Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVI.: ENTITLED SURAT AL NAHL (THE BEE). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 3
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CHAPTER XVI.: ENTITLED SURAT AL NAHL (THE BEE). Revealed at Makkah. - Mohammed, The Quran, vol. 3 
A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran: Comprising Sale’s Translation and preliminary Discourse, with Additional Notes and Emendations (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, and Co., 1896). 4 vols.
Part of: The Quran, 4 vols.
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ENTITLED SURAT AL NAHL (THE BEE).
This chapter owes its name to the mention of the bee as having received a divine revelation in ver. 70. The contents differ little from those of other Makkan chapters of the later Makkan period which admonish the unbelieving Quraish, by instruction as to the character of the true God, by reproach for ingratitude and folly, by warning and threatening. God’s claim to worship and obedience is constantly supported by reference to his works in creation and providence. At the same time the ingratitude and wicked apostasy of the idolaters is exposed by reference to their acknowledgment of God in distress and trouble, and their turning away from him to the service of idols in prosperity. He points to their own disappointment and shame when daughters were born to them as a proof of their wickedness in attributing daughters to God.
This chapter throws some light upon the source from which Muhammad received his so-called inspiration. In ver. 105 he is charged with receiving assistance in writing the Qurán from some one. In his very lame reply he admits having intercourse with a foreigner, but avers that he could not have written the Qurán, which is in “the perspicuous Arabic.” The commentators, on the authority of tradition, give us the names of a number of Jewish and Christian converts as being here alluded to. We may therefore agree with Muhammad that this foreigner did not write the Qurán, while at the same time believing that the Quraish were correct in charging him with receiving help from such a person. See notes on ver. 105.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
Though some have thought the latter portion of this chapter, beginning with ver. 43, or even the whole chapter, belongs to Madína, yet all the evidence, internal as well as external, obliges us to place it among the later Makkan Suras. Vers. 43, 111, 119, 120, and 125, however, must, according to Noëldeke, be assigned to Madína. Though Sale, guided by the commentators, assigns the last three verses of the chapter to Madína, I think Noëldeke and Weil have shown clearly that they belong to Makkah. The application of the passage to the case of Muhammad’s oath to avenge Hamza’s death is all that is required to account for the tradition that the passage was revealed after Hamza’s death.
The allusion to the famine in vers. 113 and 114 shows that the revelations here belong to the latter part of Muhammad’s mission at Makkah, while the exhortation of ver. 126 points to a time when Muhammad was not despairing of the conversion of the Quraish. The accusation of ver. 105 also points to a period some time preceding the Hijra.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) The sentence of God will surely come to be executed, wherefore do not hasten it. Praise be unto him! and far be that from him which they associate with him!(2) He shall cause the angels to descend with a revelation by his command, unto such of his servants as he pleaseth, saying, Preach that there is no God, except myself; therefore fear me. (3) He hath created the heavens and the earth, to manifest his justice: far be that from him which they associate with him!(4) He hath created man of seed, and yet behold he is a professed disputer against the resurrection.(5) He hath likewise created the cattle for you; from them ye have wherewith to keep yourselves warm, and other advantages; and of them do ye also eat. (6) And they are likewise a credit unto you, when ye drive them home in the evening, and when ye lead them forth to feed in the morning; (7) and they carry your burdens to a distant country, at which ye could not otherwise arrive, unless with great difficulty to yourselves; for your Lordis compassionate and merciful. (8) And he hath also created horses, and mules, and asses, that ye may ride thereon, and for an ornament unto you; and he likewise created other things which ye know not. (9)It appertaineth unto God to instruct men in the right way, and there is who turneth aside from the same; but if he had pleased he would certainly have directed you all.
∥ (10) It is he who sendeth down from heaven rain water, whereof ye have to drink, and from which plants, whereon ye feed your cattle, receive their nourishment. (11) And by means thereof he causeth corn, and olives, and palm-trees, and grapes, and all kinds of fruits to spring forth for you. Surely herein is a sign of the divine power and wisdom unto people who consider. (12) And he hath subjected the night and the day to your service, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, which are compelled to serve by his command. Verily herein are signs unto people of understanding. (13) And he hath also given you dominion over whatever he hath created for you in the earth, distinguished by its different colour. Surely herein is a sign unto people who reflect. (14) It is he who hath subjected the sea unto you, that ye might eat fish thereout, and take from thence ornaments for you to wear; and thou seest the ships ploughing the waves thereof, that ye may seek to enrich yourselves of his abundance by commerce; and that ye might give thanks. (15) And he hath thrown upon the earth mountains firmly rooted, lest it should move with you, and also rivers, and paths, that ye might be directed: (16) and he hath likewise ordained marks whereby men may know their way; and they are directed by the stars. (17) Shall God therefore, who createth, be as he who createth not? Do ye not therefore consider? (18) If ye attempt to reckon up the favours of God, ye shall not be able to compute their number; Godis surely gracious and merciful; (19) and God knoweth that which ye conceal, and that which ye publish. (20) But the idols which ye invoke, besides God, create nothing, but are themselves created. (21) They are dead, and not living; neither do they understand (22) when they shall be raised.
