42. Ash-Shura (Consultation)
Revealed in Makkah, this sūrah of 53 verses derives its name from the word Ash-Shura or Ash-Shooraa “consultation” in verse 38. Consultation is one of the most important principles of Islamic social life. This sūrah concentrates on Revelation and the fact that all the Messengers came with and preached the same truths. It warns those who resist against them and gives glad tidings to the believers.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. Hā. Mīm.
2. ‘Ayn. Sīn. Qāf.
3. Just so, He reveals to you as (He did) to those (whom He chose as Messengers) before you, (being as He is) God, the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise.
4. His is whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And He is the All-Exalted, the Supreme.
5. The heavens are all but rent asunder from above them (because of the majesty of Revelation); and the angels glorify their Lord with His praise, and pray for (His establishing a way of guidance for) those on the earth, and for forgiveness (of those who follow it). Beware! Surely God is He Who is the All-Forgiving, the All-Compassionate.1
6. As for those who take for themselves others besides God for guardians and confidants (to whom they entrust their affairs, thereby associating partners with Him): God is ever watchful over them (preserving a record of their deeds). You are not a guardian over them (responsible for their conduct).
7. And just so (as We revealed these truths to the Messengers before you), We reveal to you a Qur’ān (a Recitation) in Arabic so that you may warn the mother-city and all those around it,2 and warn of the Day of Assembly, about (the coming of) which there is no doubt. One party will be in Paradise, and one party in the Blaze.3
8. If God had so willed, He would surely have made them a single community (of the same faith and way of life), but He admits whom He wills into His Mercy. As for the wrongdoers, they have neither a guardian (to protect them), nor a helper.4
9. What! have they taken for themselves other besides God for guardians and confidants (to whom they entrust their affairs, thereby associating partners with Him)? Rather, God is He Who is the true Guardian, and He will revive the dead, and He has full power over everything.
10. “Whatever you differ on, the final judgment about it is with God. Such is God, my Lord: in Him I put my trust, and to Him I turn in devotion.”
11. The Originator of the heavens and the earth (each with particular features and on ordered principles): He has made for you, from your selves, mates, and from the cattle mates (of their own kind): by this means He multiplies you (and the cattle). There is nothing whatever like Him.5 He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.
12. His are the keys of (the treasures of) the heavens and the earth. He enlarges the provision for whom He wills, and straightens it (for whom He wills). Surely He has full knowledge of everything.
13. Of the Religion (that He made for humankind nd revealed through His Messengers throughout history), He has laid down for you as way of life what He willed to Noah, and that which We reveal to you, and what We willed to Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus, (commanding): “Establish the Religion, and do not divide into opposing groups concerning it.”6 What you call people to is hard and distressful for those who associate partners with God. God chooses whom He wills and brings them together (in faith and in obedience) to Himself, and He guides to Himself whoever turns to Him in devotion.
14. And they (who follow the previous ways) were not divided (into opposing groups) until after the knowledge came to them (of the way they must follow and what that entailed, and only) because of envious rivalry and insolence among themselves. Had it not been for a decree already issued by your Lord (granting people respite and postponing the final, decisive judgment) until an appointed term, it would indeed have been judged between them. Surely those who (succeeded those opposing groups and) inherited the Book are in doubting uncertainty about it.7
15. So (O Messenger), call people to that (the way of life God has laid down for you). Pursue what is exactly right (in every matter) as you are commanded (by God). Do not follow their desires and caprices (who follow other ways, including the followers of the previous Scriptures), and say: “I believe in whatever Book God has sent down; and I am commanded to bring about equity among you (without discrimination according to race, rank by birth, wealth, or power). God is our Lord and your Lord. To us are accounted our deeds, and to you, your deeds: (let there be) no contention between us and you. God will bring us all together (and settle any difference between us and you). To Him is the homecoming.”8
16. And as for those who contend about God (defying His Lordship, or struggling against His Religion) after His call has been accepted (and His Religion recognized as true), their contention is void in their Lord’s sight, and (His) wrath (condemnation) is upon them, and for them is a severe punishment.
17. God is He Who has sent down the Book with truth and the Balance (setting out the truth and what is right in all matters). And for all you know, the Last Hour may well be near.
18. Those who do not believe in it (derisively) ask it to be hastened; whereas those who believe hold it in awe, and know that it is true (certain to come). Be aware! Those who dispute concerning the Last Hour have indeed gone far astray.
19. God is All-Gracious to His servants. He grants provision to whom He wills (in the manner and degree that He wills); and He is the All-Strong, the All-Glorious with irresistible might.
