Meal Seç / Sure Seç




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.

MOST of this surah (i.e., verses 2-17) refers, directly or indirectly, to the conflict between the Muslim community and the Jewish tribe of Banu n-Nadir of Medina, and to the subsequent banishment of the latter. Shortly after his and his followers exodus from Mecca to Medina, the Prophet concluded a treaty with the Banu n-Nadir, according to which they pledged themselves to neutrality in the hostilities between the Muslims and the pagan Quraysh. After the Muslim victory in the battle of Badr, in the year 2 H., the leaders of that Jewish tribe spontaneously declared that Muhammad was indeed the prophet whose coming had been predicted in the Torah; but one year later, after the near-defeat of the Muslims at Uhud (see note on 3: 121), the Banu n-Nadir treacherously broke their compact with the Prophet Muhammad and entered into an alliance with the Meccan Quraysh with a view to destroying the Muslim community once and for all. Thereupon the Prophet placed before them an alternative: either war or departure from Medina with all their possessions. If they accepted this latter proposition, they would be allowed to return every year to gather the produce of their date groves, which would thus remain their property. Ostensibly agreeing to the second alternative, the Banu n-Nadir asked for - and were granted - ten days of respite. In the meantime they secretly conspired with the hypocrites among the Arabs of Medina, led by Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, who promised them armed support by two thousand warriors in case they decided to remain in their fortified settlements on the outskirts of the town: Hence, do not leave your homes; if the Muslims fight against you, we shall fight side by side with you; and if they should succeed in driving you away, we shall leave Medina together with you. The Banu n-Nadir followed this advice, defied the Prophet and took up arms. In the ensuing conflict, their forts were besieged by the Muslims - though without actual fighting - for twenty-one days; but when the promised help of Abd Allah ibn Ubayys followers did not materialize, the Nadir surrendered in the month of Rabi al-Awwal, 4 H., and sued for peace. This they were granted on condition that they would leave Medina, taking with them all their movable properties, but not their arms. Most of them immigrated to Syria in a caravan of about six hundred camels; only two families chose to settle in the oasis of Khaybar, while a few individuals went as far as Al-Hirah in lower Mesopotamia. As shown in verses 7-8 of this surah, their fields and plantations were forfeited; most of them were divided among needy Muslims, and the remainder was reserved for the requirements of the Islamic community as a whole. As always in the Quran, these historical references serve to illustrate a spiritual truth: in this case, the lesson that believers - even if they are inferior in numbers, wealth and equipment - are bound to triumph over their opponents so long as they remain truly conscious of God: for, as the opening and closing verses of this surah declare, He alone is almighty, truly wise. The date of revelation is the year 4 H. The conventional title
1. ALL THAT IS in the heavens and all that is on earth extols Gods limitless glory: for He alone is almighty, truly wise.
2. He it is who turned out of their homes, at the time of [their] first gathering [for war], such of the followers of earlier revelation as were bent on denying the truth. (1) You did not think [O believers] that they would depart [without resistance] - just as they thought that their strongholds would protect them against God: but God came upon them in a manner which they had not expected,* and cast terror into their hearts; (2) [and thus] they destroyed their homes by their own hands as well as the hands of the believers. (3) Learn a lesson, then, O you who are endowed with insight!

1 - For this and the subsequent historical references, see the introductory note to this surah. The tribe of Banu n-Nadir - who, as Jews, are naturally termed ahl al-kitab (followers of earlier revelation) - are characterized as such as were bent on denying the truth (alladhina kafaru, see note on 2: 6) because they treacherously turned against the Prophet despite their earlier admission that he was truly the bearer of Gods message announced in their own holy scriptures (Deuteronomy xviii, 15 and 18).

2 - *Lit., from whence they had not thought (it possible): an allusion to the last-minute, unexpected failure of Abd Allah ibn Ubayy to come to their aid.

3 - As mentioned in the introductory note, the Banu n-Nadir had originally concluded a treaty of mutual non-interference with the Muslim community, and were to live at Medina as its friendly neighbours; and even later, when their hostility to the Muslims had become apparent and they were ordered to emigrate, they were to be allowed to retain ownership of their plantations. Subsequently, however, they forfeited by their treachery both their citizenship and the rights to their landed property, and thus destroyed their homes by their own hands.

3. And had it not been for Gods having ordained banishment for them, He would indeed have imposed [yet greater] suffering on them in this world: still, in the life to come there awaits them suffering through fire:
4. this, because they cut themselves off from God and His Apostle:* and as for him who cuts himself off from God and His Apostle - verily, God is severe in retribution! (4)

4 - *For this condemnation of the Banu n-Nadir, see note on verse 2 above. As regards my rendering of the verb shaqqu as they cut themselves off, see note on 8: 13.

