29. Surah Al Ankabut (The Spider)

Name

The Surah takes its name from verse 41 in which the word Ankabut (Spider) has occurred.

Period of Revelation

Verses 56 to 60 clearly show that this Surah was sent down a little before the migration to Habash, and this is supported by the internal evidence of the subject matter as well. Some commentators have opined that since it mentions the hypocrites, and hypocrisy appeared in Madinah, the first ten verses of this Surah were revealed at Madinah and the rest of it at Makkah; whereas the people whose hypocrisy has been mentioned here are those who had adopted a hypocritical way of life because they were afraid of the oppression and extreme physical torture to which the Muslims were being subjected by the disbelievers. Evidently, this kind of hypocrisy could be there only at Makkah and not at Madinah. Similarly, some other commentators, seeing that in this Surah the Muslims have been exhorted to migrate, have regarded it as the last Surah to be revealed at Makkah, whereas the Muslims had migrated to Habash even before their migration to Madinah. These opinions are not based on any tradition but on the internal evidence of the subject matter, and this internal evidence, when considered against the subject matter of the Surah as a whole, points to the conditions prevailing in the time of the migration to Habash and not to the last stage at Makkah.

Theme and Subject matter

A perusal of the Surah shows that the period of its revelation was the period of extreme persecution of the Muslims at Makkah. The disbelievers were opposing and fighting Islam tooth and nail and the new converts were being subjected to the severest oppression. Such were the conditions when Allah sent down this Surah to strengthen and encourage the sincere Muslims as well as to put to shame those who were showing weakness of the faith. Besides, the disbelievers of Makkah have been threatened and warned not to invite for themselves the fate that the antagonists of the Truth have been experiencing in every age.

In this connection, the questions that some young men answered. For instance, their parents were urging them to abandon Muhammad (may Allah's peace be upon him), and return to their ancestral religion, for they argued: "The Qur'an in which you have put your faith, regards the rights of the parents as the uppermost; therefore, listen to what we say; otherwise you will be working against the dictates of your own Faith." This has been answered in verse 8.

Similarly, the people of some clans said to the new converts to Islam, "Leave the question of punishments, etc., to us. Listen to us and abandon this man. If God seizes you in the Hereafter, we will come forward and say, 'Lord, these people are innocent: we had forced them to give up the Faith; therefore, seize us'." This has been dealt with, in vv. 12-13.

The stories mentioned in this Surah also impress the same point mostly, as if to say, "Look at the Prophets of the past: they were made to suffer great hardships and were treated cruelly for long periods. Then, at last they were helped by Allah. Therefore, take heart: Allah's succor will certainly come. But a period of trial and tribulation has to be undergone." Besides teaching this lesson to the Muslims, the disbelievers also have been warned, as if to say, "If you are not being immediately seized by Allah, you should not form the wrong impression that you will never be seized. The signs of the doomed nations of the past are before you. Just see how they met their doom and how Allah succored the Prophets."

Then the Muslims have been instructed to the effect: "If you feel that the persecution has become unbearable for you, you should give up your homes, instead of giving up your Faith: Allah's earth is vast: seek a new place where you can worship Allah with the full peace of mind." Besides all this, the disbelievers also have been urged to understand Islam. The realities of Tauhid and the Hereafter have been impressed with rational arguments, shirk have been refuted, and drawing their attention towards the signs in the universe, they have been told that all these Signs confirm the teachings that the Prophet is presenting before them.

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

[1-3] Alif. Lam. Mim. Do the people think that they will be left alone after they have once said, "We have believed," and they will not be tested?1 The fact is that we have put to test all those who have gone before them.2 Surely, Allah has to see3 who are the truthful and who the liars.

[4] And do those who are committing evil deeds4 reckon that they will outstrip Us?5 Evil is their judgment.

[5-7] Whoever expects to meet Allah (should know that) Allah's appointed time is about to come,6 and Allah hears everything and knows everything.7 Whoever will exert will exert for his own good.8 Allah is certainly Independent of all His creations.9 As for those who believe and do good works, We shall wipe off their evils and reward them for the best of their deeds.10

[8-9] We have conjoined man to do good to his parents, but if they force you to associate with Me another (deity) whom you do not know (as such), you should not obey them."11 You have all to return to Me: then I shall tell you what you had been doing12 And those who will have believed and done good deeds, We shall certainly include them among the righteous.

[10-11] There is among the people such a one, who says,13 "We have believed in Allah", but when he was persecuted in the cause of Allah, he deemed the persecution by the people as the punishment of Allah.14 Now if there comes help and victory from your Lord, the same person Will say, "We were with you".15 Is not Allah fully aware of what is in the hearts of the people of the world? And surely Allah has to see who are the believers and who the hypocrites.16

[12-13] The disbelievers say to the believers, "Follow our way and we will bear (the burden of) your sins",17 whereas they will not bear (the burden of) your sins.18 They are utter liars. Of course, they shall bear their own burdens as well as many other burdens in addition to their own.19 And on the Day of Resurrection, they will surely be questioned about their scandal mongering.20

[14-15] We sent Noah to his people21 and he lived among them for a thousand years save fifty.22 Consequently, the Flood overtook them while they persisted in wickedness.23 Then We rescued Noah and those in the Ark24 and made it an object of warning for the people of the world.25

[16-18] And (We) sent Abraham,26 when he said to his people “Worship Allah and fear Him,27 this is better for you only if you know it. Those whom you worship instead of Allah are mere idols, and you are forging a lie.28 In fact, Those whom you worship, besides Allah, have no power to give you any sustenance. Ask Allah for sustenance, and worship Him alone and be grateful to Him, for to Him you will be returned.29 And if you deny, many a nation before you also have denied (the Truth),30 and the Messenger's only responsibility is to convey the message clearly.

[19-23] Have31 these people never seen how Allah originates the creation, and then repeats it? Surely this (repetition) is easier for Allah.32 Say to them, "Go about in the earth and see how He has begun the creation; then Allah will recreate life: surely Allah has power over everything.33 He may punish whom He wills and show mercy to whom He wills; to Him you shall be turned back. You can neither make (Him) helpless in the earth nor in the heaven,34 and you have no patron and helper to save you from Allah.35 Those who have denied Allah's Revelations and their meeting with Him, have despaired of My Mercy,36 and they will have a painful punishment.

