Meal Seç / Sure Seç

AN-NÝSA Suresi



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 TITLE An-Nisa’ has been given to this surah because many of its passages deal with the rights of women and with questions relating to family life in general, including laws of inheritance, prohibition of marriage within certain degrees of consanguinity, marital relations, and so forth. The opening verse stresses the essential unity of the human race and the mutual obligations, arising from this kinship, of men and women towards one another. A large part of the surah is devoted to practical legislation bearing on problems of peace and war, as well as to relations of believers with unbelievers, especially with hypocrites. Verses 150-152 refute the possibility of believing in God without believing in His prophets: and this, in turn, leads to the subject of the Jews, who deny the prophethood not only of Muhammad but also of Jesus, as well as of the Christians, who deny Muhammad and deify Jesus although he "never felt too proud to be God's servant" (verse 172). And, finally, as if to stress the inseparability of man's beliefs from his social behaviour, the last verse refers, again, to laws of inheritance. There is no doubt that this surah belongs in its entirety to the Medina period. In the order of revelation it either follows immediately upon Al ‘Imran or - according to some authorities - is separated from the latter, in point of time, by Al-Ahzab and Al-Mumtahanah. On the whole, however, it is most probable that it was revealed in the fourth year after the hijrah, although a few of its verses may belong to an earlier, and verse 58 to a later, period.
1. O MANKIND! Be conscious of your Sustainer, who has created you out of one living entity, and out of it created its mate, and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and women. (1) And remain conscious of God, in whose name you demand [your rights] from one another, and of these ties of kinship. Verily, God is ever watchful over you!

1 - Out of the many meanings attributable to the term nafs - soul, spirit, mind, animate being, living entity, human being, person, self (in the sense of a personal identity), humankind, life-essence, vital principle, and so forth - most of the classical commentators choose "human being", and assume that it refers here to Adam. Muhammad ‘Abduh, however, rejects this interpretation (Manar IV, 323 ff.) and gives, instead, his preference to "humankind" inasmuch as this term stresses the common origin and brotherhood of the human race (which, undoubtedly, is the purport of the above verse), without, at the same time, unwarrantably tying it to the Biblical account of the creation of Adam and Eve. My rendering of nafs, in this context, as "living entity" follows the same reasoning - As regards the expression zawjaha ("its mate"), it is to be noted that, with reference to animate beings, the term zawj ("a pair", "one of a pair" or "a mate") applies to the male as well as to the female component of a pair or couple; hence, with reference to human beings, it signifies a woman's mate (husband) as well as a man's mate (wife). Abu Muslim - as quoted by Razi - interprets the phrase "He created oout of it (minha) its mate" as meaning "He created its mate [i.e., its sexual counterpart] out of its own kind (min jinsiha)", thus supporting the view of Muhammad ‘Abduh referred to above. The literal translation of minha as "out of it" clearly alludes, in conformity with the text, to the biological fact that both sexes have originated from "one living entity".

2. Hence, render unto the orphans their posses­sions, and do not substitute bad things [of your own] for the good things [that belong to them], and do not consume their possessions together with your own: (2) this, verily, is a great crime.

2 - This relates to the legal guardians of orphans during the latter’s minority.

3. And if you have reason to fear that you might not act equitably towards orphans, then marry from among [other] women such as are lawful to you (3) [even] two, or three, or four: but if you have reason to fear that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then [only] one - or [from among] those whom you rightfully possess. (4) This will make it more likely that you will not deviate from the right course.

3 - Lit., "such as are good for you" - i.e., women outside the prohibited degrees enumerated in verses 22-23 of this surah (Zamakhshari, Razi). According to an interpretation suggested by A’ishah, the Prophet's widow, this refers to the (hypothetical) case of orphan girls whom their guardians might wish to marry without, however, being prepared or able to give them an appropriate marriage-portion - the implication being that they should avoid the temptation of committing such an injustice and should marry other women instead (cf. Bukhari, Kitab at-Tafsir, as well as Muslim and Nasai). However, not all of Aishah's contemporaries sub­scribed to her explanation of this verse. Thus, according to Said ibn Jubayr, Qatadah, and other successors of the Companions, the purport of the above passage is this: "Just as you are, rightly, fearful of offending against the interests of orphans, you must apply the same careful con­sideration to the interests and rights of the women whom you intend to marry." In his commentary on this passage, Tabari quotes several variants of the above interpretation and gives it his unequivocal approval.

4 - Lit., "whom your right hands possess" - i.e., from among the captives taken in a war in God's cause (regarding which see notes on surah 2, notes 167 and 168, and surah 8, note 72). It is obvious that the phrase "two, or three, or four: but if you have reason to fear...", etc. is a parenthetic clause relating to both the free women mentioned in the first part of the sentence and to female slaves - for both these nouns are governed by the imperative verb "marry". Thus, the whole sentence has this meaning: "Marry from among [other] women such as are lawful to you, or [from among] those whom you rightfully possess - [even] two, or three, or four: but if you have reason to fear that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then [only] one"- implying that, irrespective of whether they are free women or, originally, slaves, the number of wives must not exceed four. It was in this sense that Muhammad ‘Abduh understood the above verse (see Manar IV, 350). This view is, moreover, supported by verse 25 of this surah as well as by 232, where marriage with female slaves is spoken of. Contrary to the popular view and the practice of many Muslims in the past centuries, neither the Qur’an nor the life-example of the Prophet provides any sanction for sexual intercourse without marriage. As regards the permission to marry more than one wife (up to the maximum of four), it is so restricted by the condition, "if you have reason to fear that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then [marry only] one", as to make such plural marriages possible only in quite exceptional cases and under exceptional circumstances (see also the first clause of 232 and the corresponding note). Still, one might ask why the same latitude has not been given to women as well; but the answer is simple. Notwithstanding the spiritual factor of love which influences the relations between man and woman, the determinant biological reason for the sexual urge is, in both sexes, procreation: and whereas a woman can, at one time, conceive a child from one man only and has to carry it for nine months before she can conceive another, a man can beget a child every time he cohabits with a woman. Thus, while nature would have been merely wasteful if it had produced a polygamous instinct in woman, man's polygamous inclination is biologically justified. It is, of course, obvious that the biological factor is only one - and by no means always the most important - of the aspects of marital love: none the less, it is a basic factor and, therefore, decisive in the institution of marriage as such. With the wisdom that always takes human nature fully into account, Islamic Law undertakes no more than the safeguarding of the socio-biological function of marriage (which includes also care of the progeny), allowing a man to have more than one wife ald not allowing a woman to have more than one husband at one time; while the spiritual problem of marriage, being imponderable and therefore outside the scope of law, is left to the discretion of the partners. In any event - since marriage in Islam is a purely civil contract - recourse to divorce is always open to either of the two partners. (Regarding the dissolution of a marriage at the wife's instance, see note on surah 2, verse 229.)

4. And give unto women their marriage portions in the spirit of a gift; (5) but if they, of their own accord, give up unto you aught thereof, then enjoy it with pleasure and good cheer.

5 - The expression nihlah signifies the giving of something willingly, of one's own accord, without expecting a return for it (Zamakhshari). It is to be noted that the amount of the marriage-portion, or dower which the bridegroom has to give to the bride has not been circumscribed by the Law: it depends entirely on the agreement of the two parties, and may consist of anything, even a mere token. According to several authentic Traditions recorded in most of the compilations, the Prophet made it clear that "even an iron ring" may be enough if the bride is willing to accept it, or, short of that, even "the imparting to thy bride of a verse of the Qur’an".

5. And do not entrust to those who are weak of judgment the possessions which God has placed in your charge (6) for [their] support; but let them have their sustenance therefrom, and clothe them, and speak unto them in a kindly way.

6 - Lit., "your possessions which God has assigned to you". The context makes it obvious that this relates to the property of orphans who have not yet reached the age of discretion and are, therefore, "weak of judgment" (lit., "weak-minded”).

6. And test the orphans [in your charge] until they reach a marriage­able age; then, if you find them to be mature of mind, hand over to them their possessions; and do not consume them by wasteful spending, and in haste, ere they grow up. And let him who is rich abstain entirely [from his ward's property]; and let him who is poor partake thereof in a fair manner. And when you hand over to them their possessions, let there be witnesses on their behalf - although none can take count as God doess.
7. MEN SHALL have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, and women shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, whether it be little or much - a share ordained [by God].
8. And when [other] near of kin and orphans and needy persons (7) are present at the distribution [of inheritance], give them something thereof for their sustenance, and speak unto them in a kindly way.

7 - I.e., people who do not have any legal claim to the inheritance, but nevertheless deserve to be considered.

9. And let them stand in awe [of God], those [legal heirs] - who, if they [themselves] had to leave behind weak offspring, would feel fear on their account - and let them remain conscious of God, and let them speak [to the poor] in a just manner.
10. Behold, those who sinfully devour the posses­sions of orphans but fill their bellies with fire: for [in the life to come] they will have to endure a blazing flame!
11. CONCERNING [the inheritance of] your children, God enjoins [this] upon you: (8) The male shall have the equal of two females’ share; but if there are more than two females, they shall have two-thirds of what [their parents] leave behind; and if there is only one daughter, she shall have one-half thereof. And as for the parents [of the deceased], each of them shall have one-sixth of what he leaves behind, in the event of his having [left] a child; but if he has left no child and his parents are his [only] heirs, then his mother shall have one-third; and if he has brothers and sisters, then his mother shall have one-sixth after [the deduction of] any bequest he may have made, or any debt [he may have incurred]. As for your parents and your children - you know not which of them is more deserrving of benefit from you: [therefore this] ordinance from God. Verily, God is all-knowing, wise.

8 - In my notes on verses 11-12, which spell out the legal shares of inheritance due to the next of kin, no attempt has been made to analyze all the legal implications of this ordinance. The laws of inheritance are the subject of a special, and very elaborate, branch of Islamic jurisprudence, and their full elucidation would go far beyond the scope of explanatory notes which aim at no more than making the text of the Qur’an accessible to the understanding of the non-specialized reader.

12. And you shall inherit one-half of what your wives leave behind, provided they have left no child; but if they have left a child, then you shall have one-quarter of what they leave behind, after [the deduction of] any bequest they may have made, or any debt [they may have incurred]. And your widows (9) shall have one-quarter of what you leave behind, provided you have left no child; but if you have left a child, then they shall have one-eighth of what you leave behind, after [the deduction of] any bequest you may have made, or any debt [you may have incurred]. And if a man or a woman has no heir in the direct line, but has a brother or a sister, then each of these two shall inherit one-sixth; but if there are more than two, (10) then they shall share in one-third [of the inheritance], after [the deduction of] any bequest that may have been made, or any debt [that may have been incurred], neither of which having been intended to harm [the heirs].(11) [This is] an injunction from God: and God is all-knowing, forbearing.

9 - Lit., “they”.

10 - Lit., "more than that". According to most of the classical commentators, this passage refers to half-brothers and half-sisters. The inheritance of full brothers and sisters is dealt with at the end of this surah (verse 176).

11 - This refers to bequests and fictitious debts meant to deprive the heirs of their legal shares. According to several authentic Traditions, the Prophet forbade, in cases where there are legal heirs, the making of bequests to other persons in excess of one-third of one's estate (Bukhari and Muslim). If, however, there are no near of kin legally entitled to a share of the inheritance, the testator is free to bequeath his fortune in any way he desires.

13. These are the bounds set by God. And whoever pays heed unto God and His Apostle, him will He bring into gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide: and this is a triumph supreme.
14. And whoever rebels against God and His Apostle and transgresses His bounds, him will He commit unto fire, therein to abide; and shameful suffering awaits him.
15. AND AS FOR those of your women who become guilty of immoral conduct, call upon four from among you who have witnessed their guilt; and if these bear witness thereto, confine the guilty women (12) to their houses until death takes them away or God opens for them a way [through repentance].

12 - Lit., "them".

16. And punish [thus] both of the guilty parties; (13) but if they both repent and mend their ways, leave them alone: for, behold, God is an acceptor of repentance, a dispenser of grace. (14)

13 - Lit., "and the two from among you who become guilty thereof, punish them both". According to most of the commentators, this refers to immoral conduct on the part of a man and a woman as well as to homosexual relations.

