(ENGLISH) COMMENTARY BY MUHAMMED ESED
( BY MUHAMMED ESED )
46 - AL-AHQAF
In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

        
THE KEY-WORD of this surah (the last of the Ha-Mim series) is found in verse 21. It was most probably revealed at approximately the same time as surah 72, that is, about two years, or even less, before the Prophets hijrah to Medina.
1. Ha. Mim.

1 - See Appendix II.

2. THE BESTOWAL from on high of this divine writ I issues from God, the Almighty, the Wise.
3. We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them otherwise than in accordance with [an inner] truth, and for a term set [by Us]: (2) and yet, they who are bent on denying the truth turn aside from the warning which has been conveyed unto them. (3)

2 - Regarding the expression in accordance with [an inner] truth, see note on 10: 5. The reference to the term set by God to all creation is meant to stress the fact of its finality in time as well as in space, in contrast with His Own timelessness and infinity.

3 - Lit., from that whereof they have been warned: i.e., they refuse to heed the warning not to attribute divine qualities to any being or force beside God.

4. Say: Have you [really] given thought to what it is that you invoke instead of God? Show me what these [beings or forces] have created anywhere on earth! Or had they, perchance, a share in [creating] the heavens? [If so,] bring me any divine writ preceding this one, or any [other] vestige of knowledge - if what you claim is true! (4)

4 - Sc., in support of your claim that there are other divine powers besides God.

5. And who could be more astray than one who invokes, instead of God, such as will not respond to him either now or on the Day of Resurrection, (5) and are not even conscious of being invoked?

5 - Lit., will not respond to him till the Day of Resurrection, i.e., never.

6. such as, when all mankind is gathered [for judgment], will be enemies unto those [who worshipped them], and will utterly reject their worship? (6)

6 - For this symbolic enmity of all false objects of worship, see note on 35: 14.

7. But whenever Our messages are conveyed to them in all their clarity, they who are bent on denying the truth speak thus of the truth as soon as it is brought to them: This is clearly nothing but spellbinding eloquence! (7)

7 - Lit., sorcery: see note on 74: 24, where the term sihr has been used, chronologically, for the first time in the above sense. As in that early instance, the truth referred to here is the message of the Quran.

8. Or do they say, He has invented all this? Say [O Muhammad]: Had I invented it, you would not be of the least help to me against God. (8) He is fully aware of that [slander] into which you so recklessly plunge: enough is He as a witness between me and you! And [withal,] He alone is truly-forgiving, a true dispenser of grace. (9)

8 - Sc., then why should I have invented all this for your sake?

9 - The implication is, May God forgive you, and grace you with His guidance (Zamakhshari).

9. Say: I am not the first of [Gods] apostles; (10) and [like all of them,] I do not know what will be done with me or with you: for I am nothing but a plain warner. (11)

10 - Thus Tabari, Baghawi, Razi, Ibn Kathir, implying - as Razi stresses I am but a human being like all of Gods message-bearers who preceded me. Alternatively, the phrase may be rendered as I am no innovator among the apostles - i.e., I am not preaching anything that was not already preached by all of Gods apostles before me (Razi and Baydawi): which coincides with the Quranic doctrine of the identity of the ethical teachings propounded by all of Gods prophets.

11 - I.e., What will happen to all of us in this world (Tabari, quoting with approval this interpretation of Al-Hasan al-Basri), or both in this world and in the hereafter (Baydawi). Either of these two interpretations implies a denial on the Prophets part of any foreknowledge of the future and, in a wider sense, any knowledge of that which is beyond the reach of human perception (al-ghayb): cf. 6: 50 or 7: 188.

10. Say: Have you given thought [to how you will fare] if this be truly [a revelation] from God and yet you deny its truth? - even though a witness from among the children of Israel has already borne witness to [the advent of] one like himself, (12) and has believed [in him], the while you glory in your arrogance [and reject his message]? Verily, God does not grace [such] evildoing folk with His guidance!

