Abdullah Yusuf Ali
Surah Al Ankabut
Introduction and Summary
This Surah is the last of the series began with Surah 17, in which the growth of the spiritual man as an individual is considered, especially illustrated by the way in which the great Prophets were prepared for their work and received their mission, and the nature of Revelation in relation to the environments in which it was promulgated. (See Introduction to Surah 17). It also closes the sub-series beginning with Surah 26, which is concerned with the spiritual Light, and the reactions to it at certain periods of spiritual history (See Introduction to Surah 26).
The last Surah closed with a reference to the doctrine of the Ma'ad, or final Return of Man to Allah. This theme is further developed here, and as it is continued in the connecting link between the present series and those three Surahs.
In particular, emphasis is laid here on the necessity of linking actual conduct with the reception of Allah's revelation, and reference is again made to the stories of Noah, Abraham, and Lut among the Prophets, and the stories of Madyan, 'Ad, Thamud, and Pharaoh among the rejecters of Allah's Message. This world's life is contrasted with the real Life of the Hereafter.
Chronologically the main Surah belongs to the late Middle Makkan period, but the chronology has no significance except as showing how clearly the vision of the Future was revealed long before the Hijrah, to the struggling Brotherhood of Islam.
Summary- Belief is tested by trial in life and practical conduct; though Noah lived 950 years, his people refused Faith, and Abraham's generation threatened to burn Abraham (29:1-27), and C. 177).
Lut's people not only rejected Allah's Message but publicly defied him in sin; the 'Ad and the Thamud had intelligence but misused it, and Qurun, Pharaoh, and Haman perished for their overweening arrogance; they found their worldly power as frail as spider's web (29:28-44, and C. 178).
The Quran as a revelation stands on its own merits and is a Sign: it teaches the distinction between Right and Wrong, and shows the importance and excellence of the Hereafter (29:45-69, and C. 179).
C.177 (The running Commentary, in Rhythmic Prose)
Faith must be tested in conflicts
Of practical life, but Good can never
Be submerged. On the contrary, Allah
Will wash off all stains from those
Who strive, and admit them to the Fellowship
Of the Righteous. Not so are the hypocrites
And those who reject Faith. Their hearts
Are diseased, and they will not accept
The right though a Noah preached it to them
For a thousand years, or an Abraham
Reasoned with them on Allah's most wonderful
providence. But the true will ever search out
The Truth, and Truth will always prevail.
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
1. Alif Lam Mim.
C3422. For these Abbreviated Letters see n. 25 to 2:1.
We are asked to contrast, in our present life the real inner life against the outer life, and learn from the past about the struggles of the soul which upholds Allah's Truth, against the environment of evil, which resists it, and to turn our thoughts to the Ma'ad, or man's future destiny in the Hereafter.
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا...
2. Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, "We believe,"
C3423. Mere lip profession of Faith is not enough. It must be tried and tested in the real turmoil of life.
The test will be applied in all kinds of circumstances, in individual life and in relation to the environment around us, to see whether we can strive constantly and put Allah above Self.
Much pain, sorrow, and self-sacrifice may be necessary, not because they are good in themselves, but because they will purify us, like fire applied to a goldsmith's crucible to burn out the dross.
...وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ ﴿٢﴾
and that they will not be tested?
وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ...
3. We did test those before them,
...فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ ﴿٣﴾
and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false.
C3424. The word "know" is used here more in the sense of testing than of acquiring knowledge.
Allah is All-Knowing: He needs no test to increase His own knowledge, but the test is to burn out the dross within ourselves, as explained in the last note.
أَمْ حَسِبَ الَّذِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ أَن يَسْبِقُونَا...
4. Do those who practice evil think that they will get the better of us?
...سَاء مَا يَحْكُمُونَ ﴿٤﴾
Evil is their judgment!
C3425. If the enemies of Truth imagine that they will "be first" by destroying Truth before it takes root, they are sadly at fault, for their own persecution may help to plant Allah's Truth more firmly in men's hearts.
مَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاء اللَّهِ ...
5. For those whose hopes are in the meeting with Allah (in the Hereafter, let them strive);
C3426. The men of Faith look forward to Allah. Their quest is Allah, and the object of their hopes is the meeting with Allah. They should strive with might and main to serve Him in this life, for this life is short, and the Term appointed for their probation will soon be over.
