Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXIII.: ENTITLED SURAT UL MUMINÚN (THE TRUE BELIEVERS). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 3
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CHAPTER XXIII.: ENTITLED SURAT UL MUMINÚN (THE TRUE BELIEVERS). 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 UL MUMINÚN (THE TRUE BELIEVERS).
There is a great deal of similarity between this chapter and chapter vii., which is no doubt due to the fact that both chapters belong to about the same period. The unbelieving Quraish are warned and threatened by reference to the fate of those who rejected their prophets in former ages. As in chapter vii., so in this, all these prophets are facsimiles of Muhammad. Their message was his message; their people were like his people. The charges of madness and imposture were ever raised against them, as they were made against him. Like Muhammad, they sought refuge in God against their enemies. God saved them and destroyed the infidels, and God would save Muhammad and the believers and destroy the infidels of Makkah.
In reading over this chapter, the general impression is left that Muhammad had now little or no hope of converting the Quraish. They are regarded as reprobate and given over to final destruction. Mercy and judgments have been visited upon them, but all in vain. They still scoff at the Prophet as a madman, and regard his messages concerning resurrection and judgment as so many fables. The Prophet is therefore content to warn them patiently. Avoiding strife and guarding against the temptation of the evil spirits, who seem to have suggested to him to use more violent measures to advance the true religion, he determines to render good for evil, and to guard against the suggestions of the genii or devils (vers. 94-99).
The chapter ends with a graphic description of the reward of the true believers, as it began with a description of their character. This is contrasted with the dreadful end of the unbelievers, who will find out, when too late for repentance, that the threatenings of their Prophet were true. Though they shall then seek God with many protestations of sorrow for their unbelief, they shall be sternly rejected and spurned from the divine presence.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
Some authors (Jaláluddín as Syúti) regard this chapter as the last Makkan chapter; but for this opinion there seems to be no good reason. Those who would locate it at Madína misinterpret vers. 77, 78, as referring to the battle of Badr. The calamity alluded to in ver. 78 was the famine which afflicted Makkah shortly before the Hijra; and from ver. 76 we might infer that it was still present at the time these verses were recorded. However that may be, this date is too late for the main portion of the chapter, which affords no evidence of that violence shown by the unbelieving Quraish which characterised them during the latter period of Muhammad’s mission at Makkah. The probability is that the larger part of the revelations of this chapter belong to the earlier part of the third Makkan period, B.H. 6 or 7.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) Now are the true believers happy: (2) who humble themselves in their prayer, (3) and who eschew all vain discourse, (4) and who are doers of alms-deeds; (5) and who keep themselves from carnal knowledge of any women(6) except their wives, or the captives which their right hand possess (for as to them they shall be blameless: (7) but whosoever coveteth any woman beyond these, they are transgressors): (8) and who acquit themselves faithfully of their trust, and justly perform their covenant; (9) and who observe their appointed times of prayer: (10) these shall be the heirs, (11) who shall inherit Paradise; they shall continue therein for ever. (12) We formerly created man in a finer sort of clay; (13) afterwards we placed him in the form of seed in a sure receptacle: (14) afterwards we made the seed coagulated blood; and we formed the coagulated blood into a piece of flesh: then we formed the piece of flesh into bones: and we clothed those bones with flesh: then we produced the same by another creation. Wherefore blessed be God, the most excellent Creator! (15) After this shall ye die: (16) and afterwards shall ye be restored to life, on the day of resurrection. (17) And we have created over you seven heavens: and we are not negligent of what we have created. (18) And we send down rain from heaven, by measure; and we cause it to remain on the earth: we are also certainly able to deprive you of the same. (19) And we cause gardens of palm-trees, and vineyards, to spring forth for you by means thereof: (20) wherein ye have many fruits, and whereof ye eat. (21) And we also raise for you a tree springing from Mount Sinai; which produceth oil, and a sauce for those who eat. (22) Ye have likewise an instruction in the cattle; we give you to drink of the milk which is in their bellies, and ye receive many advantages from them; and of them do ye eat; (23) and on them, and on ships, are ye carried.
