Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXXVII.: ENTITLED SURAT US SÁFÁT (THE RANKS). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 3
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CHAPTER XXXVII.: ENTITLED SURAT US SÁFÁT (THE RANKS). 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 SÁFÁT (THE RANKS).
This chapter owes its title to the statement with which it begins. In matter and style it does not differ much from other chapters belonging to the earlier stages of Muhammad’s mission. Like the earliest chapters, it begins with a number of oaths, as though violent assertion would sufficiently attest the prophetic character of the Qurán and its author in the absence of the ordinary signs of prophecy and inspiration.
The principal object of the revelations of this chapter, as in chap. xi., is to establish the claims of Muhammad to be a prophet of God, and to convince the people of Makkah of the folly of idolatry and the need of receiving the one true God as the sole object of their worship. Muhammad likens himself to the former prophets, whose history he relates as a warning to his townsmen. The former prophets had preached against idols and endeavoured to lead their people to believe in the true God, but they had been rejected as impostors by an unbelieving people, who were destroyed by divine judgments on account of their infidelity, while the prophets were blessed and their names were made honourable to the latest posterity. These narratives seem to have been given in answer to the demand of the unbelievers at Makkah (compare ver. 69 with 165).
As observed in regard to the preceding chapter, the great subjects of dispute were the doctrines of the resurrection and the final judgment. The possibility of the resurrection is established by Muhammad on the ground that an Almighty Creator can surely re-create. He who is the Author of life and being can give life to the dead.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
All authorities agree that this chapter, in its entirety, is Makkan. Noëldeke shows that it is connected in all its parts, and therefore may be regarded as a complete discourse. We have no data wherewith to determine the date of this chapter beyond what may be gathered from its style and contents. The opening words are in the style of the earliest chapters. The matter is that of simple discourse, no violent opposition on the part of the Prophet’s hearers is apparent. The spirit of the discourse points to a time when Muhammad’s preaching was met by a stolid and contemptuous opposition on the part of his hearers (see vers. 11-15 and 34, 35), which time would be about the end of the third stage, or say the fourth year of Muhammad’s mission (b.h. 9).
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) By the angels who rank themselves in order, (2) and by those who drive forward and dispel the clouds, (3) and by those who read the Qurán for an admonition, (4) verily your God is one, (5) the Lord of heaven and earth, and of whatever is between them, and the Lord of the east. (6) We have adorned the lower heaven with the ornament of the stars, (7) and we have placed therein a guard against every rebellious devil, (8) that they may not listen to the discourse of the exalted princes, (9) (for they are darted at from every side to repel them, and a lasting torment is prepared for them), (10) except him who catcheth a word by stealth, and is pursued by a shining flame. (11) Ask the Makkans, therefore, whether they be stronger by nature, or the angels whom we have created? We have surely created them of stiff clay. (12) Thou wonderest at God’s power and their obstinacy; but they mock at the arguments urged to convince them: (13) when they are warned, they do not take warning; (14) and when they see any sign, they scoff thereat, (15) and say, This is no other than manifest sorcery; (16) after we shall be dead, and become dust and bones, shall we really be raised to life? (17) and our forefathers also? (18) Answer, Yea: and ye shall then be despicable. (19) There shall be but one blast of the trumpet, and they shall see themselves raised:(20) and they shall say, Alas for us! this is the day of judgment; (21) this is the day of distinction between the righteous and the wicked, which ye rejected as a falsehood.
∥ (22) Gather together those who have acted unjustly, and their comrades, and the idols which they worshipped, (23) besides God, and direct them in the way to hell; (24) and set them before God’s tribunal; for they shall be called to account.