... فَإِنَّ أَجَلَ اللَّهِ لَآتٍ...
for the Term (appointed) by Allah is surely coming:
C3427. The Term (ajal) may signify:
- the time appointed for death, which ends the probation of this life;
- the time appointed for this life, so that we can prepare for the Hereafter; the limit will soon expire.
In either case the ultimate meaning is the same.
We must strive now and not postpone anything for the future. And we must realize and remember that every prayer we make to Allah is heard by Him, and that every unspoken wish or motive of our heart, good or bad, is known to Him, and goes to swell our spiritual account.
...وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ ﴿٥﴾
and He hears and knows (all things).
وَمَن جَاهَدَ فَإِنَّمَا يُجَاهِدُ لِنَفْسِهِ...
6. And if any strive (with might and main), they do so for their own souls:
C3428. All our striving ensures to our own spiritual benefit. When we speak of serving Allah, it is not that we confer any benefit on Him. For He has no needs, and is independent of all His Creation.
In conforming to His Will, we are seeking our own good, as in yielding to evil we are doing harm to ourselves.
...إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿٦﴾
for Allah is free of all needs from all creation.
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَنُكَفِّرَنَّ عَنْهُمْ سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ...
7. Those who believe and work righteous deeds, from them shall We blot out all evil (that may be) in them,
C3429. In striving to purify our Faith and our Life, we are enabled to avoid the consequences of our misdeeds for Allah will forgive any evil in our past, and help to the attainment of a Future based on the best of what we have done rather than on the poor average of our own merits.
The atonement or expiation is by Allah's Mercy, not by our merits or the merits or sacrifice of anyone else. (R).
...وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَحْسَنَ الَّذِي كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿٧﴾
and We shall reward them according to the best of their deeds.
وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حُسْنًا...
8. We have enjoined on man kindness to parents:
...وَإِن جَاهَدَاكَ لِتُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا...
but if they (either of them) strive (to force) thee to join with Me (in worship) anything of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not.
C3430. That is, no certainty in virtue of the spiritual light. In matters of faith and worship, even parents have no right to force their children. They cannot and must not hold up before them any worship but that of the One True God.
...إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿٨﴾
Ye have (all) to return to Me, and I will tell you (the truth) of all that ye did.
C3431. Children and parents must all remember that they have all to go before Allah's tribunal, and answer, each for his own deeds.
In cases where one set of people have lawful authority over another set of people (as in the case of parents and children), and the two differ in important matters like that of Faith, the latter are justified in rejecting authority: the apparent conflict will be solved when the whole truth is revealed to all eyes in the final Judgment.
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَنُدْخِلَنَّهُمْ فِي الصَّالِحِينَ ﴿٩﴾
9. And those who believe and work righteous deeds, them shall We admit to the company of the Righteous.
C3432. The picking up again of the words which began verse 7 above shows that the same subject is now pursued from another aspect.
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ...
10. Then there are among men such as say, "We believe in Allah;"
...فَإِذَا أُوذِيَ فِي اللَّهِ جَعَلَ فِتْنَةَ النَّاسِ كَعَذَابِ اللَّهِ...
but when they suffer affliction in (the cause of) Allah, they treat men's oppression as if it were the Wrath of Allah!
...وَلَئِن جَاء نَصْرٌ مِّن رَّبِّكَ لَيَقُولُنَّ إِنَّا كُنَّا مَعَكُمْ...
and if help comes (to thee) from thy Lord, they are sure to say, "We have (always) been with you!"
C3433. Cf. 9:56, and other passages where the cunning of the Hypocrites is exposed.
The man who turns away from Faith in adversity and only claims the friendship of the Faithful when there is something to be gained by it, is worthy of a double condemnation:
- first because he rejected Faith and Truth, and
- secondly because he falsely pretended to be of those whom he feared or hated in his heart.
But nothing in all creation is concealed from Allah.
...أَوَلَيْسَ اللَّهُ بِأَعْلَمَ بِمَا فِي صُدُورِ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٠﴾
Does not Allah know best all that is in the hearts of all Creation?
وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ ﴿١١﴾
11. And Allah most certainly knows those who believe, and as certainly those who are Hypocrites.
C3434. Cf. 29:3 above.