∥ (24) We sent Noah heretofore unto his people, and he said, O my people, serve God: ye have no God besides him; will ye therefore not fear the consequence of your worshipping other gods?(25) And the chiefs of his people, who believed not, said, This is no other than a man, as ye are: he seeketh to raise himself to a superiority over you. If God had pleased to have sent a messenger unto you, he would surely have sent angels: we have not heard this of our forefathers. (26) Verily he is no other than a man disturbed with frenzy: wherefore wait concerning him for a time. (27) Noah said, O Lord, do thou protect me; for that they accuse me of falsehood. (28) And we revealed our orders unto him, saying, Make the ark in our sight, and according to our revelation. And when our decree cometh to be executed, and the oven shall boil and pour forth water,(29) carry into it of every species of animals one pair; and also thy family, except such of them on whom a previous sentence of destruction hath passed: and speak not unto me in behalf of those who have been unjust; for they shall be drowned. (30) And when thou and they who shall be with thee shall go up into the ark, say, Praise be unto God, who hath delivered us from the ungodly people! (31) And say, O Lord, cause me to come down from this ark with a blessed descent; for thou art the best able to bring me down from the same with safety. (32) Verily herein were signs of our omnipotence; and we proved mankind thereby.(33) Afterwards we raised up another generation after them: (34) and we sent unto them an apostle from among them, whosaid, Worship God: ye have no God beside him; will ye therefore not fear his vengeance?
∥ (35) And the chiefs of his people, who believed not, and who denied the meeting of the life to come, and on whom we had bestowed affluence in this present life, said, This is no other than a man, as ye are; he eateth of that whereof ye eat, and he drinketh of that whereof ye drink; (36) and if ye obey a man like unto yourselves, ye will surely be sufferers. (37) Doth he threaten you that after ye shall be dead, and shall become dust and bones, ye shall be brought forth alive from your graves?(38) Away, away with that ye are threatened with! (39) There is no other life besides our present life: we die, and we live; and we shall not be raised again. (40) This is no other than a man, who deviseth a lie concerning God: but we will not believe him. (41)Their apostle said, O Lord, defend me; for that they have accused me of imposture. (42)God answered, After a little while they shall surely repent their obstinacy.(43) Wherefore a severe punishment was justly inflicted on them, and we rendered them like the refuse which is carried down by a stream. Away therefore with the ungodly people! (44) Afterwards we raised up other generations after them. (45) No nation shall be punished before their determined time; neither shall they be respited after.(46) Afterwards we sent our apostles, one after another. So often as their apostle came unto any nation, they charged him with imposture: and we caused them successively to follow one another to destruction; and we made them only subjects of traditional stories. Away therefore with the unbelieving nations! (47) Afterwards we sent Moses, and Aaron his brother, with our signs and manifest power, (48) unto Pharaoh and his princes: but they proudly refused to believe on him; for they were a haughty people. (49) And they said, Shall we believe on two men like unto ourselves, whose people are our servants? (50) And they accused them of imposture: wherefore they became of the number of those who were destroyed. (51) And we heretofore gave the book of the law unto Moses, that the children of Israel might be directed thereby.(52) And we appointed the son of Mary and his mother for a sign: and we prepared an abode for them in an elevated part of the earth, being a place of quiet and security, and watered with running springs.
∥ (53) O apostles, eat of those things which are good, and work righteousness; for I well know that which ye do. (54) This your religion is one religion, and I am your Lord; wherefore fear me. (55) But men have rent the affair of their religion into various sects: every party rejoiceth in that which they follow. (56) Wherefore leave them in their confusion, until a certain time. (57) Do they think that we hasten unto them the wealth and children, (58) which we have abundantly bestowed on them, for their good? But they do not understand. (59) Verily they who stand in awe, for fear of their Lord, (60) and who believe in the signs of their Lord,(61) and who attribute not companions unto their Lord; and who give that which they give in alms, their hearts being struck with dread, for that they must return unto their Lord: (62) these hasten unto good, and are foremost to obtain the same. (63) We will not impose any difficulty on a soul, except according to its ability; with us is a book, which speaketh the truth; and they shall not be injured. (64) But their hearts are drowned in negligence as to this matter, and they have works different from those we have mentioned; which they will continue to do, (65) until when we chastise such of them as enjoy an affluence of fortune, by a severe punishment, behold, they cry aloud for help; (66) but it shall be answered them, Cry not for help to-day, for ye shall not be assisted by us. (67) My signs were read unto you, but ye turned back on your heels: (68) proudly elating yourselves because of your possessing the holy temple; discoursing together by night, and talking foolishly. (69) Do they not therefore attentively consider that which is spoken unto them; whether a revelation is come unto them which came not unto their forefathers? (70) Or do they not know their apostle; and therefore reject him? (71) Or do they say, He is a madman? Nay, he hath come unto them with the truth, but the greater part of them detest the truth. (72) If the truth had followed their desires, verily the heavens and the earth, and whoever therein is, had been corrupted. But we have brought them their admonition, and they turn aside from their admonition. (73) Dost thou ask of them any maintenance for thy preaching? since the maintenance of thy Lord is better, for he is the most bounteous provider. (74) Thou certainly invitest them to the right way, (75) and they who believe not in the life to come do surely deviate from that way. (76) If we had had compassion on them, and taken off from them the calamity which had befallen them, they would surely have more obstinately persisted in their error, wandering in confusion.
