46. Al-Ahqaf (The Sandhills)

Revealed toward the end of the Makkan period, this sūrah of 35 verses takes its name from the word Al-‘Ahqāf, Al-Ahqaf or Al-Ahqaaf in verse 21, which means The Sand Hills or The Sand-Dunes; but is also the name of a place in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It warns all those who obstinately persist in their evil ways and defiance against the Religion of Truth by reminding them of the tragic end of the people of ‘Ād. It presents some of the concrete proofs of the Messengership of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. It also mentions the conversion to Islam of some jinn who listened to some parts from the Qur’ān, and who then went on to try to guide their people.

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 God, the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise.

3. We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them save with truth (meaningfully, for definite purposes, and on solid foundations of truth), and for an appointed term. But those who disbelieve turn away from that (Day of Judgment)1 about which they are warned.

4. Say: “Do you not consider what those are whom (you deify and) invoke apart from God? Show me what they have created of the earth. Or do they have a share in (the creation and maintenance of) the heavens? Bring me a Book (revealed) before this one (the Qur’ān), or some remnant of knowledge (accurately preserved and transmitted),2 if you are truthful (in your claims).”

5. Who is more astray than one who invokes, apart from God, such as will not make any answer to him until the Day of Resurrection, and are (self-evidently) unconscious and heedless of their invocation?

6. When all people are raised from the dead and gathered together for judgment, they (whom they invoked) will be enemies to them, and will disown their worshipping them.

7. When Our Revelations, clear as evidence and in meaning are recited (and conveyed) to them, those who disbelieve say of the truth when it reaches them: “This is clearly nothing but sorcery.”3

8. Or do they say, “He (the Messenger) has fabricated it (the Qur’ān)?” Say: “If I have fabricated it, you have no power at all to help me against God. He knows best all that you are busy inventing concerning it (the Qur’ān). He suffices for a Witness between me and you. He is the All-Forgiving, the All-Compassionate.

9. “I am no novelty (either in my person or in the message I have brought) among the Messengers, and (being human) I do not know (unless God informs me) what (will happen in the future in the world and, therefore, what will) be done to me and to you. I only follow what is revealed to me, and I am only a plain warner.”

10. Say: “Do you ever consider that if this Qur’ān is from God, and you disbelieve in it while (many) a witness from among the Children of Israel (those who had knowledge of Revelation) had already testified to the like of it and (also) believed, whereas you are too arrogant to believe: (is this not plain deviation and wrong)? Surely God does not guide the wrongdoing people.”4

11. Those who disbelieve say of those who believe (as another pretext for their rejection of faith in the Qur’ān): “If it (the Qur’ān) had been something good and useful, those people would not have preceded us in accepting it.” And as they (having refused it) have not found guidance through it, they say: “This is a fabrication from ancient times.”

12. (They say so despite the fact that) before this, there was the Book of Moses as a guide and mercy (for the Children of Israel); and this (Qur’ān) is a Book confirming (the truth in the earlier Scriptures) and revealed in Arabic to warn those who commit wrong, and as a good tiding for those devoted to doing good, aware that God is seeing them.

13. Surely those who profess, “Our Lord is God,” and then follow the Straight Path (in their belief, thought, and actions), they will have no fear, nor will they grieve.

14. They are the companions of Paradise, abiding therein as a reward for what they used to do.

15. Now (among the good deeds), We have enjoined on human is the best treatment towards his parents. His mother bore him in pain, and in pain did she give him birth. The bearing of him and suckling of him (until weaned) is thirty months.5 When he has finally reached his full manhood6 and reached forty years of age, he says: “My Lord! Arouse me that I may be thankful for all Your favors (life, health, sustenance, faith, and submission, and more) that You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do good, righteous deeds with which You will be pleased; and grant me righteous offspring (so that they treat me righteously, as I treat my parents). I have turned to You, and I am one of those who have submitted to You.”

16. Those are they from whom We will accept (their good deeds in a manner to reward them in accordance with) the best of what they ever did, and whose evil deeds We will overlook, (and include them) among the companions of Paradise. This is a true promise which they have been given (here in the world).

17. But (there is many a one) who says to his parents (who call him to righteousness and faith): “Uff to you both! (I am fed up with you!) Do you threaten me that I will be brought forth from the dead (to a new life and judgment), while so many generations have passed away before me (and so far not a single person has been raised)?” And they both pray to God for help (in the guidance of their child, and say to him): “Woe to you! Believe! God’s promise is certainly true!” But he says: “All this is nothing but fables of the ancients!”

18. Such are they upon whom the word (of God’s punishment) is rightly due (as included) among the (similar) communities of jinn and humankind before them. Surely they are the ones ruined in loss.

