Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXVII.: ENTITLED SURAT-UN-NAMAL (THE ANT). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 3
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CHAPTER XXVII.: ENTITLED SURAT-UN-NAMAL (THE ANT). 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-UN-NAMAL (THE ANT).
This chapter owes its title to a peculiar story of an ant, found in vers. 18, 19. Nothing could better illustrate the arbitrary character of the names prefixed to the chapters of the Qurán.
The revelations of this chapter are distinctively Makkan in style and matter. It contains the usual round of self-assertion of prophetic claims, of invective against the unbelieving Quraish, and of threats of divine judgment, illustrated by reference to the fate of infidels in former ages. Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the chapter is the positiveness of Muhammad’s claim that he is a prophet of God, and that the Qurán is God’s word revealed to him by Gabriel. We find him ascribing to God the following words:—“Thou hast certainly received the Qurán from the presence of a wise and knowing God” (ver. 6); “Verily this Qurán . . . is certainly a direction and a mercy unto the true believers,” &c. (vers. 78-80); “And I am commanded to be a Muslim, and to rehearse the Qurán” (vers. 93, 94). Notwithstanding this positive assertion of personal inspiration, we find in this very chapter a foolish story of the Rabbins, embellished and clothed in Muslim habiliments, presented as a portion of this revelation.
The attitude of the Quraish and of their prophet respectively, as seen in this chapter, is that of persistent opposition on the part of the former and of patient defiance on the part of the latter. Whether the plotting mentioned in ver. 72, which had been alluded to in vers. 46-53, refers to that active opposition of the Quraish which culminated in the final withdrawal from Makkah is doubtful. The general tone of the chapter is against such an opinion. That violent opposition is referred to I think to be indisputable, but would refer it to some of the earlier acts of Quraishite hatred; perhaps the combination against the Háshimites. This would also account for the reference to two parties attributed to the people of Sálih, who is here the facsimile of Muhammad, while the Thamúdites or people of Sálih correspond to the Quraish. This explanation would also account for the reference to the family of Sálih (ver. 50), which corresponds to the family and relatives of Muhammad, shut up in the Sheb or quarter of Abu Tálib.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
All authorities agree that the entire chapter is Makkan. The date, judging from what has already been said above, would be about the eighth year of Muhammad’s ministry at Makkah.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) T. S. These are the signs of the Qurán and of the perspicuous book, (2) a direction and good tidings unto the true believers, (3) who regularly perform their prayer, and give alms, and firmly believe in the life to come. (4)As to those who believe not in the life to come, we have prepared their works for them, and they shall be struck with astonishment at their disappointment when they shall be raised again; (5) these are they whom an evil punishment awaiteth in this life, and in that which is to come they shall be the greatest losers. (6) Thou hast certainly received the Qurán from the presence of a wise, a knowing God.
∥ (7)Remember when Moses said unto his family, Verily I perceive fire; I will bring you tidings thereof, or I will bring you a lighted brand that ye may be warmed. (8) And when he was come near unto it a voice cried unto him, saying, Blessed be he who is in the fire, and whoever is about it, and praise be unto God, the Lord of all creatures! (9) O Moses, verily I am God, the mighty, the wise; (10) cast down now thy rod. And when he saw it that it moved as though it had been a serpent, he retreated and fled, and returned not. And God said, O Moses, fear not, for my messengers are not disturbed with fear in my sight; (11) except he who shall have done amiss, and shall have afterwards substituted good in lieu of evil, for I am gracious and merciful. (12) Moreover, put thy hand into thy bosom, it shall come forth white, without hurt; this shall be one among the nine signs unto Pharaoh and his people, for they are a wicked people. (13) And when our visible signs had come unto them they said, This is a manifest sorcery. (14) And they denied them, although their souls certainly knew them to be from God, out of iniquity and pride; but behold what was the end of the corrupt doers.
