Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXIX.: ENTITLED SURAT AL ANQUBÚT (THE SPIDER). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 3
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CHAPTER XXIX.: ENTITLED SURAT AL ANQUBÚT (THE SPIDER). 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 ANQUBÚT (THE SPIDER).
This chapter owes its title to the mention of the spider in ver. 40. The matter differs little from that of several other Makkan chapters. There is strong indication of decided antipathy for the Prophet on the part of his Arab hearers. This was probably due to certain Jews having espoused the cause of Muhammad by becoming his disciples. These had said, “We believe in the revelation which hath been sent down unto us, and also in that which hath been sent unto you. Our God and your God is one, and unto him are we resigned.” So elated was Muhammad with this confession that he could say, “Of these Arabians also there are who believe therein, and none reject our signs except the obstinate infidels.” These he likens to the followers of Noah, Lot, and Moses, who would be destroyed in their sin and unbelief.
Two points are worthy of special mention. First, Muhammad indubitably accepted the Jewish Scriptures as genuine and uncorrupted. His Jewish disciples claimed to believe in their own Scriptures as well as in the Qurán, and their acceptance of the latter seems to have been due to a belief that it was attested by the former. This fact no doubt accounts for the numerous allusions to Scripture history in those chapters of the Qurán enunciated at this period in Muhammad’s ministry.
The second point to be noted here is the fact that Muhammad, though challenged by both Jewish and Arab unbelievers to perform miracles like those wrought by the former prophets to whom he likened himself, yet ever declined to do so, alleging that the Qurán was itself a sufficient miracle, which, with his ability to read and write, though taught by no one, should be sufficient to convince any one. Beyond this he could only say, “Signs are in the power of God alone, and I am no more than a public preacher” (ver. 49).
The latter verses of the chapter teach the folly of idolatry and the certainty of the resurrection and judgment, the final reward of true believers and the awful punishment of the infidels.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
According to Nöeldeke, vers. 1-10 belong to Madína, and were revealed subsequent to the battle of Badr, and perhaps also of Ohod. Their present position he ascribes to Muhammad himself. Vers. 7 and 8 are by some supposed to be Makkan, but this opinion rests upon a misinterpretation of them (see note on ver. 7 below). Nöeldeke also places ver. 45 among the Madínic revelations, but in order to do so he misinterprets the words “Dispute not against those who have the Scriptures unless in the mildest manner,” i.e., by the sword. But the passage plainly forbids the sword to be used except in self-defence.
The remainder of the chapter is generally admitted to belong to Makkah. As to the date, the only verse giving any clue to it is ver. 56, which exhorts to flight. Now as there were several flights of the Muslims, the question as to which is here alluded to must be decided by internal evidence drawn from the style and animus of the revelations themselves. The absence of any allusion to violent treatment of the Muslims would point to a comparatively early date, but the exhortation to flight implies persecution of some kind. Still from the fact that the withdrawal of the Prophet himself does not seem to be intended, we may fix the date with some probability at about the time of the first Abyssinian emigration.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) A. L. M. Do men imagine that it shall be sufficient for them to say, We believe; will they not be proved? (2) We heretofore proved those who were before them, for God will surely know them who are sincere, and he will surely know the liars. (3) Do they who work evil think that they shall prevent us from taking vengeance on them? An ill judgment do they make. (4) Whoso hopeth to meet God, verily God’s appointed time will certainly come, and he both heareth and knoweth. (5) Whoever striveth to promote the true religion striveth for the advantage of his own soul, for God needeth not any of his creatures; (6) and as to those who believe and work righteousness, we will expiate their evil deeds from them, and we will give them a reward according to the utmost merit of their actions. (7) We have commanded man to show kindness towards his parents, but if they endeavour to prevail with thee to associate with me that concerning which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not. Unto me shall ye return, and I will declare unto you what ye have done. (8) Those who shall believe and shall work righteousness we will surely introduce into Paradise among the upright. (9) There are some men who say, We believe in God; but when such a one is afflicted for God’s sake, he esteemeth the persecution of men to be as grievous as the punishment of God. Yet if success cometh from thy Lord, they say, Verily we are with you. Doth not God well know that which is in the breasts of his creatures? (10) Verily God well knoweth the true believers, and he well knoweth the hypocrites. (11) The unbelievers say unto those who believe, Follow our way and we will bear your sins. Howbeit they shall not bear any part of their sins, for they are liars; (12) but they shall surely bear their own burdens, and other burdens besides their own burdens; and they shall be examined on the day of resurrection concerning that which they have falsely devised.