[24-26] Then37 the only answer his people gave was to say, "Kill him or burn him."38 At last, Allah saved him from the fire;39 surely in this there are Signs for those who believe.40 He said,41 “Here in the worldly life you have made the idols, instead of Allah, a means of love among yourselves,42 but on the Day of Resurrection, you will disown and curse one another.43 Fire will be your abode and you shall have no helper." Then Lot believed in him,44 and Abraham said "I shall migrate towards my Lord.45 He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise."46

[27] And We bestowed on him (children like) Isaac and Jacob,47 and placed in his progeny the Prophethood and the Book,48 and give him his reward in, this world, and in the Hereafter he will surely be among the righteous.49

[28-30] And We sent Lot50 when he said to his people, "You commit the indecency which no other people has ever committed before you in the world. What! Do you go to the males,51 and commit robbery and indulge in indecencies in your assemblies?"52 Then the only answer his people gave was to say, "Bring forth the torment of Allah if you are truthful." Lot said, "O my Lord, help me against these mischief makers."

[31-35] And when Our messengers came to Abraham with the good news,53 they said to him, "We are going to destroy the people of this habitation,54 for its people have become very wicked." Abraham said, "Lot is there."55 They replied, "We know full well who is in it we shall save him and all his household except his wife." His wife was of those who remained behind.56

[36] Then, when Our messengers came to Lot, he grew anxious for them and distressed at heart.57 They said, "Do not fear nor grieve:58 we shall save you and your household, except your wife, who is of those who will remain behind. We are going to bring down a torment from the sky upon the people of this habitation on account of the evil they have been committing" And We have left from the habitation a clear Signs59 for those who use their common sense.60

[37] And to Madyan, We sent their brother Shu'aib.61 He said, "O my people, worship Allah and look forward to the Last Day,62 and do not commit excesses in the land wickedly." But they treated him as a liar.63 Consequently, a severe earthquake overtook them, and they lay lifeless in their dwelling-places.64

[38-39] And We destroyed `Ad and Thamud. You have seen the places where they lived.65 Satan made their deeds seem fair to them and misled them from the right path, although they were sensible people.66 And We destroyed Korah and Pharaoh and Haman. Moses came to them with clear Signs, but they assumed arrogance in the land, whereas hey could not outstrip67 Us.

[40] Consequently, We seized each one of them on account of his sin: then against some We sent a wind to rain stones on them;68 some others were overtaken by a terrible blast,69 and some other We sank underground,70 and some We drowned.71 Allah was not unjust to them, but they were themselves being unjust to their souls.72

[41-44] The likeness of those who have taken other patrons than Allah, is the likeness of a spider, which makes itself a dwelling; and the weakest of all dwellings is the dwelling of a spider. Would that these people had knowledge!73 Allah surely knows whomever they invoke instead of Him: He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.74 These parables We cite for the instruction of the people, but only those people understand them, who have knowledge. Allah has created the heavens and the earth with the Truth.75 Indeed there is a Sign in this for the believers.76

[45] (O Prophet, ) recite this Book which has been revealed to you, and establish the Salat.77 Surely the Salat restrains from indecent and evil acts,78 and the remembrance of Allah is a thing even greater79 than this; Allah knows whatever you do.

[46-47] And80 do not dispute with the people of the Book except in the best manner,81 save with those who are wicked among them82 and say to them, "We have believed in that which has been sent down to us as well as in that which had been sent down to you. Our God and your God is One, and to Him we have surrendered83 (as Muslims). (O Prophet,) We have likewise sent down the Book to you;84 therefore, those to whom We gave the Book before this, believe in it,85 and so do many of these people,86 and none but the disbelievers deny Our Revelations.87

[48-52] (O Prophet,) you did not read any book before this, nor did you write any with your hand. If it were so, the worshipers of falsehood could have been involved in doubt.88 These are, in fact, clear Signs in the hearts of those who have been given knowledge;89 and none deny Our Revelations except the wicked. They say, "Why have Signs90 not been sent down upon this person from his Lord?" Say, "The Signs are with Allah: I am only a plain warner." Is this (Sign) not enough for these people that We have sent down to you the Book, which is recited to them?91 Indeed, there is mercy in it and admonition for those who believe.92 (O Prophet,) say, "Allah suffices as a witness between me and you. He knows all that is there in the heavens and the earth. Those who believe in falsehood and deny Allah, shall be the losers."

[53-55] These people wish that you hasten the torment on them.93 Had a time not been fixed for it, the torment would already have overtaken them. And most certainly it shall come (at the appointed time) suddenly while they would least expect it. They challenge you to hasten the torment, whereas Hell has encircled the disbelievers, (and they will know of it) on the Day when the torment will cover them from above them as well as from beneath their feet, and will say, "Now taste your own misdeeds."

[56-60] O My servants, who have believed, My earth is vast: so worship Me alone.94 Every living being has to taste death: then, ultimately you shall all be returned to Us.95 Those who have believed and done good works, We shall lodge them in the high palaces of Paradise, beneath which canals will be flowing: therein they shall live for ever. What an excellent reward for the doers (of good)96 for those who have shown patience97 and put full trust in their Lord!98 How many creatures are there that do not carry their provisions with them: Allah provides for them and for you too: He hears everything and knows everything.99

[61-63] If you ask them,100 "Who has created the earth and the heavens and Who has subjected the moon and the sun?" they will surely say, "Allah." How are they then being deceived? Allah it is Who gives abundantly to those of His servants He pleases and sparingly to those He wills. Surely Allah knows everything. If you ask them, "Who sent down rainwater from the sky and thereby raised the dead earth back to life?" they will surely say, "Allah!" Say, "Praise be to Allah!"101 Yet most of them do not use their common sense.