∥ (15) We heretofore bestowed knowledge on David and Solomon: and they said, Praise be unto God, who hath made us more excellent than many of his faithful servants! (16) And Solomon was David’s heir; and he said, O men, we have been taught the speech of birds, and have had all things bestowed on us; this is manifest excellence. (17) And his armies were gathered together unto Solomon, consisting of genii, and men, and birds; and they were led in distinct bands, (18) until they came unto the valley of ants. And an ant, seeing the hosts approaching, said, O ants, enter ye into your habitations, lest Solomon and his army tread you under foot, and perceive it not. (19) And Solomon smiled, laughing at her words, and said, O Lord, excite me that I may be thankful for thy favour wherewith thou hast favoured me, and my parents; and that I may do that which is right and well-pleasing unto thee: and introduce me, through thy mercy, into Paradise, among thy servants the righteous. (20) And he viewed the birds, and said, What is the reason that I see not the lapwing? Is she absent? (21) Verily I will chastise her with a severe chastisement, or I will put her to death; unless she bring me a just excuse. (22) And she tarried not long before she presented herself unto Solomon, and said, I have viewed a country which thou hast not viewed; and I come unto thee from Sabá, with a certain piece of news. (23) I found a woman to reign over them, who is provided with everything requisite for a prince, and hath a magnificent throne. (24) I found her and her people to worship the sun, besides God: and Satan hath prepared their works for them, and hath turned them aside from the way of truth (wherefore they are not rightly directed, (25) lest they should worship God, who bringeth to light that which is hidden in heaven and earth, and knoweth whatever they conceal, and whatever they discover. (26)God! there is no God but he; the Lord of the magnificent throne. (27) Solomon said, We shall see whether thou hast spoken the truth, or whether thou art a liar. (28) Go with this my letter, and cast it down unto them; then turn aside from them, and wait to know what answer they will return. (29)And when the Queen of Sabá had received the letter, she said, O nobles, verily an honourable letter hath been delivered unto me; (30) it is from Solomon, and this is the tenor thereof: In the name of the most merciful God,(31) Rise not up against me: but come and surrender yourselves unto me.
∥ (32) She said, O nobles, advise me in my business: I will not resolve on anything until ye be witnesses and approve thereof. (33)The nobles answered, We are endued with strength, and are endued with great prowess in war; but the command appertaineth unto thee: see therefore what thou wilt command. (34) She said, Verily kings, when they enter a city by force, waste the same, and abase the most powerful of the inhabitants thereof: and so will these do with us. (35) But I will send gifts unto them; and will wait for what farther information those who shall be sent shall bring back. (36) And when the queen’s ambassador came unto Solomon, that prince said, Will ye present me with riches? Verily that which God hath given me is better than that which he hath given you: but ye do glory in your gifts. (37) Return unto the people of Sabá. We will surely come unto them with forces, which they shall not be able to withstand; and we will drive them out from their city, humbled; and they shall become contemptible. (38) And Solomon said, O nobles, which of you will bring unto me her throne, before they come and surrender themselves unto me? (39) A terrible genius answered, I will bring it unto thee before thou arise from thy place: for I am able to perform it, and may be trusted. (40)And one with whom was the knowledge of the Scriptures said, I will bring it unto thee in the twinkling of an eye. And when Solomon saw the throne placed before him, he said, This is a favour of my Lord, that he may make trial of me, whether I will be grateful, or whether I will be ungrateful; and he who is grateful is grateful to his own advantage, but if any shall be ungrateful, verily my Lordis self-sufficient and munificent. (41) And Solomon said unto his servants, Alter her throne, that she may not know it, to the end we may see whether she be rightly directed, or whether she be one of those who are not rightly directed. (42) And when she was come unto Solomon, it was said unto her, Is thy throne like this? She answered, As though it were the same. And we have had knowledge bestowed on us before this, and have been resigned unto God. (43) But that which she worshipped besides God had turned her aside from the truth; for she was of an unbelieving people. (44) It was said unto her, Enter the palace. And when she saw it, she imagined it to be a great water; and she discovered her legs by lifting up her robe to pass through it. Whereupon Solomon said unto her, Verily this is a palace evenly floored with glass. (45)Then said the queen, O Lord, verily I have dealt unjustly with my own soul; and I resign myself, together with Solomon, unto God the Lord of all creatures.