∥ (13) We heretofore sent Noah unto his people, and he tarried among them one thousand years, save fifty years, and the deluge took them away while they were acting unjustly; (14) but we delivered him and those who were in the ark, and we made the same a sign unto all creatures. (15) We also sent Abraham, when he said unto his people, Serve God and fear him; this will be better for you, if ye understand. (16) Ye only worship idols besides God, and forge a lie. Verily those which ye worship besides God are not able to make any provision for you; seek, therefore, your provision from God, and serve him, and give thanks unto him: unto him shall ye return. (17) If ye charge me with imposture, verily sundry nations before you likewise charged their prophets with imposture, but public preaching only is incumbent on an apostle. (18) Do they not see how God produceth creatures and afterwards restoreth them? Verily this is easy with God. (19) Say, Go through the earth, and see how he originally produceth creatures; afterwards will God reproduce another production, for Godis almighty. (20) He will punish whom he pleaseth, and he will have mercy on whom he pleaseth. Before him shall ye be brought at the day of judgment,(21) and ye shall not escape his reach, either in earth or in heaven, neither shall ye have any patron or defender besides God.
∥ (22) As for those who believe not in the signs of God, or that they shall meet him at the resurrection, they shall despair of my mercy, and for them is a painful punishment prepared.(23) And the answer of his people was no other than that they said, Slay him or burn him. But God saved him from the fire. Verily herein were signs unto people who believed. (24) And Abraham said, Ye have taken idols besides Godto cement affection between you in this life: but on the day of resurrection, the one of you shall deny the other, and the one of you shall curse the other; and your abode shall be hell-fire, and there shall be none to deliver you. (25) And Lot believed on him. And Abraham said, Verily I fly from my people unto the place which my Lordhath commanded me; for he is the mighty, the wise. (26) And we gave him Isaac and Jacob; and we placed among his descendants the gift of prophecy and the Scriptures: and we gave him his reward in this world; and in the next he shall be one of the righteous. (27)We also sent Lot; when he said unto his people, Do ye commit filthiness which no creature hath committed before you? (28) Do ye approach lustfully unto men, and lay wait in the highways, and commit wickedness in your assembly? And the answer of his people was no other than that they said, Bring down the vengeance of God upon us, if thou speakest truth. (29) Lot said, O Lord, defend me against the corrupt people.
∥ (30) And when our messengers came unto Abraham with good tidings, they said, We will surely destroy the inhabitants of this city: for the inhabitants thereof are unjust doers. (31)Abraham answered, Verily Lot dwelleth there. They replied, We well know who dwelleth therein: we will surely deliver him and his family, except his wife; she shall be one of those who remain behind. (32) And when our messengers came unto Lot, he was troubled for them, and his arm was straitened concerning them. But they said, Fear not, neither be grieved; for we will deliver thee and thy family, except thy wife; for she shall be one of those who remain behind. (33) We will surely bring down upon the inhabitants of this city vengeance from heaven, for that they have been wicked doers; (34) and we have left thereof a manifest sign unto people who understand. (35) And unto the inhabitants of Madian we sent their brother Shuaib; and he said unto them, O my people, serve God and expect the last day; and transgress not, acting corruptly in the earth. (36) But they accused him of imposture; wherefore a storm from heaven assailed them, and in the morning they were found in their dwellings dead and prostrate. (37) And we also destroyed the tribes of Ád and Thamúd; and this is well known unto you from what yet remains of their dwellings. And Satan prepared their works for them, and turned them aside from the way of truth, although they were sagacious people.(38) And we likewise destroyed Qárún, and Pharaoh, and Hámán. Moses came unto them with evident miracles, and they behaved themselves insolently in the earth: but they could not escape our vengeance.(39) Every one of them did we destroy in his sin. Against some of them we sent a violent wind: some of them did a terrible noise from heaven destroy: some of them did we cause the earth to swallow up: and some of them we drowned. Neither was Goddisposed to treat them unjustly; but they dealt unjustly with their own souls. (40) The likeness of those who take other patrons besides God is as the likeness of the spider, which maketh herself a house: but the weakest of all houses surely is the house of the spider; if they knew this. (41) Moreover God knoweth what things they invoke besides him; and he is the mighty, the wise. (42) These similitudes do we propound unto men; but none understand them except the wise. (43) God hath created the heavens and the earth in truth; verily herein is a sign unto the true believers.