19. For all (individuals and groups) there will be degrees of their own, according to what they have done, and so God will pay them fully for their deeds, and they will not be wronged.

20. On that Day, those who disbelieve will be brought to the Fire (and they will be told): “You consumed in your worldly life your (share of) pure, wholesome things, and enjoyed them fully (without considering the due of the Hereafter, and so have taken in the world the reward of all your good deeds).7 So this Day, you are recompensed with the punishment of abasement because of your scornful arrogance on the earth against all right, and because of your transgressing (the bounds set by God).”

21. Make mention of (Hūd) the brother of Ād: he warned his people in al-Ahqāf – as indeed warners came and went before and after him (to warn their peoples) – saying: “Worship none but God alone. I surely fear for you the punishment of an awesome day.”

22. They said: “Have you come to us to turn us away from our deities? If you are truthful in your claims, then bring us what you are threatening us with.”

23. He said: “The knowledge (of when it will come) is only with God. I convey to you that with which I have been sent as a Messenger, but I see you are a people acting ignorantly.”

24. Then (as the events unfolded), they saw that (which they were threatened with) as a dense cloud in the sky advancing towards their valleys, and they said: “This is a cloud bringing us rain.” No; it is what you have (derisively) asked to be hastened: a wind bearing a painful punishment,

25. Bound to devastate everything by the command of its Lord. And so they became such that nothing was to be seen except their dwellings. Thus do We recompense the guilty people committed to accumulating sin.

26. We had, assuredly, given them such power and prosperity (on the earth) that We have not given to you (O Quraysh), and We had appointed for them (the faculty of) hearing, and eyes, and hearts (all the means of perception, outward and inward). But neither their ears, nor their eyes, nor their hearts, availed them anything, as they obstinately rejected God’s signs and Revelations, and what they used to mock overwhelmed them.

27. We have, assuredly, destroyed many townships that are around you, and (before that) We had set out the signs and Revelations in diverse ways, so that they might turn back (from their wrong ways).

28. So, why did those whom they took for deities apart from God as a means of nearness (to God) not help them (against God’s punishment)? Rather, they failed them. That was (the end result of) their falsehood and all that they used to fabricate (of slanders against God).

29. We directed a company of jinn towards you in order that they might listen to the Qur’ān (while you were reciting of it). When they were present for it, they said (to one another): “Be silent and listen!” When the recitation finished, they returned to their community as warners.8

30. They said: “O our people! We have listened to a Book which has been sent after Moses, confirming (the Divine origin of and the truths that are still contained by) the Revelations prior to it:9 it guides towards the truth and towards a straight road (in all matters).

31. “O our people! Respond (affirmatively) to him who calls to God, and believe in him. God will forgive you your sins (which you have committed so far), and save you from a painful punishment.

32. “Whoever does not respond (affirmatively) to him who calls to God, he cannot frustrate (God’s will) on the earth, and no guardian will he have apart from God (once God has disowned him); 10 those (who seek to do so) are in obvious error.”

33. Have they (the unbelievers) not considered that surely God, Who has created the heavens and the earth, and never wearied with their creation, is able to bring the dead to life? Certainly He is; He has full power over everything.

34. On the Day when those who disbelieve are brought to the Fire (they will be asked): “Is this not true?” They will say: “Yes, most certainly, by our Lord!” He (God) will say: “Taste the punishment in which you used to disbelieve!”

35. So, be patient (O Messenger, with their rejection of faith and with whatever they do), just as those of greatest steadfastness and resolution among the Messengers11 were patient, and do not seek to hasten (the judgment on) them. The Day when they see what they are threatened with, (they will feel) as if they had not stayed (in the world) save a short while of the day only. The message has been conveyed. Will, then, any be destroyed save the people who transgress the bounds (in belief and action)?

The Qur'an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English

1. This means that Judgment Day is the end of the term God appointed for this (material) universe; one of the truths on which creation is based; and one of the important purposes for the creation of the earth.

2. The Qur’ān never makes it a cause of polemics that true knowledge is what God has revealed, or the revealed knowledge. It always challenges its opponents to bring forth accurate or certified knowledge for their denial. Denial has two forms or kinds: one is “acceptance of non-existence” or willful rejection; and the other is mere “non-acceptance.” The latter is doubt. It can be removed through evidence, provided it is not a willful attitude; if it is a willful attitude, then it becomes a judgment. As for the former, it is a conclusion, a judgment, which must be based on evidence or knowledge: for example, claiming that there is no God; or that God has never sent a Prophet or a Book; or that there is no afterlife; or that God has some partners; or that things are formed by themselves, or causes have brought these about, or nature requires these (to be so) – all of such claims are conclusion and judgment which, therefore, must be based on evidence and knowledge. Any assertion or conclusion that is not based on evidence and knowledge is to be rejected. However, in whatever form it is, (willful) denial cannot be based on any knowledge and evidence, and is arbitrary negation, repudiation, rejection which, therefore, it has no weight. Muslims must follow the Qur’ān in their response to the trends of denial, and accept the Revelation as the first and certain source of knowledge, without feeling any discomfiture.