[64-67] And the life of this world is nothing but a sport and a pastime!102 The home of real life is the Hereafter. Would that they knew!103 When they board the ship, they invoke Allah, making their Faith pure for Him only; then, when He brings them safe to land, they start committing shirk that they may show ingratitude to Him for safe deliverance and enjoy (the life of this world).104 Well, they will soon come to know. Do they not see that We have made a safe Sanctuary, while the people are snatched away from all around them?105 Do they yet believe in falsehood and deny the favors of Allah?

[68-69] Who would be more wicked then he who forges a lie against Allah, or denies the Truth when it has reached him?106 Is not Hell the fit abode for such disbelievers? Those who will strive in Our cause, We shall guide them to Our own paths,107 and surely Allah is with the righteous.

1When this thing was said, the conditions prevailing in Makkah were extremely trying. Whoever accepted Islam was made a target of tyranny and humiliation and persecution. If he was a slave or a poor person, he was beaten and subjected to unbearable tortures; if he was a shopkeeper or artisan, he was made to suffer economic hardships, even starvation; if he was a member of an influential family, his own people would tease and harass him in different ways and make life difficult for him. This had created an atmosphere of fear and fright in Makkah, due to . which most people were afraid of believing in the Holy Prophet although they acknowledged him to be a true Prophet in their hearts; and some others who believed would lose heart soon afterwards and would submit and yield to the disbelievers when they confronted dreadful persecutions. Though these trying circumstances could not shake the determination of the strong-willed Companions, naturally they also were sometimes overwhelmed by an intense feeling of anxiety and distraction. An instance of this is found in the tradition of Hadrat Khabbab bin Arat, which has been related by Bukhari, Abu Da'ud and Nasa'i. He says, "During the time when we had become sick of our persecution by the mushriks, one day I saw the Holy Prophet sitting in the shade of the wall of the Ka`bah. I wen up to him and said, `O Messenger of Allah, don't you pray for us !' Hearing this his face became red with feeling and emotion, and he said, `The believers who have gone before you had been subjected to even greater persecutions. Some one of them was made to sit in a ditch in the earth and was sawed into two pieces from head to foot. Someone's joints were rubbed with iron combs so as to withhold him from the Faith. By God, this Mission will be accomplished and the time is not far when a person will travel without apprehension from San`a' to Hadramaut and there will be none but Allah Whom he will fear."

In order to change this state of agitation into forbearance, Allah tells the believers, "Ho one can become worthy of Our promises of success in the world and the Hereafter merely by verbal profession of the Faith, but every claimant to the Faith will have to pass through trials and tribulations so as to furnish proof of The truth of his claim. Our Paradise is not so cheap, nor Our special favors in the world so low-priced, that We should bless you with all these as soon as you proclaim verbal faith in Us. The vial is a pre-requisite for them. You will have to undergo hardships for Our sake, suffer losses of life and property, face dangers, misfortunes and difficulties; you will be tried both with fear and with greed; you will have to sacrifice everything that you hold dear for Our pleasure, and bear every discomfort in Our way. Then only will it become manifest whether your claim to faith in Us was true or false. This thing has been said at every such place in the Qur'an where the Muslims have been found placed in hardships and difficulties and obsessed by fear and consternation. In the initial stage of life at Madinah, after the migration, when the Muslims were in great trouble on account of economic hardships, external dangers and internal villainy of the Jews and the hypocrites, Allah said:

"Do you think that you will enter Paradise without undergoing such trials as were experienced by the believers before you? They met with adversity and affliction and were so shaken by trials that the Prophet of the time and his followers cried out, `when will Allah's help come?' (Then only they were comforted with the good tidings:) "Yes, Allah's help is near!"' (Al-Baqarah: 214).

Likewise, when after the Battle of Uhud, the Muslims again confronted a period of afflictions, it was said: "Do you think that you will enter Paradise without undergoing any trial? whereas Allah has not yet tried you to see who among you are ready to lay down their lives in His way and who will show fortitude for His sake." (Al-i-`Imran: 142).

Almost the same thing has been said in Al-i-'Imran: 179, Taubah: 16 and Surah Muhammad: 31. Allah in these verses has impressed on the Muslims that trial is the touchstone by which the pure and the impure are judged. The impure is turned aside by Allah and the pure is selected so that Allah may honor them with His favors which the sincere believers only deserve. 

2That is, "This is not a new thing which you alone may be experiencing. The same has been happening before also. Whoever made a claim to the Faith was made to pass through trials and tribulations. And when the others were not given anything without the trial, you are in no way any special people that you should be favored and rewarded merely on verbal profession of the Faith." 

3Literally, "It is necessary that Allah should find out." A question may be asked: "When Allah already knows the truth of the truthful and the untruth of the liar, why should He put the people to the test for the sake of these?" The answer is: Until a person has manifested his potential and capability to do a thing in practical terms, justice requires that he neither deserves any rewards nor any punishment. One man, for example, is capable of being trustworthy and another man of being un-trustworthy. Unless both are tried and one manifests trustworthiness and the other the lack of it practically, it will not be justice on the part of Allah that He should reward one for trustworthiness and punish the other for the lack of it only on the basis of His knowledge of the unseen. Therefore the knowledge Allah already possesses about the capabilities of the people and about their conduct in the future is not enough to satisfy the requirements of justice until the people have manifested their potentialities in practical ways. Justice with Allah is not based on the knowledge that a person possesses a tendency to steal and will commit a theft, but on the knowledge that he has actually committed a theft. Likewise, Allah does not bestow favors and rewards on the basis of the knowledge that a person has the potential and capability to become a great believer and fighter in His way, but on the basis of the knowledge that the person concerned has practically proved by deed and action that he is a sincere believer and a brave fighter in His way. That is why we have translated the words of the verse as: "Allah has to see..." 

4This may refer to all those people who disobey Allah's Commands but here particularly it implies those wicked chiefs of the Quraish, who were in the forefront in their antagonism to Islam and persecution of the converts to Islam, e.g. Walid .bin Mughirah, Abu Jahl, `Utbah, Shaibah,`Uqbah bin Abi Mu`ait, Hanzalah bin Wail, etc. Here the context itself requires that after exhorting the Muslims to patience and fortitude against the trials and tests, those people also should be chided and scolded, who were persecuting the believers." 