20. Whoever desires (and strives to gain) the harvest of the Hereafter, We increase him in his harvest; and whoever desires the harvest of the world, We grant him out of that, and he has no portion in the Hereafter.9
21. Or do they have partners with God who have prescribed for them in the Religion what God has not allowed (and so they judge and act however they wish)? Had it not been for a decree (already issued by God, postponing the final, decisive judgment) between people, it would indeed have been judged between them. Surely for the wrongdoers there is a painful punishment.
22. You will see the wrongdoers (who presume to lay down a way of life in the name of religion other than God’s) full of fear on account of what they have earned, and it will inevitably befall them. As for those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, they will be in the luxuriant meadows of the Gardens. They will have whatever they wish prepared in God’s Presence. That indeed is the great favor.
23. That it is of which God gives the glad tidings to His servants who believe and do good, righteous deeds. Say: “I ask of you no wage for it (for conveying God’s Religion to you, which will bring you this favor), but (I ask of you for) love for my near relatives (on account of my mission).”10 Whoever scores a good deed, We increase him in good in respect of it. Surely God is All-Forgiving, All-Responsive (to gratitude).
24. What! do they say that he (the Messenger) has fabricated a falsehood in attribution to God? If He so wills, He can seal up your heart (so you would not be able to recite to them anything of Revelation. But what you convey to them is the Revelations from Us.) And God blots out falsehood, and affirms the truth to be true by His decrees. Surely, God has full knowledge of what lies hidden in the bosoms.
25. He is the One Who accepts repentance from His servants and excuses evil deeds, and He knows all that you do.
26. He responds with acceptance to (the worship and supplication of) those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, and grants them more out of His bounty (than they asked for). However, as to the unbelievers, for them is a severe punishment.
27. If God were always to provide for (all of) His servants in great abundance, they would certainly have transgressed all bounds on the earth; but He sends it down in due measure as He wills. Surely He is fully aware of His servants, and sees them well.
28. He it is Who sends down the rain, useful in all ways, to rescue (them) after they have lost all hope, and spreads out His mercy far and wide (to every being). He it is Who is the Guardian, and the All-Praiseworthy.
29. Among His manifest signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and that He has dispersed in both of them living creatures. And He has full power to gather them together when He wills.11
30. Whatever affliction befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned;12 and yet, He overlooks many (of the wrongs you do).
31. You cannot frustrate in the earth (God’s will). You have, apart from God, neither a guardian (to whom you can entrust your affairs) nor a helper.
32. And among His manifest signs are the ships running through the sea like (floating) hills.
33. If He so wills, He calms the wind, and so they lie motionless on its surface. Surely in that are signs for all who are greatly patient and perseverant (in adversity for His sake), and greatly thankful (for His favors).13
34. Or He causes them (the ships) to sink because of what they (the travelers) have earned; and yet, He overlooks many (of their wrongs).
35. Those who dispute concerning Our signs and Revelations should know that they have no (escape, nor any) place of refuge.
36. Whatever thing you are granted is but for the passing enjoyment of the present, worldly life; but what God keeps for you in the Hereafter is much better and more enduring for those who believe and put their trust in their Lord:
37. Those who avoid the major sins and indecent, shameful deeds (which are indeed to be counted among major sins),14 and when they become angry, even then they forgive (rather than retaliate in kind);
38. And those who answer the call of their Lord and obey Him (in His orders and prohibitions), and establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions; and whose affairs are by consultation among themselves;15 and who spend out of what We provide for them (to provide sustenance for the needy, and in God’s cause);
39. And those who, when an unjust aggression is inflicted on (any or all of) them, defend themselves and one another (to end the aggression).
40. The recompense of an evil deed can only be an evil equal to it; but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God. Surely He does not love the wrongdoers.16
41. But whoever defends himself and restores his right (in the lawful way) after he has been wronged – against such there is no route (of blame and retaliation).
42. The route (of blame and retaliation) is only against those who wrong people and behave rebelliously on earth, offending against all right. For such there is a painful punishment.
43. But, indeed, whoever shows patience and forgives (the wrong done to him), surely that is a among meritorious things requiring great resolution to fulfill.
44. Whoever (due to his choice) God leads astray, he will no longer have any guardian (to help and support him). You will see the wrongdoers, when they see the punishment, saying: “Is there any way back (to the world for us to become righteous people)?”
