41. Fussilat (Distinctly Spelled Out)

This sūrah of 54 verses was revealed in Makkah after the conversion of Hamzah, the Prophet’s uncle, and before the conversion of ‘Umar, may God be pleased with them both. It derives its name from the word fussilat in the third verse, which means, “arranged in sequence and distinctly spelled out.” It is also called Hā-Mīm Sajdah, meaning “the Hā-Mīm prostration.” It mentions some attributes of the Qur’ān and some of the purposes for its revelation. It also describes the nature of Prophethood and Revelation. It draws attention to the proofs of Divine Oneness in the universe, the tragic end of some ancient peoples who denied God’s Revelation, and the rewards given to the believers.

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

1. Hā. Mīm.

2. (This is) the Book being sent down in parts from the All-Merciful (Who embraces all beings with His Mercy), the All-Compassionate (Who has special mercy for the believers):

3. A Book whose communications have been spelled out distinctly and made clear, and whose verses are in ordered sequence; a Qur’ān (Recitation) in Arabic for a people who have knowledge (and so can appreciate excellence in the use of the language);

4. (Being sent) as a bearer of glad tidings (of the recompense for faith and righteousness); and a warner (against the consequences of misguidance).1 Yet most of them (the Makkan people) turn away, and they do not give ear to it (being inwardly averse, and deaf to its excellence).

5. They say: “Our hearts are wrapped in coverings against what you call us to, and in our ears is heaviness, and between us and you is a veil. So take action (such as is in your power), as we are taking action (such as we wish to take).”

6. Say: “I am but a mortal like you. But it is revealed to me that your God is the One and Only God. So take the straight path to Him (in correct belief and obedience), and ask His forgiveness (for your sins).” Woe to those who associate partners (with Him),

7. Those who do not spend out of their wealth (in alms for the poor and needy), and they are unbelievers in the Hereafter.

8. But those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, surely for them is a reward, constant and beyond measure.

9. Say: “Is it that you (associate partners with and, therefore,) disbelieve in the One Who created the earth in two days,2 and (on account of that unbelief) set up rivals to Him (as deities, lords and objects of worship)?” That is the Lord of the worlds.

10. He has set in it (the earth) firm mountains rising above it, and bestowed blessings therein, and determined its provisions in due measure (to be obtained) in four periods, in a way to meet the vital necessities of all things and beings, that seek their provision from Him.

11. And He directed (His Knowledge, Will, Power, and Favor) to the heaven when it was as a cloud (of gases), and ordered it and the earth, “Come both of you, willingly or unwillingly!” They said: “We have come in willing obedience.”3

12. So He fashioned them (the clouds of gaseous elements which then existed in the place of the heaven) seven heavens in two days, and inspired in each heaven its tasks. And We adorned the lowest heaven (the heaven of the world) with lamps (stars), and guard (against every satan who would attempt to steal away information of the Unseen from angels).4 That is the measured determination of the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Knowing.5

13. If they turn away in aversion, say (to them): “I have warned you of a punishment striking like the lightning (that struck the tribes of) Ād and Thamūd.

14. When the Messengers (sent to each) came to them (with all evidence of truth) from every approach, preaching: “Worship none but God alone!” they said: “Had it been the will of our Lord (to send us Messengers to warn us), He would certainly have sent down angels. So we disbelieve in what (you claim) you have been sent with.”

15. Now, as for the Ād: They acted arrogantly and oppressively in the land against all right, and said: “Who can be superior to us in power?” Did they not see that God, Who created them, is superior to them in power? And they persisted in rejecting Our manifest signs and Revelations.

16. So then We sent upon them a furious windstorm through days of disaster, and so We made them taste the punishment of disgrace in the life of this world, while the punishment of the Hereafter is more humiliating. And they will not be helped (to evade it).

17. As for the (tribe of) Thamūd: We showed them (the straight path of) guidance, but they preferred blindness over guidance. So then the lightning-like punishment of humiliation seized them because of what they had been earning for themselves.

18. And We saved those who believed and who, in awe of God and reverence for Him, habitually avoided sin.

19. And (remind of) the day when the enemies of God will be raised up (from their graves) and gathered for the Fire: they will be driven (to the place of reckoning) in arrays,

20. Until when they reach it, their ears, and their eyes, and their skins will bear witness against them as to all that they did habitually.

21. They will ask their skins, “Why have you borne witness against us?” They will answer: “God Who makes everything speak has made us speak.”6 It is He Who has created you in the first instance, and to Him you are being brought back.

22. You did not seek to veil yourselves (when sinning) without ever considering that your ears, or your eyes, or your skins would one day bear witness against you. Moreover, you supposed that God did not know most of what you did habitually.7

23. It is that supposition of yours which you entertained about your Lord that has tumbled you down into perdition, and so you have come to be among the losers.