Any claim of objectivity on this subject is, in essence, non-objectivity. Objective reasoning means impartial judgment, but “impartial” judgment means siding with the opponents or deniers and following temporary unbelief because it starts from the this proposition: Let us not accept the Existence of God, or of Revelation, or of afterlife, and so on. So it is temporary unbelief and siding with unbelief. Therefore, what a denier should do is to falsify all the evidence upon which the pillars of faith are founded; yet this is impossible. For while a single proof is enough for the establishment of the existence of something, proving its non-existence is not possible at all. In conclusion, there is, and can be, no evidence on which denial can be based; it is, thus,  mere conjecture, and a baseless assertion.

3. Their claim that the Qur’ān is sorcery is, in fact, an admission that it is not part of ordinary human speech and is something extraordinary.

4. As a continuation of the argument put forward in the previous verse, this verse means that God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, is saying, in effect: “I am no novelty nor different among the Messengers. Many came before me with Books similar to the Qur’ān in the teachings they contained. One of these Books was the Torah, which was granted to Moses, upon him be peace. And many knowledgeable ones among the Children of Israel believed in it. But you, having no exact knowledge of Divine Books and Messengership, venture to disbelieve in its like – the Qur’ān. Then is this not plain deviation, wrong, and misjudgment?”

5. Verse 2: 233 says that, (if they wish) mothers can suckle their children for two whole years; and verse 31: 14 expresses the same, that weaning was in two years. So when the statement that the pregnancy and nursing of a child consists of 30 months is considered together with these verses, it is understood that the shortest period of bearing a child is 6 months. That is, a mother can give birth to a healthy baby in 6 months. So if a woman gives birth at the end of the sixth month of her pregnancy, she cannot be regarded as having committed the crime of adultery.

6. The age of full manhood or full (physical) maturity is, in the first stage, 15-20 or so years. The middle stage is 30–33 years, and the age when one is supposed to reach full intellectual and spiritual maturity is 40 years. It is rare for people to change their belief and way of life after forty. 

7. As stated in a Prophetic Tradition, there is a place pre-assigned for everyone in both Paradise and Hell. If one dies and enters Hell, the people of Paradise inherit one’s place in Paradise. So God has pre-assigned for everyone pure, wholesome things to consume. If one does not believe in the Hereafter and chooses to consume all one’s share of pure, wholesome things in the world, God grants them from these in return for their good deeds. Such a one will have no share in the Hereafter. The verse also says that God never allows any good deed to go to waste. He even rewards an unbeliever in this world for his or her good deeds. But a believer should aim at the Hereafter, without neglecting working for livelihood in the world.

8. This happened in Batn an-Nakhlah, outside Makkah, while God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was doing Prayer on his return to Makkah from his journey to Tā’if.

9. As can be understood from the frame of reference of the jinn, that the Qur’ān was revealed after Moses, upon him be peace, with no mention of Jesus, upon him be peace, and the Gospel, the jinn were among the followers of the faith of Moses, upon him be peace, and the Torah.

10. After this event, the jinn came to the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, in groups, one after the other.

The word jinn literally means something hidden or veiled from sight. Jinn are a species of invisible beings. A short Qur’ānic chapter (72) is named after them. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was sent to them, too, and many among them believed in him.

Jinn are conscious beings charged with Divine obligations. Recent discoveries in biology make it clear that God created beings particular to each realm in the universe (See 2: 30, note 31). Jinn were created before Adam, upon him be peace, and Eve, and were responsible for cultivating and improving the world. Although God later superseded them with us, He did not exempt them from religious obligations.

Like angels, jinn move extremely fast and are not bound by the time and space constraints within which we normally move. However, since the spirit is more active and faster than the jinn, a person who lives at the level of the spirit’s life, and who can transcend what we know as the limits of matter and the confines of time and space, can be quicker and more active than them (see 27: 38–40). (For detailed information about the jinn and their relation with humankind, see Essentials of the Islamic Faith, 69–73.)

11. According to many scholars, basing their conclusions on verse 42: 13, those Messengers are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and finally, the Prophet Muhammad, upon them be peace and blessings.

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