Revealed at Makkah.


SALE says "This chapter had several other titles given it by Muhammad himself, and particularly that of The Heart of the Quran" The present title is taken from the mystic letters in the beginning.

This chapter is held in great esteem by the Muhammadans, who read it to the dying in their last agony, which is no doubt due to its teaching in regard to the resurrection. It reveals to us Muhammad as a preacher and a warner, yet withal a prophet, having as the seal of his claim the oath of God (vers. 1-3). As yet but few of the Quraish had given heed to his preaching or the warnings of his revelation. Indeed, we may fairly presume that the Prophet had preached so long in vain that he now despaired of the conversion of his hearers (vers. 6-9). We may also infer from the allusion to secret believers (ver. 10), and from the story of persecution (vers. 14-28), that the Muslims were now subjected to persecution of a severer nature than that of scoffs and blasphemous words. Notwithstanding this opposition, however, the Prophet proclaim the Divine unity in opposition to idolatry, and asserts the doctrine of a resurrection and final judgment.

On this account this chapter deserves the exalted title given it by Muhammad, as most of the distinctive doctrines of Islam are found in it in some form or other.

A point of considerable interest is noted by Rodwell: that this chapter and chapter xviii. contain the only references to Church history subsequent to the day of Pentecost to be found in the Quran. The story of the apostles of Jesus given here, though referred by the commentators to Antioch, looks much more like a garbled rendering of the story of the martyrdom of Stephen. The shrine of


Habib at Antioch may have owed its existence to the story related by the commentators, and not to any real tomb; such shrines, erected to imaginary saints on the sites of imaginary tombs, being by no means uncommon in Muslim countries.

NoŽldeke thinks there is probably an omission of a passage between vers. 24 and 25, giving an account of the martyrdom of "the believer" by the infidels.

Probable Date of the Revelation.

Though this chapter is so clearly Makkan, both in style and matter, yet there have been those who have regarded it as Madinic (see Itqan, 27). Others, on the authority of a tradition as to its origin, regard ver. II as Madinic. Similarly ver. 47, in which almsgiving (Zikat) is mentioned, is regarded by some as Madinic, because the 1aw of almsgiving was given after the Hijra (Itqan, 35). However, the practice of almsgiving antedates the Hijra, and we may therefore regard the passage as Makkan.

As to the date of the chapter, the most that can be said is that it must be referred to a time when the opposition of the Quraish was very determined, and when persecution was either begun or threatened. Muir fixes the date at about the beginning of the fifth stage, (i.e., about the tenth or eleventh year) of Muhammad's mission. It certainly cannot be assigned to a later date. The probability is that it should be fixed somewhat earlier, as the Bann of the Hashimites would almost certainly have been alluded to in a chapter emanating from the Sheb of Abu Talib.

Principal Subjects.

God swears that Muhammad is a prophet . . . 1-3
The Quran given to warn the Makkans . . . 4,5
The greater part of the people of Makkah reprobate .. . 6-9
Muhammad's preaching only profitable to secret believers... 10
The dead shall be raised ; all their deeds are registered... 11
Two apostles of Jesus sent to Antioch ... 12, 13
They are rejected as impostors and threatened with stoning ... 14-17
The apostles warn the people of Antioch of impending divine judgments . . .18
A certain believer is put to death by the infidels .. . 19-26
The persecutors are suddenly destroyed . . . 27, 28
Men generally reject God's messengers . . . 29
The lessons of the past are forgotten . . . 30
The doctrine of the resurrection asserted and illustrated .. . 31-33
God's power and goodness manifested by his works ... 34-44


Unbelievers unmoved by either fear or the signs of the Quran. . . 45, 46
They scoff at almsgiving and the resurrection . . . 47, 48
The resurrection trumpet and the judgment-day shall surprise the unbelievers . . .49-53
God's judgment shall be according to works . . . 54
The rewards of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked . . .55-65
God deals with the wicked as he pleaseth . . . 66-68
Muhammad not a poet; the Quran is the word of God... 69, 70
God manifest in his works of benevolence . .. 71-73
Idolaters will find their trust in idols vain . . . 74, 75
The Prophet not to grieve at the hard speeches of the idolaters; God knoweth all . . .76
The Creator of all things able to raise the dead to life.. . 77-81
God says Be, and it is . . .82
Praise be to the Sovereign Creator and raiser of the dead ... 83


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(1) Y. S. I swear by the instructive Quran, (2) that thou art one of the messengers of God, (3) sent to show the right way. (4) This is a revelation of the most mighty, the merciful God: (5) that thou mayest warn a people whose fathers were not warned, and who live in negligence. (6) Our sentence hath justly been pronounced against the greater part of them; wherefore they shall

(1) Y. S. "The meaning of these letters is unknown: some, however, from a tradition of Ibn Abbas, pretend they stand for Ya insan, i.e., O man."- Sale.