24. If they endure it (or do not endure it), still the Fire will be an everlasting dwelling for them. If they ask for favor (to be saved from it, or do not ask), still they are not of those who will be shown favor (and saved).

25. (In return for their preferring unbelief and sinfulness over belief and piety) We have assigned them comrades (of satanic disposition, not right-minded) who deck out their past (deeds) and their present (intentions) to be appealing to them. And the word (the sentence of punishment passed) on the communities of jinn and humankind before them (who were self-righteous in the same way) has also been their due. Surely they are the losers.

26. Those who disbelieve say: “Do not listen to this Qur’ān, and speak random noise (during its recitation) so that you may prevail over it.”

27. But We will certainly make those who disbelieve taste a severe punishment, and certainly recompense them for the worst of what they keep doing.8

28. That is the recompense of God’s enemies – the Fire. Therein they will have the everlasting abode, as a deserving recompense for rejecting Our signs and Revelations obstinately.

29. Those who disbelieve will say (as they enter the Fire): “Our Lord! Show us those of both the jinn and humankind that led us astray, that we may trample them underfoot, and they will be of the most humiliated!”

30. As for those who say, “Our Lord is God,” and then follow the Straight Path (in their belief, thought, and actions) without deviation, the angels descend upon them from timeto time (in the world, as protecting comrades, and in the Hereafter, with the message): “Do not fear or grieve; but rejoice in the glad tidings of Paradise which you have been promised.

31. “We are your well-wishing comrades and helpers in the Hereafter, as we have been in the life of the world. You will have therein all that your souls desire, and you will have therein all that you ask for.

32. “A welcoming gift from the One All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.”9

33. Who is better in speech than one who calls to God and does good, righteous deeds, and says: “Surely I am of the Muslims (wholly submitted to Him)?”

34. Goodness and evil can never be equal. Repel evil with what is better (or best).10 Then see: the one between whom and you there was enmity has become a bosom friend.

35. And none are ever enabled to attain to it (such great virtue) save those who are patient (in adversities and against the temptations of their souls and Satan), and none are ever enabled to attain to it save those who have a great part in human perfections and virtues.

36. And if a prompting from Satan should stir in you (when carrying out your mission or during worship or in your daily life), seek refuge in God immediately. He is the One Who is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.

37. And the night and the day, and the sun and the moon (all the phenomena and objects you see in the universe) are among His signs (guiding to His absolute Oneness). Do not prostrate in adoration of the sun or the moon, but prostrate in adoration of God, Who has created them, if indeed it is Him that you worship.

38. If they are too arrogant (to worship Him alone), it is a fact that those who are in the Presence of your Lord (the angels and His sincere servants among humankind and jinn), glorify Him alone by night and day and are tireless (therein).

39. And among His signs is this: you see the earth lying low and barren; but when We send down water upon it, it stirs and swells (with life). He Who revives it is certainly the One Who will bring the dead to life. Surely He has full power over everything.

40. Surely those who deviate from the right way concerning Our signs (in nature and life) and Revelations11 are not hidden from Us. Who is in better state – the one who is thrown into the Fire, or the one who comes secure on the Day of Resurrection? Do what you will. surely He sees well all that you do.

41. Those who disbelieve in this Reminder (the Qur’ān) when it comes to them (are among those who will be thrown into the Fire). For it is surely a glorious, unconquerable Book.

42. Falsehood can never have access to it, whether from before it or from behind it (whether by arguments and attitudes based on modern philosophies, or by attacks from the past based on earlier Scriptures;12 (it is) the Book being sent down in parts from the One All-Wise, All-Praiseworthy (to Whom all praise and gratitude belong).

43. What is said to you (O Messenger) is but that which was said (by the unbelievers) to the Messengers before you. Your Lord is indeed One Who disposes forgiveness, and Who disposes painful retribution.

44. If We had made it a Qur’ān in a foreign tongue, they (who now reject it) would certainly have said: “If only its communications had been spelled out distinctly and made clear! Why a foreign tongue, and an Arab (to speak it to Arabs)?” Say: “(It is not a Book whose power or purpose is confined by language.) For those who believe, it is a guidance and healing (for their hearts and minds, and all their senses). But as for those who do not believe, in their ears is heaviness, and it is imperceptible to them. They are (like people who are being) called from far off (so the call does not reach their hearing and sight).

45. Assuredly, We granted Moses the Book, and discordant views arose about it (just as your people, O Messenger, say different things concerning the Book We are revealing to you). Had it not been for a decree already issued by your Lord (postponing the final, decisive judgment until an appointed term), it would indeed have been judged between them.13 They are (nevertheless) in doubting uncertainty about it (about the Qur’ān and their attitude to it).