14 - Some of the commentators attribute to the term fahishah (here rendered as "immoral conduct") the meaning of "adultery" or "fornication" and are, consequently, of the opinion that this verse has been "abrogated" by 24:2, which lays down the punishment of one hundred stripes for each of the guilty parties. This unwarranted assumption must, however, be rejected. Quite apart from the impossibility of admitting that any passage of the Qur’an could have been "abrogated" by another of its passages (see note on surah 2 verse 106), the expression fahishah does not, by itself, connote illicit sexual intercourse: it signifies anything that is grossly immodest, unseemly, lewd, indecent or abominable in word or in deed (cf. Lane VI, 2344 f.), and is by no means restricted to sexual transgressions. Read in this context, and in conjunction with 22, this expression obviously denotes here immoral conduct not necessarily amounting to what is termed zina (i.e., "adultery" or "fornication"), and therefore redeemable by sincere repentance (in contrast to a proven act of zina, which is punishable by flogging).- It is noteworthy that in all cases of alleged sexual transgressions or misbehaviour the Qur’an stipulates the direct evidence of four witnesses (instead of the two required in all other judicial cases) as a sine qua non of conviction. For the reasons underlying this injunction, as well as for its judicial implications, see note on 24.

17. Verily, God's acceptance of repentance relates only to those who do evil out of ignorance and then repent before their time runs out: (15) and it is they unto whom God will turn again in His mercy - for God is all-knowing, wise;

15 - The expression min qarib, which here implies nearness in time, could also be rendered as "soon", i.e., soon after having committed the evil deed; most of the classical commentators, however, hold that in this context it denotes the time before the actual approach of death. This interpretation is borne out by the next verse.

18. whereas repentance shall not be accepted from those who do evil deeds until their dying hour and then say, (16) "Behold, I now repent"; nor from those who die as deniers of the truth: it is these for whom We have readied grievous suffering.

16 - Lit., "until, when death approaches one of them, he says".

19. O YOU who have attained to faith! It is not lawful for you to [try to] become heirs to your wives [by holding onto them] against their will; (17) and neither shall you keep them under constraint with a view to taking away anything of what you may have given them, unless it be that they have become guilty, in an obvious man­ner, of immoral conduct. (18) And consort with your wives (19) in a goodly manner; for if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike something which God might yet make a source of (20) abundant good.

17 - According to one of the interpretations advanced by Zamakhshari, this refers to a man's forcibly keeping an unloved wife - and thus preventing her from marrying another man - in the hope of inheriting her property under the provisions specified in the first sentence of verse 12 above. Some authorities, however, are of the opinion that the meaning is: "It is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will"- thus expressing a prohibition of the pre-Islamic custom of inheriting the wives of deceased near relatives. But in view of the fact that Islam does not permit the "inheriting" of women under any circumstances (and not only "against their will"), the former interpretation is infinitely more plausible.

18 - In the event that a wife's immoral conduct has been proved by the direct evidence of four witnesses, as stipulated in verse 15 above, the husband has the right, on divorcing her, to demand the return of the whole or of part of the dower which he gave her at the time when the marriage was contracted. If - as is permissible under Islamic Law - the dower has not been actually handed over to the bride at the time of marriage but has taken the form of a legal obligation on the part of the husband, he is absolved of this obligation in the case of proven immoral conduct on the part of his wife.

19 - Lit., "with them".

20 - Lit., "and God might place in it".

20. But if you desire to give up a wife and to take another in her stead, do not take away anything of what you have given the first one, however much it may have been. (21) Would you, perchance, take it away by slandering her and thus committing a manifest sin? (22)

21 - Lit., "if you desire the exchange of a wife in place of a wife, and you have given one of them a treasure (qintar), do not take away anything thereof". The allusion to the "exchange" of one wife for another is a clear indication of the Qur’anic view that a monogamous marriage is the desirable norm.

22 - I.e., by falsely accusing her of immoral conduct in the hope of regaining her dower (see note on verse 19 above).

21. And how could you take it away after you have given yourselves to one another, and she has (23) received a most solemn pledge from you?

23 - Lit., "they have" - the reference being to all married women.

22. AND DO NOT marry women whom your fathers have previously married - although what is past is past: (24) this, verily, is a shameful deed, and a hateful thing, and an evil way.

24 - Lit., "except what has come to pass earlier"- i.e., forgiven shall be he who did it before the promulgation of this Qur’anic ordinance or (in the case of a conversion in later times) before one's acceptance of Islam.

23. Forbidden to you are your mothers, and your daughters, and your sisters, and your aunts paternal and maternal, and a brother's daughters, and a sister's daughters; and your milk-mothers, and your milk-sisters; and the mothers of your wives; and your step-daughters - who are your foster children - born of your wives with whom you have consummated your marriage; but if you have not consummated your marriage, you will incur no sin [by marrying their daughters]; and [forbidden to you are] the spouses of the sons who have sprung from your loins; and [you are forbidden] to have two sisters [as your wives] at one and the same time - but what is past is past: (25) for, behold, God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

25 - See preceding note.

24. And [forbidden to you are] all married women other than those whom you rightfully possess [through wedlock]: (26) this is God's ordinance, binding upon you. But lawful to you are all [women] beyond these, for you to seek out, offering them of your possessions, (27)taking them in honest wedlock, and not in fornication. And unto those with whom you desire to enjoy marriage, you shall give the dowers due to them; but you will incur no sin if, after [having agreed upon] this lawful due, you freely agree with one another upon anything [else]: (28) behold, God is indeed all-knowing, wise.

26 - The term muhsanah signifies literally "a woman who is fortified [against unchastity]", and carries three senses: (1) "a married woman", (2) "a chaste woman", and (3) "a free woman". According to almost all the authorities, al-muhsanat denotes in the above context "married women". As for the expression ma malakat aymanukum ("those whom your right hands possess", i.e., "those whom you rightfully possess"), it is often taken to mean female slaves captured in a war in God's cause (see in this connection 8:67, and the corresponding note). The commentators who choose this meaning hold that such slave-girls can be taken in marriage irrespective of whether they have husbands in the country of their origin or not. However, quite apart from the fundamental differences of opinion, even among the Companions of the Prophet, regarding the legality of such a marriage, some of the most outstanding commentators hold the view that ma malakat aymanukum denotes here "women whom you rightfully possess through wedlock"; thus Razi in his commentary on this verse, and Tabari in one of his alternative explanations (going back to ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, and others). Razi, in particular, points out that the reference to "all married women" (al-muhsanat min an-nisa’), coming as it does after the enumeration of prohibited degrees of relationship, is meant to stress the prohibition of sexual relations with any woman other than one's lawful wife.

27 - Lit., "with your possessions" - i.e., offering them, as the Law demands, an appropriate dower.

28 - Cf. verse 4 of this surah, and the corresponding note.

25. And as for those of you who, owing to cir­cumstances, are not in a position (29) to marry free believing women, [let them marry] believing maidens from among those whom you rightfully possess. (30)And God knows all about your faith; each one of you is an issue of the other. (31) Marry them, then, with their people's leave, and give them their dowers in an equitable manner - they being women who give themselves in honest wedlock, not in fornication, nor as secret love-companions. (32) And when they are married, and thereafter become guilty of immoral conduct, they shall be liable to half the penalty to which free married women are liable. (33) This [permission to marry slave-girls applies] to those of you who fear lest they stumble into evil. (34) But it is for your own good to persevere in patience [and to abstain from such marriages]: and God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

29 - The phrase lam yastati tawlan is often taken to mean "he is not in a position to afford", i.e., in the financial sense; but Muhammad ‘Abduh very convincingly expresses the view that it applies to all manner of preventive circumstances, be they of a material, personal or social nature (Manar V, 19).

30 - In this context, ma malakat aymanukum (lit., "those whom your right hands possess") denotes women who were captured in a holy war and have subsequently embraced Islam. In the above phrase, the pronoun "you" refers to the community as a whole.

31 - I.e., since all human beings - whatever their outward "social status" - are members of one and the same human family, and are therefore equal to one another in the sight of God (cf. 3: 195), it is only the strength or weakness of faith which makes one person superior or inferior to another.

32 - Lit., "and not taking unto themselves secret love-companions". This passage lays down in an unequivocal manner that sexual relations with female slaves are permitted only on the basis of marriage, and that in this respect there is no difference between them and free women; consequently, concubinage is ruled out.

33 - The weaker social status of a slave makes her, obviously, more accessible to temptation than a free married woman is presumed to be.

34 - I.e., to those who for one reason or another are unable to marry free women and are, at the same time, not equal to the temptations arising from celibacy. As is made clear in the next sentence, the Qur’an discourages such marriages - obviously with a view to removing a major attraction from the institution of slavery as such, and thus promoting its abolition.

26. God wants to make [all this] clear unto you, and to guide you onto the [righteous] ways of life of those who preceded you, (35) and to turn unto you in His mercy: for God is all-knowing, wise.

35 - An allusion to the genuine religious teachings of the past, which aimed at bringing about a harmony between man's physical nature and the demands of his spirit - a harmony which is destroyed whenever asceticism is postulated as the only possible alternative to licentiousness (see also note on surah 2, verse 143). This allusion arises from the discussion of sexual morality in the preceding passages devoted to marital relations.

27. And God wants to turn unto you in His mercy, whereas those who follow [only] their own lusts want you to drift far away from the right path. (36)

36 - Lit., "want you to deviate with a tremendous deviation".

28. God wants to lighten your burdens: (37) for man has been created weak.

37 - I.e., to remove, by means of His guidance, all possibility of conflict between man's spirit and his bodily urges, and to show him a way of life in which these two elements of human nature can be harmonized and brought to full fruition.

29. O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not devour one another's possessions wrongfully - not even by way of trade based on mutual agreement (38) - and do not destroy one another: for, behold, God is indeed a dispenser of grace unto you!

38 - If the particle illa preceding the above clause is given its usual meaning of "except" or "unless it be", the phrase ought to be rendered thus: "unless it be [an act of] trade based on mutual agreement". This formulation, however, has baffled many a commentator: for, if taken literally, it would imply that wrongful profits from trading based on mutual agreement are excepted from the general prohibition, "Devour not one another's possessions wrongfully"- a supposition impossible to maintain in view of the ethics postulated by the Qur’an. To obviate this difficulty, most of the commentators express the opinion that the particle illa has in this context the meaning of "but", and that the clause ought to be understood as follows: "but it is lawful for you to profit from one another's possessions by way of legitimate trade based on mutual agreement". However, quite apart from the fact that this interpretation is highly laboured and artificial, it does not explain why "legitimate trade" should have been singled out here as a sole means of lawfully deriving economic benefits from one another - for, as Razi rightly points out in his commentary on this verse, "it is no less lawful to benefit economically through a gift, a bequest, a legal inheritance, alms, a dower, or an indemnity for injuries received: for there are, aside from trade, many ways of acquiring possessions [lawfully]". Why, then, should trade alone have been stressed? - and, moreover, stressed in a context not particularly devoted to matters of trade? A really satisfactory answer to this puzzle can, in my opinion, be obtained only through a linguistic consideration of the particle illa. Apart from its usual connotation of "except" or "unless it be", it has sometimes - as has been pointed out in both Qamus and Mughni - the meaning of the simple conjunction "and" (wa); similarly, if it is preceded by a negative clause, it can be synonymous with "nor" or "and neither" (wa-la): as, for instance, in 27:10-11, "no fear need the message-bearers have in My Presence, and neither (illa) need he who...", etc. Now if we apply this particular use of illa to the passage under consideration, we arrive at the reading, "nor [shall you do it] by means of trade based on mutual agreement", or simply, "not even by way of trade based on mutual agreement" - whereupon the meaning immediately becomes obvious: the believers are prohibited from devour­ing another person's possessions wrongfully even if that other person - being the weaker party - agrees to such a deprivation or exploitation under the stress of circumstances. The reading adopted by me logically connects, moreover, with verse 32, which admonishes the believers not to covet one another's possessions.

30. And as for him who does this with malicious intent and a will to do wrong (39) - him shall We, in time, cause to endure [suffering through] fire: for this is indeed easy for God.

39 - Lit., "by way of [deliberate] transgression and wrongdoing" (‘udwanan wa-zulman).

31. If you avoid the great sins, which you have been enjoined to shun, We shall efface your [minor] bad deeds, and shall cause you to enter an abode of glory. (40)

40 - I.e., paradise. However, according to some of the commentators, the expression mudkhal denotes not the place but the manner of "entering" (Razi) - in which case the above phrase may be rendered thus: "We shall cause you to enter [upon your afterlife] in a state of glory".

32. Hence, do not covet the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on some of you than on others. Men shall have a benefit from what they earn, and women shall have a benefit from what they earn. Ask, therefore, God [to give you] out of His bounty: behold, God has indeed full knowledge of everything.
33. And unto everyone have We appointed heirs to what he may leave behind: parents, and near kinsfolk, and those to whom you have pledged your troth: (41) give them, therefore, their share. Behold, God is indeed a witness unto everything.

