37. As-Saffat (Those Aligned In Ranked)
This sūrah of 182 verses was revealed in the last stage of the middle Makkan period when God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and His Companions were heavily persecuted. It derives its name from the first verse. As-Saffat or As-Saffaat (Those Aligned In Ranked or The Rangers) begins by mentioning some of the angels that are responsible for certain duties and goes on to mention the jinn, rejecting the pagan assertion that they are the daughters of God. The sūrah then emphasizes the afterlife and the Last Judgment. Afterwards, certain episodes of the lives of some Messengers are mentioned and victory for the believers is promised.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. By those (the angels) who align themselves in ranks;
2. (Some) driving away with reproof,
3. (And others) reciting the Reminder (revealed from God),1
4. Most surely your Lord is One:
5. The Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and the Lord of all the easts.2
6. We have indeed adorned the lowest heaven (the heaven of the world) with an ornament – the stars—
7. And for guard against every devil persistent in haughty rebellion.
8. They cannot hear anything from the High Assembly (of the angels), and (whenever they attempt to hear) become targets of missiles from all directions,
9. Repelled.; and for them is a perpetual punishment –
10. Excepting one who snatches something by stealth, and is pursued (and destroyed) by a piercing shooting-star.3
11. So ask them (the polytheists), Are they more formidable in structure, or those that We have created (the heavens and the angels in them)”? Indeed, We have created them (human beings) from a sticky clay.
12. You find all God’s acts wonderful, and their denial, strange; but they continue to mock (God’s Message and His Messenger).
13. And when they are reminded (of Divine truths and admonished by His Revelations), they pay no heed.
14. When they see an extraordinary evidence (of the truth, a miracle), they take it in mockery (and call others to do the same).
15. And they say, “This is clearly nothing but sorcery.
16. “What! After we have died and become dust and bones, will we then be raised from the dead?
17. “And also our forefathers of old?!”
18. Say: “Yes, indeed, and most humiliated you will be.”
19. It will be only a single scaring cry, and then behold, they are staring (in dread),
20. And saying: “Woe to us! This is the Day of Judgment!”
21. (And it is said): “This is the Day of Judgment and Distinction (between truth and falsehood, between the righteous and the sinful – the Day) that you used to deny.”
22. (God commands the angels:) “Gather together all those who committed the greatest wrong (by obstinately associating partners with God), and their (devilish) comrades, and all that they used to worship (of idols, and the rebellious among humankind and jinn),
23. “Apart from God, and lead them to the path of the Blazing Flame!
24. “And arrest them there, for they must be questioned (concerning their deeds in the world).
25. “But, what is the matter with you that you do not help one another (to escape punishment)?”
26. Instead, on that Day they will be in utter submission (without the least sign of arrogance).
27. And they turn to one another, exchanging words (of blame) with one another.
28. They (the ones led) say (to the leaders): “It was you who used to come to us affecting (pretending to be our well-wishers and offering falsehood as truth).”
29. They (the leaders) say: “No! Rather, you yourselves were not believers (with no inclination and intention to believe).
30. “And we had no power over you (to compel you to disbelieve). But you yourselves were a rebellious people.
31. “So our Lord’s word (of punishment) has come true against us. (In justice) we are bound to taste it.
32. “So then (though without power to compel, if) we did mislead you (and cause you to rebel), for surely we ourselves had been lost in error.”
33. So, on that Day, they will be associated together in (suffering) the punishment.
34. That is how We will deal with the disbelieving criminals.
35. For when they were told that there is no deity but God, they would grow arrogant and reject it.
36. And they would say, “Are we to give up our deities for the sake of a mad poet?”
37. No! Rather he has brought (you) the truth and confirms those (Messengers) sent (before him).
38. You are surely bound to taste the painful punishment (on account of your attitude and actions),
39. And you will not be recompensed but for what you were doing.
40. But not so God’s servants endowed with sincerity in faith and practicing the Religion.
41. For those, there is (in Paradise) a provision specially prepared:
42. Fruits (as the reward of their life in the world); and they will be highly honored,
43. In Gardens of bounty and blessing,
44. Sitting on thrones, face to face.
45. A cup will be passed round among them with a drink from a pure, gushing spring:
46. Clear, delightful for those who drink it,
47. Free from any headiness or harm; and they will not suffer intoxication from it.
48. And with them will be pure, chaste-eyed spouses (whose glances are fixed on them only), most beautiful of eye,
49. (As free from any ugliness, and) untouched, as if they were hidden (ostrich) eggs.