∥ (44) Rehearse that which hath been revealed unto thee of the book of the Qurán, and be constant at prayer; for prayer preserveth a man from filthy crimes, and from that which is blamable; and the remembering of God is surely a most important duty.God knoweth that which ye do. (45) Dispute not against those who have received the Scriptures, unless in the mildest manner; except against such of them as behave injuriously towards you: and say, We believe in the revelation which hath been sent down unto us, and also in that which hath been sent down unto you; our God and your God is one, and unto him are we resigned. (46) Thus have we sent down the book of the Qurán unto thee: and they unto whom we have given the former Scriptures believe therein; and of these Arabians also there are who believe therein: and none reject our signs, except the obstinate infidels. (47) Thou couldest not read any book before this; neither couldest thou write it with thy right hand: then had the gainsayers justly doubted of the divine original thereof. (48) But the same is evident signs in the breasts of those who have received understanding: for none reject our signs except the unjust. (49) They say, Unless a sign be sent down unto him from his Lord,we will not believe. Answer, Signs are in the power of God alone; and I am no more than a public preacher. (50) Is it not sufficient for them that we have sent down unto thee the book of the Qurán, to be read unto them? Verily herein is a mercy, and an admonition unto people who believe.
∥ (51) Say, God is a sufficient witness between me and you: (52) he knoweth whatever is in heaven and earth; and those who believe in vain idols and deny God, they shall perish. (53) They will urge thee to hasten the punishment which they defy thee to bring down upon them: if there had not been a determined time for their respite, the punishment had come upon them before this; but it shall surely overtake them suddenly, and they shall not foresee it. (54) They urge thee to bring down vengeance swiftly upon them: but hell shall surely encompass the unbelievers. (55) On a certain day their punishment shall suddenly assail them, both from above them and from under their feet; and God shall say, Taste ye the reward of that which ye have wrought. (56) O my servants who have believed, verily my earth is spacious: wherefore serve me. (57) Every soul shall taste death: afterwards shall ye return unto us; (58) and as for those who shall have believed and wrought righteousness, we will surely lodge them in the higher apartments of Paradise; rivers shall flow beneath them, and they shall continue therein for ever. How excellent will be the reward of the workers of righteousness; (59) who persevere with patience and put their trust in their Lord! (60) How many beasts are there which provide not their food? It isGodwho provideth for them and for you; and he both heareth and knoweth. (61) Verily, if thou ask the Makkans who hath created the heavens and the earth, and hath obliged the sun and the moon to serve in their courses, they will answer, God. How therefore do they lie in acknowledging of other gods?(62)(62)God maketh abundant provision for such of his servants as he pleaseth; and is sparing unto him if he pleaseth: for God knoweth all things. (63) Verily if thou ask them who sendeth rain from heaven, and thereby quickeneth the earth after it hath been dead, they will answer, God. Say, God be praised! But the greater part of them do not understand.
∥ (64) This present life is no other than a toy and a plaything: but the future mansion of Paradise is life indeed: if they knew this they would not prefer the former to the latter. (65) When they sail in a ship, they call upon God, sincerely exhibiting unto him the true religion: but when he bringeth them safe to land, behold, they return to their idolatry; (66) to show themselves ungrateful for that which we have bestowed on them, and that they may enjoy the delights of this life; but they shall hereafter know the issue.(67) Do they not see that we have made the territory of Makkah an inviolable and secure asylum, when men are spoiled in the countries round about them? Do they therefore believe in that which is vain, and acknowledge not the goodness of God? (68) But who is more unjust than he who deviseth a lie against God, or denieth the truth when it hath come unto him? Is there not in hell an abode for the unbelievers? (69) Whoever do their utmost endeavour to promote our true religion, we will direct them into our ways; for God is with the righteous.
[(1) ]A. L. M. See Prelim. Disc., p. 101, and note on chap. ii. 1.
[(2) ]“This passage reprehends the impatience of some of the Prophet’s companions under the hardships which they sustained in defence of their religion, and the losses which they suffered from the infidels, representing to them that such trials and afflictions were necessary to distinguish the sincere person from the hypocrite, and the steady from the wavering. Some suppose it to have been occasioned by the death of Mahja, Omar’s slave, killed by an arrow at the battle of Badr, which was deeply lamented and laid to heart by his wife and parents.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(7) ]Obey them not. “That is, if they endeavour to pervert thee to idolatry. The passage is said to have been revealed on account of Saad Ibn Ábi Waqqás and his mother Hamna, who, when she heard that her son had embraced Muhammadism, swore that she would neither eat nor drink till he returned to his old religion, and kept her oath for three days.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(8) ]See notes on chap. ii. 25, and iii. 15, 31, 196.
[(9) ]See notes on chap. iii. 168, and iv. 70-75.
[(12) ]Burdens besides their own burdens, viz., “the guilt of seducing others, which shall be added to the guilt of their own obstinacy without diminishing the guilt of such as shall be seduced by them.”—Sale.
[(13) ]Noah. See notes on chap. vii. 60-65.