The general opposition between Truth and Falsehood is now brought down to the specific case of the Hypocrites, who are against the Faith militant but swear friendship with it when it seems to be gaining ground.
The argument is rounded off with the next two verses.
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّبِعُوا سَبِيلَنَا وَلْنَحْمِلْ خَطَايَاكُمْ...
12. And the Unbelievers say to those who believe:
"Follow our path, and we will bear (the consequences) of your faults."
C3435. Besides the hypocrite there is another type of man who openly scoffs at Faith. 'Take life as we take it,' he says; 'we shall bear your sins.'
As if they could!
Each soul bears its own burdens, and no one else can bear them.
The principle also applies to the type of man who preaches vicarious atonement, for, if followed to its logical conclusion, it means both injustice and irresponsibility, and puts quite a different complexion on the nature of sin.
... وَمَا هُم بِحَامِلِينَ مِنْ خَطَايَاهُم مِّن شَيْءٍ...
Never in the least will they bear their faults:
...إِنَّهُمْ لَكَاذِبُونَ ﴿١٢﴾
in fact they are liars!
وَلَيَحْمِلُنَّ أَثْقَالَهُمْ وَأَثْقَالًا مَّعَ أَثْقَالِهِمْ...
13. They will bear their own burdens, and (other) burdens along with their own,
C3436. Besides the burden of their own infidelity, they will bear the burden of deluding others with falsehood.
...وَلَيُسْأَلُنَّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ عَمَّا كَانُوا يَفْتَرُونَ ﴿١٣﴾
and on the Day of Judgement they will be called to account for their falsehoods.
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَى قَوْمِهِ...
14. We (once) sent Noah to his people,
...فَلَبِثَ فِيهِمْ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ إِلَّا خَمْسِينَ عَامًا...
and he tarried among them a thousand years less fifty:
C3437. The story of Noah and his Flood is not told here. It is told in other places; e.g., see 11:25-48 or 26:105-122.
It is only referred to here to point out that Noah's period lasted a long time, 950 years. (Cf. Gen. 9:28-29, where his whole age is declared to have been 950 years, of which 350 years were after the Flood).
In spite of this long period, his contemporaries failed to listen, and they were destroyed.
But the story of the Ark remains an everlasting Sign and Warning to mankind-a Sign of deliverance to the righteous and of destruction to the wicked.
...فَأَخَذَهُمُ الطُّوفَانُ وَهُمْ ظَالِمُونَ ﴿١٤﴾
but the Deluge overwhelmed them while they (persisted in) sin.
فَأَنجَيْنَاهُ وَأَصْحَابَ السَّفِينَةِ...
15. But We saved him and the Companions of the Ark,
...وَجَعَلْنَاهَا آيَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٥﴾
and We made the (Ark) a Sign for all Peoples!
وَإِبْرَاهِيمَ إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاتَّقُوهُ...
16. And (We also saved) Abraham: Behold, he said to his people,
"Serve Allah and fear Him:
C3438. The story of Abraham has been told in various phases in different passages. The ones most germane to the present passage are:
21:51-72 (his being cast into the fire and being saved from it); and
19:41-49 (his voluntary exile from the home of his fathers).
Here the story is not told but is referred to in order to stress the following points;
- evil consorts with evil but will have a rude awakening (29:25);
- the good adhere to the good, and are blessed (29:26-27).
Note that the passage 29:19-23 is a parenthetical comment, though some Commentators treat a portion of it as part of Abraham's speech.
...ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿١٦﴾
that will be best for you -- if ye understand!
إِنَّمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْثَانًا وَتَخْلُقُونَ إِفْكًا...
17. "For ye do worship idols besides Allah, and ye invent falsehood.
...إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ لَكُمْ رِزْقًا...
The things that ye worship besides Allah have no power to give you sustenance:
...فَابْتَغُوا عِندَ اللَّهِ الرِّزْقَ وَاعْبُدُوهُ وَاشْكُرُوا لَهُ...
then seek ye sustenance from Allah, serve Him, and be grateful to Him:
C3439. Sustenance: in the symbolic as well as the literal sense. Seek from Allah all that is necessary for your upkeep and development, and for preparing you for your future Destiny.
Lay all your hopes in Him and in no one else. Dedicate yourselves to His worship. He will give you all that is necessary for your growth and well being, and you should show your gratitude to Him by conforming your will entirely to His.
...إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ ﴿١٧﴾
to Him will be your return.
وَإِن تُكَذِّبُوا فَقَدْ كَذَّبَ أُمَمٌ مِّن قَبْلِكُمْ...
18. "And if ye reject (the Message), so did generations before you:
...وَمَا عَلَى الرَّسُولِ إِلَّا الْبَلَاغُ الْمُبِينُ ﴿١٨﴾
and the duty of the messenger is only to preach publicly (and clearly)."
أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا كَيْفَ يُبْدِئُ اللَّهُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ...
19. See they not how Allah originates creation, then repeats it:
C3440. The originating of creation is the creation of primeval matter.
The repetition of the process of creation goes on constantly, for at every moment new processes are being called into being by the creative power of Allah, and according to His Laws.
And the final creation as far as man is concerned will be in the Ma'ad, when the whole world as man sees it will be entirely newly created on a different plane.
As far as Allah is concerned, there is nothing final, no first and last, for He is infinite. He was before our First and will be after our Last.
...إِنَّ ذَلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ ﴿١٩﴾
truly that is easy for Allah.
قُلْ سِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَانظُرُوا كَيْفَ بَدَأَ الْخَلْقَ...
"Travel through the earth and see how Allah did originate creation:
C3441. Travel through the earth: again, literally as well as symbolically.
If we actually go through this wide earth, we shall see the wonderful things in His Creation;
- the Grand Canyon and the Niagaras in America,
- beautiful harbors like that at Sydney in Australia,
- mountains like Fujiyama, the Himalayas, and Elburz in Asia,
- the Nile with its wonderful cataracts in Africa, the Fiords of Norway, the Geysers of Iceland,
- the city of the midnight sun in Tromsoe,
- and innumerable wonders everywhere.
But wonders upon wonders are disclosed in the constitution of matter itself, the atom, and the forces of energy, as also in the instincts of animals, and the minds and capacities of man. And there is no limit to these things.
Worlds upon worlds are created and transformed every moment, within and presumably beyond man's vision. From what we know we can judge of the unknown.
...ثُمَّ اللَّهُ يُنشِئُ النَّشْأَةَ الْآخِرَةَ...
so will Allah produce a later creation:
...إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ﴿٢٠﴾
for Allah has power over all things.
يُعَذِّبُُ مَن يَشَاء وَيَرْحَمُ مَن يَشَاء...
21. "He punishes whom He pleases, and He grants mercy to whom He pleases,
...وَإِلَيْهِ تُقْلَبُونَ ﴿٢١﴾
and towards Him are ye turned.
C3442. I think ilaihi tuqlabun is better translated "towards Him are ye turned" than "towards Him will be your return", as it implies not only the return of man to Allah in the Hereafter (turja'un in verse 17 above) but also the fact explained in verse 22 that man's needs are always to be obtained from Allah:
man cannot frustrate Allah's designs, and can have no help or protection except from Allah: man has always to face Allah, whether man obeys Allah or tries to ignore Allah.
Man will never be able to defeat Allah's Plan. According to His wise Will and Plan, He will grant His grace or withhold it from man.
وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُعْجِزِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاء...
22. "Not on earth nor in heaven will ye be able (fleeing) to frustrate (His plan),
...وَمَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا نَصِيرٍ ﴿٢٢﴾
nor have ye, besides Allah, any protector or helper."
وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَلِقَائِهِ أُوْلَئِكَ يَئِسُوا مِن رَّحْمَتِي...
23. Those who reject the Signs of Allah and the Meeting, with Him (in the Hereafter), it is they who shall despair of My mercy:
...وَأُوْلَئِكَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ ﴿٢٣﴾
it is they who will (suffer) a most grievous Penalty.
C3443. The emphasis is on "they" (ulaika).
It is only the people who ignore or reject Allah's Signs and reject a Hereafter, that will find themselves in despair and suffering.
Allah's Mercy is open to all, but if any reject His Mercy, they must suffer.
فَمَا كَانَ جَوَابَ قَوْمِهِ إِلَّا أَن قَالُوا اقْتُلُوهُ أَوْ حَرِّقُوهُ...
24. So naught was the answer of (Abraham's) people except that they said: "
Slay him or burn him."