12 - I.e., a prophet like himself. The witness spoken of here is evidently Moses: cf. the two Biblical passages relating to the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (Deuteronomy xviii, 15 and 18): The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; and I will raise them up a prophet from among thy brethren, like Unto thee, and will put My words in his mouth. (See in this connection note on 2: 42.)

11. But they who are bent on denying the truth speak thus of those who have attained to faith: If this [message] were any good, these [people] would not have preceded us in accepting it! (13) And since they refuse to be guided by it, they will always say, This is [but] an ancient falsehood! (14)

13 - Lit., towards it. Almost all of the classical commentators assume that this refers, specifically, to the contempt with which the pagan Quraysh looked down upon the early followers of Muhammad, most of whom came from the poorest, lowliest strata of Meccan society. However, the above saying has undoubtedly a timeless import inasmuch as the poor and lowly have always been among the first to follow a prophet. Moreover, it may also have a bearing on our times as well, inasmuch as the materially powerful nations, whom their technological progress has blinded to many spiritual verities, are increasingly contemptuous of the weakness of those civilizations in which religion still plays an important, albeit largely formalistic, role; and so, not realizing that this very formalism and the ensuing cultural sterility, and not religious faith as such, is the innermost cause of that weakness, they attribute it to the influence of religion per se, saying as it were, If religion were any good, we would have been the first in holding on to it - thus justifying their own materialistic attitude and their refusal to be guided by spiritual considerations.

14 - I.e., the concept of divine revelation as such, as is evident from the subsequent reference to the revelation of Moses.

12. And yet, before this there was the revelation of Moses, a guide and a [sign of Gods] grace; and this [Quran] is a divine writ confirming the truth [of the Torah] (15) in the Arabic tongue, to warn those who are bent on evildoing, and [to bring] a glad tiding to the doers of good:

15 - Sc., in its original, uncorrupted form.

13. for, behold, all who say, Our Sustainer is God, and thereafter stand firm [in their faith] - no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve:
14. it is they who are destined for paradise, therein to abide as a reward for all that they have done.
15. NOW [among the best of the deeds which] We have enjoined upon man is goodness towards his parents. (16) In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth; and her bearing him and his utter dependence on her took thirty months. (17) And so, when he attains to full maturity and reaches forty years, (18) he [that is righteous] prays: O my Sustainer! Inspire me so that I may forever be grateful for those blessings of Thine with which Thou hast graced me and my parents, and that I may do what is right [in a manner] that will meet with Thy goodly acceptance; and grant me righteousness in my offspring [as well]. Verily, unto Thee have I turned in repentance: (19) for, verily, I am of those who have surrendered themselves unto Thee!

16 - Cf. 29: 8 and 31: 14. In the present instance, this connects with the reference to the doers of good at the end of verse 12 and in verses 13-14.

17 - See note on 31:14.

18 - I.e., the age at which man is supposed to attain to full intellectual and spiritual maturity. It is to be borne in mind that the masculine noun insan (man or human being) appearing in the first sentence of this verse applies to both sexes alike.

19 - Sc., of whatever sin I may have committed. See note on the last sentence of 24: 31.

16. It is [such as] these from whom We shall accept the best that they ever did, (20) and whose bad deeds We shall overlook: [they will find themselves] among those who are destined for paradise, in fulfillment of the true promise which they were given [in this world].

20 - I.e., whom We shall reward in accordance with the best that they ever did: cf. 29: 7.

17. But [there is many a one] who says to his parents [whenever they try to imbue him with faith in God]: Fie upon both of you! Do you promise me that I shall be brought forth [from the dead], although [so many] generations have passed away before me? (21) And [while] they both pray for Gods help [and say], Alas for thee! For, behold, Gods promise always comes true! - he but answers, All this is nothing but fables of ancient times!

21 - Sc., without any indication that anyone has been or will be resurrected. This parabolic dialogue is not only meant to illustrate the ever-recurring - and perhaps natural - conflict between older and younger generations, but also points to the transmission of religious ideas as the most important function of parenthood, and thus, in a wider sense, as the basic element of all social continuity.