∥ (25) What aileth you that ye defend not one another? (26) But on this day they shall submit themselves to the judgment of God; (27) and they shall draw nigh unto one another, and shall dispute among themselves. (28)And the seduced shall say unto those who seduced them, Verily ye came unto us with presages of prosperity; (29) and the seducers shall answer, Nay, rather ye were not true believers: for we had no power over you to compel you; but ye were people who voluntarily transgressed: (30) wherefore the sentence of our Lord hath been justly pronounced against us, and we shall surely taste his vengeance. (31) We seduced you; but we also erred ourselves. (32) They shall both therefore be made partakers of the same punishment on that day. (33) Thus will we deal with the wicked: (34) because, when it is said unto them, There is no god besides the trueGod, they swell with arrogance, (35) and say, Shall we abandon our gods for a distracted poet? (36) Nay; he cometh with the truth, and beareth witness to the former apostles. (37) Ye shall surely taste the painful torment of hell; (38) and ye shall not be rewarded, but according to your works. (39) But as for the sincere servants of God,(40) they shall have a certain provision in Paradise, namely, delicious fruits; (41) and they shall be honoured: (42)they shall be placed in gardens of pleasure, (43)leaning on couches, opposite to one another: (44) a cup shall be carried round unto them, (45)filled from a limpid fountain, for the delight of those who drink: (46) it shall not oppress the understanding, neither shall they be inebriated therewith. (47)(47) And near them shall lie the virgins of Paradise, refraining their looks from beholding any besides their spouses, having large black eyes, and resembling the eggs of an ostrich covered with feathers from the dust.(48) And they shall turn the one unto the other, and shall ask one another questions. (49) And one of them shall say, Verily I had an intimate friend while I lived in the world, (50) who said unto me, Art thou one of those who assertest the truth of the resurrection? (51) After we shall be dead, and reduced to dust and bones, shall we surely be judged? (52) Then he shall say to his companions, Will ye look down? (53) And he shall look down, and shall see him in the midst of hell: (54) and he shall say unto him, By God, it wanted little but thou hadst drawn me into ruin: (55) and had it not been for the grace of my Lord, I had surely been one of those who have been delivered up to eternal torment. (56) Shall we die any other than our first death; (57) or do we suffer any punishment? (58) Verily this is great felicity: (59) for the obtaining a felicity like this let the labourers labour. (60) Is this a better entertainment, or the tree of al Zaqqúm? (61) Verily we have designed the same for an occasion of dispute unto the unjust. (62) It is a tree which issueth from the bottom of hell: (63) the fruit thereof resembleth the heads of devils; (64) and the damned shall eat of the same, and shall fill their bellies therewith; (65) and there shall be given them thereon a mixture of filthy and boiling water to drink; (66) afterwards shall they return into hell. (67) They found their fathers going astray, (68) and they trod hastily in their footsteps; (69) for the greater part of the ancients erred before them. (70) And we sent warners unto them heretofore: (71) and see how miserable was the end of those who were warned, (72) except the sincere servants of God.(73) Noah called on us in former days, and we heard him graciously;
∥ (74) And we delivered him and his family out of the great distress, (75) and we caused his offspring to be those who survived to people the earth;(76) and we left the following salutation to be bestowed on him by the latest posterity, (77)namely, Peace be on Noah among all creatures! (78) Thus do we reward the righteous, (79) for he was one of our servants the true believers. (80) Afterwards we drowned the others. (81)(81) Abraham also was of his religion, (82) when he came unto his Lord with a perfect heart. (83) When he said unto his father and his people, What do ye worship? (84) Do ye choose false gods preferably to the trueGod? (85) What, therefore, is your opinion of the Lord of all creatures? (86) And he looked and observed the stars (87)(87) and said, Verily, I shall be sick, and shall not assist at your sacrifices;(88)(88) and they turned their backs and departed from him. (89) And Abraham went privately to their gods and said scoffingly unto them, Do ye not eat of the meat which is set before you?(90) What aileth you that ye speak not? (91) And he turned upon them, and struck them with his right hand, and demolished them.(92) And the people came hastily unto him, (93)and he said, Do ye worship the images which ye carve? (94) whereas God hath created you, and also that which ye make. (95) They said, Build a pile for him, and cast him into the glowing fire. (96) And they devised a plot against him, but we made them the inferior and delivered him. (97) And Abraham said, Verily I am going unto my Lord, who will direct me. (98) O Lord, grant me a righteous issue.(99) Wherefore we acquainted him that he should have a son, who should be a meek youth. (100) And when he had attained to years of discretion, and could join in acts of religion with him, (101)Abraham said unto him, O my son, verily I saw in a dream that I should offer thee in sacrifice, consider therefore what thou art of opinion I should do. (102) He answered, O my father, do what thou art commanded; thou shalt find me, if God please, a patient person. (103) And when they had submitted themselves to the divine will, and Abraham had laid his son prostrate on his face, (104) we cried unto him, O Abraham, (105) now hast thou verified the vision. Thus do we reward the righteous. (106) Verily this was a manifest trial. (107) And we ransomed him with a noble victim. (108) And we left the following salutation to be bestowed on him by the latest posterity, (109) namely, Peace be on Abraham! (110) Thus do we reward the righteous, (111) for he was one of our faithful servants. (112) And we rejoiced him with the promise of Isaac, a righteous prophet; (113) and we blessed him and Isaac; and of their offspring were some righteous doers, and others who manifestly injured their own souls.