41 - I.e., wives and husbands (Abu Muslim, as quoted by Razi).

34. MEN SHALL take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter, (42) and with what they may spend out of their possessions. And the right­eous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has [ordained to be] guar­ded. (43) And as for those women whose ill-will (44) you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; (45) and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!

42 - Lit., "more on some of them than on the others".- The expression qawwam is an intensive form of qa’im ("one who is responsible for" or "takes care of" a thing or a person). Thus, qama ala l-mar’ah signifies "he undertook the maintenance of the woman" or “he maintained her" (see Lane VIII, 2995). The grammatical form qawwam is more comprehensive than qa’im, and combines the concepts of physical maintenance and protection as well as of moral responsibility: and it is because of the last-named factor that I have rendered this phrase as "men shall take full care of women".

43 - Lit., "who guard that which cannot be perceived (al-ghayb) because God has [willed it to be] guarded".

44 - The term nushuz (lit., “rebellion”- here rendered as "ill-will") comprises every kind of deliberate bad behaviour of a wife towards her husband or of a husband towards his wife, including what is nowadays described as "mental cruelty"; with reference to the husband, it also denotes "ill-treatment", in the physical sense, of his wife (cf. verse 128 of this surah). In this context, a wife's "ill-will" implies a deliberate, persistent breach of her marital obligations.

45 - It is evident from many authentic Traditions that the Prophet himself intensely detested the idea of beating one's wife, and said on more than one occasion, "Could any of you beat his wife as he would beat a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?" (Bukhari and Muslim). According to another Tradition, he forbade the beating of any woman with the words, "Never beat God's handmaidens" (Abu Da’ud, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hibban and Hakim, on the authority of Iyas ibn ‘Abd Allah; Ibn Hibban, on the authority of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas; and Bayhaqi, on the authority of Umm Kulthum). When the above Qur’an-verse authorizing the beating of a refractory wife was revealed, the Prophet is reported to have said: "I wanted one thing, but God has willed another thing - and what God has willed must be best" (see Manar V, 74). With all this, he stipulated in his sermon on the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage, shortly before his death, that beating should be resorted to only if the wife "has become guilty, in an obvious manner, of immoral conduct", and that it should be done "in such a way as not to cause pain (ghayr mubarrih)"; authentic Traditions to this effect are found in Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Da’ud, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah. On the basis of these Traditions, all the authorities stress that this "beating", if resorted to at all, should be more or less symbolic - "with a toothbrush, or some such thing" (Tabari, quoting the views of scholars of the earliest times), or even "with a folded handkerchief" (Razi); and some of the greatest Muslim scholars (e.g., Ash-Shafi’i) are of the opinion that it is just barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided: and they justify this opinion by the Prophet's personal feelings with regard to this problem.

35. And if you have reason to fear that a breach might occur between a [married] couple, appoint an arbiter from among his people and an arbiter from among her people; if they both want to set things aright, God may bring about their reconciliation. Be­hold, God is indeed all-knowing, aware.
36. AND WORSHIP God [alone], and do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him. (46) And do good unto your parents, and near of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbour from among your own people, and the neighbour who is a stranger, (47) and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom you rightfully possess. (48) Verily, God does not love any of those who, full of self-conceit, act in a boastful manner;.

46 - The expression shay’an (here rendered as "in any way") makes it clear that shirk ("the ascribing of divinity to anything beside God") is not confined to a worship of other "deities", but implies also the attribution of divine or quasi-divine powers to persons or objects not regarded as deities: in other words, it embraces also saint-worship, etc.

47 - I.e., "whether he belongs to your own or to another community". That the expression "your own people" (dhu l-qurba) refers to the community and not to one's actual relatives is obvious from the fact that "the near of kin" have already been mentioned earlier in this sentence. The Prophet often stressed a believer's moral obligation towards his neighbours, whatever their faith; and his attitude has been summed up in his words, "Whoever believes in God and the Last Day, let him do good unto his neighbour" (Bukhari, Muslim, and other compilations).

48 - According to ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud and other Companions, "the friend by your side" (as-sahib bi’l-janb) is one's wife or husband (Tabari). By "those whom you rightfully possess" (lit., "whom your right hands possess") are meant, in this context, slaves of either sex. Since this verse enjoins the "doing of good" towards all people with whom one is in contact, and since the best that can be done to a slave is to free him, the above passage calls, elliptically, for the freeing of slaves (Manar V, 94). See also surah 2, verse 177, as well as 9:60, where the freeing of human beings from bondage is explicitly mentioned as one of the objectives to which zakah funds are to be dedicated.

37. [nor] those who are niggardly, and bid others to be niggardly, and conceal whatever God has bestowed upon them out of His bounty; and so We have readied shameful suffering for all who thus deny the truth
38. And [God does not love] those who spend their possessions on others [only] to be seen and praised by men, the while they believe neither in God nor in the Last Day; and he who has Satan for a soul-mate, how evil a soul-mate has he! (49)

49 - An allusion to 2:268, where Satan is spoken of as "threatening you with the prospect of poverty and bidding you to be niggardly", the implication being that those who obey him "have Satan for their soul-mate (qarin)". For the derivation of this term, see note on 41: 25.

39. And what would they have to fear (50) if they would but believe in God and the Last Day, and spend [in His way] out of what God has granted them as sustenance - since God has indeed full knowledge of them?

50 - Lit., "what is it that would be upon them". This seems to be a reference to the oft-repeated Qur’anic statement that those who believe in God and live righteously "need have no fear" (la khawf alayhim - lit., "no fear [shall be] upon them").

40. Verily, God does not wrong [anyone] by as much as an atom's weight; and if there be a good deed, He will multiply it, and will bestow out of His grace (51) a mighty reward.

51 - Lit., “from himself ”- i.e., far in excess of what the doer of good may have merited.

41. How, then, [will the sinners fare on Judgment Day,] when We shall bring forward witnesses from within every community, (52) and bring thee [O Prophet] as witness against them?

52 - I.e., the earlier apostles, of whom every community or civilization has had a share.

42. Those who were bent on denying the truth and paid no heed to the Apostle will on that Day wish that the earth would swallow them: (53) but they shall not [be able to] conceal from God anything that has happened.

53 - Lit., "become level with them". The term "the apostle" is probably used here in its generic sense, and refers to all the apostles who preached God's message at one time or another.

43. O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not attempt to pray while you are in a state of drunkenness, (54) [but wait] until you know what you are saying; nor yet [while you are] in a state requiring total ablution, (55) until you have bathed - except if you are travelling [and are unable to do so]. But if you are ill, or are travelling, or have just satisfied a want of nature, (56) or have cohabited with a woman, and can find no water - then take resort to pure dust, passing [there­with] lightly over your face and your hands. (57) Behold, God is indeed an absolver of sins, much-forgiving.

54 - The reference to prayer at this place arises from the mention, in the preceding verses, of the Day of Judgment, when man will have to answer before God for what he did during his life in this world: for it is in prayer that man faces God, spiritually, during his earthly life, and reminds himself of his responsibility towards the Creator. As regards the prohibition of attempting to pray "while in a state of drunkenness", some of the commentators assume that this ordinance represented the first stage of the total prohibition of intoxicants, and has been, consequently, "abrogated" by the promulgation of the law of total abstinence from all intoxicants (5: 90). However, quite apart from the fact that the doctrine of "abrogation" is entirely untenable (see surah 2, verse 106), there is no warrant whatever for regarding the above verse as a "first step" which has become redundant, as it were, after total prohibition was ordained. It is, of course, true that the Qur’an forbids the use of intoxicants at all times, and not merely at the time of prayer; but since "man has been created weak" (28), his lapse from the way of virtue is always a possibility: and it is to prevent him from adding the sin of praying while in a state of drunkenness to the sin of using intoxicants as such that the above verse was promulgated. Moreover, the expression "while you are in a state of drunkenness (sukara)” does not apply exclusively to alcoholic intoxication, since the term sukr, in its wider connotation, signifies any state of mental disequilibrium which prevents man from making full use of his intellectual faculties: that is to say, it can apply also to a temporary clouding of the intellect by drugs or giddiness or passion, as well as to the state metaphorically described as "drunk with sleep"- in brief, to any condition in which normal judgment is confused or suspended. And because the Qur’an insists throughout on consciousness as an indispensable element in every act of worship, prayer is permitted only when man is in full possession of his mental faculties and "knows what he is saying".

55 - I.e., after sexual intercourse. The term junub (rendered by me as "in a state requiring total ablution") is derived from the verb janaba, "he made (a thing) remote", and signifies one's remoteness from prayer because of immersion in sexual passion.

56 - Lit., "if one of you comes from the place in which one satisfies...", etc.

57 - This symbolic ablution, called tayammum, consists in touching the earth, or anything supposed to contain dust, with the palms of one's hands and then passing them lightly over face and hands. Whenever water is not within reach - or cannot be used because of illness - the tayammum takes the place of both the total ablution after sexual intercourse (ghusl) and the partial ablution before prayers (wudu).

44. ART THOU NOT aware of those who, having been granted their share of the divine writ, (58) now barter it away for error, and want you [too] to lose your way?

58 - The people referred to are the followers of the Bible. Thus, after having touched in the preceding verse upon the question of prayer, the Qur’an resumes its cardinal theme: man's responsibility for his actions and, in particular, for the manner in which he responds to the guidance offered to him through God's revelations.

45. But God knows best who are your enemies: and none can befriend as God does, and none can give succour as God does.
46. Among those of the Jewish faith there are some who distort the meaning of the [revealed] words, taking them out of their context and saying, [as it were,] "We have heard, but we disobey," and, "Hear without hearkening,” (59) and, “Hearken thou unto us, (O Muhammad)” - thus making a play with their tongues, and implying that the [true] Faith is false. (60) And had they but said, "We have heard, and we pay heed," and "Hear [us], and have patience with us," it would indeed have been for their own good, and more upright: but God has rejected them because of their refusal to acknowledge the truth - for it is in but few things that they believe. (61)

59 - Cf. 2: 93. figure of speech “hear without hearkening” addressed, as it were, by the Jews to themselves, describes their attitude towards both their own scriptures and the message of the Qur’an.

60 - Lit., "making a thrust (ta’n) against the Faith" - i.e., attributing to it a fundamental defect. The saying "Hearken thou unto us" is meant to convey the conviction of the Jews that they had nothing to learn from the teaching propounded by the Prophet Muhammad, and that he should rather defer to their views on religious matters. See, in this connection, their assertion, "Our hearts are already full of knowledge", in 2: 88.

61 - See surah 2, verse 88.

47. O you who have been granted revelation [aforetime]! Believe in what We have [now] bestowed from on high in confirmation of whatever [of the truth] you already possess, lest We efface your hopes and bring them to an end (62) - just as We rejected those people who broke the Sabbath: for God's will is always done. (63)

62 - Lit., "lest We obliterate the faces"- i.e., that towards which one turns, or that which one faces, with expectation (‘Abduh in Manar V, 144 ff.) - "and bring them back to their ends". It is to be noted that the term dubur (of which adbar is the plural) does not always signify the "back" of a thing - as most of the translators assume - but often stands for its "last part" or "end" (cf. Lane III, 846).

63 - This is an allusion to the story of the Sabbath-breakers (lit., "the people of the Sabbath") referred to in 2: 65 and fully explained in 7: 163-166.

48. VERILY, God does not forgive the ascribing of divinity to aught beside Him, although He forgives any lesser sin (64) unto whomever He wills: for he who ascribes divinity to aught beside God has indeed contrived an awesome sin. (65)

64 - Lit., "anything below that".

65 - The continuous stress, in the Qur’an, on God's transcendental oneness and uniqueness aims at freeing man from all sense of dependence on other influences and powers, and thus at elevating him spiritually and bringing about the "purification" alluded to in the next verse. Since this objective is vitiated by the sin of shirk ("the ascribing of divine qualities to aught beside God"), the Qur’an describes it as "unforgivable" so long as it is persisted in, i.e., unless and until the sinner repents (cf. verses 17 and 18 of this surah).

