Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXXIV.: ENTITLED SURAT US SABÁ (SABA). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 3
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CHAPTER XXXIV.: ENTITLED SURAT US SABÁ (SABA). 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 US SABÁ (SABA).
This chapter owes its title to the mention (ver. 14) of a country of that name in Arabia Felix, the fate of whose inhabitants is presented as a warning to the unbelieving Quraish.
As to its contents, this chapter differs little from other Makkan revelations of the earlier stages of Muhammad’s ministry. The Prophet rebukes his townsmen on account of their idolatry and unbelief. He assures them that God will bring them into judgment and punish their obstinate infidelity. He tells them that their deities will be helpless to save them, that the angels, whom they worshipped as intercessors, would reject them as the followers of devils, and that the rich and influential idolaters of Makkah, while denying their evil deeds, would be reproached by their weakminded followers as the cause of their destruction. Finally, he tells them they should repent at last, saying, “We believe in him,” but all too late to be of any avail.
The attitude of the people of Makkah at the time this chapter was enunciated was that of determined opposition to the claims of Muhammad. Certain Jews had professed to believe in the Qurán (ver. 6), but this fact, while affording to Muhammad an occasion for alluding to certain Jewish traditions respecting David and Solomon illustrating God’s favour to his prophets, seems to have aroused still stronger opposition to himself among the leaders of the idolaters in Makkah. They accused him of forgery, and imposture, and madness, and defied him to hasten the judgments of God he had threatened against them. In reply to these accusations Muhammad protested his innocence and declared himself to be a warner, whose God would judge between him and his calumniators.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
That this whole chapter belongs to an early period in Muhammad’s ministry is evident from the character of its contents and the attitude of the unbelievers as revealed therein. It is, however, impossible to do more than fix an approximate date, which, according to Muir, is about the third stage of the ministry at Makkah. Rodwell, following Noëldeke, seems to place it a little later.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) Praise be unto God, unto whom belongeth whatever is in the heavens and on earth: and unto him be praise in the world to come; for he is wise and intelligent. (2) He knoweth whatsoever entereth into the earth and whatsoever cometh out of the same, and whatsoever descendeth from heaven, and whatsoever ascendeth thereto: and he is merciful and ready to forgive. (3) The unbelievers say, The hour of judgment will not come unto us. Answer, Yea, by my Lord, it will surely come unto you; it is he who knoweth the hidden secret: the weight of an ant, either in heaven or in earth, is not absent from him, nor anything lesser than this or greater, but the same is written in the perspicuous book of his decrees; (4) that he may recompense those who shall have believed and wrought righteousness: they shall receive pardon and an honourable provision. (5) But they who endeavour to render our signs of none effect shall receive a punishment of painful torment. (6) Those unto whom knowledge hath been given, see that the book which hath been revealed unto thee from thy Lord is the truth, and directeth into the glorious and laudable way. (7) The unbelievers say to one another, Shall we show you a man who shall prophesy unto you, that when ye shall have been dispersed with a total dispersion, ye shall be raised a new creature? (8) He hath forged a lie concerning God, or rather he is distracted. But they who believe not in the life to come shall fall into punishment and a wide error. (9) Have they not therefore considered what is before them, and what is behind them, of the heaven and the earth? If we please, we will cause the earth to open and swallow them up, or will cause a piece of the heaven to fall upon them: verily herein is a sign unto every servant who turneth unto God.