∥ (23) Your Godis one God. As to those who believe not in the life to come, their hearts deny the plainest evidence, and they proudly reject the truth. (24) There is no doubt but God knoweth that which they conceal and that which they discover. (25) Verily he loveth not the proud. (26) And when it is said unto them, What hath your Lord sent down unto Muhammad? they answer, Fables of ancient times. (27) Thus are they given up to error, that they may bear their own burdens without diminution on the day of resurrection, and also a part of the burdens of those whom they caused to err, without knowledge. Will it not be an evil burden which they shall bear?
∥ (28) Their predecessors devised plots heretofore: but God came into their building, to overthrow it from the foundations; and the roof fell on them from above, and a punishment came upon them, from whence they did not expect. (29) Also on the day of resurrection he will cover them with shame; and will say, Where are my companions, concerning whom ye disputed? Those unto whom knowledge shall have been given shall answer, This day shall shame and misery fall upon the unbelievers. (30) They whom the angels shall cause to die, having dealt unjustly with their own souls, shall offer to make their peace in the article of death, saying, We have done no evil. But the angels shall reply, Yea; verily God well knoweth that which ye have wrought: (31) wherefore enter the gates of hell, therein to remain for ever; and miserable shall be the abode of the proud. (32) And it shall be said unto those who shall fear God, What hath your Lord sent down? They shall answer, Good; unto those who do right shall be given an excellent reward in this world; but the dwelling of the next life shall be better; and happy shall be the dwelling of the pious! (33)namely, gardens of eternal abode, into which they shall enter; rivers shall flow beneath the same; therein shall they enjoy whatever they wish. Thus will God recompense the pious. (34) Unto the righteous, whom the angels shall cause to die, they shall say, Peace be upon you; enter ye into paradise, as a reward for that which ye have wrought. (35) Do the unbelievers expect any other than that the angels come unto them to part their souls from their bodies, or that the sentence of thy Lord come to be executed on them? So did they act who were before them; and God was not unjust towards them in that he destroyed them; but they dealt unjustly with their own souls; (36) the evils of that which they committed reached them; and the divine judgment which they scoffed at fell upon them.
∥ (37) The idolaters say, If God had pleased, we had not worshipped anything besides him, neither had our fathers: neither had we forbidden anything, without him. So did they who were before them. But is the duty of the apostles any other than public preaching? (38) We have heretofore raised up in every nation an apostle to admonish them, saying, Worship God, and avoid Taghút. And of them there were some whom God directed, and there were others of them who were decreed to go astray. Wherefore go through the earth, O tribe of Quraish, and see what hath been the end of those who accused their apostles of imposture. (39) If thou, O Prophet, doest earnestly wish for their direction, verily God will not direct him whom he hath resolved to lead into error; neither shall they have any helpers. (40) And they swear most solemnly by God,saying,God will not raise the dead. Yea; the promise thereof is true: but the greater part of men know it not. (41) He will raise them that he may clearly show them the truth concerning which they now disagree, and that the unbelievers may know that they are liars.
∥ (42) Verily our speech unto anything, when we will the same, is, that we only say unto it, Be; and it is. (43)As for those who have fled their country for the sake of God, after they had been unjustly persecuted; we will surely provide them an excellent habitation in this world, but the reward of the next life shall be greater; if they knew it. (44) They who persevere patiently, and put their trust in the Lord,shall not jail of happiness in this life and in that which is to come.(45) We have not sent any before thee, as our apostles, other than men, unto whom we spake by revelation. Inquire therefore of those who have the custody of the Scriptures, if ye know not this to be truth.(46)We sent them with evident miracles and written revelations; and we have sent down unto thee this Qurán, that thou mayest declare unto mankind that which hath been sent down unto them, and that they may consider. (47) Are they who have plotted evil against their Prophet secure that God will not cause the earth to cleave under them, or that a punishment will not come upon them, from whence they do not expect; (48) or that he will not chastise them while they are busied in travelling from one place to another, and in traffic? (for they shall not be able to elude the power of God,) (49) or that he will not chastise them by a gradual destruction? But your Lord is truly gracious and merciful in granting you respite.(50) Do they do not consider the things which God hath created; whose shadows are cast on the right hand and on the left, worshipping God, and become contracted? (51) Whatever moveth both in heaven and on earth worshippeth God, and the angels also; and they are not elated with pride, so as to disdain his service: (52) they fear their Lord,who is exalted above them, and perform that which they are commanded.