46. Whoever does good, righteous deeds, it is for his own soul’s good; and whoever does evil, it is to its detriment. Your Lord never does the least wrong to His servants.

47. To Him alone is referred the knowledge of the Last Hour. And no fruits emerge from their sheaths, and no female conceives or gives birth, but with His Knowledge. And on the Day, He will call out to them: “Where now are those (you alleged and proclaimed as) partners to Me?” They will surely say: “We proclaim to You that there is none among us who can testify (to that false claim).”

48. And those whom (they made as deities and) invoked before will surely fail them; so they will know for certain that there is no escape for them.

49. Human never tires of asking for (what he presumes is) his own good, but if evil befalls him, then he gives up all hope and loses heart.14

50. And, assuredly, if We (by Our grace) let him taste a mercy from Us after a hardship that has visited him, he certainly says: “This is but my due (and I can dispose it as I please), and I do not consider that the Last Hour will ever come (so that I should be called to account for it). Even if (it should come, and) I should be brought back to my Lord, I will surely find with Him the best (because I judge myself to always be deserving of what is the best).” Without doubt, We will make those who disbelieve understand all that they do (and call them to account), and without doubt, We will make them taste a harsh punishment.

51. When We bestow favors upon human, he retreats and draws aside (from his Lord); and when evil befalls him, then he has recourse to long supplications.

52. Say: “Tell me, if it (the Qur’ān) is from God, and after (knowing that) you have disbelieved in it, then who is more astray than one who is in wide schism (separating himself from the truth)?”

53. We will show them Our manifest signs (proofs) in the horizons of the universe and within their own selves, until it will become manifest to them that it (the Qur’ān) is indeed the truth.15 Is it not sufficient (as proof) that your Lord is a witness over all things (just as He is witnessed to by all things)?16

54. Beware! They are in (willful) doubt about the meeting with God (because they vainly expect to escape accounting for their deeds and, therefore, decline to believe in the Qur’ān). Beware! He is One Who encompasses all things (in His Knowledge and Power).

The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

1. Verses 2–4 mention some attributes of the Qur’ān, as follows:

(1) It cannot be imitated. (2) It is a Book. (3) It was sent down in parts. (4) In addition to His other Attributes, God’s Mercy and Compassion are reflected in the Qur’ān and, therefore, it is a mercy for all creation and especially for the believers. (5) Its verses are arranged in sequence without any confusion and distinctly spelled out. (6) It is a Book that is and should be distinctly recited. (7) It is in Arabic and, therefore, Arabic is an essential aspect of it. (8) Particularly those people who have sufficient knowledge of language can easily discern its aspects as a Book. (9) It gives glad tidings of a bright future and eternal happiness to those who believe and do good, righteous deeds. (10) It warns the misguided against the consequences of their way (Suat Yıldırım, 476).

The Qur’ān being revealed in Arabic is not incompatible with its message being universal. It was in Makkah in the very early period of his mission that God’s Messenger, upon him be peace, declared that his message was meant for everyone: “O humankind! Surely I am to you all the Messenger of God, of Him to Whom belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth” (7: 158); Say: “God: a witness between me and you; and to me is being revealed this Qur’ān so that I may warn you thereby, and whomever it may reach” (6: 19).

2. As stated in sūrah 7, note 11, the concept of day (yawm) in the Qur’ān is a relative unit of time. So it may mean here two stages or eras, one referring to the parting of the primeval matter of creation into heaven and earth (21: 30), and the other, to the fashioning of the earth and preparing it for life (13: 3; 79: 30–33).

3. Some modern researchers (i.e., Nurbaki, 13–24) understand from this verse the following:

The Qur’ān indicates that there is some difficulty in the co-operation between the earth and sky. As is known, the molecules and atoms in the atmosphere try to escape into space while the earth tries to attract and hold them. For the formation of an atmosphere, the motions that lead to the force of escaping molecules have to be counterbalanced by the gravitational attraction of the earth. This is an almost impossibly difficult condition to fulfill. From the standpoint of geophysics, these extremely difficult conditions require the preservation of three important types of balance: (i) atmospheric temperature, (ii) proportionate gravitational attraction on the part of the earth, and (iii) the non-violation of this balance by various radiant energies arriving from space. The Qur’ān expresses all these facts by the phrases, Come both of you, willingly or unwillingly! That the almost impossible conditions have been fulfilled only by God’s Power is indicated by the phrase, They said: “We have come in willing obedience.”