5It may also mean: "...that they will escape Our grasp." The words yasbiquna in the original may have two meanings: (1)`Whatever we will (i.e. the success of the mission of Our Messenger) should meet with failure, and whatever they wish (i.e. to frustrate the mission of Our Messenger) should be accomplished;" and (2) "We may want to seize them for their excesses and they should be able to escape and get out of Our reach." 

6That is, "The case of the one who does not believe in the life hereafter and thinks he is answerable to none for his deeds and there is no accountability whatever, is different. He may remain heedless and act as he likes, for he will himself see the consequences when they appear against his expectations. But those who expect that they have to meet their Lord one day and rewarded and punished according to their. deeds, should not have the misunderstanding that the time of death is yet tar off. They should rather think that it is near at hand and the respite for action is about to come to an end. Therefore, whatever they can do for their well-being in the Hereafter, they should do. They should not delay self-reform on account of the baseless belief that they have yet to live a long life."  

7That is, "That God before Whom they will appear to render their accounts is not uninformed. He hears everything and knows every thing, and nothing about them is hidden from Him." 

8The word mujahadah means to struggle and exert one's utmost against an opponent , and when the particular opponent force is not pointed out, the word implies an all-out, many-sided struggle. The struggle that a believer has to make in the world, is of this very nature. He has to fight against Satan, who frightens him every moment of the possible losses he they have to incur for the sake of good and allures him with the benefits and pleasures of the evil. He has to fight his own self also, which exerts to make him the slave of its lusts. He has also to fight all those men, from home to the world outside, whose ideology, trends, morality, customs way of life and social and economic principles may be in conflict with his Faith; and he has to fight that state too, which enforces its laws independent of obedience to Allah, and employs its forces to promote evil instead of the good. This struggle is not of a day or two, but of a lifetime, of every moment of the day and night. And it is not a struggle in one field only but on every front of life. It is about this that Hadrat Hasan Basri has said: "Man exerts in the way of Allah, even though he may not strike one sword at any time." 

9That is, "Allah is not asking you to exert your utmost because he stands in need of any help from you to establish His Godhead and keep it established and sustained. But He instructs you to enter this conflict because this opens the way to your own progress. Through this way only you can get rid of the evil and follow the way of truth; through this way alone you can develop the ability and power to rise as the standard-bearers of goodness in the world and become worthy of Allah's Paradise in the Hereafter. By waging this war you will not do any favor to Allah. but will only be helping your own selves.

10Iman means to believe in and accept sincerely all those things to which the Messenger of Allah and this Book invite; and "good works" are those which are performed in accordance with the guidance of Allah and His Messenger. The good work of the heart and mind is that man's thinking and his ideas and his intentions should be right and pure. The good work of the tongue is that man should refrain from talking evil things, and whatever he says should be just and right and true; and the good work of the limbs is that man's entire life should be spent in Allah's worship and in obedience to His Commands and Law. Two results of the belief and righteous deeds have been mentioned: (1) That man's evils will be wiped off; and (2) that he will be rewarded for the best of his deeds better than what he will actually deserve.

Wiping off of evils means several things: (1) All kinds of sins that man might have committed before his affirmation of the Faith will be pardoned as soon as he believes; (2) the errors that man might have committed after the affirmation of the faith due to human weakness, but not because of a rebellious attitude, will be overlooked in view of his good deeds; (3) man's self reform will automatically take place when he adopts a life of belief and righteousness. and most of his weaknesses will be removed from him.

The sentence, "We shall reward them for the best of their deeds", has two meanings: (1) Man will be given his rewards on the basis of the best of his deeds; and (2) he will be rewarded better and more handsomely than what he will actually deserve for his deeds. This thing has been stated at other places also in the Qur'an. For instance, in Surah Al-An`am. :160, it has been said: "He who will bring a good deed before Allah, will receive a tenfold reward for it", and in Surah AlQasas :4: "Whoever brings a good deed, shall have a better reward than that", and in Surah An-Nisa :40: "Indeed Allah does not wrong anyone even by a jot: if one does a good deed, He increases it manifold. "

11According to Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Abu Da'ud and Nasa`i, this verse was Sent down in respect of Hadrat Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas. He was 18 or 19 years old when he embraced Islam. When his mother, Hamnah, daughter of Sufyan bin Umayyah (neice of Abu Sufyan), came to know that her son had become a Muslim, she said, "I will neither eat nor drink nor sit in shade unless you disown Muhammad. The rights of the mother are supermost even according to Allah's Command. Therefore if you disobey me, you will be disobeying Allah too." Hadrat Sa'd was perplexed and came before the Holy Prophet and told his whole story. At this, this verse was revealed. Possibly other young men who embraced Islam in the initial stage at Makkah were also confronted with similar situations. Therefore, the same theme has been repeated forcefully in Surah Luqman: 15 also.

What the verse means to impress is this: The rights of the parents, among the creation of Allah, are to be held as the supreme, but even if the parents force a person to adopt shirk, they should not be obeyed. The words, "If both of them force you to associate..." imply that a lesser pressure, or a pressure by either of them, deserves to be set aside much more promptly. The next sentence, ".... whom you do not know (as such)," is also noteworthy. This gives a sound reason for not obeying the parents in this regard. The parents certainly have the right that the children should serve them, respect them, and obey them in lawful things. But they do not have the right that one should obey them blindly against one's knowledge of the reality. Therefore, there is no reason why a person should go on following his parents' religion just because it is their religion. If the children come to know that their parents are following a false religion, they should give it up and adopt the right religion. and should not follow the wrong way whose falsehood has become clear to them even if the parents use every kind of pressure for it. When this is so in the case of even the parents, it should be so with every other person, too. No one deserves to be followed and obeyed unless one is sure that the person being followed is on the right path.  