∥ (53)God said, Take not unto yourselves two gods; for there is but one God: and revere me. (54) Unto him belongeth whatsoever is in heaven and on earth; and unto him is obedience eternally due. Will ye therefore fear any besides God? (55) Whatever favours ye have received are certainly from God; and when evil afflicteth you, unto him do ye make your supplication; (56) yet when he taketh the evil from off you, behold, a part of you give a companion unto their Lord, (57) to show their ingratitude for the favours we have bestowed on them. Delight yourselves in the enjoyments of this life: but hereafter shall ye know that ye cannot escape the divine vengeance.(58) And they set apart unto idols which have no knowledge a part of the food which we have provided for them. By God, ye shall surely be called to account for that which ye have falsely devised. (59) They attribute daughters unto God (far be it from him!), but unto themselves children of the sex which they desire. (60) And when any of them is told the news of the birth of a female, his face becometh black, and he is deeply afflicted: (61) he hideth himself from the people, because of the ill tidings which have been told him; considering within himself whether he shall keep it with disgrace, or whether he shall bury it in the dust. Do they not make an ill judgment? (62) Unto those who believe not in the next life, the similitude of evil ought to be applied, and unto God the most sublime similitude: for he is mighty and wise.
∥ (63) If God should punish men for their iniquity, he would not leave on the earth any moving thing: but he giveth them respite unto an appointed time; and when their time shall come, they shall not be respited an hour, neither shall their punishment be anticipated. (64) They attribute unto God that which they dislike themselves, and their tongues utter a lie, namely, that the reward of paradise is for them. There is no doubt but that the fire of hell is prepared for them, and that they shall be sent thither before the rest of the wicked.(65) By God, we have heretofore sent messengers unto the nations before thee: but Satan prepared their works for them; he was their patron in this world, and in that which is to come they shall suffer a grievous torment. (66) We have not sent down the book of the Qurán unto thee for any other purpose than that thou shouldest declare unto them that truth concerning which they disagree, and for a direction and mercy unto people who believe. (67) God sendeth down water from heaven, and causeth the earth to revive after it hath been dead. Verily herein is a sign of the resurrection unto people who hearken. (68) Ye have also in cattle an example of instruction: we give you to drink of that which is in their bellies; a liquor between digested dregs and blood, namely, pure milk, which is swallowed with pleasure by those who drink it.(69) And of the fruits of palm-trees, and of grapes, ye obtain an inebriating liquor, and also good nourishment. Verily herein is a sign unto people who understand.
∥ (70) Thy Lord spake by inspiration unto the bee, saying, Provide thee houses in the mountains and in the trees, and of those materials wherewith men build hives for thee:(71) then eat of every kind of fruit, and walk in the beaten paths of thy Lord. There proceedeth from their bellies a liquor of various colour, wherein is a medicine for men. Verily herein is a sign unto people who consider. (72) God hath created you, and he will hereafter cause you to die: and some of you shall have his life prolonged to a decrepit age, so that he shall forget whatever he knew; for Godis wise and powerful. (73)God causeth some of you to excel others in worldly possessions: yet they who are caused to excel do not give their wealth unto the slaves whom their right hands possess, that they may become equal sharers therein. Do they therefore deny the beneficence of God?
∥ (74)God hath ordained you wives from among yourselves, and of your wives hath granted you children and grandchildren; and hath bestowed on you good things for food. Will they therefore believe in that which is vain, and ungratefully deny the goodness of God? (75) They worship, besides God,idols which possess nothing wherewith to sustain them, either in heaven or on earth; and have no power. (76) Wherefore liken not anything unto God: for God knoweth, but ye know not. (77)God propoundeth as a parable a possessed slave, who hath power over nothing, and him on whom we have bestowed a good provision from us, and who giveth alms thereout both secretly and openly: shall these two be esteemed equal? God forbid! But the greater part of men know it not. (78)God also propoundeth as a parable two men, one of them born dumb, who is unable to do or understand anything, but is a burden unto his master; whithersoever he shall send him, he shall not return with any good success: shall this man, and he who hath his speech and understanding, and who commandeth that which is just, and followeth the right way, be esteemed equal?
∥ (79) Unto Godalone is the secret of heaven and earth known. And the business of the last hour shall be only as the twinkling of an eye, or even more quick: for God is almighty. (80) God hath brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers; ye knew nothing, and he gave you the senses of hearing and seeing, and understandings, that ye might give thanks. (81) Do they not behold the fowls which are enabled to fly in the open firmament of heaven? none supporteth them except God. Verily herein are signs unto people who believe. (82)God hath also provided you houses for habitations for you; and hath also provided you tents of the skins of cattle, which ye find light to be removed on the day of your departure to new quarters, and easy to be pitched on the day of your sitting down therein: and of their wool, and their fur, and their hair, hath he supplied you with furniture and household stuff for a season. (83) And God hath provided for you, of that which he hath created, conveniences to shade you from the sun, and he hath also provided you places of retreat in the mountains, and he hath given you garments to defend you from the heat, and coats of mail to defend you in your wars. Thus doth he accomplish his favour towards you, that ye may resign yourselves unto him. (84) But if they turn back, verily thy duty is public preaching only.(85) They acknowledge the goodness of God, and afterwards they deny the same, but the greater part of them are unbelievers.