5. Whatever [of their] palm trees you may have cut down, [O believers,] or left standing on their roots, was [done] by Gods leave,* and in order that He might confound the iniquitous. (5)

5 - *I.e., to facilitate the military operations against the strongholds of the Banu n-Nadir (Abd Allah ibn Masud, as quoted by Zamakhshari et al.). It should, however, be noted that apart from such stringent military exigencies, all destruction of enemy property - and, in particular, of trees and crops - had been and continued to be prohibited by the Prophet (Tabari, Baghawi, Zamakhshari, Razi, Ibn Kathir), and has thus become an integral part of Islamic Law.

6. Yet [remember:] whatever [spoils taken] from the enemy (6) God has turned over to His Apostle, you did not have to spur horse or riding-camel for its sake: (7) but God gives His apostles mastery over whomever He wills - for God has the power to will anything.

6 - Lit., from them: i.e., from the Banu n-Nadir.

7 - I.e., you did not have to fight for it, since the enemy surrendered without giving battle. The term fay (a noun derived from the verb faa, he returned (something) or turned [it] over) is applied in the Quran and the Traditions exclusively to war-gains - whether consisting of lands, or tribute, or indemnities - which are obtained, as a condition of peace, from an enemy who has laid down arms before actual fighting has taken place (Taj al-Arus).

7. Whatever [spoils taken] from the people of those villages God has turned over to His Apostle - [all of it] belongs to God and the Apostle, (8) and the near of kin [of deceased believers], and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, (9) so that it may not be [a benefit] going round and round among such of you as may [already] be rich. Hence, accept [willingly] whatever the Apostle* gives you [thereof], and refrain from [demanding] anything that he withholds from you; and remain conscious of God: for, verily, God i s severe in retribution. (10)

8 - Sc., and not to individual Muslim warriors. As so often in the Quran, the expression God and the Apostle is here a metonym for the Islamic cause, and for a government that rules in accordance with the laws of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet.

9 - Cf. 8: 41, which relates to booty acquired in actual warfare, out of which only one-fifth is to be reserved for the above five categories (see note on 8: 41). In distinction from all such booty, the gains obtained through fay are to be utilized in their entirety under these five headings. As regards the term ibn as-sabil (wayfarer), see the third note on 2: 177.

10 - *Respectively, in later times, the head of an Islamic state, who has to decide - in the light of the exigencies - how the share of God and His Apostle is to be utilized for the common weal.

8. [Thus, part of such war-gains shall be given] to the poor among those who have forsaken the domain of evil: (11) those who have been driven from their homelands and their possessions, seeking favour with God and [His] goodly acceptance, and who aid [the cause of] God and His Apostle: it is they, they who are true to their word!

11 - For this rendering of the term muhajirun (emigrants), see note on 2: 218.

9. And [it shall be offered, too, unto the poor from among] those who, before them, (12) had their abode in this realm and in faith - [those] who love all that come to them in search of refuge, and who harbour in their hearts no grudge for whatever the others may have been given, but rather give them preference over themselves, even though poverty be their own lot: (13) for, such as from their own covetousness are saved - it is they, they that shall attain to a happy state! (14)

12 - I.e., before the coming to them of those who have forsaken the domain of evil (see next note).

13 - This relates, in the first instance, to the historical ansar (helpers) of Medina, who had embraced Islam before the Prophets and his Meccan followers coming to them, and who received the refugees with utmost generosity, sharing with them like brethren their own dwellings and all their possessions. In a wider sense, the above refers also to all true believers, at all times, who live in freedom and security within the realm of Islam, and are prepared to receive with open arms anyone who is compelled to leave his homeland in order to be able to live in accordance with the dictates of his faith.

14 - Thus, greed, niggardliness and covetousness are pointed out here as the main obstacles to mans attaining to a happy state in this world and in the hereafter (cf. surah 102).

10. And so, they who come after them pray: (15) O our Sustainer! Forgive us our sins, as well as those of our brethren who preceded us in faith, and let not our hearts entertain any unworthy thoughts or feelings against [any of] those who have attained to faith. O our Sustainer! Verily, Thou art compassionate, a dispenser of grace!

15 - I.e., all who attain to a belief in the Quran and its Prophet (Razi).

11. ART THOU NOT aware of how those who would always dissemble [their real feelings] (16) speak to their truth-denying brethren from among the followers of earlier revelation: (17) If you are driven away, we shall most certainly go forth with you, and shall never pay heed to anyone against you; and if war is waged against you, we shall most certainly come to your succour. But God bears witness that they are most flagrantly lying:

16 - I.e., the hypocrites of Medina (see introductory note as well as next note).

17 - The Banu n-Nadir. From the construction of the next verse it appears that the whole of this passage (verses 11-14) was revealed before the actual advance of the Muslims against the Nadir strongholds: verses 12 -14 might be of a prophetic nature, predicting what was yet to happen (Zamakhshari). Alternatively, the passage may be understood in a wider, timeless sense, applying to the falsity and futility inherent in all alliances between, on the one hand, people who openly deny the truth and, on the other, half-hearted waverers who have neither the will to commit themselves to a spiritual proposition nor the moral courage to declare openly their lack of belief.