12That is, "The relationships of the world and their obligations are confined to the world. At last, the parents as well as the children have to return to their Creator, and before Him everybody will be held answerable only on the basis of his personal responsibility. If the parents have misled the children, they will be called to account . If the children have accepted deviation for the sake of the parents, they will be punished. And if the children adopted the right way, and showed no slackness in rendering the parents' lawful rights either, but the parents ill-treated them only for the reason that they did not join them in their deviation, they will not be able to escape Allah's punishment."

13Though the speaker is a single person, he uses the plural pronoun and says, "We have believed," Imam Razi has pointed out a subtle point in it. He says that the hypocrite always tries to be counted among the believers and mentions his faith as though he is also a true believe like others. His case is like that of a cowardly soldier who accompanies an army to the battlefield where the soldiers have fought well and put the enemy to rout. This cowardly person might have made no contribution at all, but when he returns home, he will say, "We put up a good fight and routed the enemy", as if he was one of the heroes of the battlefield. 

14That is, "Just as one should desist from disbelief and sin due to fear of Allah's punishment, so did this man desist from faith and goodness due to fear of persecution by the people. When after belief he was confronted with threats and imprisonment and harsh treatment from the disbelievers, he thought that Allah's punishment in Hell which he will have to suffer after death in consequence of his disbelief, will be no severer than that. Therefore, he decided that he would suffer the torment of the Next World at its own time, but should give up faith and rejoin the disbelievers so that he might save himself from the torment of this world and pass an easy life."

15That is, "Today he has joined the disbelievers in order to save his skin. and has abandoned the believers for he is not prepared even to suffer a thorn prick in the cause of promoting Allah's religion, but when Allah will favor with .access and victory those who are struggling in His cause with their lives and properties, this person will come forward to have his share of the fruits of the victory and will tell the Muslims, "Our hearts were with you: we used to pray for your success: we thought very highly of your devotion to duty and your sacrifices."

Here, one should understand that in case of an unbearable persecution and loss and extreme fear, one is permitted to disown Islam and save one's life, provided that one remains firm in one's faith with a sincere heart. But there is a big difference between the sincere Muslim who disowns Islam under compulsion in order to save his life and the time-server who ideologically believes in Islam as a true religion but joins the disbelievers when he sees the dangers and risks involved in the life of Faith. Apparently, they do not seem to be much different from each other, but the thing which sets them poles apart is this: The sincere Muslim who utters disbelief under compulsion not only remains attached to Islam ideologically, but practically also his sympathies remain with Islam and the Muslims; he feels happy over their successes and unhappy at their defeat. Even under compulsion he tries to avail himself of every opportunity to cooperate with the Muslims, and remains on the look-out for a chance to join his brethren-in-faith as soon as the grip of the enemies loosens a little. Contrary to this, when the time-server finds that the way of the Faith is difficult to follow and calculates carefully that the disadvantages of siding with Islam outweigh the advantages of re joining the disbelievers, he turns away from Islam and the Muslims for the sake of personal safety and worldly gains, establishes friendship with the disbelievers and is prepared to carry out for his own interests any service for them, which may be utterly opposed to the Faith and harmful to the Muslims. But at the same time, he does not close his eyes to the possibility that Islam also might prosper some time in the future. Therefore, whenever he gets an opportunity to talk to the Muslims, he acknowledges their ideology and admits his faith and pays homage to their sacrifices most generously, so that his verbal admissions might be helpful as and when required. At another place in the Qur'an this same bargaining mentality of the hypocrites has been described, thus: "The hypocrites are watching you closely to see (how the wind blows). If victory comes to you from Allah, they will say to you, `Were we not with you?' And if the disbelievers gain the upper hand, they will say to them, `Were we not strong enough to fight against you'? Yet we defended you from the Muslims'." (An-Nisa': 141).  

16That is, "Allah provides occasions for the trial again and again so that the faith of the believers and the hypocrisy of the hypocrites become manifest, and whatever is hidden in the hearts becomes exposed. The same thing has been said in Al-i-`Imran: 179: "Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which you happen to be at present: He will surely separate the pure from the impure people."  

17What they meant to say was: "In the first place, the talk about life hereafter and Resurrection and accountability is all meaningless. But supposing there is another life in which the people will be called to account for their deeds, we take the responsibility that we shall take the punishment, etc. on our own selves. You should, therefore, listen to us and give up this new Faith and return to your ancestral religion." According to the traditions several chiefs of the Quraish used to counsel thus the people who embraced Islam in the beginning. So, when Hadrat `Umar accepted Islam, Abu Sufyan and Harab bin Umayyah bin Khalaf met him and said these very things." 

18That is, "It is not at all possible that a person should take the responsibility for another before Allah, and thus enable the actual sinner to escape the punishment of his sin, for every person will be responsible for his own deeds there. "No bearer of a burden shall bear the burden of another." (An-Najm: 38) But if at all it be so, none will have the nerve, in face of the blazing Hell got ready to punish the disbelievers, to say to Allah, only for the sake of honoring his pledge in the world, "Lord, forgive this person and send him to Paradise: he had turned apostate on my counseling: I offer myself to suffer the punishment for my own disbelief as well as for his in Hell." 

19That is "Though they will not bear the burdens of others, they will neither escape bearing a double burden: one burden of their own selves going astray, and the burden of leading the others astray." This can be understood by an example. A person commits theft and also asks another person to join him. Now if the other person also commits theft, no judge will let him off only because he had committed the offense on someone else's prompting. He will in any case be punished for the theft and it will not be fair according to any law of justice to let him off and punish instead of him the first thief who had prompted him to commit the theft. However, the first thief will suffer punishment for two offenses: the offense of committing theft himself and the offense of turning another person into a thief along with himself. This principle has been stated at another place in the Qur'an thus ".........so that they should bear the full brunt of their own burdens On the Day of Resurrection together with some of the burdens of those whom they are leading astray in their ignorance." (An-Nahl: 25) The same principle has been elucidated by the Holy Prophet in this Hadith: "whoever invited others to the right path will be granted a reward equal to the rewards of all those who listened to him and adopted the right path, without diminishing their rewards in any way. And whoever invited others to deviation will earn a sin equal to the sins of all those who followed him, without diminishing their sins in any way." 