50. They will turn to one another, indulging in friendly talk.
51. One of them speaks thus: “I had a close companion,
52. “Who used to ask me, ‘Are you really one of those who confirm the truth (of what the Messenger teaches us about the Last Judgment)?
53. ‘Will we, when we die and have become dust and bones – will we then really be (raised and) put under judgment?’ ”
54. He (the speaker) will say: “Would you like to look (into Hell to see him)?”
55. He will look down and see him in the midst of the Blazing Flame.
56. He will say: “By God, you would nearly have caused me to perish!
57. “Had it not been for the grace of my Lord, I would certainly have been among those arraigned (in the Flame for punishment).”
58. (Then, turning to his companions, he will say:) “We are not to experience death any more, are we?
59. “Except the former death (that we experienced in leaving the world); and we are not to be punished.
60. “(Then) this is most certainly the supreme triumph!”
61. For the like of this, then, let those who will labor (to a goal) labor.
62. Is this what is good as a welcome, or the tree of Zaqqūm?
63. We have made it (that tree) a means of trial4 and punishment for the wrongdoers (who associate partners with God).
64. It is a tree growing in the heart of the Blazing Flame.
65. Its fruits are like the heads of satans.5
66. So, most surely, they will eat of it and fill up their bellies with it.
67. Then, for them will be boiling water (to mix with the zaqqūm in their bodies).
68. And afterwards, they are bound to return to the Blazing Flame again.6
69. Assuredly they found their forefathers on the wrong path.
70. And yet, they rush (after them) in their footsteps.
71. Indeed, most of those (communities) that lived before them went astray,
72. Though We had sent among them warners (with Our guidance).
73. So see what was the outcome for those who were warned (but paid no heed),
74. Except God’s servants, endowed with sincerity in faith and practicing the Religion.
75. And Noah (just such a servant and warner) had called upon Us (for help),7 and how excellent We are in answering (prayer)!
76. We saved him and (his true followers among) his family and people from the mighty distress.
77. And We caused his offspring to endure (on the earth).
78. And We left for him among later-comers (until the end of time, this greeting and remembrance of him and his Message):
79. “Peace be upon Noah among all beings.”8
80. Thus do We reward those devoted to doing good as if seeing God.
81. Surely he was one of Our truly believing servants.
82. As for the others (who opposed him), We caused them to drown.
83. Abraham was surely one who followed the same way as his.
84. He had turned to his Lord with a heart sound and pure (from any trace of insincerity of faith).
85. (Remember) when he said to his father and his people, “What is that you worship?
86. “Is it a fabrication that you pursue, worshipping deities apart from God?
87. “So, what do you think about the Lord of the worlds (that you dare to do so)?”
88. Then (when invited to participate in the religious ceremonies of the people on a festival day) he cast a glance at the stars;
89. And he said: “Indeed I am sick.”9
90. So they (the others) turned away from him and departed.
91. Thereupon he approached their deities, and said, “Will you not eat (of the offerings put before you)?
92. “What is the matter with you that you do not speak?”
93. Then he fell upon them, striking them with his right hand (with all his strength).
94. Then, the other people headed towards him hurriedly.
95. He said: “Do you worship things that you yourselves have carved,
96. “While it is God Who has created you and all that you do?”10
97. They (consulted among themselves and) said: “Build him a pyre and throw him into the blazing flames!”
98. So they intended a scheme against him (to destroy him), but We made them the ones brought low.11
99. And he said: “Now I am going to my Lord (to quit my homeland purely for His sake, in the full conviction that) He will guide me (to a land where I will be able to worship Him freely).
100. (And he prayed): “My Lord, Grant me (the gift of a child who will be) one of the righteous.”
