that the Muslims were victorious in the Battle of Badr against the polytheist Makkans. When the Byzantines completely routed the Persians in 627CE, the Muslims won the Battle of the Trench, and the next year they signed the treaty of Hudaybiyah, which the Qur’an describes as a manifest victory (48: 1); this proved to be a door opening to the free expansion of Islam. This same year witnessed the imprisonment and death of the Persian king, and the Messenger’s entering Makkah for a minor pilgrimage.

2. For God’s origination of creation and then bringing it forth anew or reproducing it, see 21: 104, note 25; 55: 29, note 11. Also see 29: 19–20, note 5.

3. Although glorifying God or proclaiming His being absolutely free of any defects or having partners is not restricted to certain times, most commentators suggest that these two last verses specify the times of the daily Prayers. For the meaning of these times and their specification, see 17: 78–79, notes 33–34.

Glorification is knowing and declaring God to be above having any attributes that are never fit for Him, such as having defects; having partners; begetting or being begotten; union (i.e. with any creature); and incarnation (i.e. taking any form of presentation or representation of Himself). Praising Him means knowing and declaring Him with the Attributes belonging and fitting for Him, and thanking Him.

It is God Who has created the heavens and the earth and all that is in and between them, and Who has put many things in them at the service of humankind; all praise and thanks are due to Him. Moreover, all that is in the heavens and on the earth praises and gives thanks to Him, each in its own language or in the tongue of its disposition.

4. This verse, which mentions concrete events in nature, also implies that God sometimes brings up a believer born into an unbelieving family, or an unbeliever born into a believing family; and that He may finally cause a believer to apostatize because of his or her sins, or an unbeliever to enter the fold of Islam purely out of His grace or due to some of that person’s good acts. While mentioning God’s raising of the dead as analogous to reviving the dead earth, it also suggests that God’s reviving a disbelieving “dead” person (6: 122) is analogous to His reviving the dead earth. For such implied analogies in the Qur’an, see 7: 55–58, note 14.

5. God is the All-Powerful Being Who can do whatever He wills by the mere command, “Be!” However, in the corporeal realm, He acts from behind the veil of cause and effect or regular patterns of events – that is, His exercise of His decrees or will in the corporeal realm gives rise in our minds to some notions that we call “natural laws.” So, this statement means that the heaven and earth stand firm and subsist by the laws issuing from the pure realm of His commands that originate from His Attributes of Power and Will.

6. On the obedience of all beings to God, see 3: 83, note 16.

7. Everything is equally easy for God. So the use of easier in the verse is in the view of, or according to, the understanding and perception of human beings. Reproduction, or bringing something back, is certainly easier than the original creation. So, this verse addresses those who see the final destruction of the world and its re-building as impossible, and means that if one can invent or originate something, one can reproduce it even more easily. Therefore, destroying the world and re-creating it can in no way be difficult for God, Who originated it.

8. This comparison is highly significant. Basically, whatever we possess belongs to God, and our share in its acquisition is minimal. For example, in order to produce a single apple, there must be an apple seed, which the whole humankind would not be able to make even if we were to come together, and almost the whole universe (including the sun, air, water, and earth) must cooperate in a perfectly measured way. None of these are in our power to create or control. Our share in an apple is only our labor that we use to harvest it, and it is God Who has endowed us with the necessary power, ability, and with our body. Our share in any machine we make is no greater than this. The basic material we use in making it, and its utility in production or manufacturing, as well as the physical and/or chemical “laws” that are involved in its production, belong solely to God. Moreover, it is He Who has endowed us with the ability to learn and to make things. Despite this clear fact, we never accept that others have some share in our right to the possession and use of such machines or instruments. But God is the sole Creator and Owner of everything in the universe, including us, without anyone else having any partnership in their creation or ownership. However, by accepting many other powers, such as angels, or some important persons, or “nature,” or “natural powers and laws,” or even their own selves, many people associate partners with Him in Divinity or authority regarding the rule of the universe and the ordering of human life. This is the greatest of wrongdoings and injustices, and expressions of ignorance.