...فَأَنجَاهُ اللَّهُ مِنَ النَّارِ...
But Allah did save him from the Fire:
C3444. See 21:66-70.
Abraham was cast into the fire, but he was unhurt, by the grace of Allah. So righteous people suffer no harm from the plots of the wicked. But they must leave the environment of evil even if they have to forsake their ancestral home, as Abraham did.
...إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿٢٤﴾
verily in this are Signs for people who believe.
وَقَالَ إِنَّمَا اتَّخَذْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْثَانًا مَّوَدَّةَ بَيْنِكُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا...
25. And He said:
"For you, ye have taken (for worship) idols besides Allah, out of mutual love and regard between yourselves in this life;
C3445. In sin and wickedness there is as much log-rolling as in politics.
Evil men humor each other and support each other; they call each other's vice by high-sounding names. They call it mutual regard or friendship or love; at the lowest, they call it toleration.
Perhaps they flourish in this life by such arts. But they deceive themselves, and they deceive each other.
What will be their relations in the Hereafter?
They will disown each other when each has to answer on the principle of personal responsibility. Each will accuse the others of misleading him, and they will curse each other. But there will then be no help, and they must suffer in the Fire.
...ثُمَّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَكْفُرُ بَعْضُكُم بِبَعْضٍ وَيَلْعَنُ بَعْضُكُم بَعْضًا...
but on the Day of Judgement ye shall disown each other and curse each other:
...وَمَأْوَاكُمُ النَّارُ وَمَا لَكُم مِّن نَّاصِرِينَ ﴿٢٥﴾
and your abode will be the Fire,
and ye shall have none to help.
فَآمَنَ لَهُ لُوطٌ وَقَالَ إِنِّي مُهَاجِرٌ إِلَى رَبِّي...
26. But Lut had faith in Him: he said:
C3446. Lut was a nephew of Abraham. He adhered to Abraham's teaching and faith and accepted voluntary exile with him, for Abraham left the home of his fathers in Chaldaea and migrated to Syria and Palestine, where Allah gave him increase and prosperity, and a numerous family, who upheld the flag of Unity and the Light of Allah.
"I will leave home for the sake of my Lord:
...إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ ﴿٢٦﴾
for He is Exalted in Might, and Wise."
وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَجَعَلْنَا فِي ذُرِّيَّتِهِ النُّبُوَّةَ وَالْكِتَابَ...
27. And We gave (Abraham) Isaac and Jacob, and ordained among his progeny Prophethood and Revelation,
C3447. Isaac was Abraham's son and Jacob his grandson, and among his progeny was included Isma'il the eldest son of Abraham.
Each of these became a fountain-head of Prophecy and Revelation, Isaac and Jacob through Moses, and Isma'il through the holy Prophet Muhammad.
...وَآتَيْنَاهُ أَجْرَهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا...
and We granted him his reward in this life;
...وَإِنَّهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ لَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ ﴿٢٧﴾
and he was in the Hereafter (of the company) of the Righteous.
C.178 (The running Commentary, in Rhythmic Prose)
Worldly power cannot through sin
Defy the right, as was proved in the ministry
Of Lut; nor can Intelligence misused
Stand in the place of Allah's Light; nor
Can boastful insolence do aught
But dig its own grave. The strength
And skill, the beauty and power, of this world's
Life are no more than a Spider's Web,
Flimsy before the force of the eternal
Verities that flow from Allah Supreme!
وَلُوطًا إِذْ قَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ...
28. And (remember) Lut; behold, he said to his people:
...إِنَّكُمْ لَتَأْتُونَ الْفَاحِشَةَ مَا سَبَقَكُم بِهَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ مِّنَ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿٢٨﴾
"Ye do commit lewdness, such as no people in Creation (ever) committed before you.
C3449. Cf. 7:80.
A discreet reference is made to their unspeakable crimes, which were against the laws of all nature.
أَئِنَّكُمْ لَتَأْتُونَ الرِّجَالَ وَتَقْطَعُونَ السَّبِيلَ ...
29. "Do ye indeed approach men, and cut off the highway? --
C3450. They infested highways and committed their horrible crimes not only secretly, but openly and publicly, even in their assemblies.