101. So We gave him the glad tidings of a boy (who was to grow as one) mild and forbearing.
102. Then, when (his son) grew alongside him to the age of striving (for the necessities of life), he said: “O my dear son! I have seen in my dream that I should offer you in sacrifice. So think about this and tell me your view!” He said (unhesitatingly): “O my dear father! Do as you are commanded.12 You will find me, by God’s will, one of those who show steadfast patience (in obeying God’s commands).”13
103. Then when both had submitted to God’s will, and Abraham had laid him down on the side of his forehead,
104. (At just that moment,) We called out to him: “O Abraham!
105. “You have already fulfilled the dream (which tested your loyal obedience to the command; so you no longer have to offer your son in sacrifice). Thus do We reward those devoted to doing good as if seeing God.”
106. Behold, all this was indeed a trial, clear.
107. And We ransomed him with a sacrifice tremendous in worth.14
108. And We left for him among later-comers (until the end of time this greeting and remembrance of him and his Message):
109. “Peace be upon Abraham.”
110. Thus do We reward those devoted to doing good as if seeing God.
111. Surely he was one of Our truly believing servants.
112. We gave him the glad tidings of Isaac, to be a Prophet among the righteous.
113. We showered Our blessings on both him (Ishmael) and on Isaac; and among the offspring of both, there have been those devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them, and those who have plainly been wronging themselves (by sinning).
114. We assuredly bestowed Our favor also upon Moses and Aaron;
115. And We saved them and their people from the mighty distress (of slavery and persecution);
116. And We helped them, so they became the victors;
117. And We granted them both (Moses and Aaron) the clear Book15 (which explained the matters that had been secret, and which the people needed for the happiness of their life in both worlds).
118. We showed them the Straight Path (enabling them to follow it in every matter without any deviance),
119. And We left for them among later-comers (until the end of time, this greeting and remembrance of them and their Message):
120. “Peace be upon Moses and Aaron.”
121. Thus do We reward those devoted to doing good as if seeing God.
122. Surely those two were among Our truly believing servants.
123. And surely Ilyās (Elijah) was one of the Messengers.
124. (Remember) when he said to his people: “Will you not keep from disobedience to God in reverence for Him and piety?
125. “Will you continue to invoke Ba‘l16 (as deity), and forsake the Creator Who creates everything in the best and most appropriate form and has the ultimate rank of creativity –
126. “God, your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers?”
127. But they denied him, and so they are surely bound to be arraigned (for judgment).
128. Except God’s servants, endowed with sincerity in faith and practicing the Religion.
129. And We left for him among later-comers (until the end of time this greeting and remembrance of him, and his Message):
130. “Peace be upon Il-Yāsīn.”17
131. Thus do We reward those devoted to doing good as if seeing God.
132. Surely he was one of Our truly believing servants.
133. And surely Lot was one of the Messengers.
134. (Remember) when We (ordered him to leave the land of sinners and) saved him and his family all together,
135. Except an old woman among those who stayed behind,
136. Then We annihilated the others.
137. Indeed, you pass by them (the ruins of their dwellings) at morning-time (during your travels for trade),
138. And by night. Will you not, then, reason and take heed?
139. And surely Jonah was one of the Messengers,
140. (Remember) when he left like a runaway slave for a ship fully laden;18
141. And then he (agreed to) cast lots, and he was one of those who lost.
142. (They threw him into the sea, and) the big fish swallowed him, while he was accused (by his conscience).
143. Had it not been that he was one who always glorified God (declaring Him absolutely above having any defects and partners),19
144. He would certainly have remained in its belly (serving as his grave) until the Day when all will be raised (from the dead).
145. But We caused him to be cast forth on a desert shore, sick as he was;
146. And caused a gourd plant to grow over him.
147. And We sent him once again to (his people, numbering) a hundred thousand; rather, they tended to increase.
148. And they believed in him (this time); and so, (sparing them,) We allowed them to enjoy life for a term allotted to them.