(5) Were not warned, i.e., the Arabs. Compare chap. xxiv.43.

(6) Our sentence, viz., "the sentence of dam nation which God pronounced against the greater part of genii and 'lien' at the fall of Adam."- Sale.

See note on chap. ii. 35, and compare chap. xxxviii'. 85.

The sentence here intended does not apply to " the genii and men at the fall of Adam," but to the Quraish, who rejected Muhammad. They are spoken of as reprobates given over to destruction. I understand what follows as a vivid description in prophetic idiom of what shall be. This interpretation is confirmed by ver. 9.


not believe. (7) We have put yokes on their necks, which come up to their chins; and they are forced to hold up their heads; (8) and we have set a bar before them, and a bar behind them; and we have covered them with darkness; wherefore they shall not see. (9) It shall be equal unto them whether thou preach unto them or do not preach unto them; they shall not believe. (10) But thou shalt preach with effect unto him only who followeth the admonition of the Quran and feareth the Merciful in secret. Wherefore bear good tidings unto him of mercy and an honourable reward. (11) Verily we will restore the dead to life, and will write down their works which they shall have sent before them, and their footsteps which they shall have left behind them: and everything do we set down in a plain register.

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(12) Propound unto them as an example the inhabitants of the city of Antioch, when the apostles of Jesus

(7) Yokes. See them described in note on chap. xiii. 6.

(8) A bar before, &c. "That is, we have placed obstacles to prevent their looking either forwards or backwards. The whole passage represents the blindness and invincible obstinacy with which God justly curses perverse and reprobate men."- Sale.

They shall not see. "It is said that when the Quraish, in pursuance of a resolution they had taken, had sent a select number to beset Muhammad's house and to kill him (Prelim. Disc., p. 85), the Prophet, having caused Ali to lie down on his bed to deceive the assassins, went out and threw a handful of dust at them, repeating the nine first verses of this chapter, which end here; and they were thereupon stricken with blindness, so that they could not see him." -Sale, Abul Fida.

(9) They shall not believe. Unless this prophecy be restricted to a very few of the Quraish, it failed of fulfilment.

(11) Their footsteps. "As their good or evil example, doctrine, &c." - Sale.

A plain register. The Preserved Tables, or the records of good and evil actions kept by the angels. See chap. ii. 96, 97.

(12) When the apostles, &c. "To explain this passage the commentators tell the following story: - The people of Antioch being idolaters, Jesus sent two of his disciples thither to preach to them; and when they drew near the city they found Habib, surnamed Al Najjar, or the carpenter, feeding sheep, and acquainted him with their errand; whereupon he asked them what proof they had of their veracity, and they told him they could cure the sick, and the


came thereto: (13) when we sent unto them two of the said apostles; but they charged them with imposture. Wherefore we strengthened them with a third. And they said, Verily we are sent unto you by God. (14) The inhabitants answered, Ye are no other than men, as we are; neither hath the Merciful revealed anything unto you: ye only publish a lie. (15) The apostles replied, Our LORD knoweth that we are really sent unto you; (16) and our

blind, and the lepers; and to demonstrate the truth of what they said, they laid their hands on a child of his who was sick, and immediately restored him to health. Habib was convinced by this miracle, and believed; after which they went into the city and preached the worship of one true God, curing a great number of people of several infirmities: but at length, the affair coming to the prince's ear, he ordered them to be imprisoned for endeavouring to seduce the people. When Jesus heard of this, he sent another of his disciples, generally supposed to have been Simon Peter, who, coming to Antioch, and appearing as a zealous idolater, soon insinuated himself into the favour of the inhabitants and of their prince, and at length took an opportunity to desire the prince would order the two persons who, as he was informed, had been put in prison for and accordingly they were brought: when Peter, having previously broaching new opinions, to be brought before him to be examined; warned them to take no notice that they knew him, asked them who sent them, to which they answered God, who had created all things, and had no companion. He then required some convincing proof of their mission, upon which they restored a blind person to his sight and performed some other miracles, with which Peter seemed not to be satisfied, for that, according to some, he did the very same miracles himself, but declared that, if their God could enable them to raise the dead, he would believe them; which condition the two apostles accepting, a lad was brought who had been dead seven days, and at their prayers he was raised to life; and thereupon Peter acknowledged himself convinced, and ran and demolished the idols, a great many of the people following him, and embracing the true faith; but those who believed not were destroyed by the cry of the Angel Gabriel."- Sale.