49. Art thou not aware of those who consider themselves pure? (66) Nay, but it is God who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity; and none shall be wronged by as much as a hair's breadth.(67)

66 - I.e., the Jews, who consider, themselves to be "God's chosen people" and, therefore, a priori destined for God's grace, and the Christians, who believe in Jesus’ "vicarious atonement" for the sins of mankind. There is also an obvious connection between this observation and the reference to shirk in the preceding verse, inasmuch as the Jews and the Christians, while not actually believing in the existence of any deity apart from God, ascribe divine or semi-divine qualities, in varying degrees, to certain human beings: the Christians by their elevation of Jesus to the status of a manifestation of God in human form and their open worship of a hierarchy of saints, and the Jews by their attribution of law-giving powers to the great Talmudic scholars, whose legal verdicts are supposed to override, if need be, any ordinance of the scriptures (cf. in this respect 9: 31). It goes without saying that this condemnation applies also to those Muslims who have fallen into the sin of worshipping saints and according them something of the reverence which is due to God alone. Consequently, the expression "those who consider themselves pure" comprises, in this context, all who think of themselves as believing in the One God (simply because they do not consciously worship a plurality of deities) but are, nevertheless, guilty of the sin of shirk in the deeper sense of this term.

67 - According to most of the philological authorities (e.g., Qamus), a fatil is any "slender thread which one rolls between one's fingers" - a term which is also, but by no means exclusively, applied to the tiny fibre adhering to the cleft of the date-stone (cf. Lane VI, 2334). Idiomatically, it is best rendered as "a hair's breadth". The above passage implies, firstly, that spiritual purity is not the privilege of any particular group or community, and, secondly, that one can become or remain pure only by God's grace, for "man has been created weak" (verse 28 above). See also note on the second paragraph of 53: 32.

50. Behold how they attribute their own lying inventions to God - than which there is no sin more obvious. (68)

68 - Lit., "and this is enough as an obvious sin". This passage refers to various theological statements of an arbitrary nature, such as the Jewish assertion that they are "the chosen people" and, thus, immune from God's condemnation; the Christian doctrine of "vicarious atonement"; the definition of God as a "trinity" with Jesus as its "second person"; and so forth.

51. Art thou not aware of those who, having been granted their share of the divine writ, [now] believe in baseless mysteries and in the powers of evil, (69) and maintain that those who are bent on denying the truth are more surely guided than those who have attained to faith?

69 - The word al-jibt - rendered by me as "baseless mysteries" - is probably, as the Lisan al-Arab points out, of non-Arabic origin. It denotes, according to some authorities, "something which is worthless in itself" or "something in which there is no good" (Qamus, Baydawi); according to others, it signifies "enchantment" (Umar ibn al-Khattab, Mujahid and Shabi as quoted by Tabari; also Qamus); others, again, interpret it as "anything that is worshipped instead of God" (Zamakhshari), and consequently apply it also to idols and idol-worship (Qamus, Lisan al-Arab) and - according to a Tradition quoted by Abu

52. It is they whom God has rejected: and he whom God rejects shall find none to succour him.
53. Have they, perchance, a share in [God's] dominion? (70) But [if they had], 1o, they would not give to other people as much as [would fill] the groove of a date-stone!

70 - An allusion to the Jewish belief that they occupy a privileged position in the sight of God.

54. Do they, perchance, envy other people for what God has granted them out of His bounty? (71) But then, We did grant revelation and wisdom unto the House of Abraham, and We did bestow on them a mighty dominion:

71 - I.e., revelation, which - according to the Jews - has been reserved to them alone.

55. and among them are such as [truly] believe in him, (72) and among them are such as have turned away from him. And nothing could be as burning as [the fire of] hell:

72 - I.e., in Abraham - implying that they are faithful to his message. It is to be borne in mind that the Prophet Muhammad, too, was a direct-line descendant of Abraham, whose message is confirmed and continued in the Qur’an.

56. for, verily, those who are bent on denying the truth of Our messages We shall, in time, cause to endure fire: [and] every time their skins are burnt off, We shall replace them with new skins, so that they may taste suffering [in full] (73) Verily, God is almighty, wise.

73 - This awesome allegory of suffering in the life to come is obviously meant to bring out the long-lasting nature of that suffering (Razi).

57. But those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds We shall bring into gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide beyond the count of time; there shall they have spouses pure: and [thus] We shall bring them unto happiness abounding.(74)

74 - The primary meaning of zill is "shade", and so the expression zill zalil could be rendered as “most shading shade”- i.e., "dense shade". However, in ancient Arabic usage, the word zill denotes also "a covering" or "a shelter" and, figuratively, "protection" (Raghib); and, finally, "a state of ease, pleasure and plenty" (cf. Lane V, 1915 f.), or simply "happiness" - and in the combination of zill zalil, "abundant happiness" (Razi) - which seems to agree best with the allegorical implications of the term "paradise".

58. BEHOLD, God bids you to deliver all that you have been entrusted with unto those who are entitled thereto, and whenever you judge between people, to judge with justice. (75) Verily, most excellent is what God exhorts you to do: verily, God is all-hearing, all-seeing!

75 - I.e., in the judicial sense, as well as in the sense of judging other people's motives, attitudes and behaviour. - The term amanah denotes anything one has been entrusted with, be it in the physical or moral sense (Razi). If one reads this ordinance in the context of the verses that precede and follow it, it becomes obvious that it relates to the message or - in view of the plural form amanat - to the truths which have been conveyed to the believers by means of the divine writ, and which they must regard as a sacred trust, to be passed on to "those who are entitled thereto"- i.e., to all mankind, for whom the message of the Qur’an has been intended. This, of course, does not preclude the ordinance from having a wider scope as well - that is, from its being applied to any material object or moral responsibility which may have been entrusted to a believer - and, in particular, to the exercise of worldly power and political sovereignty by the Muslim community or a Muslim state, to which the next verse refers.

59. O you who have attained to faith! Pay heed unto God, and pay heed unto the Apostle and unto those from among you (76) who have been entrusted with authority; and if you are at variance over any matter, refer it unto God and the Apostle, (77) if you [truly] believe in God and the Last Day. This is the best [for you], and best in the end. (78)

76 - I.e., from among the believers.

77 - I.e., to the Qur’an and to the sunnah (the sayings and the practice) of the Prophet. See also verse 65 of this surah.

78 - Read in conjunction with 3: 26, which speaks of God as "the Lord of all dominion" - and therefore the ultimate source of all moral and political authority - the above passage lays down a fundamental rule of conduct for the individual believer as well as the conceptual basis for the conduct of the Islamic state. Political power is held in trust (amanah) from God; and His will, as manifested in the ordinances comprising the Law of Islam, is the real source of all sovereignty. The stress, in this context, on "those from among you who have been entrusted with authority" makes it clear that the holders of authority (ulu l-amr) in an Islamic state must be Muslims.

60. ART THOU NOT aware of those who claim that they believe in what has been bestowed from on high upon thee, [O Prophet,] as well as in what was bestowed from on high before thee, [and yet] are willing to defer to the rule of the powers of evil (79) - although they were bidden to deny it, seeing that Satan but wants to lead them far astray?

79 - Lit., "who summon one another to the judgment [or "rule"] of the powers of evil (at-taghut): an allusion to people like those mentioned in verse 51 above, who, by their deference to what the Qur’an describes as at-taghut (see surah 2, verse 256), nullify all the good that they could derive from guidance through revelation.

61. And so, whenever they are told, "Come unto that which God has be­stowed from on high, and unto the Apostle," thou canst see these hypocrites turn away from thee with aversion. (80)

80 - The classical commentators see in verses 60-64 a reference to the hypocrites of Medina who, at the time of the Prophet, outwardly professed to be his followers but did not really believe in his teachings. It seems to me, however, that this passage goes far beyond the possible historical occasion of its revelation, inasmuch as it touches upon an often-encountered psychological problem of faith. People who are not fully convinced that there exists a reality beyond the reach of human perception (al-ghayb, in the sense explained in surah 2, verse 3) find it, as a rule, difficult to dissociate their ethical views from their personal predilections and morally questionable desires - with the result that they are only too often "willing to defer to what the powers of evil tell them". Although they may half-heartedly concede that some of the moral teachings based on revelation (in this case, the Qur’an) contain "certain verities", they instinctively recoil from those teachings whenever they conflict with what their own idiosyncrasies represent to them as desirable: and so they become guilty of hypocrisy in the deepest, religious connotation of this word.

62. But how [will they fare] when calamity befalls them [on the Day of Judgment] because of what they have wrought in this world (81) - whereupon they will come to thee, swearing by God, "Our aim was but to do good, and to bring about harmony"? (82)

81 - Lit., "what their hands have sent ahead": an allusion to their ambivalent attitude and the confusion which it may have created in others.

82 - I.e., they will plead that their aim was no more than a harmonization of the Qur’anic ethics with a "humanistic" (that is, man-centred) world-view: a plea which the Qur’an implicitly rejects as being hypocritical and self-deceptive (cf. 2: 11-12). As regards the phrase "whereupon they will come to thee", see verse 41 of this surah.

63. As for them - God knows all that is in their hearts; so leave them alone, and admonish them, and speak unto them about themselves in a gravely search­ing manner:
64. for We have never sent any apostle save that he should be heeded by God's leave. (83) If, then, after having sinned against themselves, they would but come round to thee and ask God to forgive them - with the Apostle, too, praying that they be forgiven - they would assuredly find that God is an acceptor of repentance, a dispenser of grace.

83 - The expression “by God's leave” is to be understood, in this context, as “with God's help” or “by God's grace” (Zamakhshari, Razi). As so often in the Qur’an, the sudden change, within one and the same sentence, from the pronoun “We” or “I” to “He”, or from “We” to “God”, is meant to impress upon the listener or reader of the Qur’an the fact that God is not a “person” but an all-embracing Power that cannot be defined or even adequately referred to within the limited range of any human language.

65. But nay, by thy Sustainer! They do not [really] believe unless they make thee [O Prophet] a judge of all on which they disagree among themselves, and then find in their hearts no bar to an acceptance of thy decision and give themselves up [to it] in utter self-surrender. (84)

84 - This verse lays down in an unequivocal manner the obligation of every Muslim to submit to the ordinances, which the Prophet, under divine inspiration, promulgated with a view to exem­plifying the message of the Qur’an and enabling the believers to apply it to actual situations. These ordinances constitute what is described as the sunnah (lit., "way") of the Prophet Muhammad, and have (whenever they are authenticated beyond any possibility of doubt) full legal force side by side with the Qur’an: see verse 80 of this surah.

66. Yet if We were to ordain for them, (85) "Lay down your lives," or, "Forsake your homelands," only a very few of them would do it (86) - although, if they did what they are admonished to do, it would indeed be for their own good and apt to strengthen them greatly [in faith],

85 - I.e., by means of the God-inspired commands issued by the Prophet (see preceding note).

86 - Lit., "they would not do it, save for a few of them": the pronoun obviously relates to the half-hearted, who are not prepared to undergo the sacrifices which their faith demands of them. The reference to laying down one's life in the defence of faith and freedom and, if necessary, abandoning one's homeland, introduces, as it were, the long passage beginning with verse 71, which deals with fighting in God's cause.

67. whereupon We should indeed grant them, out of Our grace, a mighty reward,
68. and indeed guide them onto a straight way.
69. For, all who pay heed unto God and the Apostle shall be among those upon whom God has bestowed His blessings: the prophets, and those who never deviated from the truth, and those who [with their lives] bore witness to the truth, and the right­eous ones: and how goodly a company are these!
70. Such is the bounty of God - and none has the knowledge which God has.
71. O YOU who have attained to faith! Be fully prepared against danger, whether you go to war in small groups or all together. (87)

87 - Lit., "and then go forth, [be it] in small detachments or all together"- the latter expression applying to what nowadays is called "total war". The term hidhr connotes not merely an effort to guard oneself against imminent danger but also the making of all necessary preparations with regard to (in this context) military organization, equipment, etc. The problem of war as such arises from the principles of ideological statehood postulated in verse 59 of this surah. Since the Muslims are expected to organize their communal life within the framework of a state based on the ideological premises laid down in the Qur’an, they must be prepared for hostility on the part of groups or nations opposed to the world-view and the social system of Islam and, conceivably, bent on its destruction: consequently, the concept of a defensive war in God's cause (jihad) plays a very prominent role in the socio-political scheme of Islam and is frequently alluded to throughout the Qur’an.

72. And, behold, there are indeed among you such as would lag behind, and then, if calamity befalls you, say, "God has bestowed His favour upon me in that I did not accompany them."
73. But if good fortune comes to you from God, such a person is sure to say - just as if there had never been any question of love between you and him - : "Oh, would that I had been with tthem, and thus had a [share in their] mighty triumph !"
74. Hence, let them fight in God's cause - all who are willing to barter the life of this world for the life to come: for unto him who fights in God's cause, whether he be slain or be victorious, We shall in time grant a mighty reward.
75. And how could you refuse to fight (88) in the cause of God and of the utterly helpless men and women and children who are crying, "O our Sustainer! Lead us forth [to freedom] out of this land whose people are oppressors, and raise for us, out of Thy grace, a protector, and raise for us, out of Thy grace, one who will bring us succour!"