∥ (46) Also we heretofore sent unto the tribe of Thamúd their brother Sálih, who said unto them, Serve ye God. And behold, they were divided into two parties, who disputed among themselves. (47)Sálih said, O my people, why do ye hasten evil rather than good? Unless ye ask pardon of God, that ye may obtain mercy, ye are lost.(48) They answered, We presage evil from thee, and from those who are with thee. Sálih replied, The evil which ye presage is with God: but ye are a people who are proved by a vicissitude of prosperity and adversity. (49) And there were nine men in the city who acted corruptly in the earth, and behaved not with integrity. (50) And they said unto one another, Swear ye reciprocally by God, that we will fall upon Sálih and his family by night: and afterwards we will say unto him who hath right to avenge his blood, We were not so much as present at the destruction of his family; and we certainly speak the truth. (51) And they devised a plot against him: but we devised a plot against them; and they perceived it not. (52) And see what was the issue of their plot, we utterly destroyed them and their whole people; (53) and these their habitations remain empty, because of the injustice which they committed. Verily herein is a sign unto people who understand. (54) And we delivered those who believed and feared God.(55) And remember Lot; when he said unto his people, Do ye commit a wickedness, though ye see the heinousness thereof? (56) Do ye approach lustfully unto men, leaving the women? Ye are surely an ignorant people. (57) But the answer of his people was no other than that they said, Cast the family of Lot out of your city: for they are men who preserve themselves pure from the crimes of which ye are guilty. (58) Wherefore we delivered him and his family, except his wife, whom we decreed to be one of those who remained behind to be destroyed.(59) And we rained on them a shower of stones: and dreadful was the shower which fell on those who had been warned in vain! (60) Say, Praise be unto God; and peace be upon his servants whom he hath chosen! Is God more worthy, or the false gods which they associate with him?
∥ (61) Is not he to be preferred who hath created the heavens and the earth, and sendeth down rain for you from heaven, whereby we cause delicious groves to spring up? It is not in your power to cause the trees thereof to shoot forth. Is there any other god partner with the trueGod? Verily these are a people who deviate from the truth.(62)Is not he more worthy to be adored who hath established the earth, and hath caused rivers to flow through the midst thereof, and placed thereon immovable mountains, and set a bar between the two seas? Is there any other god equal with the trueGod? Yet the greater part of them know it not. (63) Is not he more worthy who heareth the afflicted when he calleth upon him, and taketh off the evil which distressed him; and who hath made you the successors of your forefathers in the earth? Is there any other god who can be equalled with the trueGod? How few consider these things!(64)Is not he more worthy who directeth you in the dark paths of the land and of the sea; and who sendeth the winds driving abroad the clouds, as the forerunners of his mercy? Is there any other god who can be equalled with the true God? Far be God from having those partners in his power which ye associate with him. (65) Is not he more worthy who produceth a creature, and after it hath been dead restoreth it to life; and who giveth you food from heaven and earth? Is there any other god with the trueGodwho doth this? Say, Produce your proof thereof, if ye speak truth. (66) Say, None either in heaven or earth knoweth that which is hidden, besides God:(67) neither do they understand when they shall be raised. (68) However, their knowledge attaineth some notion of the life to come: yet they are in an uncertainty concerning the same; yea, they are blind as to the real circumstances thereof.
∥ (69) And the unbelievers say, When we and our fathers shall have been reduced to dust, shall we be taken forth from the grave?(70) Verily we have been threatened with this, both we and our fathers, heretofore. This is no other than fables of the ancients. (71) Say unto them, Pass through the earth, and see what hath been the end of the wicked. (72) And be not thou grieved for them; neither be thou in any concern on account of the plots which they are contriving against thee. (73) And they say, When will this threat be accomplished, if ye speak true? (74) Answer, Peradventure some part of that punishment which ye desire to be hastened may follow close behind you; (75) verily thy Lord is endued with indulgence towards mankind; but the greater part of them are not thankful. (76) Verily thy Lord knoweth what their breasts conceal, and what they discover; (77) and there is nothing hidden in heaven or on earth, but it is written in a clear book. (78) Verily this Qurán declareth unto the children of Israel most of those points concerning which they disagree: (79) and it is certainly a direction and a mercy unto the true believers. (80) Thy Lord will decide the controversy between them by his definitive sentence: and he is the mighty, the wise. (81) Therefore put thy trust in God; for thou art in the manifest truth. (82) Verily thou shalt not make the dead to hear, neither shalt thou make the deaf to hear thy call to the true faith when they retire and turn their backs; (83) neither shalt thou direct the blind to extricate themselves out of their error. Thou shalt make none to hear thee except him who shall believe in our signs: and they are wholly resigned unto us.(84) When the sentence shall be ready to fall upon them, we will cause a beast to come forth unto them from out of the earth, which shall speak unto them: verily men do not firmly believe in our signs.