∥ (10) We heretofore bestowed on David excellence from us, and we said, O mountains, sing alternate praises with him, and we obliged the birds also to join therein. And we softened the iron for him, saying, Make thereof complete coats of mail, and rightly dispose the small plates which compose the same, and work ye righteousness, O family of David, for I see that which ye do. (11) And we made the wind subject unto Solomon; it blew in the morning for a month, and in the evening for a month. And we made a fountain of molten brass to flow for him. And some of the genii were obliged to work in his presence, by the will of his Lord; and whoever of them turned aside from our command we will cause him to taste the pain of hell-fire. (12) They made for him whatever he pleased of palaces and statues, and large dishes like fish-ponds, and cauldrons standing firm on their trevets; and we said, Work righteousness, O family of David, with thanksgiving, for few of my servants are thankful. (13) And when we had decreed that Solomon should die, nothing discovered his death unto them except the creeping thing of the earth which gnawed his staff. And when his body fell down, the genii plainly perceived that if they had known that which is secret they had not continued in a vile punishment. (14)The descendants of Sabá had heretofore a sign in their dwelling, namely, two gardens on the right hand and on the left, and it was said unto them, Eat ye of the provision of your Lord, and give thanks unto him, ye have a good country and a gracious Lord.(15) But they turned aside from what we had commanded them, wherefore we sent against them the inundation of al Aram, and we changed their two gardens for them into two gardens producing bitter fruit, and tamarisks, and some little fruit of the lote-tree. (16) This we gave them in reward because they were ungrateful: is any thus rewarded except the ungrateful? (17) And we placed between them and the cities which we have blessed cities situated near each other, and we made the journey easy between them, saying, Travel through the same by night and by day in security. (18) But they said, O Lord, put a greater distance between our journey, and they were unjust unto themselves; and we made them the subject of discourse, and dispersed them with a total dispersion. Verily herein are signs unto every patient, grateful person. (19) And Iblís found his opinion of them to be true, and they followed him, except a party of the true believers; (20) and he had no power over them unless to tempt them, that we might know him who believed in the life to come from him who doubted thereof. Thy Lord observeth all things.
∥ (21) Say unto the idolaters, Call upon those whom ye imagine to be gods besides God; they are not masters of the weight of an ant in heaven or on earth, neither have they any share in the creation or government of the same, nor is any of them assistant to him therein.(22) No intercession will be of service in his presence except the intercession of him to whom he shall grant permission to intercede for others, and they shall wait in suspense until, when the terror shall be taken off from their hearts, they shall say to one another, What doth your Lord say? They shall answer, That which is just, and he is the high, the great God. (23) Say, Who provideth food for you from heaven and earth? Answer, God; and either we or ye follow the true direction, or are in a manifest error. (24) Say, ye shall not be examined concerning what we shall have committed, neither shall we be examined concerning what ye shall have done. (25) Say, Our Lord will assemble us together at the last day, then he will judge between us with truth: and he is the judge, the knowing. (26) Say, Show me those whom ye have joined as partners with him? Nay, rather he is the mighty, the wise God.(27) We have not sent thee otherwise than unto mankind in general, a bearer of good tidings and a denouncer of threats, but the greater part of men do not understand. (28) And they say, When will this threat be fulfilled, if ye speak truth? (29) Answer, A threat is denounced unto you of a day which ye shall not retard one hour, neither shall ye hasten.
∥ (30) The unbelievers say, We will by no means believe in this Qurán, nor in that which hath been revealed before it. But if thou couldest see when the unjust doers shall be set before their Lord! They will iterate discourse with one another: those who were esteemed weak shall say unto those who behaved themselves arrogantly, Had it not been for you, verily we had been true believers.
∥ (31) They who behaved themselves arrogantly shall say unto those who were esteemed weak, Did we turn you aside from the true direction after it had come unto you? On the contrary, ye acted wickedly of your own free choice.(32) And they who were esteemed weak shall say unto those who behaved with arrogance, Nay, but the crafty plot which ye devised by night and by day occasioned our ruin, when ye commanded us that we should not believe in God, and that we should set up other gods as equals unto him. And they shall conceal their repentance, after they shall have seen the punishment prepared for them. And we will put yokes on the necks of those who shall have disbelieved: shall they be rewarded any otherwise than according to what they shall have wrought? (33) We have sent no warner unto any city, but the inhabitants thereof who lived in affluence said, Verily we believe not that with which ye are sent. (34) And those of Makkah also say, We abound in riches and children more than ye, and we shall not be punished hereafter. (35) Answer, Verily my Lord will bestow provision in abundance unto whom he pleaseth, and will be sparing unto whom he pleaseth; but the greater part of men know not this.