88 - Lit., "what is amiss with you that you do not fight" - implying that they have no moral excuse for such a refusal.

76. Those who have attained to faith fight in the cause of God, whereas those who are bent on denying the truth fight in the cause of the powers of evil. Fight, then, against those friends of Satan: verily, Satan's guile is weak indeed!*

89 - Thus the Qur’an implies that "evil" is not an independent, esoteric factor of life, but rather a result of man's succumbing to the temptations arising from his own moral weakness and thereby "denying the truth". In other words, the "power" of the negative principle symbolized by Satan has no intrinsic reality ("Satan's guile is weak indeed"): it becomes real only through man's wilfully choosing a wrong course of action.

77. ART THOU NOT aware of those who have been told, "Curb your hands, (90) and be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues"? But as soon as fighting [in God's cause] is ordained for them, lo, some of them stand in awe of men as one should stand in awe of God - or in even greater awe - and say, "O our Sustainer! Why hast Thou ordained fighting for us? If only Thou hadst granted us a delay for a little while!" Say: "Brief is the enjoyment of this world, whereas the life to come is the best for all who are conscious of God - since none of you shall be wronged by as much as a hair's breadth.

90 - I.e., from unrighteous violence, to which man so often inclines. The fact that most people have to be told to refrain from violence is contrasted, in the next sentence, with the unwillingness on the part of many of them to expose themselves to physical danger in a righteous cause.

78. Wherever you may be, death will overtake you - even though you be in towers raised high. "Yet, when a good thing happens to them, some [people] say, "This is from God," whereas when evil befalls them, they say, "This is from thee [O fellow­man]!” (91) Say: "All is from God." What, then, is amiss with these people that they are in no wise near to grasping the truth of what they are told? (92)

91 - I.e., they do not realize that the evil happening may possibly be a consequence of their own actions or their own wrong choice between several courses open to them, but are prone to attribute it to the failings of others.

92 - Lit., "something [which they are] told" - i.e., a truth which their own reason as well as the teachings of all the prophets should have made obvious to them.

79. Whatever good happens to thee is from God; and whatever evil befalls thee is from thyself. (93) AND WE have sent thee [O Muhammad] as an apostle unto all mankind: and none can bear witness [thereto] as God does.

93 - There is no contradiction between this statement and the preceding one that "all is from God". In the world-view of the Qur’an, God is the ultimate source of all happening: consequently, all good that comes to man and all evil that befalls him flows, in the last resort, from God's will. However, not everything that man regards as "evil fortune" is really, in its final effect, evil - for, "it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know" (2: 216). Thus, many an apparent "evil" may sometimes be no more than a trial and a God-willed means of spiritual growth through suffering, and need not necessarily be the result of a wrong choice or a wrong deed on the part of the person thus afflicted. It is, therefore, obvious that the "evil" or "evil fortune" of which this verse speaks has a restricted connotation, inasmuch as it refers to evil in the moral sense of the word: that is to say, to suffering resulting from the actions or the behaviour of the person concerned, and this in accordance with the natural law of cause and effect which God has decreed for all His creation, and which the Qur’an describes as "the way of God" (sunnat Allah). For all such suffering man has only himself to blame, since "God does not wrong anyone by as much as at atom's weight" (40).

80. Whoever pays heed unto the Apostle pays heed unto God thereby; and as for those who turn away - We have not sent thee to be their keeper.
81. And they say, "We do pay heed unto thee'' (94) - but when they leave thy presence, some of them devise, in the dark of night, [beliefs] other than thou art voicing; (95) and all the while God records what they thus devise in the dark of night. Leave them, then, alone, and place thy trust in God: for none is as worthy of trust as God.

94 - Lit., "And they say, 'Obedience’” - a reference to the hypocrites of Medina, in the time of the Prophet, and - by implication - the hypocritical "admirers" and half-hearted followers of Islam at all times.

95 - I.e., they surreptitiously try to corrupt the message of God's Apostle. The verb bata denotes "he spent the night"; in the form bayyata it signifies "he meditated by night [upon something, or upon doing something]", or "he devised (something) by night" (Lisan al-Arab), i.e., in secrecy, which is symbolized by "the dark of night".

82. Will they not, then, try to understand this Qur’an? Had it issued from any but God, they would surely have found in it many an inner contradiction! (96)

96 - I.e., the fact that it is free of all inner contradictions - in spite of its having been revealed gradually, over a period of twenty-three years - should convince them that it has not been "composed by Muhammad" (an accusation frequently levelled against him not only by his contemporaries but also by non-believers of later times), but could only have originated from a supra-human source. See also 25: 32 and 39: 23.

83. AND IF any [secret] matter pertaining to peace or war comes within their ken, they (97) spread it abroad - whereas, if they would but refer it unto the Apostle and unto those from among the believers (98) who have been entrusted with authority, such of them as are engaged in obtaining intelligence (99) would indeed know [what to do with] it And but for God's bounty towards you, and His grace, all but a few of you would certainly have followed Satan.

97 - I.e., the half-hearted followers of Islam spoken of in the preceding verses (Zamakhshar). The above reference to peace or war - lit., "security or danger (khawf)”- is connected, firstly, with the basic principles of statecraft mentioned in verse 59 of this surah and, secondly, with the discourse on fighting in God's cause beginning with verse 71.

98 - Lit., "from among them".

99 - Lit., "those from among them who elicit [the truth]", i.e., the special organs of the state entrusted with gathering and evaluating political and military intelligence.

84. Fight thou, (100) then, in God's cause - since thou art but responsible for thine own self - and inspire the believers to overcome all fear of death. (101) God may well curb the might of those who are bent on denying the truth: for God is stronger in might, and stronger in ability to deter.

100 - Although primarily addressed to the Prophet, the "thou" in this sentence relates to every believer. The above exhortation is to be understood in the context of a war already in progress, and not as an incitement to war.

101 - The term harad signifies "corruption of body or mind" or "corruption in one's conduct", as well as "constant disquietude of mind" (Qamus). According to Raghib, the verbal form harradahu means "he rid him of all harad" -analogous to the expression marradahu, "he rid him of illness (marad)”. In the two instances where this verb occurs in the Qur’an (in this verse as well as in 8: 65), it has the imperative form: "Render the believers free of all disquietude of mind" or, tropically, "of all fear of death" - and may, thus, be suitably expressed as "inspire the believers to overcome all fear of death". The usual rendering of the phrase harrid al-mu minin as "urge (or "rouse" or "stir up") the believers" does not convey the full meaning of the verb harrada, notwithstanding the fact that it has been suggested by some of the classical philologists (cf. Lane II, 548).

85. Whoever rallies to a good cause shall have a share in its blessings; (102) and whoever rallies to an evil cause shall be answerable for his part in it: for, indeed, God watches over everything.**

102 - Lit., "shall have a share (nasib) therefrom". Since the term nasib has here a positive meaning, it can be suitably rendered as "a share in its blessings".

103 - The noun kifl is derived from the root-verb kafala, "he made himself responsible (for a thing)". Tabari explains it in this context as denoting "a share in the responsibility and the sin". The expression minha ("out of it") indicates the part played by the transgressor in the evil enterprise, to which the pronoun ha ("it") refers.

86. But when you are greeted with a greeting [of peace], answer with an even better greeting, or [at least] with the like thereof. (104) Verily, God keeps count indeed of all things.

104 - Lit., "greet with better than it, or return it". In the above context, this obviously refers to an offer of peace by people with whom the believers are at war as well as to individual persons who, while possibly belonging to the enemy, have, to all outward appearances, peaceful intentions. In accordance with the injunctions, "if they incline to peace, incline thou to it as well" (8: 61), and "if they desist (from fighting), then all hostility shall cease" (2: 193), the believers are obliged to make peace with an enemy who makes it clear that he wants to come to an equitable understanding; similarly, they must show every consideration to individual persons from among the enemies who do not actively participate in the hostilities (see also verse 94 of this surah).

87. God - save whom there is no deity - will surely gather you all together on the Day of Resurrection, [the coming of] which is beyond all doubt: and whose word could be truer than God's?
88. How, then, could you be of two minds (105) about the hypocrites, seeing that God [Himself] has disowned them because of their guilt? (106) Do you, perchance, seek to guide those whom God has let go astray - when for him whom God lets go astray thou canst never find any way?

105 - Lit., "two parties".

106 - Lit., "seeing that God has thrown them back in result of what they have earned". There are various conjectures, almost all of them of a historical nature, as to the identity of these hypocrites. Some of the commentators think that the verse refers to the hypocrites at Medina in the early years after the hijrah; others (e.g., Tabari) prefer the view expressed by Ibn ‘Abbas, according to whom this refers to certain people of Mecca who, before the hijrah, outwardly accepted Islam but secretly continued to support the pagan Quraysh. It seems to me, however, that there is no need to search after "historical" interpretations of the above verse, since it can easily be understood in general terms. The preceding verse speaks of God, and stresses His oneness and the obvious truth inherent in His revealed message, as well as the certainty of judgment on Resurrection Day. "How, then," continues the argument, "could you be of two minds regarding the moral stature of people who go so far as to pay lip-service to the truth of God's message and are, nevertheless, not willing to make a sincere choice between right and wrong?"

89. They would love to see you deny the truth even as they have denied it, so that you should be like them. Do not, therefore, take them for your allies until they forsake the domain of evil (107) for the sake of God; and if they revert to [open] enmity, seize them and slay them wherever you may find them. And do not take any of them (108) for your ally or giver of succour,

107 - See surah 2, verse 218, as well as note on verse 97 of this surah.

108 - I.e., any of those who have not "forsaken the domain of evil" and are wavering between belief and disbelief.

90. unless it be such [of them] as have ties with people to whom you yourselves are bound by a covenant, or such as come unto you because their hearts shrink from [the thought of] making war either on you or on their own folk - although, if God had willed to make them stronger than you, they would certainly have made war on you. (109) Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them. (110)

109 - Lit., "if God had so willed, He would indeed have given them power over you, whereupon...", etc.- implying that only the lack of requisite power, and not true good will, causes them to refrain from making war on the believers.

110 - Lit., "God has given you no way against them": a reference to the ordinance laid down in verse 86 above.

91. You will find [that there are] others who would like to be safe from you as well as safe from their own folk, [but who,] whenever they are faced anew with temptation to evil, plunge into it headlong.* Hence, if they do not let you be, and do not offer you peace, and do not stay their hands, seize them and slay them whenever you come upon them: for it is against these that We have clearly empowered you [to make war].**

111 - Lit., "whenever they are returned to temptation (fitnah), they are thrown back into it" or thrown headlong into it".

112 - Lit., "that We have given you clear authority (sultan)" - a solemn reiteration of the ordinance which permits war only in self-defence (cf. 2: 190 ff. as well as the corresponding notes).

92. AND IT IS not conceivable that a believer should slay another believer, unless it be by mistake. (113) And upon him who has slain a believer by mistake there is the duty of freeing a believing soul from bondage and paying an indemnity to the victim's relations, (114) unless they forgo it by way of charity. Now if the slain, while himself a believer, belonged to a people who are at war with you, (115) [the penance shall be confined to] the freeing of a believing soul from bondage; whereas, if he belonged to a people to whom you are bound by a covenant, [it shall consist of] an indemnity to be paid to his relations in ad­dition to the freeing of a believing soul from bon­dage. (116) And he who does not have the wherewithal shall fast [instead] for two consecutive months. (117) (This is) the atonement ordained by God: and God is indeed all-knowing, wise.

113 - On the strength of this verse, read in conjunction with verse 93, some of the Mutazilite scholars are of the opinion that a believer who deliberately kills another believer must be considered an unbeliever (Razi). This does not, of course, apply to the execution of a death sentence passed in due process of law.

114 - Lit., "his people" - i.e., the heirs or dependants of the victim. The "freeing of a believing soul from bondage", mentioned three times in this verse, refers in the first instance to persons who have been taken captive in war (see note on 8: 67 and also note on 58: 3.

115 - Lit., "who are hostile to you" - implying that they are in an actual state of war.

116 - This relates to cases where the victim is a non-Muslim belonging to a people with whom the Muslims have normal, peaceful relations; in such cases the penalty is the same as that imposed for the killing, under similar circumstances, of a fellow-believer.

117 - I.e., in the way prescribed for fasting during the month of Ramadan (see 2:183-187). This alleviation applies to a person who cannot afford to pay the indemnity and/or purchase the freedom of a slave (Razi), or cannot find a slave to be freed, as may be the case in our times (Manar V, 337).