∥ (77) We formerly chastised them with a punishment, yet they did not humble themselves before their Lord, neither did they make supplications unto him;(78) until when we have opened upon them a door, from which a severe punishment hath issued, behold they are driven to despair thereat.
∥ (79) It is God who hath created in you the senses of hearing and of sight, that ye may perceive our judgments, and hearts, that ye may seriously consider them: yet how few of you give thanks! (80) It is he who hath produced you in the earth, and before him shall ye be assembled. (81) It is he who giveth life, and putteth to death, and to him is to be attributed the vicissitude of night and day; do ye not therefore understand? (82) But the unbelieving Makkans say as their predecessors said; (83) they say, When we shall be dead, and shall have become dust and bones, shall we really be raised to life? (84) We have already been threatened with this, and our fathers also heretofore; this is nothing but fables of the ancients. (85) Say, Whose is the earth, and whoever therein is, if ye know? (86) They will answer, God’s. Say, Will ye not therefore consider? (87) Say, Who is the Lord of the seven heavens and the Lord of the magnificent throne? (88) They will answer, They areGod’s. Say, Will ye not therefore fear him?(89) Say, In whose hand is the kingdom of all things, who protecteth whom he pleaseth, but is himself protected of none; if ye know? (90) They will answer, InGod’s. Say, How therefore are ye bewitched? (91) Yea, we have brought them the truth; and they are certainly liars in denying the same.(92)God hath not begotten issue, neither is there any other god with him, otherwise every god had surely taken away that which he had created and some of them had exalted themselves above the others. Far be that from God which they affirm of him! (93) He knoweth that which is concealed, and that which is made public; wherefore far be it from him to have those sharers in his honour which they attribute to him!
∥ 94 Say, O Lord, if thou wilt surely cause me to see the vengeance with which they have been threatened; (95) O Lord, set me not among the ungodly people, (96) for we are surely able to make thee see that with which we have threatened them. (97) Turn aside evil with that which is better: we well know the calumnies which they utter against thee.(98) And say, O Lord, I fly unto thee for refuge, against the suggestions of the devils, (99) and I have recourse unto thee, O Lord,to drive them away, that they be not present with me. (100) The gain-saying of the unbelievers ceaseth not until, when death overtaketh any of them, he saith, O Lord, suffer me to return to life,(101) that I may do that which is right, in professing the true faith which I have neglected. By no means. Verily these are the words which ye shall speak: but behind them there shall be a bar until the day of resurrection. (102) When therefore the trumpet shall be sounded, there shall be no relation between them which shall be regarded on that day; neither shall they ask assistance of each other. (103) They whose balances shall be heavy with good works shall be happy; (104) but they whose balances shall be light are those who shall lose their souls, and shall remain in hell for ever. (105) The fire shall scorch their faces, and they shall writhe their mouths therein for anguish: (106) and it shall be said unto them, Were not my signs rehearsed unto you; and did ye not charge them with falsehood? (107) They shall answer, O Lord, our unhappiness prevailed over us, and we were people who went astray. (108) O Lord, take us forth from this fire: if we return to our former wickedness, we shall surely be unjust. (109) God will say unto them, Be ye driven away with ignominy thereinto: and speak not unto me to deliver you. (110) Verily there were a party of my servants, who said, O Lord, we believe; wherefore forgive us, and be merciful unto us; for thou art the best of those who show mercy. (111) But ye received them with scoffs, so that they suffered you to forget my admonition, and ye laughed them to scorn. (112) I have this day rewarded them, for that they suffered the injuries ye offered them with patience: verily they enjoy great felicity. (113) God will say, What number of years have ye continued on earth? (114) They will answer, We have continued there a day, or part of a day: but ask those who keep account. (115)God will say, Ye have tarried but a while, if ye knew it.(116) Did ye think that we had created you in sport, and that ye should not be brought again before us? (117) Wherefore let God be exalted, the King, the Truth: There is no God besides him, the Lord of the honourable throne. (118) Whoever together with the trueGod shall invoke another god, concerning whom he hath no demonstrative proof, shall surely be brought to an account for the same before his Lord. Verily the infidels shall not prosper. (119) Say, O Lord, pardon, and show mercy: for thou art the best of those who show mercy.