Some Commentators understand "cutting off the highway" to refer to highway robberies: this is possible, and it is also possible that the crimes in their assemblies may have been injustice, rowdiness, etc. But the context seems to refer to their own special horrible crime, and the point here seems to be that they were not ashamed of it and that they practiced it publicly. Degradation could go no further.
... وَتَأْتُونَ فِي نَادِيكُمُ الْمُنكَرَ...
And practice wickedness (even) in your councils?"
...فَمَا كَانَ جَوَابَ قَوْمِهِ إِلَّا أَن قَالُوا...
But his people gave no answer but this: they said:
...ائْتِنَا بِعَذَابِ اللَّهِ إِن كُنتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ ﴿٢٩﴾
"Bring us the Wrath of Allah if thou tellest the truth."
C3451. This is another instance of their effrontery, in addition to that mentioned in 7:82: the two supplement each other.
Here the point emphasised is that they did not believe in Allah or His Punishment, and dared Allah's Prophet Lut to bring about the Punishment if he could. And it did come and destroy them.
قَالَ رَبِّ انصُرْنِي عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْمُفْسِدِينَ ﴿٣٠﴾
30. He said: "O my Lord! Help Thou me against people who do mischief!"
وَلَمَّا جَاءتْ رُسُلُنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ بِالْبُشْرَى ...
31. When Our Messengers came to Abraham with the good news,
C3452. See 11:69-76.
The angels, who were coming on the mission to destroy the people who were polluting the earth with their crimes, called on their way on Abraham to give the good news of the birth of a son to him in his old age.
When they told him their destination, he feared for his nephew who he knew was there. They reassured him and then came on to Lut.
... قَالُوا إِنَّا مُهْلِكُو أَهْلِ هَذِهِ الْقَرْيَةِ...
they said: "We are indeed going to destroy the people of this township:
C3453. By translating "township" I imply the two neighbouring populations of Sodom and Gomorrah, who had already gone too far in their crime, their shamelessness, and their defiance, to profit by any mercy from Allah.
...إِنَّ أَهْلَهَا كَانُوا ظَالِمِينَ ﴿٣١﴾
for truly they are (addicted to) crime."
قَالَ إِنَّ فِيهَا لُوطًا...
32. He said: "But there is Lut there."
...قَالُوا نَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن فِيهَا...
"Well do we know who is there:
...لَنُنَجِّيَنَّهُ وَأَهْلَهُ إِلَّا امْرَأَتَهُ كَانَتْ مِنَ الْغَابِرِينَ ﴿٣٢﴾
we will certainly save him and his following, except his wife:
she is of those who lag behind!"
C3454. She was not loyal to her husband.
Tradition says that she belonged to the wicked people, and was not prepared to leave them. She had no faith in the mission either of her husband or of the angels who had come as his guests.
وَلَمَّا أَن جَاءتْ رُسُلُنَا لُوطًا سِيءَ بِهِمْ وَضَاقَ بِهِمْ ذَرْعًا...
33. And when Our Messengers came to Lut, he was grieved on their account, and felt himself powerless (to protect) them:
C3455. This part of the story may be read in greater detail in 11:77-83.
...وَقَالُوا لَا تَخَفْ وَلَا تَحْزَنْ...
but they said
"Fear thou not, nor grieve:
...إِنَّا مُنَجُّوكَ وَأَهْلَكَ إِلَّا امْرَأَتَكَ كَانَتْ مِنَ الْغَابِرِينَ ﴿٣٣﴾
we are (here) to save thee and thy following, except thy wife:
she is of those who lag behind."
إِنَّا مُنزِلُونَ عَلَى أَهْلِ هَذِهِ الْقَرْيَةِ رِجْزًا مِّنَ السَّمَاء...
34. "For we are going to bring down on the people of this township a Punishment from heaven,
C3456. The Punishment was a rain of brimstone, which completely overwhelmed the Cities, with possibly an earthquake and a volcanic eruption (see 11:82).
...بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْسُقُونَ ﴿٣٤﴾
because they have been wickedly rebellious."
وَلَقَد تَّرَكْنَا مِنْهَا آيَةً بَيِّنَةً لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ ﴿٣٥﴾
35. And We have left thereof an evident Sign, for any people who (care to) understand.
C3457. The whole tract on the east side of the Dead Sea (where the Cities were situated) is covered with sulphureous salts and is deadly to animal and plant life.
