61. As-Saff (The Ranks)
The name of this sūrah is derived from verse 4 where the word saff (ranks) is used in praise of the Muslims who fought in ranks, coming together as though they were a firm and solid building. As-Saff (The Ranks) consists of 14 verses. It was revealed just before or just after the Battle of Uhud. It stresses the importance of striving hard in the cause of God after faith, and of the necessary concordance between professed belief and actual behavior.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. All that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth glorifies God. He is the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Wise.
2. O you who believe! Why do you say what you do not do (as well as what you will not do)?
3. Most odious it is in the sight of God that you say what you do not (and will not) do.1
4. God surely loves those who fight in His cause in ranks as though they were a firm and solid structure.
5. And (remember) when Moses said to his people: “O my people! Why do you affront me2 while you know indeed that I am the Messenger of God sent to you?” And so, when they swerved from the right way, God made their hearts swerve from the truth. God does not guide the transgressing people.
6. And Jesus son of Mary said: “O Children of Israel! Surely I am the Messenger of God sent to you, confirming (whatever of the truth is contained in) the Torah which was revealed before me,3 and bringing the glad tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.”4 But when he came to them (the whole of humankind including the later generations of the Children of Israel) with the manifest signs (of his being God’s Messenger), they said: “This (which he preaches and does) is clearly (nothing but) sorcery.”
7. Who is more in wrong than him who fabricates falsehood in attribution to God, when he is being invited to Islam (which is what the promised Messenger is conveying to them)? God surely does not guide the wrongdoing people.
8. They long to extinguish God’s light5 with (a breath from) their mouths (as if it entailed no more than extinguishing a candle with a breath), but God will surely perfect His light— however hateful (it may be) to the unbelievers.
9. He it is Who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the Religion of truth (based on truth, and embodying it), that He may make it prevail over all religions— however hateful it may be to those who associate partners with God.6
10. O you who believe! Shall I direct you to a bargain (a deal) that will save you from a painful punishment?
11. That you believe in God and His Messenger, and strive hard in God’s cause with your wealth and persons— doing so is what is to your own good, if you but knew it—
12. So that He may forgive you your sins and admit you into Gardens through which rivers flow, and into delightful dwellings in Gardens of perpetual bliss. That is the supreme triumph.
13. And yet another (blessing) which you love: help from God and a near victory soon to come (which will lead to further victories). Give glad tidings to the believers.7
14. O you who believe! Be helpers of God(’s cause and the Messenger), even as Jesus son of Mary said to his disciples: “Who will be my helpers (on this way) to God?” The disciples said: “We are the helpers (in the cause) of God.” And so it happened that some of the Children of Israel believed (in him and his Message), and others disbelieved (thus becoming two groups). So We strengthened those who believed against their enemies, and they became the uppermost.
1. The last two verses severely condemn saying one thing and doing another: i.e. breaking one’s promise, lying, and showing oneself to be different from what one really is. These are things that are incompatible with faith and which are signs of hypocrisy.
2. For Moses’ being affronted by his people, see sūrah 2: 51, 55, 60, 67, 71; sūrah 4: 153; sūrah 5: 20, 26; sūrah 7: 138, 141, 148, 151; sūrah 20: 86, 98; Exodus 5: 20, 21; 14: 11-13; 16: 2–16; 17: 3–4, Numbers 11: 1–15; 14: 1–10; 16: 1–50; 20: 1–5.
3. Jesus, upon him be peace, did not come with a new religion or message from God. He communicated the same message as all the previous Prophets had done, and the Sharī‘ah of Moses, upon him be peace; the only difference was that he made lawful for them certain things that had been forbidden to them (3: 50). He also made clear to them some of the matters in which they differed (43: 63). For Jesus, upon him be peace, and other dimensions of his Messengership, see sūrah 3: 48–51, notes 8–9; sūrah 5: 46–47, 110, 116–118; sūrah 19: 30–34.
4. Every Prophet gave the glad tidings of the Messenger to come after him and declared his faith in him. (For the mission of the Messengers and the preceding Messenger’s giving the tiding of the advent of the one to follow, see 3: 81, note 15; and for why God sent a Messenger with a Book after the others, see 5: 48, note 11.)
So, it is natural that Jesus gave the glad tidings of the Prophet Muhammad, upon them be peace. It is also clear in the Gospel of John that the Children of Israel had been expecting another Prophet besides Jesus, upon him be peace:
Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny; but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you that Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then said they to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John, 1: 19–23)
As understood from this passage, the Children of Israel had been expecting the coming of the Christ (Messiah), Elijah, upon him be peace, and another Prophet (that prophet) who must have been known and who was expected by everyone at that time.
As explained in Appendix 1, this prediction is supported by several references. Paráklētos (differently rendered as Counselor, Helper, or Comforter in different versions of the New Testament) is, in fact, a corruption of Períklytos (the “Much-Praised”). Its Aramiac counterpart is Mawhamana, which means Ahmad. Ahmad and Muhammad are derived from the same root verb, “Ha-Mi-Da” meaning to praise. However, Ahmad also means one who praises. In many Prophetic Traditions, it is stated that one of the Prophet Muhammad’s names is Ahmad, and this is mentioned by Hasan ibn Thābit, a famous poet during the Prophet’s time, in one of his poems. So the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, was also known and mentioned as Ahmad during his own lifetime. Though the name Ahmad had not been known and used before him among the Arabs, this name became widely known and used during his time. It is of interest that Bediüzzaman Said Nursi records that the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, was mentioned in the Torah also with the name Munhamanna, meaning Muhammad, the praised one. (For other predictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the Old and New Testaments, see Appendix 1.)
Concerning the Prophet Muhammad’s mission regarding the People of the Book, and their relationship with him, the Qur’ān states: They follow the (most illustrious) Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find described (with all his distinguishing features) in the Torah and the Gospel (that are) with them. He enjoins upon them what is right and good and forbids them what is evil; he makes pure, wholesome things lawful for them, and bad, corrupt things unlawful. And he relieves them of their burdens (remaining of their own Law) and the restraints that were upon them. So those who believe in him (with all sincerity), honor and support him, and help him, and follow the Light (the Qur’ān) which has been sent down with him – those, they are the truly prosperous (7: 157).
5. It is clear that God’s light is Islam, which removes “the veil of darkness” from the surface of the entire universe, a veil put there by other systems or false religions or philosophies; Islam illuminates minds, hearts, and the ways of humanity in all spheres of life and from birth to eternity.
6. For an explanation, see 9: 33, note 9.
7. The bargain and the glad tidings mentioned in the verses are stated in 9: 111 thus: God has bought from the believers their selves and wealth because Paradise is for them. They fight in God’s cause, and they kill or are killed. This is a promise with which God has bound Himself in the Torah and in the Gospel and in the Qur’ān. Who could be more faithful to his covenant than God? So (O believers) glad tidings to you because of the bargain you have made with Him! That indeed is the supreme triumph.