9. For an explanation of this verse, see Appendix 13.

10. It is highly significant that the Qur’ān uses the word “their due” for the portion one must give to the needy out of one’s wealth. It means that since it is God Who provides for everybody, the portion the wealthy must give to the needy essentially belongs to the needy. God gives this portion to the wealthy for the poor; by ordering the wealthy to give, He both opens a door through which they can earn merits for their eternal life and establishes a bridge between people in the society, thus creating means of mutual assistance and solidarity. So whoever does not give to the needy the portion he or she should give has usurped their due.

11. Islam never aims to favor hypocrisy or hypocrites. So before establishing a law, first it trains and prepares hearts and minds in its favor or against it. This is why the Prophet’s Companions could easily accept any commandment when it was revealed. To this end, Islam followed a gradual way in establishing its legal code. In Makkah, it prepared hearts and minds for its future injunctions. For example, in 17: 22–39, it propounded many rules only as moral values; many of these would later become laws in Madīnah. It also followed a gradual way in prohibiting such established vices as drinking alcohol and transactions involving interest. This verse is the first to be revealed on the way to the decisive prohibition of transactions involving interest, with the aim of encouraging Muslims to avoid it. Some people would give gifts or similar things to others, particularly the merchants and money-lenders; this was not done with a pure intention, but with the hope or aim that it might come back to them, increased in value. That is, those who took these “gifts” would use them in their trade for profitable transactions, and return the “gifts” with the extra amount or value to the original owner.

12. All the social convulsions and evils, unjust wars, pestilences, environmental pollution, and similar catastrophes arise from human rebellion against God and His Religion. God has established human life on the fact that this human rebellion causes such calamities. The basic wisdom behind this is that humankind will be awakened to the truth and, giving up their wrong ways, turn to God in faith and obedience. But, unfortunately, the number of people who perceive this is quite limited. In particular, scientific materialism and materialist philosophy make this perception almost impossible and refer every such thing to “nature” or self-becoming.

13. The Qur’ān puts forward various arguments concerning the Resurrection. For example, to impress upon the human heart the wonder of what the Almighty will accomplish in the Hereafter, and to prepare the human mind to accept and understand it, the Qur’ān presents the wonder of what He accomplishes here in the world. It gives examples of God’s comprehensive acts in the macro-cosmos and, at times, presents His overall disposal of the macro-cosmos, normo-cosmos, and micro-cosmos (the universe, humanity, and atoms, respectively). Verse 13: 2 is an example of this.

The Qur’ān presents the phenomenon of the universe’s creation, which it defines as the first origination (56: 62), while describing the raising of the dead as the second origination (53: 47), to establish the Resurrection. It also directs our attention to our own origin for this same end (22: 5; 23: 13–16).

In making analogies between the Resurrection and God’s deeds in this world, the Qur’ān sometimes alludes to the deeds God will perform in the Hereafter in such a way that we are convinced of them, drawing analogies to what we observe here. It also shows His similar deeds in the world and makes comparisons between them and the Resurrection. One example is 36: 78–81.

The Qur’ān likens the Resurrection to the earth’s springtime rejuvenation or revival following its death in winter. As well as innumerable instances of death and revival or replacement that are constantly witnessed in nature and in our own bodies, an overall death and revival is repeated every year. During winter, a white “shroud” covers much of the earth. Nature already has turned pale and shows fewer traces of life. Trees seem to be no more than hard bones. Grass fades away, flowers wither, migrating birds leave, and insects and reptiles disappear.

But winter is not eternal, for it is followed by a general revival. When the weather becomes warm, trees begin to bud and, wearing their finery, present themselves to the Eternal Witness. The soil swells, and grass and flowers start to blossom everywhere. Seeds that fell into the ground the previous autumn have germinated and, having annihilated themselves, begin to grow into new forms of life without suffering the least confusion. All of these new things are similar (but not identical) to those that came into being the previous year. In short, nature appears before us in all its splendor and finery. The raising of the dead on the Day of Judgment will be very much like this (41: 39; 71: 17–18; 75: 36–40).

14. The sūrah began with God’s promise that He would help the believers to victory and that they would rejoice. It ends with reiteration of this promise, strengthening the determination of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and the believers in the face of the harsh reactions of the unbelievers.

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