149. So ask them (O Messenger), whether your Lord has daughters while sons are allotted for them?
150. Or that We created the angels female and they were witnesses?
151. Beware, it is surely one of their fabrications that they say,
152. “God has begotten.” Most certainly they are liars.
153. He has (made gender-discrimination and so) chosen daughters in preference to sons, has He?
154. What is the matter with you? How can you judge so?
155. Will you not still reflect and be mindful?
156. Or do you have a clear authority (of evidence)?
157. If so, produce your book (which), if you are truthful in your claim (must have come from God)!
158. And they have concocted a kin-relationship between Him and the jinn (to excuse their worshipping the jinn), whereas the jinn know quite well that they (are created and sustained by God and) are bound to be arraigned (before Him for judgment).20
159. All-Glorified is He, absolutely exalted above such as they attribute to Him.
160. But God’s servants endowed with sincerity in faith and practicing the Religion do not do so.
161. For sure, you and those that you worship,
162. Cannot cause any to deviate concerning God,
163. Except those who have willfully adopted the way to the Blazing Flame.
164. (The angels whom they assert to be God’s daughters say): “There is none among us but has his duty and position assigned,
165. “And surely we are those ranged in ranks (ever-expecting God’s commands);
166. “And most certainly we are the ones glorifying Him (declaring Him to be above having any defects and partners).”
167. They (the polytheists) surely used to say:
168. “If only We had had a Reminder of the like those who lived before us had,
169. “Then we would certainly have been God’s servants endowed with sincerity in faith and practicing the Religion.”
170. Yet (now the Qur’ān has come to them) they disbelieve in it; so they will come to know.
171. Indeed Our word (of promise) has already gone forth in respect of Our servants sent with Our Message (of guidance and warning):
172. That they would surely be helped to victory,
173. And that surely Our host (the host of the true believers), they are certainly the victors.
174. So turn aside from them for a little while (do not care what they do and say);
175. And watch them and see (to what end their denial will lead them), as they also will see it.
176. Or do they seek to hasten on Our punishment (that it befall them immediately)?
177. But when it descends encompassing them, then evil will be the morning of those who have been warned.
178. And ignore what they say and do for a little while.
179. And watch them and see (what the ultimate end of all people will be), as they also will see it.
180. All-Glorified is your Lord, the Lord of might and glory, exalted above all that they attribute (to Him).
181. And peace be upon the Messengers.
182. And all praise and gratitude are for God, the Lord of the worlds.
1. The most commonly accepted opinion concerning the angels mentioned in these verses is that they are the angels accompanying Archangel Gabriel, who was charged with gradually bringing the Qur’ān to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. Those angels aligned themselves in ranks along the way while Gabriel, upon him be peace, brought the Revelation to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and some of them drove away the devils that tried to grasp parts of the Revelation. Some stood around the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, for the same purpose. Among those were the aids of Gabriel, who conveyed Revelations to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings (see 72: 28). There are many Revelations that have not been included in the Qur’ān but came to explain it and constitute the basis of the Sunnah. There are also angels who glorify God in ranks, and recite the Revelation or parts from the Qur’ān, sometimes to or around the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. (For verses with similar meanings, see 2: 97; 26: 194; 80: 16; 72: 28; 37: 166.)
2. This verse emphasizes the fact that it is God Who has absolute authority and control over the whole universe. By the easts, it indicates the spherical shape of planets and their rotations, the plural “easts” indicating many dimensions: any point on the earth is east with respect to what is west of it; therefore, the concept of “east” is different at every point on the earth, thus forming an ensemble of easts. Moreover, there are 180 points where the sun rises in one hemisphere; that is, the sun rises at one place only two days in the year, thus making 360 points throughout the earth. Therefore, this verse is also indicative of the meridians as well as of infinite dimensions, of the relativity of space and the spherical shape of planets, as well as the rotation of the earth.