∥ (86) On a certain day we will raise a witness out of every nation: then they who shall have been unbelievers shall not be suffered to excuse themselves, neither shall they be received into favour. (87) And when they who shall have acted unjustly shall see the torment prepared for them; (it shall not be mitigated unto them, neither shall they be respited:) (88) and when those who shall have been guilty of idolatry shall see their false gods, they shall say, O Lord, these are our idols which we invoked, besides thee. But they shall return an answer unto them, saying, Verily ye are liars. (89) And on that day shall the wicked offer submission unto God; and the false deities which they imagined shall abandon them. (90) As for those who shall have been infidels, and shall have turned aside others from the way of God, we will add unto them punishment upon punishment because they have corrupted others.(91) On a certain day we will raise up in every nation a witness against them, from among themselves; and we will bring thee, O Muhammad, as a witness against these Arabians. We have sent down unto thee the book of the Qurán, for an explication of everything necessary both as to faith and practice, and a direction, and mercy, and good tidings unto the Muslims.
∥ (92) Verily God commanded justice, and the doing of good, and the giving unto kindred what shall be necessary; and he forbiddeth wickedness, and iniquity, and oppression: he admonisheth you that ye may remember. (93) Perform your covenant with God, when ye enter into covenant with him; and violate not your oaths, after the ratification thereof; since ye have made God a witness over you. Verily God knoweth that which ye do. (94) And be not like unto her who undoeth that which she hath spun, untwisting it after she hath twisted it strongly; taking your oaths between you deceitfully, because one party is more numerous than another party. Verily God only tempteth you therein; and he will make that manifest unto you, on the day of resurrection, concerning which ye now disagree. (95) If God had pleased, he would surely have made you one people: but he will lead into error whom he pleaseth, and he will direct whom he pleaseth; and ye shall surely give an account of that which ye have done. (96) Therefore take not your oaths between you deceitfully lest your foot slip, after it hath been steadfastly fixed, and ye taste evil in this life, for that ye have turned aside from the way of God: and ye suffer a grievous punishment in the life to come.(97) And sell not the covenant of God for a small price; for with God is a better recompense prepared for you, if ye be men of understanding. (98) That which is with you will fail; but that which is with God is permanent: and we will surely reward those who persevere, according to the utmost merit of their actions. (99) Whoso worketh righteousness, whether he be male or female, and is a true believer, we will surely raise him to a happy life; and we will give them their reward, according to the utmost merit of their actions. (100) When thou readest the Qurán, have recourse unto God,that he may preserve thee from Satan driven away with stones; (101) he hath no power over those who believe, and who put confidence in their Lord; (102) but his power is over those only who take him for their patron, and who give companions unto God.
∥ (103) When we substitute in the Qurán an abrogating verse in lieu of a verse abrogated (and God best knoweth the fitness of that which he revealeth), the infidels say, Thou art only a forger of these verses: but the greater part of them know not truth from falsehood.(104) Say, The holy spirit hath brought the same down from thy Lord with truth; that he may confirm those who believe, and for a direction and good tidings unto the Muslims. (105) We also know that they say, Verily, a certain man teacheth him to compose the Qurán. The tongue of the person unto whom they incline is a foreign tongue; but this, wherein the Qurán is written, is the perspicuous Arabic tongue. (106) Moreover as for those who believe not the signs of God, God will not direct them, and they shall suffer a painful torment: (107) verily they imagine a falsehood who believe not in the signs of God, and they are really the liars. (108) Whoever denieth God, after he hath believed, except him who shall be compelled against his will, and whose heart continueth steadfast in the faith, shall be severely chastised: but whoever shall voluntarily profess infidelity, on those shall the indignation of God fall, and they shall suffer a grievous punishment. (109) This shall be their sentence, because they have loved the present life above that which is to come, and for that God directeth not the unbelieving people. (110) These are they whose hearts, and hearing, and sight, God hath sealed up; and these are the negligent: there is no doubt but that in the next life they shall perish. (111) Moreover thy Lordwill be favourable unto those who have fled their country, after having suffered persecution, and had been compelled to deny the faith by violence, and who have since fought in defence of the true religion, and have persevered with patience; verily unto these will thy Lordbe gracious and merciful, after they shall have shown their sincerity.