∥ (85) On the day of resurrection we will assemble, out of every nation, a company of those who shall have charged our signs with falsehood; and they shall be prevented from mixing together, (86) until they shall arrive at the place of judgment. And God shall say unto them, Have ye charged my signs with falsehood, although ye comprehended them not with your knowledge? Or what is it that ye were doing? (87) And the sentence of damnation shall fall on them, for that they have acted unjustly: and they shall not speak in their own excuse. (88) Do they not see that we have ordained the night, that they may rest therein, and the day giving open light? Verily herein are signs unto people who believe. (89) On that day the trumpet shall be sounded; and whoever are in heaven and on earth shall be struck with terror, except those whom God shall please to exempt therefrom: and all shall come before him in humble guise. (90) And thou shalt see the mountains, and shalt think them firmly fixed; but they shall pass away, even as the clouds pass away. This will be the work of God, who hath rightly disposed all things: and he is well acquainted with that which ye do. (91) Whoever shall have wrought righteousness shall receive a reward beyond the desert thereof; and they shall be secure from the terror of that day: (92) but whoever shall have wrought evil shall be thrown on their faces into hell-fire. Shall ye receive the reward of any other than of that which ye shall have wrought? (93) Verily I am commanded to worship the Lord of this territory of Makkah, who hath sanctified the same: unto him belong all things. And I am commanded to be a Muslim, (94) and to rehearse the Qurán: he who shall be directed thereby will be directed to his own advantage; and to him who shall go astray, say, Verily I am a warner only.(95) And say, Praise be unto God! he will show you his signs, and ye shall know them: and thy Lord is not regardless of that which they do.
[(4) ]We have prepared their works, &c., i.e., “by rendering them pleasing and agreeable to their corrupt natures and inclinations.”—Sale.
[(6) ]From the presence, &c. That is, through the medium of the Angel Gabriel. See notes on chap. ii. 96 and xxvi. 193.
[(7) ]That ye may be warmed. Compare chap. xx. 10 and chap. xxviii. 29.
[(8) ]A voice cried . . . saying, &c. Those Muslims who are ever ready to carp at the Gospels by pointing out the discrepancies in verbal statements to be found therein, may be silenced by asking them to compare statements made in the various chapters containing detailed accounts of the sayings of God and of the former prophets. For instance, compare the words said to have been uttered by God to Moses from the burning bush here with the account given in chapter xx. 11-25, xxviii. 29-33. The same result may be secured by comparing the accounts of the conversations of Moses and Pharaoh as given in these same chapters. If then it may be argued the Gospels are to be regarded as spurious, interpolated, and unworthy of credit because of such discrepancies, occurring as they do in the writings of different persons, recorded at different times and under varied circumstances—where indeed differences of statement should be expected—what are we to say of the Qurán, which is said to contain the very words of God, who never forgets or makes mistakes, seeing it contains such discrepancies in greater abundance than the much-despised Gospels?
[(10) ]My messengers are not disturbed, &c. This passage contradicts Scripture, where it is said Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel,Daniel, and John feared and trembled in the divine presence.
[(11) ]Except he, &c. “This exception was designed to qualify the preceding assertion, which seemed too general, for several of the prophets have been subject to sins, though not great ones, before their mission, for which they had reason to apprehend God’s anger, though they are here assured that their subsequent merits entitle them to his pardon. It is supposed that Moses’s killing the Egyptian undesignedly is hinted at.”—Sale, Jaláluddín.