3. Particularly in the pre-Islamic era, soothsaying or fortune-telling was very widespread among the Arabs, as it is today throughout the world. Devils attempted to ascend to the heavens and listen to the angels’ conversations about the Divine truths and some future events, and if they could grasp something, they would convey it to the soothsayers and fortune-tellers with whom they had relationships, adding many untrue things as well. They made the same attempts when the Revelation began to be revealed to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. But God did not permit them to do so; and if any among them snatched away something from the angels, they were destroyed with missiles. The devils never give up their attempts to ascend to the heavens; but in every attempt, they are repelled, and if some are able to obtain something from the angels, they are then destroyed. (For similar verses and explanations, see 15: 16–18, note 5; 26: 212; 67: 5, note 4; 72: 9.)
4. On the tree of Zaqqūm and its being a means of trial, see 17: 60, note 27.
5. We usually liken beautiful beings to angels, as the women who saw the Prophet Joseph, upon him be peace, likened him to an honorable angel (12: 31); conversely, we liken ugly beings to devils. However, there may be many other points of resemblance between the fruit of the tree of Zaqqūm and the heads of devils. For example, this tree will grow from the seeds sown by the evil deeds committed by the people in Hell, deeds that were prompted by Satan. The Qur’ān mentions deeds – such as taking intoxicants, playing games of chance, offering sacrifices for anything having the meaning of an idol or at the places consecrated for offerings to other than God, and polytheistic divination by shooting arrows and other similar ways (like drawing lots and throwing dice) – as loathsome evil of Satan’s doing (5: 90). So, it is quite natural that such deeds will grow into satan-like trees and yield fruit that resembles the heads of devils.
6. After eating, one needs water. The people of Hell will eat of the fruit of the tree of Zaqqūm and come out of the Blazing Flame into another area of Hell to drink. But their drink will be boiling water that will be mixed with the fruits of Zaqqūm, and it will cut up their bowels (47: 15). Then, they will have to return to the Flame as their dwelling, and their punishment will go on in this strain.
The Qur’ānic descriptions concerning Paradise and Hell cannot be taken as being purely metaphors. Paradise, with all its blessings, and Hell with all its elements of punishment, will be the outcome of people’s beliefs and deeds in the world. So people will live in them with both their spirit, their carnal souls, and bodies; the carnal souls of the people of Paradise will be perfectly purified – resembling those of the worldly life, but in a way that is particular to the other world. Said Nursi provides useful instruction on this point:
It may be asked: What do the human carnal soul or selfhood, and the defective, changing, unstable, and pain-stricken body, have to do with eternity and Paradise? The spirit’s elevated pleasures must surely be enough. Why should a bodily resurrection take place for bodily pleasures? The answer is:
Soil, despite its darkness and density when compared to water, air, and light, is the means and source of all works of Divine art. Therefore, it is somehow superior in meaning over other elements. Human selfhood or the carnal soul, despite its density, is comprehensive, and provided it is purified, it is able to gain some kind of superiority over the other senses and faculties. Likewise, the body is a most comprehensive and diverse mirror for the manifestations of the Divine Names, and has been equipped with instruments to weigh and measure the contents of all Divine treasures. For example, if the tongue’s sense of taste were not the origin of all the varieties of food and drink, we could not experience, recognize, or measure them. Furthermore, the body also contains the instruments needed to experience and recognize most of the manifestations of the Divine Names, as well as the faculties for experiencing the most diverse and infinitely varied pleasures.
The Maker of the universe wants to make known all the treasures of His Mercy and all the manifestations of His Names, as well as enabling us to experience all His bounties. Given this, as the world of eternal happiness is a mighty pool into which the flood of this life flows, as it is a vast exhibition of what the loom of the universe produces, and as it is the everlasting store of the crops produced in the field of this (material) world, then it will resemble this world and life to some degree. The All-Wise Maker, the All-Compassionate Just One will give pleasures particular to each bodily organ as wages for their duty, service, and worship. To think otherwise would be contrary to His Wisdom, Justice, and Compassion. (The Words, “The 28th Word,” 515–516)