∥ (36) Neither your riches nor your children are the things which shall cause you to draw nigh unto us with a near approach: only whoever believeth and worketh righteousness, they shall receive a double reward for that which they shall have wrought; and they shall dwell in security in the upper apartments of Paradise. (37) But they who shall endeavour to render our signs of none effect shall be delivered up to punishment. (38) Say, Verily my Lord will bestow provision in abundance unto whom he pleaseth of his servants, and will be sparing unto whom he pleaseth: and whatever thing ye shall give in alms, he will return it; and he is the best provider of food. (39) On a certain day he shall gather them altogether: then shall he say unto the angels, Did these worship you? (40)And the angels shall answer, God forbid! thou art our friend, and not these: but they worshipped devils; the greater part of them believed in them. (41) On this day the one of you shall not be able either to profit or to hurt the other. And we will say unto those who have acted unjustly, Taste ye the pain of hell-fire, which ye rejected as a falsehood. (42) When our evident signs are read unto them, they say of thee, O Muhammad, this is no other than a man who seeketh to turn you aside from the gods which your fathers worshipped. And they say of the Qurán, This is no other than a lie blasphemously forged. And the unbelievers say of the truth when it is come unto them, This is no other than manifest sorcery: (43) yet we have given them no books of Scripture wherein to exercise themselves, nor have we sent unto them any warner before thee. (44) They who were before them in like manner accused their prophets of imposture: but these have not arrived unto the tenth part of the riches and strength which we had bestowed on the former: and they accused my apostles of imposture; and how severe was my vengeance!
∥ (45) Say, Verily I advise you unto one thing, namely, that ye stand before God by two and two and singly; and then consider seriously, and you will find that there is no madness in your companion Muhammad: he is no other than a warner unto you, sent before a severe punishment. (46) Say, I ask not of you any reward for my preaching; it is your own, either to give or not: my reward is to be expected from God alone; and he is witness over all things. (47) Say, Verily my Lord sendeth down the truth to his prophets: he is the knower of secrets. (48) Say, Truth is come, and falsehood is vanished, and shall not return any more. (49) Say, If I err, verily I shall err only against my own soul; but if I be rightly directed, it will be by that which my Lord revealeth unto me; for he is ready to hear, and nigh unto those who call upon him.(50) If thou couldest see when the unbelievers shall tremble, and shall find no refuge, and shall be taken from a near place, (51) and shall say, We believe in him! But how shall they receive the faith from a distant place, (52) since they had before denied him and reviled the mysteries of faith from a distant place? (53) And a bar shall be placed between them and that which they shall desire: (54) as it hath been done with those who behaved like them heretofore: because they have been in a doubt which hath caused scandal.
[(2) ]Whatsoever entereth into the earth. “As the rain, hidden treasures, the dead, &c.”—Sale.
[(6) ]Those . . . see that the book, &c. See note on chap. vi. 20.
[(8) ]He hath forged a lie, &c. See notes on chaps. iii. 137, 185, vi. 48, 94, vii. 203, xvi. 105, xxi. 5, and xxvi. 26.
[(9) ]Compare chap. xxviii. 76.
[(10) ]See notes on chaps. xxi. 79 and xxvii. 16-45.
[(11) ]The wind. See notes on chap. xxi. 81 and xxvii. 16-45.
[(12) ]Statues. “Some suppose these were images of the angels and prophets, and that the making of them was not then forbidden, or else that they were not such images as were forbidden by the law. Some say these spirits made him two lions, which were placed at the foot of his throne, and two eagles, which were set above it, and that when he mounted it the lions stretched out their paws, and when he sat down the eagles shaded him with their wings.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(13) ]The creeping thing, &c. “The commentators to explain this passage tell us that David having laid the foundations of the temple of Jerusalem, which was to be in lieu of the tabernacle of Moses, when he died left it to be finished by his son Solomon, who employed the genii in the work; that Solomon, before the edifice was quite completed, perceiving his end drew nigh, begged of God that his death might be concealed from the genii till they had entirely finished it; that God therefore so ordered it that Solomon died as he stood at his prayers, leaning on his staff, which supported the body in that position a full year; and the genii, supposing him to be alive, continued their work during that term, at the expiration whereof the temple being perfectly completed, a worm, which had gotten into the staff, ate it through, and the corpse fell to the ground and discovered the king’s death.