∥ (114) We were also gracious unto Moses and Aaron heretofore, (115) and we delivered them and their people from a great distress. (116) And we assisted them against the Egyptians, and they became the conquerors. (117) And we gave them the perspicuous book of the law,(118) and we directed them into the right way, (119) and we left the following salutation to be bestowed on them by the latest posterity, (120)namely, Peace be on Moses and Aaron! (121) Thus do we reward the righteous, (122) for they were two of our faithful servants. (123) And Elias was also one of those who were sent by us. (124) When he said unto his people, Do ye not fear God? (125) Do ye invoke Baal and forsake the most excellent Creator? (126) Godis your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers. (127) But they accused him of imposture, (128) wherefore they shall be delivered up to eternal punishment, except the sincere servants of God. (129) And we left the following salutation to be bestowed on him by the latest posterity, (130)namely, Peace be on Ilyásín! (131) Thus do we reward the righteous, (132) for he was one of our faithful servants. (133) And Lot was also one of those who were sent by us.(134) When we delivered him and his whole family, (135)(135) except an old woman, his wife, who perished among those that remained behind; (136) afterwards we destroyed the others. (137) And ye, O people of Makkah, pass by the places where they once dwelt, as ye journey in the morning (138) and by night; will ye not therefore understand?
∥ (139) Jonas was also one of those who were sent by us.(140) When he fled into the loaded ship, (141)(141) and those who were on board cast lots among themselves, and he was condemned: (142)(142) and the fish swallowed him; for he was worthy of reprehension. (143)(143) And if he had not been one of those who praised God,(144) verily he had remained in the belly thereof until the day of resurrection.
∥ (145)(145) And we cast him on the naked shore, and he was sick; (146)(146) and we caused a plant of a gourd to grow up over him; (147) and we sent him to an hundred thousand persons, or they were a greater number, (148) and they believed: wherefore we granted them to enjoy this life for a season. (149) Inquire of the Makkans whether thy Lord hath daughters, and they sons. (150) Have we created the angels of the female sex? and were they witnesses thereof? (151) Do they not say of their own false invention, (152)God hath begotten issue? and are they not really liars? (153) Hath he chosen daughters preferably to sons? (154) Ye have no reason to judge thus. (155) Will ye therefore not be admonished? (156) Or have ye a manifest proof of what ye say? (157) Produce now your book of revelations, if ye speak truth. (158) And they make him to be of kin unto the genii; whereas the genii know that they who affirm such things shall be delivered up to eternal punishment; (159) (far be that from God which they affirm of him!), (160) except the sincere servants of God. (161) Moreover, ye and that which ye worship (162) shall not seduce any concerning God,(163) except him who is destined to be burned in hell. (164) There is none of us but hath an appointed place: (165) we range ourselves in order, attending the commands of God;(166) and we celebrate the divine praise. (167) The infidels said, (168) If we had been favoured with a book of divine revelations, of those which were delivered to the ancients, (169) we had surely been sincere servants of God! (170) yet now the Qurán is revealed, they believe not therein; but hereafter shall they know the consequence of their unbelief. (171) Our word hath formerly been given unto our servants the apostles; (172) that they shall certainly be assisted against the infidels,(173) and that our armies should surely be the conquerors. (174) Turn aside therefore from them for a season, (175) and see the calamities which shall afflict them; for they shall see thy future success and prosperity. (176) Do they therefore seek to hasten our vengeance? (177) Verily when it shall descend into their courts, an evil morning shall it be unto those who were warned in vain. (178) Turn aside from them therefore for a season, (179) and see: hereafter shall they see thy success and their punishment. (180) Praise be unto thy Lord, the Lord who is far exalted above what they affirm of him! (181) And peace be on his apostles! (182) And praise be unto God, the Lord of all creatures!