20"Scandal-mongering" implies all those untruths which were hidden in this saying of the disbelievers: "Follow our way and we will bear the burden of your sins. " In fact, they said this on the basis of two presumptions: (1) The creed of shirk they are following is based on the truth and the Holy Prophet Muhammad's doctrine of Tauhid is false; therefore, there is nothing wrong if it is rejected; and (2) there is going to be no Resurrection, and the doctrine of the Hereafter which deters a Muslim from unbelief is baseless. With these presumptions they would counsel a Muslim, saying, "Well, if you think that disbelief is really a sin, and there is going to be Resurrection when you will be called to account for this sin, then we are ready to take this sin of yours on our Selves You leave it to us and give up the religion of Muhammad and return to your ancestral religion." In this two other false things were also included: (a) Their belief that a person who commits an offense on someone else's prompting can be exempted from its responsibility, and the whole responsibility can be assumed by the one who had prompted the commission of the offense; and (b) their false promise that on the Day of Resurrection they will certainly assume the responsibility for those who might have turned apostates on their counseling. For when Resurrection will actually be established, and they will see Hell against their expectations, they will never be prepared to receive the punishment of their own disbelief as well as bear the whole burden of the sins of those others whom they had deceived and misled in the world. 

21For comparison, see Al-i-`Imran: 33-34, An-Nisa': 163, AI-An`am: 84, AI-A'raf: 59-64, Yuuns: 71-73, Hud: 25-48, AI-Anbiyaa: 76-77, AlMu'minun: 23-30, AI-Furqan: 37, Ash-Shu araa: 105-123, As-Saffat: 75-82, Al Qamar: .9-15, AI-Haaqqah: 11-12, Nuh (the whole of it).

One should keep the initial verses of the Surah in view in order to understand the relevancy of these stories in this context. There, on the one hand, it has been said to the believers, "We have put to the test all those believers who have passed before you", and, on the other, the wicked disbelievers have been warned to the effect: "You should not have the misunderstanding that you will outstrip Us and escape Our grasp." It is to impress these two things that these historical events are being related here . 

22This does not mean that the Prophet Noah lived for 950 years, but it means that after his appointment to Prophethood till the coming of the Flood, he went on making efforts for 950 years for the reformation of his wicked people, and he did not lose heart even though he suffered persecutions for such a long time. The same is the aim of the discourse here. The believers are being told: "You have been suffering persecutions and experiencing stubbornness of your wicked opponents hardly for six years or so. Just imagine the patience and resolution and firmness of Our servant who braved such afflictions and hardships continuously for nine and a half centuries."

The Qur'an and the Bible differ about the age of the Prophet Noah. The Bible says that he lived for 950 years. He was 600 years old when the Flood came, and lived for another 350 years after the Flood. (Gen. 7: 6 and 9: 28-29). But according to the Qur'an, he must have lived for at least a thousand years, because 950 years is the time that he spent in preaching his mission after his appointment to Prophethood till the coming of the Flood. Evidently, he must have been appointed to Prophethood after he had attained his maturity, and must have lived some life after the Flood also.

For some people such a long life is inconceivable. But in this world of God strange happenings are not rare. Wherever one may look one will see extraordinary manifestations of His power. The occurrence of certain events and things in a usual form and manner is no proof that the event or thing cannot happen in an unusual and extraordinary way. To break these assumptions there exists a long list of unusual events and things that have taken place in every kind of creation in every part of the universe. In particular, the person who has a clear concept of God's being AII-Powerful, cannot be involved in the misunderstanding that it is not possible for God, Who is the Creator of life and death, to grant a life of a thousand years or so to any man. The fact is that man of his own will and wish cannot live even for a moment, but if Allah wills, He can make him live for as long as He pleases. 

23That is, the Flood came when they still persisted in their wickedness. Had they desisted from it before the coming of the Flood Allah would not have sent this torment on them.

24That is, the people who had believed in Noah, and who had been permitted by Allah to board the Ark. This has been elucidated in Surah Hud: 40, thus: "Until when Our Command game to pass and at-Tannur began to boil up, We said, `(O Noah), take into Ark a pair from every species, and embark your own people-save those who have already been specifically marked--and also those who have believed; and those who had believed with Noah were only a few."

25It can also mean this: "We made this dreadful punishment or this great event a Sign of warning for the later generations." But from the way this has been mentioned here and in Surah Qamar, it appears that the object of warning was the Ark itself, which remained on the top of the mountain for centuries and continued to remind the later generations that a Flood of such magnitude had once come in that land because of which the Ark had risen up to rest on the mountain. In Surah Qamar: 13-15, it has been said: "And We bore Noah upon a thing (Ark) made of planks and nails, which floated under Our care. This was a vengeance for the sake of him who had been slighted. And We left that Ark as a Sign. Then, is there any who would take admonition ?"

In his commentary on this verse of Surah Qamar, Ibn Jarir says on the authority of Qatadah that during the period of the Companions when the Muslims went to the land of al-Jazirah, they saw the Ark on mount Judi (according to another tradition, near the habitation of Baqirwa). In the modern times also news appear from time to time in the papers that expeditions are being sent to search out the boat, because something resembling a boat has been sighted many time from aeroplanes during flights over Mount Ararat. (For further details, see E.N. 47 of Al-A`raf and E.N. 46 of Hud).  

26For comparison, see AI-Baqarah: 122-141. 258-260; AI-i-'Imran: 6471; AI-An'am: 71-82; Hud:.69-83; Ibrahim: 35-41; AI-Hijr: 45-60; Maryam: 4150; AI-Anbiyaa: 51-75; Ash-Shu'araa: 69-104; As -Saftat: 75-I 13; Az-Zukhruf: 26-35; Adh-Dhariyat: 24-46. 

27That is, "Fear disobeying Him and associating others with Him."

28That is, "You are not forging idols but a lie. These idols are in themselves a lie. Then your beliefs that they are gods and goddesses, or they are incarnation of God, or His offspring, or His favorites, or intercessors with Him, ur that someone of them is bestower of health, or giver of children or jobs, are all lies, which you have invented from your own whims and conjecture. The fact is that they are in no way more than idols-lifeless, powerless and impotent.  