Rodwell points out that this story with that of the Seven Sleepers in chap. xviii. are the only examples of any allusion in the Quran to Church history after Pentecost. The story of the commentators is virtually a paraphrase of the text with additions from their own imagination, which contradict the text, which plainly predicates a few believers corresponding to Muhammad and his Makksn followers. Again let the reader note how Muhammad here puts his own speeches into the mouths of the apostles at Antioch.

(13) Two of the said apostles. "Some say these two were John and Paul; but others name different persons."- Sale.

A third, viz., Simon Peter.


duty is only public preaching. (17) Those of Antioch said, Verily we presage evil from you: if ye desist not from preaching, we will surely stone you, and a painful punishment shall be inflicted on you by us. (18) The apostles answered, Your evil presage is with yourselves: although ye be warned, will ye persist in your errors? Verily ye are a people who transgress exceedingly. (19) And a certain man came hastily from the farther parts of the city and said, O my people, follow the messengers of God; (20) follow him who demandeth not any reward of you: for these are rightly directed.


(21) What reason have I that I should not worship him who hath created me? for unto him shall ye return. (22) Shall I take other gods besides him? If the Merciful be pleased to afflict me, their intercession will not avail me at all, neither can they deliver me: (23) then should I be in a manifest error. (24) Verily I believe in your LORD; wherefore hearken unto me. (25) But they stoned him; and as he died, it was said unto him, Enter thou into Paradise. (26) And he said, Oh that my people knew how merciful GOD hath been unto me! for he hath highly honoured me. (27) And we sent not down against his

(16) Only public preaching. These apostles were prophets like Muhammad. This passage serves to silence those Muslims who speak of John and Paul as having forged the books ascribed to them in the New Testament.

(18) Your evil presage, &c., i.e. "if any evil befall you, it will be the consequence of your own obstinacy and unbelief." - Sale.

See chap. xxvii. 48, note ii. Compare chap. vii. 132.

(19) A certain man. "This was Habib al-Najjar, whose martyrdom is here desired. His tomb is still shown near Antioch, and is much visited by the Muhammadans."- Sale.

(19-24) These words were used over and over by Muhammad in his discourses with the idolaters of Makkah. On this trait in his character see introduction to chap. xxvi.

(25) But they stoned him, &c. These words are supplied to introduce what follows. NoŽldeke thinks a passage here has been lost.

(26) He hath highly honoured me, i.e., by permitting me to be a martyr, or, as some suppose, by translating me to Paradise.- Tafsir-i-Raufi.

This story looks very much like a traditional account of the martyrdom of Stephen.


people after they had slain him am army from heaven, nor the other instruments of destruction which we sent down on unbelievers in former days: (28) there was only one cry of Gabriel from heaven, and behold, they became utterly extinct. (29) Oh, the misery of men! No apostle cometh unto them but they laugh him to scorn. (30) Do they not consider how many generations we have destroyed before them? (31) Verily they shall not return unto them: (32) but all of them in general shall be assembled before us.

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(33) One sign of the resurrection unto them is the dead earth: we quicken the same by the rain, and produce thereout various sorts of grain, of which they eat. (34) And we make therein gardens of palm-trees and vines; and we cause springs to gush forth in the same: (35) that they may eat of the fruits thereof, and of the labour of their hands. Will they not therefore give thanks? (36) Praise be unto him who hath created all the different kinds, both of vegetables, which the earth bringeth forth, and of their own species, by forming the two sexes, and also the various sorts of things which they know not. (37) The night also is a sign unto them: we withdraw the day from the same, and behold they are covered with darkness; (38) and the sun hasteneth to his place of rest. This is the disposition of the mighty, the wise God. (39) And for the moon have we appointed certain mansions,

(27) Which we sent down on unbelievers, &c. "As a deluge, or a shower of stones, or a suffocating wind, &c. The words may also be translated, Nor did we determine to send down such executioners of our justice."- Sale.

(33) See note on chap. xxix. 18, and references at p. xxxv. 10.

(38) The sun hasteneth to his place of rest. "That is, be hasteneth to run his daily course; the setting of the sun resembling a traveller's going to rest. Some copies vary in this place, and instead of liustaqarrin laha, read la mustaqarra laha; according to which the sentence should be rendered, 'The sun runneth his course without ceasing, and hath not a place of rest'"- Sale. But compare chap. xviii. 84.