[(1, 2) ]Who rank themselves. “Some understand by these words the souls of men who range themselves in obedience to God’s laws, and put away from them all infidelity and corrupt doings; or the souls of those who rank themselves in battle array to fight for the true religion, and push on their horses to charge the infidels,” &c.—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(5) ]The Lord of the East. “The original word, being in the plural number, is supposed to signify the different points of the horizon from whence the sun rises in the course of the year, which are in number 360 (equal to the number of days in the old civil year), and have as many corresponding points where it successively sets during that space. Marracci groundlessly imagines this interpretation to be built on the error of the plurality of worlds.”—Sale, Baidhawi.
[(6-10) ]See notes on chap. xv. 17, 18
[(11) ]Stiff clay, i.e., man’s weakness is witnessed to by the material of which he is made.
[(16-21) ]Compare chap. xxxvi. 51-53, where see notes.
[(28) ]Presages of prosperity, literally, “ ‘from the right hand.’ The words may also be rendered, ‘with force,’ to compel us, or ‘with an oath,’ swearing that ye were in the right.”—Sale.
[(35) ]See note on chap. xxxvi. 69.
[(36) ]See note on chap. ii. 90.
[(39-48) ]See notes on chaps. iii. 15, 196, iv. 123, and xiii. 23.
[(47) ]Resembling the eggs. “This may seem an odd comparison to an European; but the Orientals think nothing comes so near the colour of a fine woman’s skin as that of an ostrich’s egg when kept perfectly clean.”—Sale.
[(60) ]Al Zaqqúm. “There is a thorny tree so called which grows in Taháma, and bears fruit like an almond, but extremely bitter; and therefore the same name is given to this infernal tree.”—Sale.
[(61) ]An occasion of dispute. “The infidels not conceiving how a tree could grow in hell, where the stones themselves serve for fuel.”—Sale.
[(63) ]Heads of devils, or, “of serpents to behold; the original word signifies both.”—Sale.
[(65) ]See notes on chap. ii. 38 and iii. 197.
[(66) ]“Some suppose that the entertainment above mentioned will be the welcome given to the damned before they enter that place; and others, that they will be suffered to come out of hell from time to time to drink their scalding liquor.”—Sale.
[(73-80) ]See notes on chaps. vii. 60-65 and xi. 29-49.
[(81-96) ]See notes on chaps. vi. 75-84 and xxi. 52-73.
[(81) ]Was of his religion. “For Noah and he agreed in the fundamental points both of faith and practice, though the space between them was no less than 2640 years.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(87) ]I shall be sick. “He made as if he gathered so much from the aspect of the heavens (the people being greatly addicted to the superstitions of astrology), and made it his excuse for being absent from their festival to which they had invited him.”—Sale.
[(88) ]Turned their backs, &c. “Fearing he had some contagious distemper.”—Sale.
[(99) ]A meek youth. The Qurán does not specify which of the sons of Abraham was laid on the altar as a sacrifice, but I think Ismáíl is clearly implied, seeing that the promise of Isaac, according to ver. 112 below, was given after the trial of Abraham’s faith.
[(100) ]Years of discretion. “He was then thirteen years old.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(101) ]Verily I saw in a dream, &c. “The commentators say that Abraham was ordered in a vision, which he saw on the eighth night of the month Dhul Hajja, to sacrifice his son; and to assure him that this was not from the devil, as he was inclined to suspect, the same vision was repeated a second time the next night, when he knew it to be from God, and also a third time the night following, when he resolved to obey it and to sacrifice his son; and hence some think the eighth, ninth, and tenth days of Dhul Hajja are called yom al tarwíya, yom ’arafat and yom al nahr, that is, ‘the day of the vision,’ ‘the day of knowledge,’ and ‘the day of the sacrifice.’
[(103) ]Prostrate on his face. “The commentators add that Abraham went so far as to draw the knife with all his strength across the lad’s throat, but was miraculously hindered from hurting him.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(107) ]We ransomed him. The idea of a vicarious offering is here clearly recognised as belonging to the religion of Abraham. On Muhammad’s use of such language see note on chap. iii. 194.
[(114-122) ]See notes on chaps. vii. 104-172, x. 76-90, xx. 8-98, xxvi. 9-68, and xxviii. 1-43.