[(14) ]Sabá. Situated in Arabia Felix, about thirty miles from Sanaa, and important as a trade emporium.
[(15) ]The inundation of al Aram. “The commentators set down several significations of the word al Aram which are scarce worth mentioning. It most properly signifies mounds or dams for the stopping or containing of water, and is here used for that stupendous mound or building which formed the vast reservoir above the city of Sabá, described in another place (Prelim. Disc., p. 27), and which, for the great impiety, pride, and insolence of the inhabitants, was broken down in the night by a mighty flood and occasioned a terrible destruction. Al Baidháwi supposes this mound was the work of Queen Balqís, and that the above-mentioned catastrophe happened after the tune of Jesus Christ, wherein he seems to be mistaken.”—Sale.
[(17) ]The cities which we have blessed, viz., the cities of Syria, with which the people of Yaman traded.
[(18) ]A greater distance. “This petition they made out of covetousness, that the poor being obliged to be longer on the road, they might make greater advantages in letting out their cattle and furnishing the travellers with provision; and God was pleased to punish them by granting them their wish, and permitting most of the cities which were between Sabá and Syria to be ruined and abandoned.”—Sale.
[(19) ]Iblís found, &c. “Either his opinion of the Sabeans, when he saw them addicted to pride and ingratitude and the satisfying their lusts, or the opinion he entertained of all mankind at the fall of Adam, or at his creation when he heard the angels say, ‘Wilt thou place in the earth one who will do evil therein and shed blood?”—Sale.
[(22) ]No intercession, &c. See note on chap. xx. 108.
[(27) ]This was Muhammad’s claim at Makkah in answer to the demand of the Quraish that he should perform miracles, as other prophets did, in attestation of his prophetic claims. See chap. ii. 119.
[(30) ]We will by no means believe. “It is said that the infidels of Makkah, having inquired of the Jews and Christians concerning the mission of Muhammad, were assured by them that they found him described as the prophet who should come, both in the Pentateuch and in the Gospel; at which they were very angry, and brake out into the words here recorded.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(32) ]They shall conceal their repentance. See note on chap. x. 55
[(36) ]See note on chap. iii. 31, and references there.
[(39-41) ]Compare chap. xxxviii. 61-66, and see notes there.
[(42) ]A lie blasphemously forged. See above on ver. 8.
[(43) ]Brinckman thinks this verse and others of a similar import contradict those verses where it is said, “There hath been no nation but a preacher hath in past times been conversant among them.” (chap. xxxv. 22). But the contradiction is only apparent. The latter class of passages refer to the past ages or generations, whereas the former class refers entirely to the Arabians of Muhammad’s own time, to whom Muhammad declares himself to have been sent.
[(44) ]See notes on chaps. iii. 11, vi. 48, and introd. to chap. vii.
[(45) ]Two and two, and singly, i.e., “that ye set yourselves to deliberate and judge of me and my pretensions coolly and sincerely, as in the sight of God, without passion or prejudice. The reason why they are ordered to consider either alone, or by two and two at most together, is because in larger assemblies, where noise, passion, and prejudice generally prevail, men have not that freedom of judgment which they have in private.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(46) ]I ask not . . . reward. “Muhammad having in the preceding words answered the imputation of madness or vain enthusiasm by appealing to their cooler thoughts of him and his actions, endeavours by these to clear himself of the suspicion of any worldly view or interest, declaring that he desired no salary or support from them for executing his commission, but he expected his wages from God alone.”—Sale.
[(50) ]The unbelievers shall tremble, viz., “at their death, or the day of judgment, or the battle of Badr.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(51) ]A distant place, i.e., “when they are in the other world; whereas faith is to be received in this.”—Sale.
[(53) ]A bar. See note on chap. xxiii. 99.