∥ (112) On a certain day shall every soul come to plead for itself, and every soul shall be repaid that which it shall have wrought; and they shall not be treated unjustly. (113)God propoundeth as a parable a city which was secure and quiet, unto which her provisions came in abundance from every side; but she ungratefully denied the favour of God: wherefore God caused her to taste the extreme famine, and fear, because of that which they had done. (114) And now is an apostle come unto the inhabitants of Makkah from among themselves; and they accuse him of imposture: wherefore a punishment shall be inflicted on them, while they are acting unjustly. (115) Eat of what God hath given you for food, that which is lawful and good; and be thankful for the favours of God, if ye serve him. (116) He hath only forbidden you that which dieth of itself, and blood, and swine’s flesh, and that which hath been slain in the name of any besides God. But unto him who shall be compelled by necessity to eat of these things, not lasting nor wilfully transgressing, Godwill surely be gracious and merciful. (117) And say not that wherein your tongues utter a lie; This is lawful, and this is unlawful; that ye may devise a lie concerning God: for they who devise concerning God shall not prosper. (118) They shall have small enjoyment in this world, and in that which is to come they shall suffer a grievous torment. (119) Unto the Jews did we forbid that which we have told thee formerly: and we did them no injury in that respect; but they injured their own souls. (120) Moreover thy Lordwill be favourable unto those who do evil through ignorance, and afterwards repent and amend: verily unto these will thy Lordbe gracious and merciful, after their repentance.
∥ (121) Abraham was a model of true religion, obedient unto God, orthodox, and was not an idolater: he was also grateful for his benefits: (122) wherefore God chose him, and directed him into the right way. (123) And we bestowed on him good in this world; and in the next he shall surely be one of the righteous. (124) We have also spoken unto thee, O Muhammad, by revelation, saying, Follow the religion of Abraham, who was orthodox, and was no idolater. (125) The sabbath was only appointed unto those who differed with their prophet concerning it; and thy Lord will surely judge between them, on the day of resurrection, as to that concerning which they differed. (126) Invite men unto the way of thy Lord, by wisdom, and mild exhortation; and dispute with them in the most condescending manner: for thy Lord well knoweth him who strayeth from his path, and he well knoweth those who are rightly directed. (127) If ye take vengeance on any, take a vengeance proportionable to the wrong which hath been done you; but if ye suffer wrong patiently, verily this will be better for the patient. (128) Wherefore do thou bear opposition with patience; but thy patience shall not be practicable, unless with God’sassistance. And be thou not grieved on account of the unbelievers; neither be thou troubled for that which they subtilely devise; for God is with those who fear him, and are upright.
[(1) ]The sentence of God. The allusion is to the punishment threatened against the unbelieving people of Makkah, and which they constantly urged him to hasten.—Tafsír-i-Raufi.
[(2) ]With a revelation. Rodwell translates literally, “with the Spirit.” The Tafsír-i-Raufi says the angels when sent down to earth are always accompanied by a spirit. The idea is that as Muhammad pretended to be accompanied by Gabriel. “the holy spirit” (chap. iv. 169), so every angel had a similar spirit to communicate to him the divine will.
[(4) ]A professed disputer. “The person particularly intended in this place was Ubbai Ibn Khalaf, who came to Muhammad with a rotten bone and asked him whether it was possible for God to restore it to life.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(5) ]Wherewith, &c., i.e., “their skins, wool, and hair, which serve you for clothing.”—Sale.
[(6) ]A credit unto you. “Being a grace to your courtyards and a credit to you in the eyes of your neighbours.”—Sale.
[(9) ]If he had pleased, &c. Here again the reprobation of the wicked is made to depend upon God’s will. The saved escape “because God pleaseth,” and the wicked are lost “because God pleaseth.” These are not directed, and so cannot be saved. The doctrine here is decidedly fatalistic.
[(12) ]Verily herein are signs. These are all signs of God’s power, wisdom, kindness, and love, but not signs of Muhammad’s apostleship.—Notes on Roman Urdu Qurán.
[(13) ]Different colour, i.e., “of every kind; the various colour of things being one of their chief distinctions.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(14) ]Fish. “Literally, fresh flesh; by which fish is meant, as being naturally more fresh, and sooner liable to corruption, than the flesh of birds and beasts. The expression is thought to have been made use of here the rather because the production of such fresh food from salt water is an instance of God’s power.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(15) ]Lest it should move with you. “The Muhammadans suppose that the earth, when first created, was smooth and equal, and thereby liable to a circular motion as well as the celestial orbs; and that the angels asking who could be able to stand on so tottering a frame, God fixed it the next morning by throwing the mountains on it.”—Sale.
[(16) ]The stars. “Which are their guides, not only at sea, but also on land, when they travel by night through the deserts. The stars which they observe for this purpose are either the Pleiades or some of those near the pole.”—Sale.
[(18) ]See chap. xiv. 37.
[(22) ]I.e., “At what time they or their worshippers shall be raised to receive judgment.”—Sale.
[(26) ]Fables. See notes on chap. vi 24.