93. But whoever deliberately slays another be­liever, his requital shall be hell, therein to abide; and God will condemn him, and will reject him, and will prepare for him awesome suffering.
94. [Hence,] O you who have attained to faith, when you go forth [to war] in God's cause, use your discernment, and do not - out of a desire for the fleeting gains of this worldly life - say unto anyone who offers you the greeting of peace, "Thou art not a believer" (118) for with God there are gains abundant. You, too, were once in the same condition (119) - but God has been gracious unto you. Use, therefore, your discernment: verily, God is always aware of what you do.

118 - Sc., "and therefore one of the enemies". This verse prohibits the treating of non­combatants as enemies and using their supposed unbelief as a pretext for plundering them. The injunction "use your discernment" (tabayyanu) imposes on the believers the duty of making sure, in every case, whether the persons concerned are actively engaged in hostilities or not.

119 - Lit., "thus have you [too] been aforetime". Since the preceding injunction refers to the whole community, it would seem that the above clause, too, bears the same implication: namely, a reference to the time when the Muslim community was, because of its weakness and numerical insignificance, at the mercy of enemies endowed with greater power. Thus, the believers are told, as it were: "Remember your erstwhile weakness, and treat the peacefully-minded among your enemies with the same consideration with which you yourselves were once hoping to be treated."

95. SUCH of the believers as remain passive (120) - other than the disabled - cannot be deemed equal to those who strive hard in God's cause with their possessions and their lives: (121) God has exalted those who strive hard with their possessions and their lives far above those who remain passive. Although God has promised the ultimate good unto all [believers], yet has God exalted those who strive hard above those who remain passive by [promising them] a mighty reward –

120 - Lit., "who sit [at home]"- i.e., who do not participate in the struggle in God's cause, be it physical or moral.

121 - The term mujahid is derived from the verb jahada, which means "he struggled" or "strove hard" or "exerted himself", namely, in a good cause and against evil. Consequently, jihad denotes "striving in the cause of God" in the widest sense of this expression: that is to say, it applies not merely to physical warfare (qital) but to any righteous struggle in the moral sense as well; thus, for instance, the Prophet described man's struggle against his own passions and weaknesses (jihad an-nafs) as the “greatest jihad” (Bayhaqi, on the authority of Jabir ibn ‘Abd Allah).

96. [many] degrees thereof - and for­giveness of sins, and His grace; for God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.
97. Behold, those whom the angels gather in death while they are still sinning against themselves, [the angels] will ask, "What was wrong with you?'' (122) They will answer: "We were too weak on earth." [The angels] will say: "Was, then, God's earth not wide enough for you to forsake the domain of evil?"** For such, then, the goal is hell - and how evil a journey's end!

122 - Lit., "in what [condition] were you?"- i.e., while alive. This refers to people who evade, without valid excuse, all struggle in God's cause.

123 - Lit., "was not God's earth wide, so that you could migrate therein?" The term hijrah (lit., "exodus"), derived from the verb hajara ("he migrated"), is used in the Qur’an in two senses: one of them is historical, denoting the exodus of the Prophet and his Companions from Mecca to Medina, while the other has a moral connotation - namely, man's "exodus" from evil towards God - and does not necessarily imply the leaving of one's homeland in the physical sense. It is this wider, moral and ethical meaning of the term hijrah to which the above passage refers - just as the preceding passage (verses 95-96) referred to "striving hard in God's cause" (jihad) in the widest sense of the term, embracing both physical and moral efforts and the sacrifice, if need be, of one's possessions and even one's life. While the physical exodus from Mecca to Medina ceased to be obligatory for the believers after the conquest of Mecca in the year 8 H., the spiritual exodus from the domain of evil to that of righteousness continues to be a fundamental demand of Islam; in other words, a person who does not "migrate from evil unto God" cannot be considered a believer - which explains the condemnation, in the next sentence, of all who are remiss in this respect.

98. But excepted shall be the truly helpless - be they men or women or children - who cannot bring forth any strength and have not been shown the right way: (124)

124 - Or: "cannot find the [right] way" - implying that they are helplessly confused and cannot, therefore, grasp this basic demand of Islam; or, alternatively, that the message relating to this demand has not been adequately conveyed and explained to them.

99. as for them, God may well efface their sin - for God is indeed an absolver of sins, much-forgiving.
100. And he who forsakes the domain of evil for the sake of God shall find on earth many a lonely road, (125) as well as life abundant. And if anyone leaves his home, fleeing from evil unto God and His Apostle, and then death overtakes him - his reward is ready with God: for God iss indeed much-forgiving, a dis­penser of grace.

125 - The word muragham is derived from the noun ragham ("dust") and is connected with the idiomatic expression raghima anfuhu, "his nose was made to cleave to dust", i.e., he became humbled and forced to do something against his will. Thus, muragham denotes "a road by the taking of which one leaves one's people against their will" (Zamakhshari), it being understood that this separation from one's familiar environment involves what is described as muraghamah, the "breaking off (from another)" or the "cutting off from friendly or living communion" (see Lane III, 1113). All this can best be rendered, in the above context, as "a lonely road" - a metaphor of that heartbreaking loneliness which almost always accompanies the first steps of one who sets forth on his "exodus from evil unto God". (Regarding this latter expression, see note on verse 97 above as well as surah 2, verse 218.)

101. AND WHEN you go forth [to war] on earth, you will incur no sin by shortening your prayers (126) if you have reason to fear that those who are bent on denying the truth might suddenly fall upon you: (127) for, verily, those who deny the truth are your open foes.

126 - Lit., "the prayer": a reference to the five obligatory daily prayers - at dawn, noon, afternoon, after sunset and late in the evening - which may be shortened and combined (the noon prayer with that of the afternoon, and the sunset prayer with that of the late evening) if one is travelling or in actual danger. While the extension of this permission to peaceful travel has been authorized by the Prophet's sunnah, the Qur’an mentions it only in connection with war situations; and this justifies the interpolation, in the opening sentence, of the words "to war". The prayer described in the next verse - with the congregation praying in shifts - is called salat al-khawf ("prayer in danger").

127 - Lit., "might cause you an affliction" - implying, according to almost all the commentators, a sudden attack.

102. Thus, when thou art among the believers (128) and about to lead them in prayer, let [only] part of them stand up with thee, retaining their arms. Then, after they have finished their prayer, let them provide you cover (129) while another group, who have not yet prayed, shall come forward and pray with thee, being fully prepared against danger and retaining their arms: (for) those who are bent on denying the truth would love to see you oblivious of your arms and your equipment, so that they might fall upon you in a surprise attack. (130) But it shall not be wrong for you to lay down your arms [while you pray] if you are troubled by rain (131) or if you are ill; but [always] be fully prepared against danger. Verily, God has readied shameful suffering for all who deny the truth!

128 - Lit., "among them". The "thou" in this sentence refers, primarily, to the Prophet and, by implication, to the leader of every group of believers at war with "those who deny the truth".

129 - Lit., "when they have prostrated themselves, let them [i.e., the other group] be behind you". This idiomatic expression is not to be taken literally: in classical Arabic usage, the phrase kana min wara ika (lit., "he was behind thee") signifies "he protected thee" or (in military parlance) "he covered thee", and is not meant to describe the physical relative position of the two persons or groups.

130 - Lit., "turn upon you in one turning".

131 - I.e., if there is a risk of their weapons being damaged by exposure to unfavourable weather conditions, the warriors are exempted from the obligation of keeping their arms with them while praying. This exemption applies, of course, only to such of the soldiers as are in charge of particularly sensitive weapons; and the same applies to the individual cases of illness mentioned in the sequence. It must, however, be remembered that the term matar (lit., "rain") is often used in the Qur’an to denote "an affliction": and if we adopt this meaning, the above phrase could be rendered as "if you suffer from an affliction"- thus allowing for a wide range of possible emergencies.

103. And when you have finished your prayer, remember God - standing and sitting and lying down; and when you are once again secure, observe your prayers [fully]. Verily, for all believers prayer is indeed a sacred duty linked to particular times [of day].
104. And be not faint of heart when you seek out the [enemy] host. If you happen to suffer pain, behold, they suffer pain even as you suffer it: but you are hoping [to receive] from God what they cannot hope for. And God is indeed all-knowing, wise.
105. BEHOLD, We have bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, setting forth the truth, so that thou may judge between people in accordance with what God has taught thee. (132) Hence, do not contend with those who are false to their trust,

132 - The "thou" in this and the following two verses - as well as in verse 113 - refers, on the face of it, to the Propheet; by implication, however, it is addressed to everyone who has accepted the guidance of the Qur’an: this is evident from the use of the plural "you" in verse 109. Con­sequently, the attempt on the part of most of the commentators to explain this passage in purely historical terms is not very convincing, the more so as it imposes an unnecessary limitation on an otherwise self-explanatory ethical teaching of general purport.

106. but pray God to forgive [them]: (133) behold, God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

133 - This obviously refers to the hypocrites as well as to the half-hearted followers of the Qur’an spoken of earlier in this surah: both are accused of having betrayed the trust reposed in them, inasmuch as they pretend to have accepted the Qur’anic message but, in reality, are trying to corrupt it (see verse 81). Since they are already aware of what the Qur’an demands of them and are, nevertheless, bent on evading all real self-surrender to its guidance, there is no use in arguing with them.

107. Yet do not argue in behalf of those who are false to their own selves: (134) verily, God does not love those who betray their trust and persist in sinful ways.

134 - I.e., "you may ask God to forgive them, but do not try to find excuses for their behaviour". It is significant that the Qur’an characterizes a betrayal of trust, whether spiritual or social, as "being false to oneself" - just as it frequently describes a person who deliberately commits a sin or a wrong (zulm) as "one who sins against himself" or "wrongs himself" (zalim nafsahu) - since every deliberate act of sinning damages its author spiritually.

108. They would conceal their doings from men; but from God they cannot conceal them - for He is with them whenever they devise, in the dark of night, all manner of beliefs (135) which He does not approve. And God indeed encompasses [with His knowledge] whatever they do.

135 - Lit., "that of belief" (min al-qawl). It is to be remembered that the noun qawl does not denote merely "a saying" or "an utterance" (which is its primary significance): it is also employed tropically to denote anything that can be described as a "conceptual statement" - like an opinion, a doctrine, or a belief - and is often used in this sense in the Qur’an.

109. Oh, you might well argue in their behalf in the life of this world: but who will argue in their behalf with God on the Day of Resurrection, or who will be their defender?
110. Yet he who does evil or [otherwise] sins against himself, and thereafter prays God to forgive him, shall find God much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace:
111. for he who commits a sin, commits it only to his own hurt; (136) and God is indeed all-knowing, wise.

136 - Lit., "he who earns a sin, earns it only against himself".

112. But he who commits a fault or a sin and then throws the blame therefore on an innocent person, burdens himself with the guilt of calumny and [yet another] flagrant sin.
113. And but for God's favour upon thee and His grace, some of those [who are false to themselves] would indeed endeavour to lead thee astray; yet none but themselves do they lead astray. Nor can they harm thee in any way, since God has bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ and [given thee] wisdom, and has imparted unto thee the knowledge of what thou didst not know. And God's favour upon thee is tremendous indeed.
114. NO GOOD comes, as a rule, out of secret confabulations - saving such as are devoted to en­joining charity, or equitable dealings, or setting things to rights between people: (137) and unto him who does this out of a longing for God's goodly acceptance We shall in time grant a mighty reward.

137 - Lit., "There is no good in much of their secret confabulation (najwa) - excepting him who enjoins...", etc. Thus, secret talks aiming at positive, beneficial ends - for instance, peace negotiations between states or communities - are excepted from the disapproval of "secret confabulations" because premature publicity may sometimes be prejudicial to the achievement of those ends or may (especially in cases where charity is involved) hurt the feelings of the people concerned.

115. But as for him who, after guidance has been vouchsafed to him, cuts himself off from the Apostle and follows a path other than that of the believers - him shall We leave unto that which he himself has chosen, (138) and shall cause him to endure hell: and how evil a journey’s end!

138 - Lit., "him We shall [cause to] turn to that to which he [himself] has turned" - a stress on man's freedom of choice.