[(123) ]Elias. “This prophet the Muhammadans generally suppose to be the same with al Khidhr, and confound him with Phineas (chap. xviii. 64), and sometimes with Idrís or Enoch. Some say he was the son of Yásín, and nearly related to Aaron, and others suppose him to have been a different person. He was sent to the inhabitants of Baalbec, in Syria, the Heliopolis of the Greeks, to reclaim them from the worship of their idol Baal, or the sun, whose name makes part of that of the city which was anciently called Becc.”—Sale, Jaláluddín, Baidháwi.
[(127) ]This is a charge which was constantly brought against Muhammad by his townsmen. See notes on chaps. iii. 185 and vi. 48.
[(130) ]Ilyásín. “The commentators do not well know what to make of this word. Some think it is the plural of Elias, or, as the Arabs write it, Ilyás, and that both that prophet and his followers, or those who resembled him, are meant thereby; others divide the word, and read ál Yásín, i.e., ‘the family of Yásín,’ who was the father of Elias, according to an opinion mentioned above; and others imagine it signifies Muhammad, or the Qurán, or some other book of Scripture. But the most probable conjecture is that Ilyás or Ilyásín are the same name, or design one and the same person, as Sinai or Sinin denote one and the same mountain, the last syllable being added here to keep up the rhyme or cadence at the close of the verse.”—Sale.
[(133-136) ]See notes on chaps. vii. 81-85 and xi. 74-82.
[(135) ]Those that remained behind. Muhammad does not seem to have known that Lot’s wife left Sodom before her destruction.
[(139-148) ]See notes on chaps. x. 98 and xxi. 87, 88.
[(141) ]Cast lots. “Al Baidháwi says the ship stood stock-still; wherefore they concluded that they had a fugitive servant on board, and cast lots to fing him out.”—Sale.
[(142) ]“When the lot fell on Jonas he cried out, ‘I am the fugitive!’ and immediately threw himself into the sea.”—Sale, Jaláluddín. Comp. Jonah i. 11-17.
[(143) ]Who praised God. “The words seem to relate particularly to Jona’s supplication while in the whale’s belly (Jonah chap. ii.)”—Sale.
[(145) ]He was sick. “By reason of what he had suffered, his body becoming like that of a new-born child. It is said that the fish, after it had swallowed Jonas, swam after the ship with its head above water, that the prophet might breathe, who continued to praise God till the fish came to land and vomited him out.
[(146) ]A gourd. “The original word properly signifies a plant which spreads itself upon the ground, having no erect stalk or stem to support it, and particularly a gourd; though some imagine Jonas’s plant to have been a fig, and others the small tree or shrub called Mauz, which bears very large leaves and excellent fruit. The commentators add, that this plant withered the next morning, and that Jonas being much concerned at it, God made a remonstrance to him on behalf of the Ninevites, agreeable to what is recorded in Scripture.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(149) ]See Prelim. Disc., p. 38 seq., and notes on chap. iv. 116.
[(152) ]See note on chap. ii. 116.
[(158) ]The genii. “That is, the angels, who are also comprehended under the name of genii, being a species of them. Some say that the infidels went so far as to assert that God and the devil were brothers, which blasphemous expression may have been occasioned by the Magian notions.”—Sale, Baidháwi. See also note on chap. vi. 101.
[(163) ]See note on chap. vii. 179, 180.
[(164-166) ]“These words are supposed to be spoken by the angels, disclaiming the worship paid to them by the idolaters, and declaring that they have each their station and office appointed them by God, whose commands they are at all times ready to execute, and whose praises they continually sing. There are some expositors, however, who think they are the words of Muhammad and his followers; the meaning being, that each of them has a place destined for him in Paradise, and that they are the men who range themselves in order before God to worship and pray to him, and who celebrate his praise by rejecting every false notion derogatory to the divine wisdom and power.”—Sale.
[(173) ]These words are applied by some of the commentators to the success of Islám in its struggle with idolatry and infidelity. Others regard it as a prophecy of the fall of Makkah. See Tafsír-i-Raufi, in loco. The passage looks like a Madína revelation, some declaring that the words of ver. 177 were uttered by Muhammad on his appearing before haibar. The best authorities, however, regard it as Makkan. The passage therefore expresses the strong confidence of Muhammad in the triumph of his cause, based upon the success of all the former prophets.