[(3) ]Vain discourse, i.e., lying, jesting, and foolish talk.
[(6) ]See note on chap. iv. 3. This verse attests the position taken up there in respect to the cause of the immorality prevalent in Muslim countries.
[(12) ]The allusion is to the creation of Adam.
[(13) ]Receptacle, viz., “the womb.”—Sale.
[(14) ]Another creation, i.e., “producing a perfect man, composed of soul and body.”—Sale.
[(17) ]Seven heavens, “literally, seven paths; by which the heavens are meant, because, according to some expositors, they are the paths of the angels and of the celestial bodies: though the original word also signifies things which are folded or placed like storeys one above another, as the Muhammadans suppose the heavens to be.”—Sale.
[(21) ]A tree springing from Mount Sinai, viz., “the olive. The gardens near this mountain are yet famous for the excellent fruittrees of almost all sorts which grow there.”—Sale on authority of Thevenot’s Travels, liv. ii. ch. 9.
[(23) ]On them . . . are ye carried. “The beast more particularly meant in this place is the camel, which is chiefly used for carriage in the East: being called by the Arabs, the land ship, on which they pass those seas of sand, the deserts.”—Sale.
[(24) ]Noah. See chap. vii. 60-65, and xi. 26-49, and notes there.
[(25) ]A man as ye are. This was the common objection of the Quarish to Muhammad. The history of Muhammad was invariably represented as a facsimile of the history of every other prophet. See introductions to chaps. vii and xxi.
[(28) ]The oven. Rodwell translates “earth’s surface.” The original is oven, and probably is used here of the wrath of God flaming up as a flaming oven does.
[(29) ]Thy family, except such, &c. See notes on chap. xi. 41-43.
[(33) ]Another generation, viz., “the tribe of Ád or of Thamúd.”—Sale.
[(34) ]An apostle. Húd or Sálih. Comp. chap. xi. 50 and 61.
[(35-43) ]Here, as in vers. 25-32 above, the treatment of former prophets is portrayed in the form of Muhammad’s own experience. The unbelievers rejected their prophet as the Quraish did: they denied the resurrection as the Quraish did; they say their prophet is only a man as the Quraish did; they scoffed at his threatenings of Divine vengeance as the Quraish did; they charged their prophets with imposture as the Quraish did; they were miserably destroyed in unbelief; and the inference is, that such shall be the fate of the Quraish also. Let any man read the stories of the prophets, as thus given in the Qurán, with the Makkan experience of Muhammad in mind, and I venture to predict he will not fail to see the clearest evidence of fabrication, as shown in Muhammad’s practice of invariably representing the prophets of the past as having been in all essential respects like himself.
[(44) ]Other generations. “As the Sodomites, Midianites, &c.”—Sale.
[(46) ]Apostles, one after another. See note on chap. xvi. 38.
[(47-51) ]Comp. chap. xx. 27-37.
[(52) ]The son of Mary. See notes on chap. ii. 86, and iii. 45.
[(53) ]O apostles, eat, &c. “These words are addressed to the apostles in general, to whom it was permitted to eat of all clean and wholesome food, and were spoken to them severally at the time of their respective mission. Some, however, think them directed particularly to the Virgin Mary and Jesus, or singly to the latter (in which case the plural number must be used out of respect only), proposing the practice of the prophets for their imitation. Muhammad probably designed in this passage to condemn the abstinence observed by the Christian monks.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(54) ]Your religion is one religion. See note on chap. xxi. 92.
[(56) ]Until a certain time, i.e., “till they shall be slain, or shall die a natural death.”—Sale.
[(57, 58) ]See note on chap. ii. 211.
[(61) ]Struck with dread. The ideas of triumphing over death and of rejoicing to meet the Lord at the resurrection, so common to Christian experience, are foreign to Islám. Fear is its motive-power to piety, and hence its votaries ever call themselves the servants and the slaves of God. To think of themselves as the children of God would be regarded as blasphemy to all except a few dreamy Súfís, who are Muslim heretics.