The Dead Sea itself is called in Arabic the Bahr Lut (the sea of Lut). It is a scene of utter desolation, that should stand as a Symbol of the Destruction that awaits Sin.
وَإِلَى مَدْيَنَ أَخَاهُمْ شُعَيْبًا فَقَالَ يَا قَوْمِ ...
36. To the Madyan (people) (We sent) their brother Shu'aib. Then he said:
"O my people!
...اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَارْجُوا الْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَلَا تَعْثَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ مُفْسِدِينَ ﴿٣٦﴾
serve Allah, and fear the Last Day:
nor commit evil on the earth, with intent to do mischief."
فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ الرَّجْفَةُ...
37. But they rejected him: then the mighty Blast seized them,
C3458. The story of Shu'aib and the Madyan people is only referred to here. It is told in 11:84-95.
Their besetting sin was fraud and commercial immorality. Their punishment was a mighty Blast, such as accompanies volcanic eruptions.
The point of the reference here is that they went about doing mischief on the earth, and never thought of the Ma'ad or the Hereafter, the particular theme of this Surah.
The same point is made by the brief references in the following two verses to the 'Ad and the Thamud, and to Qarun, Pharaoh, and Haman, though the besetting sin in each case was different.
The Midianites were a commercial people and trafficked from land to land; their frauds are well described as spreading "mischief on the earth".
...فَأَصْبَحُوا فِي دَارِهِمْ جَاثِمِينَ ﴿٣٧﴾
and they lay prostrate in their homes by the morning.
وَعَادًا وَثَمُودَ ...
38. Remember also the 'Ad and the Thamud (people):
The remains of their buildings show:
- that they were gifted with great intelligence and skill;
- that they were proud of their material civilization; and
- their destruction argues how the greatest material civilization and resources cannot save a People who disobey Allah's moral law.
... وَقَد تَّبَيَّنَ لَكُم مِّن مَّسَاكِنِهِمْ...
clearly will appear to you from (the traces) of their buildings (their fate):
...وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَعْمَالَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ...
the Evil One made their deeds alluring to them, and kept them back from the Path,
C3460. They were so arrogant and self-satisfied, that they missed the higher purpose of life, and strayed clean away from the Path of Allah.
Though their intelligence should have kept them straight, Evil made them crooked and led them and kept them astray.
...وَكَانُوا مُسْتَبْصِرِينَ ﴿٣٨﴾
though they were gifted with Intelligence and Skill.
وَقَارُونَ وَفِرْعَوْنَ وَهَامَانَ...
39. (Remember also) Qarun, Pharaoh, and Haman:
C3461. For Qarun see 28:76-82;
Pharaoh is mentioned frequently in the Quran, but he is mentioned in association with Haman in 28:6;
for their blasphemous arrogance and defiance of Allah see 28:38.
They thought such a lot of themselves, but they came to an evil end.
...وَلَقَدْ جَاءهُم مُّوسَى بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ...
there came to them Moses with Clear Signs, but they behaved with insolence on the earth;
...وَمَا كَانُوا سَابِقِينَ ﴿٣٩﴾
yet they could not overreach (Us).
فَكُلًّا أَخَذْنَا بِذَنبِهِ...
40. Each one of them We seized for his crime:
...فَمِنْهُم مَّنْ أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِ حَاصِبًا...
of them, against some We sent a violent tornado (with showers of stones);
Some Commentators think that this also applied to the 'Ad, but their punishment is described as by a violent and unseasonable cold wind (41:16; 54:19 and 69:6), such as blows in sand-storms in the Ahqaf, the region of shifting sands which was in their territory.
...وَمِنْهُم مَّنْ أَخَذَتْهُ الصَّيْحَةُ...
some were caught by a (mighty) Blast;
This word is used in describing;
- the fate of the Thamud (11:67);
- Madyan (11:94);
- the population to which Lut preached (15:73);
- and the Rocky Tract (Hijr, 15:83), part of the territory of the Thamud;
- also in the Parable of the City to which came three Prophets, who found a single-believer (36:29).
...وَمِنْهُم مَّنْ خَسَفْنَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ...
some We caused the earth to swallow up;
C3464. This was the fate of Qarun: see 28:81.