(39) Certain mansions, viz., "there are twenty-eight constellations, through one of which the moon passes every night, thence called the


until she change and return to be like the old branch of a palm-tree. (40) It is not expedient that the sun should overtake the moon in her course, neither doth the night outstrip the day, but each of these luminaries moveth in a peculiar orbit. (41) It is a sign also unto them that they carry their offspring in the ship filled with merchandise; (42) and that we have made for them other conveniences like unto it, whereon they ride. (43) If we please, we drown them, and there is none to help them; neither are they delivered, (44) unless through our mercy, and that they may enjoy life for a season. (45) When it is said unto them, Fear that which is before you and that which is behind you, that ye may obtain mercy, they withdraw from thee; (46) and thou dost not bring them one sign of the signs of their LORD, but they turn aside from the same. (47) And when it is said unto them, Give alms of that which GOD has bestowed on you, the unbelievers say unto those who believe, by way of mockery, Shall we feed him whom GOD can feed if he pleaseth? Verily ye are in no other than a manifest error. (48) And they say, When

mansions or houses of the moon."-Sale. See also Prelim Disc., p. 59.

Like the old branch, &c. "For when a palm branch grows old, it shrinks, and becomes crooked and yellow, not ill representing the appearance of the new moon. "- Sale.

(41) The ship filled. "Some suppose that the deliverance of Noah and his companions in the ark is here intended; and then the words should be translated, 'That we carried their progeny in the ark filled with living creatures.' "- Sale.

Rodwell translates, "We bare their posterity in the full-laden ark." The allusion to the ark of Noah, however, is very doubtful. It is much more natural to refer it to ordinary ships.

(42) Whereon they ride. "As camels, which are the land-ships, or lesser vessels and boats."- Sale.

It is better to understand vessels used for purposes of travel, as distinguished from those devoted to carrying merchandise only.

(45) Fear that which is before you, &c., i.e., "the punishment of this world and of the next."- Sale.

(47) If he pleaseth. "When the poor Muslims asked alms of the richer Quraish, they told them that if God could provide for them as they imagined, and did not, it was an argument that they deserved not his favour as well as themselves; whereas God permits some to be in want to try the rich and exercise their charity. - Sale.


will this promise of the resurrection be fulfilled, if ye speak truth? (49) They only wait for one sounding of the trumpet, which shall overtake them while they are disputing together; (50) and they shall not have time to make any disposition of their effects, neither shall they return to their family.

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(51) And the trumpet shall be sounded again; and behold they shall come forth from their graves, and hasten unto their LORD. (52) They shall say, Alas for us! who hath awakened us from our bed? This is what the Merciful promised us; and his apostles spoke the truth. (53) It shall be but one sound of the trumpet, and behold they shall be all assembled before us. (54) On this day no soul shall be unjustly treated in the least; neither shall ye be rewarded but according to what ye shall have wrought. (55) On this day the inhabitants of Paradise shall be wholly taken up with joy: (56) they and their wives shall rest in shady groves, leaning on magnificent couches. (57) There shall they have fruit, and they shall obtain whatever they shall desire. (58) Peace shall be the word spoken unto the righteous by a merciful LORD; (59) but he shall say unto the wicked, Be ye separated this day, O ye wicked, from the righteous. (60) Did I not command you, O sons of Adam, that ye should not worship Satan, because he was an open enemy unto you? (61) And did I not say, Worship me; this is the right way? (62) But

(49-51) On the two soundings of the resurrection trumpet, see Prelim. Disc., pp.135, 136, and notes on chap. xxxix. 68.

(52) Who hath awakened us? "For they shall sleep during the interval between the two blasts of the trumpet, and shall feel no pain."- Sale.

For the state of the souls and bodies of the dead between death and the resurrection, see Prelim. Disc., p. 127 seq.

His apostle spoke the truth, i.e., when they assured us that we should be raised from the dead, though we did not then believe them.

They and their wives. See notes on chaps. iii. 196, iv. 123, and xiii. 23.

See note on chap iii. 15.

See chap. vii. 28.


now hath he seduced a great multitude of you: did ye not therefore understand? (63) This is hell, with which ye were threatened: (64) be ye cast into the same this day to be burned, for that ye have been unbelievers. (65) On this day we will seal up their mouths, that they shall not open them in their own defence; and their hands shall speak unto us, and their feet shall bear witness of that which they have committed. (66) If we pleased we could put out their eyes, and they might run with emulation in the way they use to take; and how should they see their error? (67) And if we pleased we could transform them into other shapes, in their places when they should be found; and they should not be able to depart, neither should they repent.