45. You will see them brought before it (Hell) in fear and humbled by disgrace, and looking around with furtive looks. And those who believe will say: “Those are the real losers who have ruined their own selves and their families on the Resurrection Day.” Be aware: the wrongdoers are in an enduring punishment.
46. And they will surely have no guardians to help them apart from God (only He is the Guardian with power to help His servants, as He wills). Whoever God leads astray, he can no longer have a way (to guidance and eternal happiness).
47. Answer the call of your Lord before there comes to you a Day which God will not remove (from them) and none can prevent Him from bringing it. You will have no refuge on that Day, nor power of denial (of any of your sins or of your identity).
48. But (do not grieve) if they turn away in aversion (from your call, O Messenger): We have not sent you (as a Messenger) so as to be their keeper (to prevent their misdeeds or carry accountability for them). What rests with you is but to convey (God’s Message) fully. Indeed, when We favor man with a taste of mercy, he rejoices in it (without ever thinking to express gratitude to Him Who favored him). But if an evil befalls them because of what their hands have forwarded, surely then humans are ungrateful.
49. To God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. He creates whatever He wills. He grants to whom He wills daughters, and grants to whom He wills sons.
50. Or, He mingles them, both sons and daughters (granted to whom He wills); and He leaves barren whom He wills. Surely He is All-Knowing, All-Powerful.
51. It is not for any mortal that God should speak to him unless it be by Revelation or from behind a veil, or by sending a messenger (angel) to reveal, by His leave, whatever He wills (to reveal).17 Surely He is All-Exalted, All-Wise.
52. And thus (in the ways mentioned), We have revealed to you a spirit of Our command (the life-giving Message, the Qur’ān). You would not (otherwise) have known what the Book was (with all the knowledge it contains, and the way of life it establishes), and what faith was (as described by the Book, and with all its principles, requirements, and implications). But We have made it a light by which We guide whom We will of Our servants. And certainly you (by God’s guidance) guide (people) to a straight path –
53. The path of God, to Whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Be aware: all affairs are ultimately referred to God.
1. These initial verses concern the Revelation. As a term, it means God’s communication of His Messages to His Prophets and Messengers in a special way, the exact nature of which we cannot know. As will be mentioned in verse 51 in this sūrah, and as was explained before in sūrah 20, note 5, Revelation takes place in three ways. God speaks or communicates a message to a Prophet from behind a veil; or by putting the meaning in the heart of the Prophet (as a special kind of Revelation); or by sending an angel. A Prophet is sure that the one who speaks to him from behind a veil or puts a meaning in his heart is God.
It is because of the weight and majesty of Revelation that the heavens are nearly rent asunder from above while it is being conveyed to the Prophet. Their being nearly rent asunder from above implies that Revelation issues from the “realm” that is more sublime, or higher; there are paths along which God’s Revelation is carried, along which the angels move; and the acts of conscious beings ascend to God (23: 17). The sublimity and height are, of course, not of a material or physical kind. And as explained in sūrah 37: 1-3, note 1, some other angels accompanied Archangel Gabriel, who brought the Qur’ān gradually to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings. Those angels aligned themselves in ranks along the way of Gabriel, upon him be peace, and drove away the devils that tried to grasp something of the Revelation. Some from among them, as the aides of Gabriel, brought Revelations to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, that was not of the Qur’ān. Muslim scholars call the Revelations that constitute the Qur’ān “the Revelation recited.” The Revelations which they call “the Revelation not recited” and are not included in the Qur’ān, came either to explain the Qur’ān or to lay new commandments and guide the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and the believers in emerging matters. The Sunnah, as the verbal declarations, acts, and confirmations of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is based on these Revelations. The Messenger says: “Beware! I have been given the Book and its like together with it” (Abū Dāwūd, “Sunnah,” 5).
2. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was ordered to begin his mission with his nearest relatives (26: 214), and then to warn all the Makkan people (in this verse) and all the Arab people (in this verse and 41: 3,) and then all conscious beings (all humankind and jinn) (38: 87; 21: 107).
3. The second part of the verse is of the same import as verses 103 and 105 in Sūrah Hūd: That is a day when all humankind will be gathered together Among those (gathered together), some are wretched and some happy.
4. For an explanation, see: 5: 48, note 11. In addition, God admits into His Mercy (owns and protects them, especially from eternal punishment) those who are not wrongdoers. As for the wrongdoers (those who deny God or associate partners with Him and commit injustices in life), He excludes them from His Mercy.