7. For Noah’s prayer, see sūrah 54: 10; sūrah 71: 26.
8. The Prophet Adam, upon him be peace, was the first human being (together with his wife, Eve) on the earth and the first Prophet. Though he conveyed God’s Message for the first time, his mission was, in one respect, restricted to his children. However, when the Prophet Noah, upon him be peace, came, humankind had already multiplied and divided into many tribes. So he came to a community that consisted of many divisions, in order to unify them around God’s Message, and he struggled against polytheism and injustices. Despite his efforts, which lasted 950 years, only a few believed in him, while the others were punished by God in the Flood. Humankind began a new life after this event. This shows how refractory and corrupt the people were during Noah’s time and how difficult Noah’s mission was. Had it not been for Noah, upon him be peace, and his continuous endeavors to reform people, the world would have been destroyed at that time. So all the later generations of humankind, the jinn and all the other beings in the world are indebted to Prophet Noah, upon him be peace, because of the continuity of existence in the world. It is because of this that Noah, upon him be peace, deserves and receives greetings with peace, a most honoured reputation, and thanks from all the existent beings in the world. The Qur’ān uses this kind of greeting for him only. Though it also sends greetings to the Messengers whom it will mention below, it does not mention the phrase among all beings.
9. Abraham, upon him be peace, was not physically sick, but the grief that he felt due to his people’s falsehood was preying on his mind and soul. So he was determined to tell them the truth in a convincing way. Once, to avoid participating in their ceremonies, he told them he was unwell and, after they left, he smashed their idols. The people thought that he was really sick, but what he had meant was that he was extremely uneasy because of their worshipping idols.
10. This means that it is God Who creates us and enables us to do things. He has given us will and power so that we are able to will something and do it. However, it is He Who creates and gives external existence to what we do. Our performing an action does not mean that that action must come about. Were it not for His creation, we could do nothing. We are doers or agents, while God is the Creator. If we had no ability to do something and God did not create our actions, then our having free will would be meaningless and we would have no responsibility for our deeds.
11. For a more detailed account of this event, see 21: 51–70.
12. This explicitly shows that what Abraham, upon him be peace, dreamed as a Prophet was a revealed Divine order.
13. Though the present versions of the Bible record that the son God ordered Abraham to sacrifice was Isaac (Genesis, 22: 2), this son was actually Ishmael, the elder brother of Isaac, upon them both be peace. The Qur’ān describes the boy here with the terms mildness and forbearance (37: 101; 21: 85), but presents Isaac, upon him be peace, as a knowledgeable boy, thus emphasizing he was one with profound knowledge (15: 53). Isaac, upon him be peace, was born of Sārah, when she was too old to give birth to a child (11: 71–72; Genesis, 21). Ishmael, upon him be peace, was born of Hagar and, upon God’s command, Abraham, upon him be peace, left them in the place where Makkah is now located. Years later, he built the Ka‘bah with Ishmael, upon him be peace. His attempt to sacrifice Ishmael, upon him be peace, upon God’s order took place in Mina, near Makkah, where sacrifices are offered.
The verse of the Bible (Genesis, 22: 2) which states that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, upon them both be peace, contradicts several other Bible verses. This verse mentions that when this order was given to Abraham, Isaac was his only son, upon them both be peace. Yet according to Genesis, 21: 5, when Isaac was born, Abraham was 100 years old; and according to Genesis, 16: 16, Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86 years old, upon them all be peace. So according to the Bible, when Isaac came into the world, Ishmael was a young man of 14 years, upon them both be peace. This clearly shows that when Abraham was ordered to sacrifice his “only son” he was being ordered to sacrifice Ishmael, upon them both be peace. And the Qur’ānic verse that follows (113) makes it very clear that Isaac was born years after Ishmael, upon them both be peace. So this agreement between the Qur’ān and the Bible— together with their mutual agreement that when God ordered Abraham, upon him be peace, to sacrifice his son, he had only one son— are enough to make the truth plain.
The most compelling piece of non-textual evidence that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael, not Isaac, upon them all be peace, is that while this momentous event, the child-sacrifice being replaced with a ram, is celebrated in Islam – for there is evidence that it was celebrated also in pre-Islamic Arabia by the descendants of Ishmael – it has no place among the festivals of the Jews.