4. For an explanation, see 15: 16–18, note 5; 37: 6–7, note 3; 67: 5, note 4.

5. For the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the meaning of seven heavens, see 2: 29, note 28.

6. As pointed out in the verse The abode of the Hereafter is truly alive (29: 64), and as explained in note 4 to 25: 12, the Qur’ān states that everything in the Abode of Hereafter will be alive. So every part of a human being will bear witness for or against him or her. The restriction of testifying to the skin in verse 21 is because the skin is the boundary between a living creature and the world around it; it is also the physical interface between the creature and other creatures and the world. Hence, it is the location of all contact, good or bad in kind. If, as here implied, it is also the medium where all such contact is recorded (we know in this life only the extremes of contact that leave scars on the skin), then the skin is an ideal witness.

7. Saying, you thought that God did not know most of what you used to do, instead of, you supposed that God did not know whatever you used to do, means that they believed in God as the Supreme Being with knowledge, but they acted recklessly as if they did not accept that God had no knowledge of most of what they used to do, or that they did not really believe in the all-encompassing nature of God’s Knowledge.

8. The worst of what the unbelievers do is certainly unbelief; so first of all, God will punish them for unbelief. The verse aims to strongly discourage the unbelievers. 

9. Since Paradise is a place of absolute purity and those who will enter it will enter fully purified, Paradise will be full of completely pure blessings with which its residents will be totally content.

10. That is, repel falsehood with the truth; do not give harm in return for harm, and follow the right way and take the right means to attain a right goal. This is a basic principle of Islamic conduct and of preaching Islam. In addition, a Muslim individual is expected to forgive what has been done to him or her individually, and to respond with what is the best in conduct.

11. Deviation from the right way concerning God’s signs in nature and life can occur in many ways. For example, making any of these signs—a the sun, the moon, the stars, or any human being or jinn – an object of worship, or using them as the means of denying God as the Creator and Ruler of them, as the modern materialistic scientific approach does, are two such ways. Deviation concerning the Revelations or the Divine Scriptures can also occur in numerous ways. Some of these ways are by distorting their meaning, misusing them for worldly benefits, making alterations in them, or interpreting them arbitrarily without being based on sound knowledge.

12. Said Nursi explains it thus: If you look at the Qur’ān from a sound heart, you will see that its six sides are so brilliant and transparent that no darkness and misguidance, doubt and suspicion, or deception can penetrate it. Nor is there a fissure through which such things could infiltrate into the sphere of its purity. Above it is the stamp of miraculousness, beneath it proof and evidence, behind it its point of support – pure Divine Revelation, before it happiness in this world and the next, on its right, questioning human reason about its truth and ensuring its confirmation, and on its left, calling the human conscience to testify to its truth and securing its submission. Inside the Qur’ān is the pure guidance of the All-Merciful One, and outside is the light of faith. (See The Words, “The 22nd Word,” 321.)

13. The decree in question is that which is found in 2: 36, and 7: 24: There shall be for you on the earth (where you have already been appointed as vicegerent) a habitation and provision until an appointed time.

14. This is typical of one who does not believe in God as the Creator of all good and evil, and in Divine Destiny. Since such persons concentrate on the worldly life in pursuit of its enjoyments, and attribute everything to their own knowledge and abilities according to the “law” of cause and effect, when they feel that there is no longer any means to attain something, they become utterly desperate.  In contrast, a believer never loses hope because he or she believes that it is God Who also creates the means to attain something, and He can always create new means when one fails. Believers also know for certain that God is the Creator of all things, including good and evil, and that evil is an outcome of their own choices. So when they cannot attain something, they either think that they have made a mistake in trying to attain it, or that God does not will them to have it because it is not good for them to attain it.

15. This sentence has several implications, such as follows:

    • The polytheists of Makkah will certainly witness that the tidings of the Qur’ān and the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, for the future will prove true. Also, all other future events will establish the truth of the Qur’ān and the call of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, so that the Makkan unbelievers will confess it.
    • The developments of “natural” sciences and the sciences that study human physiology will prove the essentials of Islamic faith, especially God’s Existence and Oneness. So almost all human beings will have to confess the truth of the Qur’ān and the Messengership of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
    • In addition to sciences, future history, worldwide, will clearly show that the Qur’ān is the truth, and the promise stated in 24: 55 will prove to be true for the believers toward the end of time, as it proved for the believers during the Messenger’s time.

16. That is, God sees, hears and is aware of all things and events. He is also witnessed by all things and events as their Sole Creator, Deity, Lord (Sustainer, Protector), Provider,  and Sovereign. In every thing and event there are manifest signs pointing to Him with His Names and Attributes. For one whose heart is not dead or sealed, whose eyes are not blinded, and whose ears are not deafened to the truth because of prejudices, sins, wrongdoing, and arrogance, He is more manifest than anything else.

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