(68) Unto whomsoever we grant a long life, him do we cause to bow down his body through age. Will they not therefore understand? (69) We have not taught Muhammad the art of poetry; nor is it expedient for him to be a poet. This book is no other than an admonition from God, and a perspicuous Quran, (70) that he may warn him who is living; and the sentence of condemnation

(63) Hell. See note on chap. ii. 38.

(65) That which they have committed. See Prelim. Disc., pp. 142, 143. The verse does not teach, as Brinckman supposes (Notes on Islam, that the wicked will not speak in the judgment, but that they shall be rendered speechless by the testimony of their own members. By their testimony their mouths shall be stopped. This conceit was borrowed from the Jews. See Rodwell in loco.

(67) Neither should they repent. "That is, they deserve to be thus treated for their infidelity and disobedience; but we bear with them out of mercy, and grant them respite."- Sale.

(69) We have not taught, &c. "That is, in answer to the infidels, who pretended the Quran was only a poetical composition."- Sale.

See notes on chap. xxvi. pp. 224-228.

Nor is it expedient, i.e., for the reason that the Quran might be attributed to his poetic genius, and not to inspiration (wahi) of God. See Tafsir-i-Raufi.

This book is . . . an admonition from God. See notes on chaps. iv. 162, 163, vi. 19, vii. 2, and xviii. 26.

(70) Him who is living, i.e., "endued with understanding, the stupid and careless being like dead persons."- Sale, Baidhawi.


will be justly executed on the unbelievers. (71) Do they not consider that we have created for them, among the things which our hands have wrought, cattle of several kinds, of which they are possessors; (72) and that we have put the same in subjection under them? Some of them are for their riding, and on some of them do they feed; (73) and they receive other advantages therefrom and of their milk do they drink. Will they not, therefore, be thankful? (74) They have taken other gods besides GOD, in hopes that they may be assisted by them; (75) but they are not able to give them any assistance: yet are they a party of troops ready to defend them. (76) Let not their speech, therefore, grieve thee: we know that which they privately conceal, and that which they publicly discover. (77) Doth not man know that we have created him of seed? yet behold, he is an open disputer against the resurrection; (78) and he propoundeth unto us a comparison, and forgetteth his creation. He saith, Who shall restore bones to life when they are rotten? (79) Answer, He shall restore them to life who produced them the first time; for he is skilled in every kind of creation, (80) who giveth you fire out of the green tree, and behold, ye kindle your fuel from thence. (81) Is not he who hath created the heavens and the earth able to create new creatures like unto them? Yea, certainly; for he is the wise Creator. (82) His command, when he willeth a thing, is only that -he saith unto it, Be; and it is. (83) Wherefore praise be

(71-78) Compare chap. xvi. 1-22.

(80) Who giveth fire out of the green tree. "The usual way of striking fire in the East is by rubbing together two pieces of wood, one of which is commonly of the tree called markh, and the other of that called afar; and it will succeed even though the wood be green and wet."- Sale; Hyde, de Rel. Vet. Pers., c. 25.

(82) Be; and it is. The Arabic of this famous passage is kun fayakuna. It is the watchword of the orthodox who believe in the eternity of the Quran. Their argument is that God created the world by means of the word Be. If; therefore, this word were created, then one created thing would have created another! The Mutazilites, on the other hand, argued that if Be is eternal, then there are two


unto him in whose hand is the kingdom of all things, and unto whom ye shall return at the last day.

Eternals, which is surely a satisfactory reply to the orthodox dogma, which gains all its force from the consideration that the word Be is a thing possessing creative power, whereas, in fact, this power was God uttering this word-not in eternity, for then the worlds must have existed from eternity, but in time ; and therefore being, like the worlds, created, it is not itself eternal.

In addition to this argument against the eternity of the Quran, the Mutazalites urge the following" (1.) It is written in Arabic ; it descended, is read, is heard, and is written. It was the subject of a miracle; it is divided into parts, and some verses are abrogated by others. (2.) Events are described in the past tense, but if the Quran had been eternal the future tense would have been used. (3.) The Quran contains commands and prohibitions; if it is eternal, who were commanded and who were admonished? (4.) If it has existed from eternity, it must exist to eternity; and so even in the last day and in the next world men will be under the obligation of performing the same religious duties as they do now, and of keeping all the outward precepts of the law."-Sell's Faith of Islam, pp. 136, 137.

There can be no doubt that the Mutazilites, as against the orthodox, were right on this point. The above is especially interesting in the light of the fact that in India some of the most enlightened Muslims avow themselves to be Mutazilites, and therefore we may hope that they are prepared to subject the Quran, like other books, to criticism.

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