116. VERILY, God does not forgive the ascribing of divinity to aught beside Him, although He forgives any lesser sin unto whomever He wills: for those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God have indeed gone far astray.
117. In His stead, they invoke only life­less symbols (139) - thus invoking none but a rebellious Satan

139 - The term inath (which is the plural of untha, "a female being") seems to have been applied by the pre-Islamic Arabs to their idols, probably because most of them were considered to be female. Hence, according to some philologists, the plural form inath signifies "inanimate things" (cf. Lane I, 112). Ibn Abbas, Qatadah and Al-Hasan al-Basri explain it as denoting anything that is passive and lifeless (Tabari); this definition has been adopted by Raghib as well. On the other hand, Tabari mentions a Tradition, on the authority of Urwah, according to which a copy of the Qur’an in the possession of Aishah contained the word awthan ("idols") instead of inath (cf. also Zamakhshari and Ibn Kathir). The rendering "lifeless symbols" is most appropriate in this context inasmuch as it adequately combines the concept of "idols" with that of "inanimate things".

118. whom God has rejected for having said, "Verily, of Thy servants I shall most certainly take my due share,
119. and shall lead them astray, and fill them with vain desires; and I shall command them - and they will cut off the ears of cattle [in idolatrous sacrifice]; and I shall command them - and they will corrupt God's creation!" (140) But all who take Satan rather than God for their master do indeed, most clearly, lose all:

140 - Cf. 7: 16-17. The pre-Islamic Arabs used to dedicate certain of their cattle to one or another of their idols by cutting off or slitting the ears of the animal, which was thereupon considered sacred (Tabari). In the above context, this reference is used metonymically to describe idolatrous practices, or inclinations, in general. The allusion to Satan's inducing man to "corrupt [lit., "change"] God's creation" has a meaning to which sufficient attention is but seldom paid: Since this creation, and the manner in which it manifests itself, is an expression of God's planning will, any attempt at changing its intrinsic nature amounts to corruption. - For the wider meaning of the term shaytan ("Satan" or "satanic force"), see the first half of the note on 15: 17.

120. he holds out promises to them, and fills them with vain desires: yet whatever Satan promises them is but meant to delude the mind. (141)

141 - The term ghurur signifies anything by which the mind is beguiled or deceived - for instance, utter self-abandonment to earthly joys, or the absurd belief that there is no limit to man's aims and achievements.

121. Such as these have hell for their goal: and they shall find no way to escape therefrom.
122. Yet those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds We shall bring into gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide beyond the count of time: this is, in truth, God's promise - and whose word could be truer than God's?
123. It may not accord with your wishful thinking - nor with the wishful thinking of the fol­lowers of earlier revelation (142) - [that] he who does evil shall be requited for it, and shall find none to protect him from God, and none to bring him succour,

142 - An allusion to both the Jewish idea that they are "God's chosen people" and, therefore, assured of His grace in the hereafter, and to the Christian dogma of "vicarious atonement", which promises salvation to all who believe in Jesus as "God's son".

124. whereas anyone - be it man or woman - who does [whatever he can] of good deeds and is a believer withal, shall enter paradise, and shall not be wronged by as much as [would fill] the groove of a date-stone.
125. And who could be of better faith than he who surrenders his whole being unto God and is a doer of good withal, and follows the creed of Abraham, who turned away from all that is false - seeing that God exalted Abraham with His love? (143)

143 - Lit., "chose Abraham to be [His] beloved friend (khalil)".

126. For, unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth; and, indeed, God encompasses everything.
127. AND THEY will ask thee to enlighten them about the laws concerning women. (144) Say: "God [Himself] en­lightens you about the laws concerning them"- for [His will is shown] in what is being conveyed unto you through this divine writ about orphan women [in your charge], to whom - because you yourselves may be desirous of marrying them - you do not give that which has been ordained for them; (145) and about help­less children; and about your duty to treat orphans with equity. And whatever good you may do - be­hold, God has indeed full knowledge thereof.

144 - I.e., the laws relating to marital relations, women's share in inheritance, etc. A fatwa or ifta denotes the "clarification of a legal injunction" given in reply to a question; correspondingly, the verb istaftahu means "he asked him to give a legal decision", or "to enlighten him about a [particular] law". Since the laws alluded to in the above passage have already been dealt with early in this surah, the repeated reference to them is meant to stress the great importance of the problems involved, as well as the responsibility which men bear towards their physically weaker counterparts. In accordance with the system prevailing throughout the Qur’an, a lengthy passage dealing with purely moral or ethical questions is usually - as in the present case - followed by verses relating to social legislation, and this with a view to bringing out the intimate connection between man's spiritual life and his social behaviour.

145 - Cf. verse 3 of this surah, "If you have reason to fear that you might not act equitably towards orphans...”, and Aishah's explanation quoted in the corresponding note.

128. And if a woman has reason to fear ill-treat­ment from her husband, or that he might turn away from her, it shall not be wrong for the two to set things peacefully to rights between themselves: for peace is best, and selfishness is ever-present in human souls. But if you do good and are conscious of Him - behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do.
129. And it will not be within your power to treat your wives with equal fairness, however much you may desire it; (146) and so, do not allow yourselves to incline towards one to the exclusion of the other, leaving her in a state, as it were, of having and not having a husband. (147) But if you put things to rights and are conscious of Him - behold, God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

146 - This refers to cases where a man has more than one wife - a permission which is conditional upon his determination and ability to "treat them with equal fairness", as laid down in verse 3 of this surah. Since a man who is fully conscious of his moral responsibility might feel that he is committing a sin if he loves one of his wives more than the other (or others), the above verse provides a "judicial enlightenment" on this point by making it clear that feelings are beyond a human being's control: in other words, that the required equality of treatment relates only to outward behaviour towards and practical dealings with one's wives. However, in view of the fact that a man's behaviour towards another person is, in the long run, almost inevitably influenced by what he feels about that person, the above passage - read in conjunction with verse 3, and especially its concluding sentence - imposes a moral restriction on plural marriages.

147 - Lit., "do not incline with all inclination" - i.e., towards one of the wives, implying thereby an exclusion of the other from all affection - "leaving her, as it were, in suspense (kal-mu allaqah)''. Regarding my rendering of this phrase, see Lane V, 2137.

130. And if husband and wife (148) do separate, God shall provide for each of them out of His abundance: for God is indeed infinite, wise,

148 - Lit., "the two".

131. and unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. AND, INDEED, We have enjoined upon those who were granted revelation before your time, as well as upon yourselves, to remain conscious of God. And if you deny Him - behold, unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, and God is indeed self-sufficient, ever to be praised.
132. And unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth; and none is as worthy of trust as God.
133. If He so wills, He can cause you, O mankind, to disappear, and bring forth other beings [in your stead]: for God has indeed the power to do this.
134. If one desires the rewards of this world, [let him remember that] with God are the rewards of [both] this world and the life to come: and God is indeed all-hearing, all-seeing.
135. O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding equity, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinsfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God's claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them. (149) Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for if you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do!

149 - I.e., "do not allow the fact that a man is rich to prejudice you in his favour or against him, and do not, out of misplaced compassion, favour the poor man at the expense of the truth".

136. O you who have attained to faith! Hold fast unto your belief in God and His Apostle, and in the divine writ which He has bestowed from on high upon His Apostle, step by step, as well as in the revelation which He sent down aforetime: (150) for he who denies God, and His angels, and His revelations, and His apostles, and the Last Day, has indeed gone far astray. (151)

150 - What is meant here is belief in the fact of earlier revelation, and not in the earlier-revealed scriptures in their present form, which - as repeatedly stated in the Qur’an - is the outcome of far-reaching corruption of the original texts.

151 - Since it is through the beings or forces described as angels that God conveys His revelations to the prophets, belief in angels is correlated with belief in revelation as such.

137. Behold, as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again come to believe, and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in their denial of the truth (152)- God will not forgive them, nor will He guide them in any way.

152 - Lit., "increase in a denial of the truth".

138. Announce thou to such hypocrites that grievous suffering awaits them.
139. As for those who take the deniers of the truth for their allies in preference to the believers - do they hope to be honoured by them when, behold, all honour belongs to God [alone]? (153)

153 - See 3: 28. However, the term "allies" (awliya, sing. wali) does not indicate, in this context, merely political alliances. More than anything else, it obviously alludes to a "moral alliance" with the deniers of the truth: that is to say, to an adoption of their way of life in preference to the way of life of the believers, in the hope of being "honoured", or accepted as equals, by the former. Since an imitation of the way of life of confirmed unbelievers must obviously conflict with the moral principles demanded by true faith, it unavoidably leads to a gradual abandonment of those principles.

140. And, indeed, He has enjoined upon you in this divine writ that whenever you hear people deny the truth of God's messages and mock at them, you shall avoid their company until they begin to talk of other things (154) - or else, verily, you will become like them. Behold, together with those who deny the truth God will gather in hell the hypocrites,

154 - Lit., "you shall not sit with them until they immerse themselves in talk other than this". The injunction referred to is found in 6: 68, which was revealed at a much earlier period.

141. who but wait to see what betides you: thus, if triumph comes to you from God, they say, "Were we not on your side?"- whereas if those who deny the truth are in luck, they say [to them], "Have we not earned your affection by defending you against those be­lievers?'' (155) But God will judge between you all on the Day of Resurrection; and never will God allow those who deny the truth to harm the believers. (156)

155 - Lit., "did we not gain mastery over you [i.e., "over your hearts"- cf. Lane II, 664] and defend you against the believers?" The term "believers" has obviously a sarcastic implication here, which justifies the use of the demonstrative pronoun "those" instead of the definite article "the".

156 - This announcement has, of course, a purely spiritual meaning, and does not necessarily apply to the changing fortunes of life - since (as this very verse points out) "those who deny the truth" may on occasion be "in luck", that is to say, may gain temporal supremacy over the believers.

142. Behold, the hypocrites seek to deceive God - the while it is He who causes them to be deceived [by themselves] (157) And when they rise to pray, they rise reluctantly, only to be seen and praised by men, remembering God but seldom,

157 - Some of the commentators (e.g., Razi) interpret the phrase huwa khadi uhum (lit., "He is their deceiver") as "He will requite them for their deception". However, the rendering adopted by me seems to be more in tune with 2: 9, where the same type of hypocrisy is spoken of: "They would deceive God and those who have attained to faith - the while they deceive none but themselves, and are not aware of it." See also Manar ,V, 469 f., where both these interpretations are considered to be mutually complementary.

143. wavering be­tween this and that, [true] neither to these nor those. But for him whom God lets go astray thou canst never find any way.
144. O you who have attained to faith! Do not take the deniers of the truth for your allies in preference to the believers! Do you want to place before God a manifest proof of your guilt? (158)

158 - Lit., "a manifest proof against yourselves". See note on verse 139 above.

145. Verily, the hypocrites shall be in the lowest depth of the fire, and thou wilt find none who could succour them.
146. But excepted shall be they who repent, and live righteously, and hold fast unto God, and grow sincere in their faith in God alone: for these shall be one with the believers - and in time God will grant to all believers a mighty reward.
147. Why would God cause you to suffer [for your past sins] if you are grateful and attain to belief - seeing that God is always responsive to gratitude, all-knowing? (159)

159 - The gratitude spoken of here is of a general nature - a feeling of thankfulness for being alive and endowed with what is described as a "soul": a feeling which often leads man to the realization that this boon of life and consciousness is not accidental, and thus, in a logical process of thought, to belief in God. According to Zamakhshari, this is the reason why "gratitude" is placed before "belief" in the structure of the above sentence.

148. God does not like any evil to be mentioned openly, unless it be by him who has been wronged (thereby) (160) And God is indeed all-hearing, all-knowing,

160 - As some of the commentators (e.g., Razi) point out, this may refer to giving currency to earlier sayings or deeds of the repentant sinners - both hypocrites and outright deniers of the truth - mentioned in the preceding two verses: an interpretation which seems to be borne out by the context. However, the above statement has a general import as well: it prohibits the public mention of anybody's evil deeds or sayings, "unless it be by him who has been wronged (thereby)"- which also implies that evil behaviour which affects the society as a whole may be made public if the interests of the wronged party - in this case, the society as such - demand it.

149. whether you do good openly or in secret, or pardon others for evil [done unto you]: for, behold, God is indeed an absolver of sins, infinite in His power.
150. VERILY, those who deny God and His apostles by endeavouring to make a distinction between [belief in] God and [belief in] His apostles, and who say, "We believe in the one but we deny the other," (161) and want to pursue a path in-between –

161 - Or: "We believe in some and we deny the others"- that is, they believe in God but not in His apostles (Zamakhshari) or, alternatively, they believe in some of the apostles and deny others (Tabari and Zamakhshari). To my mind, the first of these two interpretations is preferable inasmuch as it covers not only a rejection of some of the apostles but also a total rejection of the idea that God may have revealed His will through His chosen message-bearers. In Islam, the rejection of any or all of God's apostles constitutes almost as grave a sin as a denial of God Himself.