5. This short statement emphasizes that God is not of the same kind as those who have been created and, therefore, He is beyond all human concepts of Him. So He has no mates and nothing is like Him, nor does He beget, nor is He begotten. Nothing – neither matter, nor space, nor time – can restrict or contain Him. And this is why His Attributes – His Hearing, Seeing, Knowledge, Will, Power, Creating, and so on – are also beyond anything we can conceive.
6. This verse has many implications, such as the following:
- The religion God has made and appointed for humankind during history is one and the same. It has the same essentials of faith, worship, conduct, and morality.
- Among the Prophets, God chose some as Messengers; and among the Messengers, He chose five as being of a particular degree: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, upon them all be peace and blessings. He established for each principles of conduct in life, in addition to the pillars of faith, worship, and morality. These principles, which form a way of life (Law), are the same in essence, though there are some differences among them in secondary matters, as we can understand from verse 5: 48 (see that verse and the corresponding note 11). When the Last Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, came, his Law encompassed all the previous Laws with certain changes (in regard to how the Islamic Law treated the previous ones, see 2: 106, note 95).
- In Islamic terminology, the Law is Sharī‘ah, and it is used for the practical aspect of the Religion.
- The verse uses the word, will, for the Laws ordained for Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, upon them be all be peace, but it uses the verb, reveal, for the Last Messenger, upon him be peace. Will implies strong advice and giving special importance to certain things. So concerning the way of life willed to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, upon them all be peace, some matters had special importance according to the time and conditions particular to each. However, the use of reveal for the way of life enjoined on the Last Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, implies that all aspects of it – including those which exist in the Qur’ān and those established by the Sunnah of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings – were revealed by God and are of universal importance.
- The verse first mentions Prophet Noah, upon him be peace, and continues to talk about the Last Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and then the other great Messengers. This is because Prophet Noah, upon him be peace, is the first Messenger to whom a comprehensive Law to govern life was willed, and the Last Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is the greatest of all; and the way of life revealed to him is universal and inclusive of all the previous ones. We see a similar order in 33: 7: And (remember) when We took from the Prophets their covenant, and from you (O Muhammad); and from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus the son of Mary, We took from them a solemn covenant. This verse first mentions all the Prophets, particularly mentioning the five greatest among them, beginning with the last one, due to his being the greatest among them and also because God’s Religion gained universality with him.
- Preserving and obeying the Law is indispensable for establishing the Religion and preserving it from distortions, changes, and corruptions. The Law has the same meaning for the Religion as the skin has for the human body. The main reason why the Religion lost its originality and purity after the Prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, upon them all be peace, is that people either ignored or neglected the Law, or changed it, or disobeyed it. Negligence of, or disobedience to, the Law is also one of the basic reasons for the internal divisions among the communities of the Messengers after them, and for the deviations witnessed concerning the essentials of faith.
7. This verse mainly concerns the People of the Book, the followers of Moses and Jesus, upon them be peace. Their being in doubt about their Book means that some of them are really in doubt about its being a Divine Book and/or about some passages being really from God, while some others doubt whether it has been preserved and transmitted to them in its originality, and still others have other uncertainties about it. For the decree already issued by God, see sūrah 2: 36; sūrah 7: 24.
8. This verse is of similar import to verse 3: 64: Say (to them, O Messenger): “O People of the Book, come to a word common between us and you, that we worship none but God, and associate none as partner with Him, and that none of us take others for Lords, apart from God.” If they (still) turn away, then say: “Bear witness that we are Muslims (submitted to Him exclusively).” See the corresponding note 12.
9. The last two verses explain two important principles in the provision of living beings. One is that God creates all living beings and determines their needs and the way in which they are provided for. The other is that He gives those who aim at the Hereafter more than they deserve, but gives those who aim at the world some amount of worldly provisions, with no portion at all in the Hereafter. This implies that it is not possible for one who is greedy for worldly provisions to obtain everything in the world and feel content with it. So one should not aim for the world, but rather focus on the harvest of the Hereafter, while not neglecting working for one’s livelihood (see 28: 77, note 16).
10. All love is essentially for God, and all other loves should be on account of Him; and even love for the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is essentially on account of God. Otherwise, love for any other being, without considering God or that being’s relationship with God, may lead to perdition, like the love of many Christians for Jesus, upon him be peace, which has caused them to deify him, and the inordinate love of many Shi‘ites for ‘Ali, may God be pleased with him, which has led many of them, tragically, to disparage the majority of other Companions and his beloved wife, Āishah. The reason why God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, asked his community to love his near relatives, including his household in particular (‘Ali, Fātimah, Hasan and Husayn – the latter two being his grandsons from Fātimah and ‘Ali) was because of the great service they and their descendants would provide for Islam until Judgment Day.