[(28) ]“Some understand this passage figuratively, of God’s disappointing their wicked designs; but others suppose the words literally relate to the tower which Nimrod (whom the Muhammadans will have to be the son of Canaan, the son of Ham, and so the nephew of Cush, and not his son) built in Babel, and carried to an immense height (five thousand cubits, say some), foolishly purposing thereby to ascend to heaven, and wage war with the inhabitants of that place; but God frustrated his attempt, utterly overthrowing the tower by a violent wind and earthquake.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín, D’Herbelot, Bibl. Orient., Article Nimrod. The allusion may be to Judges xvi.
[(29) ]Those unto whom knowledge, &c. “The prophets, and the teachers and professors of God’s unity, or the angels.”—Sale.
[(30) ]Shall offer to make their peace. “Making their submission, and humbly excusing their evil actions, as proceeding from ignorance, and not from obstinacy or malice.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(33) ]Gardens of eternal abode. See note on chap. ix. 73.
[(34) ]For that which ye have wrought. The way of salvation is still by works. The idea of salvation by grace, in a Christian sense, or by atonement, is nowhere to be found in the Qurán. But the Qurán everywhere professes to confirm the doctrines of the former scriptures, and to purify the one true religion from the errors of idolatry. The fact, therefore, that the Qurán, instead of confirming the teachings of the former scriptures, actually contradicts them and endeavours to preach another gospel, stamps it as false and deceptive.
[(37) ]Neither had we forbidden, &c. “This they spoke in a scoffing manner, justifying their idolatry and superstitious abstaining from certain cattle, by pretending, that had these things been disagreeable to God, he would not have suffered them to be practised.”—Sale.
[(38) ]Taghút. The word here means idols or idolatry. See note on chap. ii. 256.
[(39) ]God, having given over the sinner to hardness of heart, thereby punishes the sin of charging the Prophet with imposture. Yet most of these hardened Quraish became Muslims. Observe that Muhammad’s position here excludes the office of intercessor, in a Christian sense. God hardens those whom he has decreed to be lost, and for such intercession is of no avail. Others being decreed unto life, the office of the Prophet is not to intercede, but to bring into the right way, which secures the chosen ones a place in Paradise.
[(40) ]They swear, &c. The commentators have a story to illustrate everything. A believer, urging the payment of a sum due him from an infidel, remarked that he expected the profit of his loan after death. “Do you believe in life after death?” said the infidel. “Yes,” replied the Muslim. Whereupon the infidel swore a solemn oath, by all his gods, that there was no life after death.
[(42) ]Be; and it is. These words express to the Muslim God’s power as Creator and Sovereign. They agree with the declaration of Jewish and Christian Scriptures, that God “spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. xxxiii. 9).
[(43) ]Those who fled. “Some suppose the Prophet and the companions of his flight in general are here intended; others suppose that those are particularly meant in this place who, after Muhammad’s departure, were imprisoned at Makkah on account of their having embraced his religion, and suffered great persecution from the Quraish; as Bilál, Suhaib, Khabbáb, Ammár, Abbís, Abul, Jandal, and Suhail.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(45) ]Other than men, i.e., we have not sent angels, which statement is made in reply to the taunt of the Quraish that Muhammad was only a man. This verse contains a distinct claim of inspiration, the object being to show that Muhammad did not differ in any way from other prophets.
[(46) ]This Qurán, literally, This admonition.
[(47) ]Are they . . . secure, &c.? Some suppose allusion is here made to the swallowing up of Korah and his company (Num. xvi.)
[(50) ]Whose shadows, &c. See chap. xiii. 16, and notes there.
[(53) ]Not two gods, &c. The meaning seems to be that a pulrality of gods shall not be worshipped.
[(58) ]They set apart, &c., i.e., the making sacred of certain animals, which otherwise might have served for food. The same was done with some of the fruits of the land (see chap. v. 102, and vi. 138, &c.)
[(59) ]Daughters. “Baidháwi says that the tribes of Khudháah and Kinána, in particular, used to call the angels the daughters of God.”—Sale. See notes on chap. iv. 116, and Prelim. Disc., pp. 38 and 70.
[(60) ]His face becometh black. “Clouded with confusion and sorrow.”—Sale.
[(61) ]Bury it in the dust. The allusion is to the cruel habit of burying female children alive, which obtained among the Quraish before they embraced Islám. A touching story is told of the Khalífah Othmán, who, it is said, never wept except on the occasion when his little daughter, whom he buried alive, wiped from his bearded face the dust of the grave.
[(62) ]Sublime similitude. “This passage condemns the Makkans’ injudicious and blasphemous application of such circumstances to God as were unworthy of him, and not only derogatory to the perfections of the Deity, but even disgraceful to man; while they arrogantly applied the more honourable circumstances to themselves.”—Sale.
[(63) ]He would not leave, &c. It follows from this that Muhammad was a sinner.
[(64) ]That which they dislike, &c. “By giving him daughters and associates in power and honour, by disregarding his messengers, and by setting apart the better share of the presents and offerings for their idols and the worse for him.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(65) ]He was their patron, &c. “Or, he is the patron of them (viz., of the Quraish) this day, &c.”—Sale.