151. it is they, they who are truly denying the truth: and for those who deny the truth We have readied shameful suffering.
152. But as for those who believe in God and His apostles and make no distinction between any of them (162) - unto them, in time, will He grant their re­wards [in full]. And God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.

162 - I.e., in point of their being God's message-bearers.

153. THE FOLLOWERS of the Old Testament (163) demand of thee [O Prophet] that thou cause a revelation to be sent down to them from heaven. (164) And an even greater thing than this did they demand of Moses when they said, "Make us see God face to face" - whereupon the thunderbolt of punishment overtook them for this their wickedness. (165) After that, they took to worshipping the [golden] calf - and this after all evidence of the truth had come unto them! None the less, We effaced this [sin of theirs], and vouchsafed unto Moses a clear proof [of the truth],

163 - As is evident from the sequence, the term ahl al-kitab ("followers of earlier revelation") refers here specifically to the Jews, which justifies its rendering as "followers of the Old Testament".

164 - Sc., "in proof of thy prophethood". Alternatively, the sentence may be understood thus: "They ask thee to bring down unto them an [actual] book from heaven." In view, however, of the oft-repeated Qur’anic statement that the Jews were convinced that they alone could be granted divine revelation, it seems to me that the rendering adopted by me is the more appropriate.

165 - See 2: 55 and the corresponding note.

154. raising Mount Sinai high above them in witness of their solemn pledge. And We said unto them, “Enter the gate humbly”; (166) and We told them, "Do not break the Sabbath-law"; and We accepted from them a most solemn pledge.

166 - See 2: 58-59 and the corresponding notes.

155. And so, [We punished them (167) ] for the break­ing of their pledge, and their refusal to acknowledge God's messages, and their slaying of prophets against all right, and their boast, "Our hearts are already full of knowledge"- nay, but God has sealed their hearts in result of their denial of the truth, and [now] they believe in but few things - ; (168)

167 - The statement relating to their punishment - clearly implied here - is made explicit in verse.

168 - See 2: 88 and the corresponding notes.

156. and for their refusal to acknowledge the truth, and the awesome calumny which they utter against Mary, (169)

169 - The calumny referred to is the popular Jewish assertion that Jesus was an illegitimate child.

157. and their boast, "Behold, we have slain the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, [who claimed to be] an apostle of God!" However, they did not slay him, and neither did they crucify him, but it only seemed to them [as if it had been] so; (170) and, verily, those who hold conflict­ing views thereon are indeed confused, having no [real] knowledge thereof, and following mere con­jecture. For, of a certainty, they did not slay him:

170 - Thus, the Qur’an categorically denies the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. There exist, among Muslims, many fanciful legends telling us that at the last moment God substituted for Jesus a person closely resembling him (according to some accounts, that person was Judas), who was subsequently crucified in his place. However, none of these legends finds the slightest support in the Qur’an or in authentic Traditions, and the stories produced in this connection by the classical commentators must be summarily rejected. They represent no more than confused attempts at "harmonizing" the Qur’anic statement that Jesus was not crucified with the graphic description, in the Gospels, of his crucifixion. The story of the crucifixion as such has been succinctly explained in the Qur’anic phrase wa-lakin shubbiha lahum, which I render as "but it only appeared to them as if it had been so" - implying that in the course of time, long after the time of Jesus, a legend had somehow grown up (possibly under the then-powerful influence of Mithraistic beliefs) to the effect that he had died on the cross in order to atone for the "original sin" with which mankind is allegedly burdened; and this legend became so firmly established among the latter-day followers of Jesus that even his enemies, the Jews, began to believe it - albeit in a derogatory sense (for crucifixion was, in those times, a heinous form of death-penalty reserved for the lowest of criminals). This, to my mind, is the only satisfactory explanation of the phrase wa-lakin shubbiha lahum, the more so as the expression shubbiha li is idiomatically synonymous with khuyyila 1i, "[a thing] became a fancied image to me", i.e., "in my mind" - in other words, "[it] seemed to me" (see Qamus, art. khayala, as well as Lane II, 833, and IV, 1500).

158. nay, God exalted him unto Himself (171) - and God is indeed almighty, wise.

171 - Cf. 3: 55, where God says to Jesus, "Verily, I shall cause thee to die, and shall exalt thee unto Me." The verb rafa ahu (lit., "he raised him" or "elevated him") has always, whenever the act of raf’ ("elevating") of a human being is attributed to God, the meaning of "honouring" or "exalting". Nowhere in the Qur’an is there any warrant for the popular belief that God has "taken up" Jesus bodily, in his lifetime, into heaven. The expression "God exalted him unto Himself" in the above verse denotes the elevation of Jesus to the realm of God's special grace - a blessing in which all prophets partake, as is evident from 19: 57, where the verb rafa nahu ("We exalted him") is used with regard to the Prophet Idris. (See also Muhammad ‘Abduh in Manar III, 316 f., and VI, 20f.) The "nay" (bal) at the beginning of the sentence is meant to stress the contrast between the belief of the Jews that they had put Jesus to a shameful death on the cross and the fact of God's having "exalted him unto Himself".

159. Yet there is not one of the followers of earlier revelation who does not, at the moment of his death, grasp the truth about Jesus; (172) and on the Day of Resurrection he [himself] shall bear witness to the truth against them.

172 - Lit., "who does not believe in him before his death". According to this verse, all believing Jews and Christians realize at the moment of their death that Jesus was truly a prophet of God - having been neither an impostor nor "the son of God" (Zamakhshari).

160. So, then, for the wickedness committed by those who followed the Jewish faith did We deny unto them certain of the good things of life which [aforetime] had been allowed to them; (173) and [We did this] for their having so often turned away from the path of God, (174)

173 - Most of the commentators assume that this refers to the severe dietary restrictions imposed on the Jews, which are alluded to in 3: 93 and 6: 146. Since, however, 3: 93 clearly states that these restrictions and prohibitions were a punishment for evil deeds committed "before the Torah was bestowed from on high", while the verse which we are now discussing relates to their sinful behaviour in later times, we must conclude that the punishment spoken of here has another meaning: namely, the age-long deprivation of the Jewish people of the many "good things of life" which other nations enjoy - in other words, the humiliation and suffering which they have had to undergo throughout most of their recorded history, and particularly after the time of Jesus. It is on the basis of this interpretation that I have rendered the expression harramna alayhim (lit., "We forbade them") as "We denied to them".

174 - The verb sadda ("he turned away") can be transitive as well as intransitive, and the same applies to the noun sadd derived from it. In the former case, the sentence would read, "for their having turned away many (others) from the path of God"; in the latter case, "for their having (so) often turned away from the path of God". In view of the repeated stress, in the Qur’an, on the refractory nature of the children of Israel - and the abundant evidence to this effectt in the Old Testament - I prefer the intransitive rendering.

161. and [for] their taking usury although it had been forbidden to them, and their wrongful devouring of other people's possessions. And for those from among them who [continue to] deny the truth We have readied grievous suffering.
162. But as for those from among them who are deeply rooted in knowledge, (175) and the believers who believe in that which has been bestowed upon thee from on high as well as that which was bestowed from on high before thee, and those who are [es­pecially] constant in prayer, (176) and spend in charity, and all who believe in God and the Last Day - these it is unto whom We shall grant a mighty reward.

175 - I.e., those from among the Jews who do not content themselves with a mere observance of rituals, but try to penetrate to the deepest meaning of faith.

176 - According to the grammarians of the Basrah school, and especially Sibawayh, the use of the accusative (mansub) case in the expression al-muqimin as-salah ("those who are constant in prayer") - instead of the nominative al-muqimun - is a legitimate grammatical device meant to stress the special, praiseworthy quality attaching to prayer and to those who are devoted to it (see Zamakhshari and Razi); hence my interpolation of "especially" between brackets.

163. BEHOLD, We have inspired thee [O Prophet] just as We inspired Noah and all the prophets after him - as We inspired Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants, including Jesus and Job, and Jonah, and Aaron, and Solomon; and as We vouchsafed unto David a book of divine wisdom; (177)

177 - I.e., the Psalms (see surah 21, verse 105).

164. and as [We inspired other] apostles whom We have mentioned to thee ere this, (178) as well as apostles whom We have not mentioned to thee; and as God spoke His word unto Moses:

178 - I.e., before the revelation of this surah.

165. [We sent all these] apostles as heralds of glad tidings and as warners, so that men might have no excuse before God after [the coming of] these apostles: and God is indeed al­mighty, wise.
166. However it be, God [Himself] bears witness to the truth of what He has bestowed from on high upon thee: out of His own wisdom has He bestowed it from on high, with the angels bearing witness thereto - although none can bear witness as God does.
167. Behold, those who are bent on denying the truth and on turning others away from the path of God have indeed gone far astray.
168. Behold, those who are bent on denying the truth and on evildoing - God will indeed not forgive them, nor will He guide them onto any road
169. but the road that leads to hell, therein to abide beyond the count of time: and this is indeed easy for God.
170. O mankind! The Apostle has now come unto you with the truth from your Sustainer: believe, then, for your own good! And if you deny the truth - behold, unto God belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, and God is indeed all-knowing, wise!
171. O FOLLOWERS of the Gospel! Do not overstep the bounds [of truth] in your religious beliefs, (179) and do not say of God anything but the truth. The Christ Jesus, son of Mary, was but God's Apostle - [the fulfilment of] His promise which He had conveyed unto Mary - and a soul created by Him. (180) Believe, then, in God and His apostles, and do not say, "[God is] a trinity". Desist [from this assertion] for your own good. God is but One God; utterly remote is He, in His glory, from having a son: unto Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth; and none is as worthy of trust as God.

179 - I.e., by raising Jesus to the rank of divinity. Since here the Christians are addressed specifically, I render the term kitab as "Gospel".

180 - Lit., "His word which He conveyed unto Mary and a soul from Him". According to Tabari, the "word" (kalimah) was "the announcement (risalah) which God bade the angels to convey to Mary, and God's glad tiding to her" (a reference to 3: 45) - which justifies the rendering of kalimatuhu as "[the fulfilment of] His promise". (See also note on 3: 39.) As regards the expression, "a soul from Him" or "created by Him", it is to be noted that among the various meanings which the word ruh bears in the Qur’an (e.g., "inspiration" in 2: 87 and 253), it is also used in its primary significance of "breath of life", "soul", or "spirit": thus, for instance, in 32: 9, where the ever-recurring evolution of the human embryo is spoken of: "and then He forms him [i.e., man] and breathes into him of His spirit" - that is, endows him with a conscious soul which represents God's supreme gift to man and is, therefore, described as "a breath of His spirit". In the verse under discussion, which stresses the purely human nature of Jesus and refutes the belief in his divinity, the Qur’an points out that Jesus, like all other human beings, was "a soul created by Him".

172. Never did the Christ feel too proud to be God's servant, nor do the angels who are near unto Him. And those who feel too proud to serve Him and glory in their arrogance [should know that on Judgment Day] He will gather them all unto Himself:
173. whereupon unto those who attained to faith and did good deeds He will grant their just rewards, and give them yet more out of His bounty; whereas those who felt too proud and gloried in their arrogance He will chastise with grievous suffering: and they shall find none to protect them from God, and none to bring them succour.
174. O MANKIND! A manifestation of the truth has now come unto you from your Sustainer, and We have sent down unto you a clear light.
175. And as for those who have attained to faith in God and hold fast unto Him - He will enfold them within (181) His grace and bounty, and guide them unto Himself by a straight way.

181 - Lit., "cause them to enter into".

176. THEY WILL ASK thee to enlighten them. (182) Say: "God enlightens you [thus] about the laws concerning [inheritance from] those who leave no heir in the direct line: If a man dies childless and has a sister, she shall inherit one-half of what he has left, just as he shall inherit from her if she dies childless. But if there are two sisters, both [together] shall have two-thirds of what he has left; and if there are brothers and sisters, (183) then the male shall have the equal of two females' share." God makes [all this] clear unto you, lest you go astray; and God knows everything.

182 - I.e., about the laws of inheritance mentioned in the next sentence. Regarding the meaning of istifta ("a request for enlightenment about a [particular] law"), see note on verse 127 of this surah. The seemingly abrupt transition from the preceding passages - dealing with questions of theology - to this one is in accord with the Qur’anic principle of deliberately interweaving moral exhortation with practical legislation: and this in pursuance of the teaching that man's life - spiritual and physical, individual and social - is one integral whole, and therefore requires simultaneous consideration of all its aspects if the concept of "the good life" is to be realized. The above verse completes the series of inheritance laws dealt with early in this surah.

183 - Lit., "brethren (ikhwah), men and women". It is to be noted that the expression ikhwah comprises either brothers, or sisters, or brothers and sisters.

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