12. [for] if those [to whom they have pledged themselves] are indeed driven away, they will not go forth with them; and if war is waged against them, they will not come to their succour; and even if they [try to] succour them, they will most certainly turn their backs [in flight], and in the end will [themselves] find no succour.
13. Nay, [O believers,] you arouse in their bosoms a fear more intense than [even their fear of] God: this, because they are people who fail to grasp the truth. (18)

18 - Inasmuch as they do not - or, at best, only half-heartedly - believe in God, the tangible, material dangers facing them in this world arouse in them a far greater fear than the thought of His ultimate judgment.

14. Never will they fight you, [even] in unison, otherwise than from within fortified strongholds or from behind walls. (19) Severe is their warlike discord among themselves: thou wouldst think that they are united, whereas [in fact] their hearts are at odds [with one another]: this, because they are people who will not use their reason. (20)

19 - The meaning is: Even if they were able - which they are not - to put forth against you a truly unified front, they will always fight you only from what they regard as well-established positions of strength.

20 - Sc., with a view to achieving what is good for them: implying that people who have no real faith and no definite moral convictions can never attain to true unity among themselves, but are always impelled to commit acts of aggression against one another.

15. [To both kinds of your enemies, O believers, is bound to happen] (21) the like of [what happened to] those who, a short while before them, had to taste the evil that came from their own doings,* with [yet more] grievous suffering awaiting them [in the life to come]: (22)

21 - This interpolation - relating as it does to both the outright deniers of the truth and the hypocrites - is justified by the occurrence of the dual form in verse 17.

22 - In the first instance, this is apparently an allusion to the fate of the pagan Quraysh at the battle of Badr (Zamakhshari) or, according to some authorities (quoted by Tabari), to the treachery and subsequent expulsion from Medina, in the month of Shawwal, 2 H., of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qaynuqa. But in a wider perspective - strongly suggested by the next two verses - the meaning is general and not restricteed to any particular time or historical occurrence.

16. the like of [what happens] when Satan says unto man, Deny the truth! - but as soon as [man] has denied the truth, [Satan] says, Behold, I am not responsible for thee: behold, I fear God, the Sustainer of all the worlds! (23)

23 - Cf. 8: 48; also 14: 22 and the corresponding notes.

17. Thus, in the end, both [the deniers of the truth and the hypocrites] (24) will find themselves in the fire, therein to abide: for such is the recompense of evildoers.

24 - Lit., the end (aqibah) of both will be that both, etc.

18. O YOU who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God; and let every human being look to what he sends ahead for the morrow! And [once again]: Remain conscious of God, for God is fully aware of all that you do;
19. and be not like those who are oblivious of God, and whom He therefore causes to be oblivious of [what is good for] their own selves: [for] it is they, they who are truly depraved! (25)

25 - I.e., by having made a deliberately wrong use of the faculty of reason with which God has endowed man, and - by remaining oblivious of Him - having wasted their own spiritual potential.

20. Not equal are those who are destined for the fire and those who are destined for paradise: those who are destined for paradise - it is they, they [alone] who shall triumph [on Judgment Day]!
21. HAD WE bestowed this Quran from on high upon a mountain, thou wouldst indeed see it humbling itself, breaking asunder for awe of God. (26) And [all] such parables We propound unto men, so that they might [learn to] think.

26 - I.e., in contrast with those who, by remaining oblivious of God and all moral imperatives, are spiritually more dead than an inert mountain.

22. GOD IS HE save whom there is no deity: the One who knows all that is beyond the reach of a created beings perception, as well as all that can be witnessed by a creatures senses or mind: (27) He, the Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace.

27 - See note on the second paragraph of 6: 73.

23. God is He save whom there is no deity: the Sovereign Supreme, the Holy, the One with whom all salvation rests, (28) the Giver of Faith, the One who determines what is true and false, (29) the Almighty, the One who subdues wrong and restores right,* the One to whom all greatness belongs! (30) Utterly remote is God, in His limitless glory, from anything to which men may ascribe a share in His divinity!

28 - Lit., the Salvation (as-salam): see note on 5: 16.

29 - For this rendering of muhaymin, see 5: 48 - where this term is applied to the Quran - and the corresponding note.

30 - *Since the verb jabara - from which the noun jabbar is derived - combines the concepts of setting right or restoring (e.g., from a state of brokenness, ill-health, or misfortune) and of compelling or subduing (someone or something) to ones will, I believe that the term al-jabbar, when applied to God, is best rendered as above.

24. He is God, the Creator, the Maker who shapes all forms and appearances! (31) His [alone] are the attributes of perfection. (32 ) All that is in the heavens and on earth extols His limitless glory: for He alone is almighty, truly wise!

31 - Thus Baydawi. The two terms al-bari (the Maker) and al-musawwir (the Shaper, i.e., of all forms and appearances) evidently constitute here one single unit.

32 - For this rendering of al-asma al-husna, see note on 7: 180.

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