[(66) ]That concerning which they disagree, i.e., the divine unity and the resurrection.—Tafsír-i-Raufi.
[(68) ]Digested dregs and blood, &c. “The milk consisting of certain particles of the blood, supplied from the finer parts of the aliment. Ibn Abbás says that the grosser parts of the food subside into excrement, and that the finer parts are converted into milk, and the finest of all into blood.”—Sale.
[(69) ]An inebriating liquor. “Not only wine, which is forbidden, but also lawful food, as dates, raisins, a kind of honey flowing from the dates, and vinegar.
[(71) ]The beaten paths of thy Lord, i.e., “the ways through which, by God’s power, the bitter flowers passing the bee’s stomach become honey; or, the methods of making honey, which he has taught her by instinct; or else the ready way home from the distant places to which that insect flies.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(73) ]“These words reprove the idolatrous Makkans, who could admit created beings to a share of the divine honour, though they suffered not their slaves to share with themselves in what God had bestowed on them.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(74) ]Wives from among yourselves. “That is, of your own nations and tribes. Some think the formation of Eve from Adam is here intended.”—Sale.
[(76) ]Liken not anything unto God. “Or propound no similitudes or comparisons between him and his creatures. One argument the Makkans employed in defence of their idolatry, it seems, was, that the worship of inferior deities did honour to God; in the same manner as the respect showed to the servants of a prince does honour to the prince himself.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(77) ]“The idols are here likened to a slave, who is so far from having anything of his own, that he is himself in the possession of another; whereas God is as a rich free man, who provideth for his family abundantly, and also assisteth others who have need, both in public and in private.”—Sale, Jaláluddín.
[(78) ]A parable of two men. “The idol is here again represented under the image of one who, by a defect in his senses, is a useless burthen to the man who maintains him; and God, under that of a person completely qualified either to direct or to execute any useful undertaking. Some suppose the comparison is intended of a true believer and an infidel.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(79) ]The last hour. The resurrection and judgment. Some would have it amount to 50,000 years. See Prelim. Disc., p. 141. See also chap. lxx. 4.
[(82) ]The customs of the nomad tribes are here specially referred to.
[(83) ]Conveniences to shade. “As trees, houses, tents, mountains, &c.”—Sale.
[(85) ]They deny the same. “Confessing God to be the author of all the blessings they enjoy, and yet directing their worship and thanks to their idols, by whose intercession they imagine blessings are obtained.”—Sale.
[(86) ]A witness out of every nation. See note on chap. iv. 40. This verse seems to necessitate the belief of some one true prophet having existed in India, China, Japan, &c. The commentators understand by witness a prophet. See Tafsír-i-Husaini, in loco.
[(88) ]Their idols, literally their companions.
[(91) ]A witness. See above on ver. 86.
[(92) ]“This verse, which was the occasion of the conversion of Othmán Ibn Matún, the commentators say, containeth the whole which it is a man’s duty either to perform or to avoid; and is alone a sufficient demonstration of what is said in the foregoing verse. Under the three things here commandad they understand the belief of God’s unity, without inclining to atheism, on the one hand, or polytheism, on the other; obedience to the commands of God; and charity towards those in distress. And under the three things forbidden they comprehend all corrupt and carnal affections, all false doctrines and heretical opinions, and all injustice towards man.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(93) ]Perform your covenant with God. “By persevering in his true religion. Some think that the oath of fidelity taken to Muhammad by his followers is chiefly intended here.”—Sale.
[(94) ]Be not like unto her, &c. “Some suppose that a particular woman is meant in this passage, who used (like Penelope) to undo at night the work that she had done in the day. Her name, they say, was Raita Bint Saad Ibn Taim, of the tribe of Quraish.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(95) ]One people, or one religion. This passage contradicts the spirit of the former Scriptures; 2 Peter iii. 9, Ezek. xxxiii. 11, and Matt. xviii. 14.
[(97) ]Sell not, &c. “That is, Be not prevailed on to renounce your religion, or your engagements with your Prophet, by any promises or gifts of the infidels. For, it seems, the Quraish, to tempt the poorer Muslims to apostatise, made them offers, not very considerable indeed, but such as they imagined might be worth their acceptance.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(99) ]A female. Another passage showing that women equally with men are promised the reward of a pious life. See note on chap. xiii. 23.
[(100) ]Have recourse unto God. “Muhammad one day reading in the Qurán, uttered a horrid blasphemy, to the great scandal of those who were present, as will be observed in another place (chap. xxii. 53, 54), to excuse which he assured them that those words were put into his mouth by the devil, and to prevent any such accidents for the future, he is here taught to beg God’s protection before he entered on that duty. Hence the Muhammadans, before they begin to read any part of this book, repeat these words, ‘I have recourse unto God for assistance against Satan driven away with stones.’ ”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín, and Yahya.
[(103) ]When we substitute. See note on chap. ii. 105.