[(12) ]The nine signs. See note on chap. xvii. 103.
[(15) ]David and Solomon. See notes on chap. xxi. 79.
[(16) ]David’s heir. “Inheriting not only his kingdom, but also the prophetical office, preferably to his other sons, who were no less than nineteen.”—Sale, Jaláludín, Baidháwi.
[(17) ]Armies . . . of genii, &c. “For this fancy, as well as the former, Muhammad was obliged to the Talmudists (Midrash, Yalkut Shemuni, p. 11, f. 29), who, according to their manner, have interpreted the Hebrew words of Solomon (Eccl. ii. 8), which the English version renders, I get men-singers and women-singers, as if that prince had forced demons or spirits to serve him at his table, and in other capacities; and particularly in his vast and magnificent buildings, which they could not conceive he could otherwise have performed.”—Sale.
[(18) ]Valley of ants. “The valley seems to be so called from the great number of ants which are found there. Some place it in Syria and others in Tayif.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(20) ]The lapwing. Sale, on the authority of Baidháwi, gives the following:—
[(21) ]Severe chastisement. “By plucking off her feathers, and setting her in the sun to be tormented by the insects; or by shutting her up in a cage.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(23) ]A woman, &c. “This queen the Arabs name Balqís: some make her the daughter of Al Hudhád Ibn Sharhabíl, and others of Sharabíl Ibn Máliq; but they all agree she was a descendant of Yárab Ibn Kahtán. She is placed the twenty-second in Dr. Pocock’s list of the kings of Yaman.”—Sale, Pocock, Spec. p. 59.
[(24-26) ]These verses again illustrate Muhammad’s habit of putting his own discourse into the mouths of others. Here it is put in the mouth of a bird! Comp. chap. xxiii. 93, 117, and ii. 255, and verse 76 of this chapter.
[(29) ]“Jaláluddín says that the queen was surrounded by her army when the lapwing threw the letter into her bosom; but al Baidháwi supposes she was in an apartment of her palace, the doors of which were shut, and that the bird flew in at the window. The former commentator gives a copy of the epistle somewhat more full than that in the text, viz., ‘From the servant of God, Solomon, the son of David, unto Balqís, queen of Sabá. In the name of the most merciful God. Peace be on him who followeth the true direction. Rise not up against me, but come and surrender yourselves unto me.’ He adds that Solomon perfumed the letter with musk, and sealed it with his signet.”—Sale.
[(31) ]Surrender yourselves, &c. “Or, come unto me, and resign yourselves unto the divine direction, and profess the true religion which I preach.”—Sale.
[(33) ]See therefore what thou wilt command, i.e., “whether thou wilt obey the summons of Solomon, or give us orders to make head against him.”—Sale.
[(36) ]When the . . . ambassador came. “Bearing the presents, which they say were five hundred young slaves of each sex, all habited in the same manner, five hundred bricks of gold, a crown enriched with precious stones, besides a large quantity of musk, amber, and other things of value. Some add, that Balqís, to try whether Solomon was a prophet or no, dressed the boys like girls, and the girls like boys, and sent him, in a casket, a pearl not drilled, and an onyx drilled with a crooked hole; and that Solomon distinguished the boys from the girls by the different manner of their taking water (when taking water to wash hands and face, the girls poured it from one hand upon the other—Tafsír-i-Raufi), and ordered one worm to bore the pearl, and another to pass a thread through the onyx. They also tell us, that Solomon, having notice of this embassy by means of the lapwing, even before they set out, ordered a large square to be enclosed with a wall built of gold and silver bricks, wherein he ranged his forces and attendants to receive them.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(39) ]A terrible genius. This was an Ifrít, or one of the wicked or rebellious genii; and his name, says al Baidháwi, was Dhaqwán or Sakhr.”—Sale.