29In these few sentences the Prophet Abraham has put together all rational arguments against idol-worship. There must necessarily be some reason for making somebody or something a deity. One such reason can be that somebody should be entitled to being a deity due to some personal excellence. Another, that he should be the creator of man, and man should be indebted to him for tiffs existence. Third, that he should be responsible for man's sustenance, his food and other means of life. Fourth, that man's future should be linked up with his support and bounty, and man may be afraid that annoying him would mean bringing about his own ruin. The Prophet Abraham said that none of these four things favored idol-worship, but they all favored and demanded pure God-worship. Saying that they are mere idols, he demolished the first argument, for a mere idol could have no excellence to entitle it to be a deity. Then, by saying that "You are their creator", be refuted the second argument, and "they have no power to give you any sustenance" destroyed the third reason. Lastly. he said, "You have to return to Allah ultimately" and not to the idols; therefore, it was not in their power to make or mar your destiny, but in the power of God alone. Thus, after a complete refutation of shirk, the Prophet Abraham made it clear to them that all the reasons for which man could regard somebody as a deity only applied to Allah, Who alone should be worshiped without associating anyone else with him. 

30That is, "If you reject my invitation to Tauhid and deny my message that you have to return to your Lord and render an account of your deeds, it will not be a new thing. In the history of mankind many Prophets-like Noah, Hud, Salih (on whom be Allah's peace) before also have brought the same teachings, and their peoples denied them likewise. Now you may judge for yourselves as to whether they harmed the Prophets or only themselves".

31From here to the end of verse 23 is a parenthesis, which has been interposed in the story of the Prophet Abraham and addressed to the disbelievers of Makkah. The relevance of this interposition in the story, which is being related for the admonition of the disbelievers, is that they were basically involved in two kinds of deviation: shirk and idol-worship, and the denial of the Hereafter. The first of these has been refuted in the Prophet Abraham's speech as related above. Now the second is being refuted in these few sentences by Allah Himself.

32That is, "On the one hand, countless new things come into existence from non-existence, and on the other, similar new members continue coming into existence to take the place of the dying members of every species. The polytheists acknowledged that that was all due to Allah's power of creation and invention. They never denied Allah's being a Creator, just as the polytheists of today do not do. Therefore, the argument has been based upon what they themselves acknowledged as a reality, as if to say, "How do you think that God, Who, according to your own belief, . brings things into existence from non-existence, and noes not create things just once, but goes on bringing into existence similar things in place of the dying things repeatedly in front of your very eyes, will not be able to raise you back to life after death ?" (For further explanation, see E.N. 80 of Surah An Naml).

33That is, "When you yourselves are witnessing things being created in the first instance by God's competence and skill, you should understand it well that re-creation shall also take place by the same competence and skill. Such a thing is not beyond His power nor can it be."

34That is, "You cannot escape Allah's grasp wherever you may flee. Whether you descend into the depths of the earth or climb into the heights of the sky, you will be apprehended in any case and brought before your Lord." The something has been said in Surah Ar-Rahman as a challenge to the jinns and mankind: "O company of jinns and men! If you have the power to escape across the bounds of the earth and heavens, then do escape! You shall not escape, for it requires a great power." (v. 33). 

35That is,"Neither you yourselves have the power that you should escape Allah's grasp, nor is any of your guardians or patrons or supporters so powerful that he should give you refuge against Allah and save you from His punishment. None in the entire universe can dare rise as a supporter of those who have committed shirk and disbelief, who have refused to submit before Divine Commands, who have dared disobey Allah impudently, and raised storms of wickedness and mischief on His earth; and withhold enforcement of the Divine decree of torment against them, or have the nerve to say in God's Court: "They are my followers: therefore, whatever they might have done should be forgiven them."

36That is, "They have no share in My mercy, and they should entertain no hope whatever of getting any share of My mercy. When they denied the Revelations of Allah, they themselves gave up their right to benefit by the promises Allah has made to the believers. Then, when they have denied the Hereafter and do not at all believe that one day they will have to stand before their God, it only means that they cherish no hope at all of Allah's pardon and forgiveness. After this when they will open their eyes in the-Hereafter, against their expectations, and will also see the truth of those Signs of Allah, which they had denied, there is no reason why they should expect to receive any share from Allah's mercy."

37From here the discourse again turns to the story of the Prophet Abraham. 

38That is, they had no answer to the Prophet Abraham's rational arguments. The only answer they gave was: "Cut off the tongue that talks the truth and let not the person live, who points out our error and tells us to give it up." The words, "Kill him or burn him", indicate that the whole crowd was unanimous that the Prophet Abraham should be put to death. However, they differed about the method. Some said that he should be killed, and others said that he should be burnt alive, so that no one in future should dare say the sort of the thing he said.

39This sentence by itself shows that they had at last decided to burn the Prophet Abraham and he was cast into the fire. Here it has only been said that Allah saved him from the fire; but in Surah AI-Anbiyaa it has been elucidated that Allah commanded: "O fire! Be cool and become safe for Abraham!" (v. 69) Evidently, if he was not at all cast into the fire, the Command to the fire to become cool and safe would be meaningless. This proves that properties of all things are dependent on Allah's Command and whenever He pleases He can change the property of anything He likes. Normally fire burns and every combustible thing catches fire. But this property of the tire is not of its own acquisition but given by God. And this property has in no way tied up God that He they give no Command against it. He is the Master of His fire. He can command it any time to give up the property of burning. At any time He can turn a furnace into a bed of roses. But events contrary to the course of nature occur only rarely to serve some great purpose or cause. However, the usual phenomena to which we are accustomed in our daily lives, cannot be made an argument to say that Allah's power has been tied up with these, and nothing unusual can take place even by Allah's Command.  