18. It is [such as] these upon whom the sentence [of doom] will fall due, together with the [other sinful] communities of invisible beings (22) and humans that have passed away before their time. Verily, they will be lost:

22 - See Appendix III.

19. for, [in the life to come,] all shall have their degrees in accordance with whatever [good or evil] they did: and so, (23) He will repay them in full for their doings, and none shall be wronged.

23 - The particle li prefixed to the subsequent verb is evidently what the grammarians call a lam al-aqibah: i.e., not an indication of intent (so that) but simply of a causal sequence, which is best rendered as and, and so, or hence.

20. And on the Day when those who were bent on denying the truth will be brought within sight of the fire, [they will be told:] You have exhausted your [share of] good things in your worldly life, having enjoyed them [without any thought of the hereafter]: and so today you shall be requited with the suffering of humiliation for having gloried on earth in your arrogance, (24) offending against all that is right, and for all your iniquitous doings!

24 - I.e., for having arrogantly, without any objective justification, asserted that there is no life after death.

21. AND REMEMBER that brother of [the tribe of] Ad, (25) how - seeing that [other] warnings had already come and gone within his own knowledge as well as in times beyond his ken (26) he warned his people [who lived] among those sand-dunes: Worship none but God! Verily, I fear lest suffering befall you on an awesome day!

25 - I.e., the Prophet Hud (see note on 7: 65). The mention of Hud and the tribe of Ad connects with the last sentence of the preceding verse, inasmuch as this tribe transgressed all bounds of equity all over their lands (89:11).

26 - Lit., from between his hands and from behind him. This idiomatic phrase (explained in note on 2: 255) is evidently an allusion to the many warning messages, in Huds own time as well as in the almost forgotten past, which ought to have made - but did not make - the tribe of Ad conscious of how far astray they had gone. We have here a subtle, parenthetic reminder that, apart from the revelations which He bestows upon His prophets, God offers His guidance to man through the many signs and warnings apparent in all nature as well as in the changing conditions of human society.

22. They answered: Hast thou come to seduce us away from our gods? Bring, then, upon us that [doom] with which thou threaten us, if thou art a man of truth!
23. Said he: Knowledge [of when it is to befall you] rests with God alone: I but convey unto you the message with which I have been entrusted; but I see that you are people ignorant [of right and wrong]!
24. And so, when they beheld it (27) in the shape of a dense cloud approaching their valleys, they exclaimed, This is but a heavy cloud which will bring us [welcome] rain! [But Hud said:] Nay, but it is the very thing which you [so contemptuously] sought to hasten - a wind bearing grievous suffering,

27 - I.e., when they beheld, without recognizing it as such, the approach of their doom.]

25. bound to destroy everything at its Sustainers behest! And then they were so utterly wiped out (28) that nothing could be seen save their [empty] dwellings: thus do We requite people lost in sin.

28 - Lit., then they became so that, etc. See 69: 6-8, describing the sandstorm which destroyed the tribe of Ad without leaving any trace of them.

26. And yet, We had established them securely in a manner in which We have never established you, [O people of later times;] (29) and We had endowed them with hearing, and sight, and [knowledgeable] hearts: (30) but neither their hearing, nor their sight, nor their hearts were of the least avail to them, seeing that they went on rejecting Gods messages; and [in the end] they were overwhelmed (31) by the very thing which they had been wont to deride.

29 - This relates in the first instance to the pagan contemporaries of the Prophet, but applies to later generations as well. The tribe of Ad was the unchallenged lords in the vast region in which they lived (cf. 89: 8 - the like of whom has never been reared in all the land). Moreover, the social conditions of their time were so simple and so free of the many uncertainties and dangers which beset people of higher civilizations that they could be regarded as more securely established on earth than people of later, more complex times.

30 - I.e., intellect and feeling, both of which are comprised in the noun fuad.

31 - Lit., enfolded.