[(40) ]And one with whom, &c. “This person, as is generally supposed, was Asaf the son of Barachia, Solomon’s Wasír (or Visír), who knew the great or ineffable name of God, by pronouncing of which he performed this wonderful exploit. Others, however, suppose it was al Khidhr, or else Gabriel, or some other angel; and some imagine it to have been Solomon himself.”—Sale, Baidháwi
[(42) ]And when she was come. “For, on the return of her ambassador, she determined to go and submit herself to that prince; but before her departure she secured her throne, as she thought, by locking it up in a strong castle, and setting a guard to defend it; after which she set out, attended by a vast army.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(44) ]Enter the palace. “Or, as some understand the word, the court before the palace, which Solomon had commanded to be built against the arrival of Balqís; the floor or pavement being of transparent glass, laid over running water, in which fish were swimming. Fronting the pavement was placed the royal throne, on which Solomon sat to receive the queen.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(45) ]I resign myself. “The queen of Sabá having by these words professed Islám and renounced idolatry, Solomon had thoughts of making her his wife; but could not resolve to do it till the devils had by a depilatory taken off the hair from her legs. Some, however, will have it that she did not marry Solomon, but a prince of the tribe of Hamdán.”—Sale, Jaláluddín, Baidháwi.
[(46) ]Thamúd. See chaps. vii. 74 and xxxi. 141.
[(47) ]Why . . . hasten evil, i.e., “Why do ye urge and defy the divine vengeance with which ye are threatened, instead of averting it by repentance?”—Sale.
[(48) ]The evil . . . is with God. Compare chap. vii. 132, “where Egyptians in the same manner accuse Moses as the cause of their calamities.”—Sale.
[(52) ]The issue of their plot. “It is related that Sálih and those who believed on him, usually meeting to pray in a certain narrow place between the mountains, the infidels said. ‘He thinks to make an end of us after three days, but we will be beforehand with him;’ and that a party of them went directly to the straits above mentioned, thinking to execute their design, but were terribly disappointed; for, instead of catching the prophet, they were caught themselves, their retreat being cut off by a large piece of rock which fell down at the mouth of the straits, so that they perished there in a miserable manner.”—Sale. The destruction referred to here is no doubt that mentioned chap. vii. 79.
[(55) ]Lot. See chaps. vii. 81-85, xi. 76-82, and xxvi. 160-175.
[(59) ]Warned in vain. See chaps. vii. 82 and xi. 80.
[(62) ]A bar between the two seas. See chap. xxv. 55. “The word barzakh is not used here, but another of equivalent import.”—Sale.
[(64) ]Forerunners of his mercy. See chaps. vii. 58 and xxv. 50.
[(66, 67) ]By both these texts Christ is proved to be God.
[(68) ]Their knowledge, &c. “Or the words may be translated thus: ‘Yea, their knowledge faileth as to the life to come; yea, &c.’ ”—Sale.
[(70) ]See chap. vii. 24, note.
[(78) ]This Qurán declareth, &c. “Such as the comparing of God to sensible things, or to created beings; the removing all imperfections from the description of the Divine Being; the state of paradise and hell; the stories of Ezra and Jesus Christ, &c.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(84) ]A beast, &c. “The Muhammadans call this a beast, whose appearance will be one sign of the approach of the day of judgment, al Jásúsa, or the Spy. I have given the description of her elsewhere (Prelim. Disc., p. 131), to which should be added that she is to have two wings.”—Sale. Comp. Rev. xiii.
[(85) ]Charged our signs with falsehood. See chap. iii. 185, and note there.
[(89) ]Except those . . . exempt. “See the Prelim. Disc., p. 135, &c. Some say the persons exempted from this general consternation will be the angels Gabriel, Michael, Israfíl, and Israíl; others suppose them to be the virgins of Paradise, and the angels who guard that place and carry God’s throne; and others will have them to be the martyrs.”—Sale, Ibn Abbás, Baidháwi.
[(92) ]From the terror, &c. “That is, from the fear of damnation and the other terrors which will disturb the wicked; not from the general terror or consternation before mentioned.”—Sale.
[(93, 94) ]I am commanded to be a Muslim. See note on chap. vi. 14. The word say must be understood here. Nöeldeke thinks it has been inadvertently dropped.
[(95) ]He will show you signs, viz., “the successes of the true believers against the infidels, and particularly the victory of Badr.”—Sale.