[(104) ]The holy spirit. Muslims interpret this language to mean the Angel Gabriel. See notes on chap. ii. 86 and iii. 39.
[(105) ]A certain man teacheth him. The following is Sale’s note on this passage. We give his authorities in a footnote below:—
[(108) ]Except him, &c. “These words were added for the sake of Ammár Ibn Yásir and some others, who, being taken and tortured by the Quraish, renounced their faith out of fear, though their hearts agreed not with their mouths. It seems Ammár wanted the constancy of his father and mother, Yásir and Summaya, who underwent the like trial at the same time with their son, and resolutely refusing to recant, were both put to death, the infidels tying Summaya between two camels and striking a lance through her privy parts. When news was brought to Muhammad that Ammár had denied the faith, he said it could not be, for that Ammár was full of faith from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, faith being mixed and incorporated with his very flesh and blood; and when Ammár himself came weeping to the Prophet, he wiped his eyes, saying, ‘What fault was it of thine if they forced thee?’
[(109) ]God directeth not, &c. “Yet he directed the unbelieving Arabians, who were plunged in idolatry and unbelief till Mohammed preached to them.”—Brinckman’s Notes on Islám, p. 127.
[(111) ]Those who have fled, &c. The Muhájirín, being either those who fled to Abyssinia or those who afterwards went to Madína; most probably the latter. See on ver. 43 above.
[(112) ]Every soul, &c., i.e., “every person shall be solicitous for his own salvation, not concerning himself with the condition of another, but crying out, ‘My own soul, my own soul!’ ”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(113) ]A city. “This example is applied to every city which, having received great blessings from God, becometh insolent and unthankful, and is therefore chastised by some signal judgment, or rather to Makkah in particular, on which the calamities threatened in this passage, viz., both famine and sword, were inflicted.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(116) ]He hath only forbidden, &c. See notes on chap. v. 4-6, and chap. vi. 118-121.
[(117) ]This is lawful, &c. “Allowing what God hath forbidden, and superstitiously abstaining from what he hath allowed.”—Sale. See chap. vi. 119.
[(119) ]They injured their own souls, i.e., “they were forbidden things which were in themselves indifferent, as a punishment for their wickedness and rebellion.”—Sale.
[(121) ]Orthodox. The original word is haníf, meaning to turn or convert. See Rodwell, in loco.
[(124) ]See above on ver. 121.
[(125) ]The sabbath, &c. “These were the Jews, who being ordered by Moses to set apart Friday (the day now observed by the Muhammadans) for the exercise of divine worship, refused it, and chose the sabbath-day, because on that day God rested from his works of creation: for which reason they were commanded to keep the day they had chosen in the strictest manner.”—Sale.
[(126) ]Invite . . . by wisdom and mild exhortation, &c. The preacher of Makkah believed in moral suasion, but the politician of Madína preferred force, as the means of persuading men to accept of Islám. See chap. ii. 190-193, and chap. ix. 5.
[(127) ]Vengeance proportionable, &c. “This passage is supposed to have been revealed at Madína, on occasion of Hamza, Muhammad’s uncle, being slain at the battle of Ohod. For the infidels having abused his dead body, by taking out his bowels, and cutting off his ears and his nose, when Muhammad saw it, he swore that if God granted him success, he would retaliate those cruelties on seventy of the Quraish; but he was by these words forbidden to execute what he had sworn, and he accordingly made void his oath. Abulfida makes the number on which Muhammad swore to wreak his vengeance to be but thirty: but it may be observed by the way that the translator renders this passage in that author, ‘God hath revealed unto me that I shall retaliate,’ &c., instead of, ‘If God grant me victory over the Quraish, I will retaliate,’ &c., reading Lain adhharni for adhfarni; God, far from putting this design into the Prophet’s head by a revelation, expressly forbidding him to put it in execution.”—Sale.
[(105) ]A certain man teacheth him. The following is Sale’s note on this passage. We give his authorities in a footnote below:—
[1 ]Zamaḳhshari, Baidháwi, Yahya.
[2 ]Zamaḳhshari, Baidháwi. See Prideaux, Life of Mohammed, p. 32.
[5 ]Zamaḳhshari, Yahya.
[6 ]Zamaḳhshari, Baidháwi.
[7 ]Ricardi, Confut. Legis Saracenicæ, c. 13; Joh. Andreas, de Confus. Sectæ Mahometanæ, c. 2; see Prideaux, Life of Mohammed, pp. 33, 34.
[1 ]Gagnier, note in Abulf., Vit. Moh., p. 74.
[2 ]Ex Ibn Isháq; vide Gagnier, ibid.
[3 ]See Prideaux, ubi sup., p. 35, &c.; Gagnier, ubi sup., pp. 10, 11; Marrac. de Alcor., p. 37.
[4 ]Al Mas’udi.
[5 ]Abu’l Hasan al Baqri in Qurán.