11. According to many classical interpreters of the Qur’ān, such as Mujāhid, and contemporary interpreters, such as Fethullah Gülen, it is more appropriate to understand from this verse that there are corporeal, even conscious creatures like those on the earth, in some other parts of the heavens. In the future, humankind may travel as far as those parts, and at any point of the heavens or the earth, they may meet up with those creatures.
12. In principle, everyone gets what they deserve. However, an affliction that befalls a believer because of their sins or faults causes, if the believer repents, that sin to be forgiven and a new door to a new reward to be opened. However, those who suffered the greatest sufferings have been the Prophets and their true successors in serving God’s cause; and the afflictions befalling such sinless people cause them to be continuously promoted to higher and higher ranks.
13. When an affliction befalls believers, they show patience; when they are favored with something good, they give thanks to God. In either case, they gain reward.
14. For the major sins, see: 4: 31, note 11. “Indecent, shameful deeds” generally denote deeds such as fornication, adultery, prostitution, and homosexuality.
15. Consultation is the first requirement for reaching the right decision. Decisions reached without due reflection or proper consultation usually come to nothing. Individuals who depend only on themselves are disconnected from others and unconcerned with the opinions of others; such people, even if they happen to be geniuses, are at considerable risk of error, as compared to those who exchange opinions and arguments (See Pearls of Wisdom, 77–78).
The advisory system is so important in Islam that God praises the first, exemplary Muslim community as a community whose affairs were conducted through consultation. This becomes even clearer when we realize that this first community was led by the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, who never spoke out of caprice or on his own accord, but only spoke about what was revealed to him by God (53: 2–3); God considers consultation so important that He ordered His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, to practice it with his Companions (3: 159). Even after the Muslims’ reverse at the Battle of Uhud (in 625), due to some of the Companions’ disobedience of the Prophet’s orders, God told him to engage in consultation. The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, and his rightly-guided successors always followed the principle of consultation.
Consultation settles many affairs among Muslims. Judges who cannot decide cases employ consultation to reach a verdict, based on the Qur’ān and the Sunnah, thus making it similar to ijtihād (deducing new laws through reasoning based on the Qur’ān and Sunnah) and qiyās (analogy). Furthermore, any punishment of a secondary nature that is not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah can be pronounced after consulting authoritative Muslim jurists.
16. The Qur’ān insists on justice and the equality of rights, and that inviolate values demand equal respect and retaliation. So the Qur’ān allows one to reciprocate any wrong done to one if retaliation is possible. (For an explanation, see sūrah 2: 178–179, 194, notes 131, 140; sūrah 5: 31, 45, notes 6, 10.) However, since a person wronged can easily be tempted to exceed the limits in retaliation, in the places where the Qur’ān mentions the permission of retaliation as a legal principle, it also warns against exceeding the limits and draws attention to the beauty and importance of forgiveness, exhorting individuals to forgive any wrongdoing inflicted on them (see sūrah 22: 60, note 16).
17. Every human being has the potential to be addressed by God. However, in order to use this potential, one has to have attained to a certain degree of spiritual and intellectual purity. The Prophets had the highest degree of this purity. God’s special speaking to the Prophets is called wahy (Revelation). Revelation occurs in three ways. One is that God suddenly puts the meaning in the Prophet’s heart and he knows that this meaning is from God. This is the first way mentioned in the verse as by Revelation.
The second way or form is that God speaks to a human being from behind a veil, as He spoke to the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, in the Valley of Tuwā, from behind a tree; or as He did on Mount Sinai, where Moses, upon him be peace, heard God’s speech from behind a veil, the identity of which we do not know. The third way is that God sends an angel to convey His Message to the Prophet. The Qur’ān was revealed to God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, in this way. The archangel Gabriel brought it to him. The Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, saw him and heard his speech.
A person can also receive God’s Message in dreams. If a Prophet receives such a message in dream, it is Revelation. An ordinary person can also have true dreams through which he or she can receive some meaning from the Almighty. Such dreams sometimes require interpretation, but sometimes are clear enough not to need an interpretation. The meanings or messages an ordinary believer receives in true dreams are called “glad heralds” according to a Prophetic Tradition (al-Bukhārī, “Ta‘bīr,” 5).
God also reveals to or inspires in animals (16: 88). This is either an intrinsic, constant knowledge deposited in them, or a constant orientation or direction from God (see Appendix 9).