[(63) ]A book, &c., i.e., the preserved table on which is written the decrees of God.—Tafsír-i-Raufi. The following verse, however, seems to determine the allusion to be to the Qurán. The meaning is that God will judge men by the Qurán, but yet will judge righteous judgment even in the case of infidels. Even these have had the “signs” of the Qurán revealed to them, and are therefore without excuse.
[(64) ]This matter. Rodwell says this book, which is the better translation.
[(65) ]A severe punishment. “By which is intended either the overthrow at Badr, where several of the chief Qurashites lost their lives, or the famine with which the Makkans were afflicted, at the prayer of the Prophet, conceived in these words, O God, set thy foot strongly on Mudár (an ancestor of the Quraish), and give them years like the years of Joseph; whereupon so great a dearth ensued that they were obliged to feed on dogs, carrion, and burnt bones.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(69) ]Do they not . . . consider, &c. See note on chap. iv. 81.
[(71) ]He is a madman. See note on chap. xxi. 5.
[(72) ]If the truth had followed, &c. “That is, if there had been a plurality of gods, as the idolaters contend, or if the doctrine taught by Muhammad had been agreeable to their inclinations, &c.”—Sale.
[(76) ]The calamity, viz., “the famine. It is said the Makkans being reduced to eat ilhiz, which is a sort of miserable food made of blood and camels’ hair, used by the Arabs in time of scarcity, Abu Sufian came to Muhammad and said, ‘Tell me, I adjure thee by God and the relation that is between us, dost thou think thou art sent as a mercy unto all creatures, since thou hast slain the father with the sword and the children with hunger?’ ”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(77) ]We formerly chastised, &c. The commentators think the allusion here to be to Badr, but this is an anachronism. The calamity was one which afflicted the people of Makkah at some time previous to the famine or other calamity referred to in the next verse, which occurred before the Hijra. Comp. chap. x. 22-24, and vii. 95.
[(78) ]A severe punishment, i.e., famine, which is more terrible than the ordinary calamities referred to in ver. 77.
[(83, 84) ]Compare with vers. 35-43 above, and see note there.
[(85-91) ]The argument in these verses is that idolaters, in admitting the existence of a Supreme Being, who is Creator, Preserver, and Lord of all, thereby condemn themselves when they worship other gods.
[(92) ]God hath not begotten issue. These words are here directed against the angel-worship of the Quraish, who called the angels daughters of God. See notes on chap. ii. 116, and vi. 101.
[(97) ]Turn aside evil with that which is better. “That is, by forgiving injuries and returning of good for them; which rule is to be qualified, however, with this proviso, that the true religion receive no prejudice by such mildness and clemency.” — Sale, Baidháwi.
[(98) ]I fly to thee, &c. “Contrast to Messiah, who does not need to fly for protection from Satan; did not fly when faint in the wilderness, but vanquished Satan by his Word.”—Brinckman.
[(99) ]That they be not present with me. “To besiege me; or, as it may also be translated, that they hurt me not.”—Sale.
[(101) ]In . . . which I have neglected. “Or, as the word may also import, in the world which I have left; that is, during the further term of life which shall be granted me, and from which I have been cut off.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(103) ]Whose balances, &c. See Prelim. Disc., pp. 144, 145; also note on chap. vii. 8.
[(105) ]They shall writhe, &c. Rodwell translates “their lips shall quiver therein.” Abdul Qádir renders it, “their countenances shall be disfigured therein,” and comments thus, “The lower lips shall hang down to the navel, while the upper lips will stretch up to the top of the skull. The tongue will drag along on the ground and be trodden under foot.”
[(111) ]They suffered you to forget, &c. “Being unable to prevail on you by their remonstrances, because of the contempt wherein ye held them.”—Sale.
[(114) ]Part of a day. “The time will seem thus short to them in comparison to the eternal duration of their torments, or because the time of their living in the world was the time of their joy and pleasure; it being usual for the Arabs to describe what they like as of short, and what they dislike as of long continuance.”—Sale.
[(115) ]Ye have tarried but a while, i.e., a very short time compared with the eternity before you.
[(116) ]Did ye think, &c., i.e., God did not create you for nothing, but that you might worship and serve him, and he had determined to reward you according to your works.—Tafsír-i-Raufi.