[(14) ]The same a sign. The ark is here intended, though, according to Muhammad’s usage, Noah’s family should have been the sign. The Tafsír-i-Raufi makes the story of Noah to be the sign.
[(17) ]If ye charge me with imposture. “This seems to be part of Abraham’s speech to his people; but some suppose that God here speaks, by way of apostrophe, first to the Quraish and afterwards to Muhammad, and that the parenthesis is continued to these words, ‘And the answer of his people was no other,’ &c. In which case we should have said, ‘If ye charge Muhammad your Apostle with imposture,’ &c.”—Sale.
[(18) ]Afterwards restoreth them. “The infidels are bid to consider how God causeth the fruits of the earth to spring forth, and reneweth them every year, as in the preceding, which is an argument of his power to raise man, whom he created at first, to life again after death at his own appointed time.”—Sale.
[(21) ]Either in earth or in heaven. Comp. Ps. cxxxix. 7, &c.
[(23) ]This verse confirms our view of ver. 17 above. Abraham’s speech, in language over and over used by Muhammad elsewhere, ends with ver. 22. Wahl supposes these verses (17-22) to be interpolated from some other sura, perhaps by the compilers.
[(25) ]Comp. chap. xxi. 71.
[(26) ]Compare the following passages to see the way in which the Qurán represents Abraham as related to other prophets:—ii. 127; vi. 85; xix. 50; xxi. 72.
[(27) ]Lot. See notes on chap. vii. 81-85.
[(28) ]The highways. “Some suppose the Sodomites robbed and murdered the passengers; others that they unnaturally abused their bodies.”—Sale.
[(30) ]See notes on chap. xi. 69.
[(31, 32) ]See chaps. vii. 84, xi. 69, xxvi. 171.
[(34) ]A manifest sign, viz., “the story of its destruction, handed down by common tradition; or else its ruins, or some other footsteps of this signal judgment; it being pretended that several of the stones which fell from heaven on those cities are still to be seen, and that the ground where they stood appears burnt and blackish.”—Sale.
[(35, 36) ]Shuaib. See chap. vii. 86-91, and xi. 83-95.
[(37) ]Ad and Thamúd. See chaps. vii. 66-80, and xi. 50-68.
[(38) ]See notes on chap. xxviii. 38 and 76.
[(39) ]A violent wind. “The original word properly signifies a wind that drives the gravel and small stones before it; by which the storm or shower of stones which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah seems to be intended.”—Sale.
[(40) ]Comp. Job viii. 13-15, and Isaiah lix. 5.
[(44) ]“The value of prayer as a means of moral elevation and the purification of the heart has been clearly set forth in the Koran.” So writes Syed Amir Ali in his Life of Muhammad, p. 175. But the world’s experience is that much prayer, especially when of the stereotyped formal character so prevalent among Muslims, is consistent with the most profound hypocrisy and the worst forms of wickedness. The history of Islám, not to mention the Islám of today, presents a strange commentary upon the words of the Syed just quoted. But see note on chap. ii. 238.
[(45) ]Dispute . . . in the mildest manner, i.e., “without ill language or passion. This verse is generally supposed to have been abrogated by that of the Sword; though some think it relates only to those who are in alliance with the Muslims.”—Sale.
[(47) ]The clear inference from this passage is that Muhammad could write at the time this revelation was rehearsed. Muslims usually understand the passage to declare that Muhammad was unable to write or read at all, and that, for this reason, his Qurán is a miracle. Some, however, according to the Tafsír-i-Raufi, evidently influenced by the words before this, understand that Muhammad, though at first ignorant, was now miraculously enabled to read and write. Others understand this miraculous gift to have been given at the beginning of his ministry. Granting, however, that Muhammad was assisted by amanuenses, as the Quraish believed, his own inability to read and write would be of little account in any attempt to prove the miraculous character of the Qurán.
[(49) ]See notes on chaps. ii. 118, 119, and iii. 184, and references there.
[(53) ]See chap. vi. 57.
[(56) ]My earth is spacious. “That is, if ye cannot serve me in one city or country, fly into another, where ye may profess the true religion in safety; for the earth is wide enough, and ye may easily find places of refuge. Muhammad is said to have declared, that whoever flies for the sake of his religion, though he stir but the distance of a span, merits Paradise, and shall be the companion of Abraham and of himself.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(57) ]Every soul shall taste death. See note on chap. iii. 186.
[(61-63) ]Comp. chap. xxiii. 85-89.
[(62) ]God knoweth all things. “And particularly who will make a good, and who will make a bad use of their riches.”—Sale.
[(64) ]See note on chap. ii. 25.
[(67) ]An inviolable and secure asylum. See note on chap. iii. 97.