In Rosh Hashanah, one of the major religious festivals of the Jews, a Ram horn (“shofar”) is blown. But it marks the new year for people, animals, and legal contracts. The Bible refers to it as “The Day of the Blowing of the Shofar” (Leviticus 23: 24), and rabbinic literature describes it as “The Day of Judgment” and “The Day of Remembrance.” Some midrashic descriptions depict God as sitting upon a throne, while books containing the deeds of all humanity are opened for review, and each person passing in front of Him for evaluation of his or her deeds. The sound of shofar is intended to awaken the listener from his or her “slumber” and alert them to the coming judgment. (https://slife.org/rosh-hashanah/)
14. God never wills that human beings should be offered as a sacrifice, although it is a virtue for human beings to sacrifice themselves for His sake for lawful ends and in lawful ways. There are many instances of wisdom involved in God’s order to the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, to offer his son as a sacrifice. Abraham, upon him be peace, had a very great character endowed with great potential that allowed him to be the origin of a holy line of Prophets. He was very compassionate, generous, and sincerely submitted to God. He was very concerned for the happiness of his people, both in the world and, more particularly, in the Hereafter. However, in order for this potential to be developed, God puts a person, even if that person is a Prophet, through trials. Succeeding in these trials requires that there should not be any obstacles in the heart that prevent one from getting near to God. These obstacles (see 3: 14) may be physical or emotional attraction to another person, children, treasures of gold and silver (hoarded money), branded horses (or, in the modern form, cars), cattle and plantations (or, in the modern form, business empires of all kinds), as well as posts or positions. So true believers in God can feel love for such things only because of their love of God and according to their relation with God. They cannot give their heart to any of them: God has not made for any man two hearts within his body (one to be assigned for belief in and worship of Him and the other to belief in and worship of others) (33: 4). So God tested Abraham, upon him be peace, with severe commandments and terrible ordeals (such as being thrown into a fire, the destruction of the people of Lot, upon him be peace, who was his relative, being obliged to leave his homeland and family, and being ordered to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, upon him be peace), all of which he fulfilled thoroughly: “Indeed I will make you an imām for all people.” He (Abraham) pleaded: “(Will You appoint imāms) also from my offspring?” He (his Lord) answered: “(I will appoint from among those who merit it. But My covenant does not include the wrongdoers” (2: 124).
By unhesitatingly obeying God’s order, both Abraham and Ishmael, upon them both be peace, were greatly rewarded. God made Abraham, upon him be peace, an imām (leader) for human beings and the father of many great Messengers to come after him. And he rewarded Ishmael, upon him be peace, by making him the origin of a holy line which finally gave birth to the greatest of creation, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
15. Although the Book was given to Moses, due to the fact that his brother, Aaron, upon them both be peace, shared his task (20: 32), the verse mentions the Book as being granted to both of them.
16. “Ba‘l” literally means master, lord, or chief. The ancient Semitic peoples called one of their deities by this name and worshipped him together with “his wife,” Ashtaroth. During the period of the Judges, many among the Children of Israel began to worship them: “And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they followed other deities from among the deities of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths” (Judges, 2: 12–13). This deviance re-appeared after the death of the Prophet Solomon, upon him be peace. The Prophet Ilyās, upon him be peace, who is also mentioned in the Qur’ān(6: 85) and thought to be the Biblical Elijah, grew up at the same time, during the reign of King Ahab, in Israel, who was notorious for his injustices, (1 Kings, 17–21) and King Jehoram, in Judah (2 Chronicles, 21). He struggled against this deviance, immoralities, and injustices.
17. It is generally accepted that Ilyās was also pronounced as Il-Yāsīn, or it may be that Il-Yāsīn is another name by which the Prophet Ilyās, upon him be peace, was called.
18. For a detailed explanation of Jonah’s story, see sūrah 10, note 20.
19. As a Messenger of God, Prophet Jonah, upon him peace, always praised and glorified God. In particular, he glorified Him in the belly of the fish. For his glorification and its meaning, see sūrah 21: 87, note 18.
20. As implied in sūrah 2: 30, the jinn preceded humankind on the earth and ruled it, so they were all aware of the Divine Message. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was also sent to the jinn. This is why they know well what kind of relations there must be, and what is between God and His creatures.