27. Thus have We destroyed many a [sinful] community living round about you; (32) and yet, [before destroying them,] We had given many facets to [Our warning] messages, so that they might turn back [from their evil ways].

32 - I.e., close to you in space as well as in time. In its wider sense, this phrase denotes all the rest of the world.

28. But, then, did those [beings] whom they had chosen to worship as deities beside God, hoping that they would bring them nearer [to Him], help them [in the end]? (33) Nay, they forsook them: for that [alleged divinity] was but an outcome of their self-delusion and all their false imagery. (34)

33 - This clause gives the meaning of the expression qurbanan, which contains an allusion not merely to false deities but also to the deification of saints, living or dead, who allegedly act as mediators between man and the transcendental Supreme Being.

34 - Lit., that was their lie and all that they were wont to invent.

29. AND LO! (35) We caused a group of unseen beings to incline towards thee, [O Muhammad,] (36) so that they might give ear to the Quran; and so, as soon as they became aware of it, (37) they said [unto one another], Listen in silence! And when [the recitation] was ended, they returned to their people as warners. (38)

35 - See note on 2: 30. The connection between this passage and the preceding one apparently lies in the fact that whereas those who are lost in sin (of whom the tribe of Ad is given as an example) refuse to heed Gods messages, the unseen beings spoken of in the sequence immediately perceived their truth and accepted them.

36 - The term nafar signifies a group of more than three and up to ten persons. The occurrence mentioned in this passage - said to have taken place in the small oasis of Nakhlah, on the way leading from Mecca to Taif (Tabari) - is evidently identical with that described in 72: 1-15; for a tentative explanation, see note on 72: 1.

37 - Lit., as soon as they attended to it, i.e., to its recitation by the Prophet.

38 - I.e., as preachers of the Quranic creed. The expression as warners connects with the preceding references to warning messages.

30. They said: O our people! Behold, we have been listening to a revelation bestowed from on high after [that of] Moses, confirming the truth of whatever there still remains [of the Torah]: (39) it guides towards the truth, and onto a straight way.

39 - For an explanation of this rendering of the phrase ma bayna yadayhi, see note on 3: 3. As pointed out in note on 72: 1, this reference to the Quran as revealed after Moses, omitting any mention of Jesus, seems to indicate that the speakers were followers of the Jewish faith; hence my interpolation of the words of the Torah.

31. O our people! Respond to Gods call, and have faith in Him: He will forgive you [whatever is past] of your sins, and deliver you from grievous suffering [in the life to come].
32. But he who does not respond to Gods call can never elude [Him] on earth, nor can he has any protector against Him [in the life to come]: all such are most obviously lost in error. (40)

40 - See note on 72: 15.

33. ARE, THEN, they [who deny the life to come] not aware that God, who has created the heavens and the earth and never been wearied by their creation, (41) has [also] the power to bring the dead back to life? Yea, verily, He has the power to will anything!

41 - This is apparently an allusion to the Quranic doctrine that Gods creative activity is continuous and unending.

34. And so, on the Day when those who were bent on denying the truth will be brought within sight of the fire [and will be asked], Is not this the truth? - they will answer, Yea, by Our Sustainer! [And] He will say: Taste, then, this suffering as an outcome of your denial of the truth!
35. REMAIN, then, [O believer,] patient in adversity, just as all of the apostles, endowed with firmness of heart, bore themselves with patience. And do not ask for a speedy doom of those [who still deny the truth]: on the Day when they see [the fulfillment of] what they were promised, (42) [it will seem to them] as though they had dwelt [on earth] no longer than one hour of [an earthly] day! (43) [This is Our] message. Will, then, any be [really] destroyed save iniquitous folk? (44)

42 - I.e., the reality of life after death.

43 - In this parabolic manner the Quran points to the illusory concept of time as experienced by the human mind - a concept which has no bearing on the ultimate reality to be unfolded in the hereafter.

44 - Cf. the last sentence of 6: 47 and the corresponding note.