40"Signs ... believe": Signs for the believers in this that the Prophet Abraham did not follow the religion of his family, community and country but Followed the true knowledge through which he came to know that shirk is falsehood and Tauhid the Reality; and in this that he went on exhorting his people to accept the Truth and to desist from falsehood in spite of their stubbornness and prejudices; and in this that he was even prepared to suffer the horrible punishment by the fire, but was not prepared to give up the Truth; and in this that Allah did not even spare the Prophet Abraham, His Friend, from the trials and tests; and in this that when the Prophet Abraham got successfully through the tests set by Allah, then did come Allah's succor, and in such a miraculous way that the bonfire was turned cool for him!

41The Prophet Abraham must have said this after his safe deliverance tram the fire.  

42That is, "You have built up your collective life on the foundation of idol-worship instead of. God-worship, which can keep you bound together as a nation only to the extent of mundane life. For here in this world people can be got together around any creed, true or false, and any kind of agreement and concord on any belief, however wrong and ill-conceived, can become a means of the establishment of mutual friendships, kinships, brotherhoods, and all other religious, social, cultural, economic and political relationships." 

43That is, "The collective life that you have built on the false creed in the world cannot endure in the Hereafter. Only those relationships of love and friendship and cooperation and kinship and mutual regard and esteem will endure there, which have been based on the worship of One God and virtue and piety in the world. All relationships founded on disbelief and shirk and deviation will be severed, and all kinds of love will change into enmity and hatred. The son and the father, the husband and the wife, the saint and the disciple, all will curse each other, and each will blame his deviation on the other, and will say, "This wicked person led the astray: he should be given a double punishment." This thing has been stated at several places in the Qur'an. For example, in Surah Zukhruf, it has been said: "Friends on that Day shall become enemies of one another, except the righteous." (v. 67) In Surah Al-A`raf: "As each generation will be entering Hell, it will curse Its preceding generation till all generations shall be gathered together there: then each succeeding generation will say regarding the preceding one, "O Lord, these were the people who led us astray; therefore, give them a double chastisement of the Fire." (v. 38) And in Surah Al-Ahzab: "And they will say; 'Our Lord, we obeyed our chiefs and our great men, and they led us astray front the right path. Lord, give them a doable chastisement and curse them severely." (vv. 67-68).  

44The context shows that when the Prophet Abraham came out of the fire and spoke the preceding sentences, only Prophet Lot from the entire crowd came forward to proclaim his belief and adopt his obedience. It is just possible that many other people also on this occasion might have been convinced of the Prophet Abraham's being a true Prophet, but in view of the violent reaction that had been shown openly by the entire community and the government against Abraham's Faith, no one else could muster up courage to affirm faith in such a dangerous truth and follow it. This good fortune fell to the lot of only one man, the Prophet Lot, the nephew of the Prophet Abraham, who at last accompanied his uncle and aunt (Hadrat Sarah) in their migration also.

Here, the question may arise: Was the Prophet Lot a disbeliever and a mushrik before this, and did he believe only after witnessing the miracle of the Prophet Abraham's emerging safe and sound from the fire? If it is so, can a person who has been a mushrikr be appointed to Prophethood? The answer is this: Here the Qur'an has used the words fa-amana la-hu Lut, which do not necessarily imply that the Prophet Lot disbelieved in God before this, or associated other deities with Him. They only show that after this he confirmed the Prophethood of the Prophet Abraham, and adopted his obedience. Possibly the Prophet Lot was a young boy then and this might be the first very occasion when he became acquainted with the teachings of his uncle and his Prophethood. 

45That is, "I shall leave my country for the sake of my Lord and go wherever my Lord may take me." 

46That is, "He possesses the power to help and protect me, and whatever He decides for me will be based on wisdom."

47The Prophet Isaac was the son and the Prophet Jacob the grandson. The other sons of the Prophet Abraham have not been mentioned here, because from his Midianite descendants only the Prophet Shu'aib was appointed a Prophet, and no Prophet was born among his Ishmaelite descendants for 2500 years or so till our Holy Prophet Muhammad (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him). Contrary to this, the descendants of the Prophet Isaac (peace be upon him) continued to be blessed with the Prophethood and the Book till the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). 

48This covers all the Prophets who were raised from all the branches of the Prophet Abraham's progeny.  

49What is meant to be said is this: The rulers and the learned men and the priests of Babylon who tried to defeat the mission of the Prophet Abraham (Allah's peace be upon him) and the polytheistic people who had followed their wicked chiefs blindly, have since been blotted out and no trace of them is to be found anywhere in the world, but the person whom they had wanted to annihilate by burning in the fire only because he had proclaimed the Word of Allah, and who eventually had to leave his country empty-handed, was so blessed by Allah that his name has been well known in the world since the past 4,000 years and will remain so till the Last Day. All the Muslims and the Christians and the Jews unanimously recognize that Friend of the Lord of the worlds as their spiritual Leader. Whatever guidance mankind has received during the past 40 centuries has been received through this one man and his righteous descendants. The unique reward that he will get in the Hereafter is assured, but the place of honor that he has gained even in this world has not been gained so far by any of those who have exerted themselves in pursuit of the worldly benefits and advantages.  

50For comparison, see Al-A`raf: 80-84, Hud: 69-83; Al-Hijr: 57-79; Al-Anbiyaa: 71-75; Ash-Shu`araa: 16Q-175; An-Naml: 54 59;.As-Saffat: 133-138; AIQamar: 33-40.  

51That is, "You satisfy your sex desire with the males." As stated in AI A'raf: 81: "you gratify your lust with men instead of women."

52That is, "You do not even hide yourself when you commit this filthy act, but commit it openly in your assemblies, in front of others." The same has been stated in Surah An-Naml: 54, thus: "Do you commit the indecency while you see it?" 

53According to the details given of this in Surah Hud and A1-Hijr, the angels who had been sent to bring the torment on the people of the Prophet Lot, first came to the Prophet Abraham and gave him the good news of the birth of the Prophet Isaac and after him of the Prophet Jacob. Then they told him that they had been sent to destroy the people of Lot.  

54"This habitation" refers to the territory of the people of Lot. The Prophet Abraham at that time resided in the Palestinian city of Hebron, now called AI-Khal