Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXXIX.: ENTITLED SURAT AL ZAMR (THE TROOPS). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 3
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CHAPTER XXXIX.: ENTITLED SURAT AL ZAMR (THE TROOPS). 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 ZAMR (THE TROOPS).
The title given to this chapter is taken from the statement of vers. 71-73, that the Muslims and the infidels should be conducted to heaven and hell “by troops.”
As to its contents, this chapter differs little from other Makkan suras. There is the usual assertion of prophetic claims on the part of the Prophet; the usual declamation against idolatry, with threats of divine wrath against the impenitent; the usual reference to former prophets, and the destruction of their unbelieving hearers; and finally, the usual emphatic testimony to the great doctrine of the resurrection, and the contrasted condition of true believers and the infidels after the judgment-day.
An important point of interest in this chapter is the reiterated claim of Muhammad to have been appointed a prophet and to have received the Qurán in order to exhibit “the pure religion” of God (see vers. 1-3, 14-16, 42, and 56). Everywhere Muhammad appears as simply a preacher of the truth of Islám (ver. 23) and a witness against the idolaters of Makkah (ver. 40).
Probable Date of the Revelations.
All authorities agree that this chapter originated at Makkah before the Hijra, excepting ver. 54, or vers. 54-56, or vers. 54-61, which some Muslim authorities regard as Madínic. A few writers assign vers. 13 and 24 also to Madína.
The story of Al Wahshi and other malefactors, given by the commentators on the authority of tradition to explain ver. 54, may be true (in which case the passage must be Madinic; but I confess to a strong suspicion that the story has been fabricated to illustrate the passage in question. The words of that verse (ver. 54) very naturally follow what precedes it, and were no doubt intended to comfort penitent idolaters, who might feel themselves included in the sweeping condemnation of ver. 52. The connection is natural, and I can see no good reason for disconnecting them. I would therefore refer this passage also to Makkah.
On the ground of the words “God’s earth is spacious” (ver. 13), it is thought that this chapter was written shortly before the Hijra. But granting that these words were addressed to those who either had fled their country or were meditating flight, surely it does not follow that the flight to Madína was intended. Would it not be more natural to apply these words to the first flight to Abyssinia, which occurred at a time when the idea of flight from persecution was new to the Muslims? The quiet, pacific style of the whole chapter seems to me fatal to the theory which would fix the date of composition so late as the near approach of the Hijra—a time when the fierce hatred aroused on both sides by persecution could not fail to have found expression in the style and matter of discourse. I therefore venture to assign this chapter to a period preceding the first flight to Abyssinia, i.e., about the fourth year of Muhammad’s ministry (b.h. 9).
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) The revelation of this book is from the mighty, the wise God.(2) Verily we have revealed this book unto thee with truth: wherefore serve God, exhibiting the pure religion unto him. (3)Ought not the pure religion to be exhibited unto God?(4) But as to those who take other patrons besides him, saying, We worship them only that they may bring us nearer unto God; verily God will judge between them concerning that wherein they disagree. (5) Surely God will not direct him who is a liar or ungrateful. (6) If God had been minded to have had a son, he had surely chosen what he pleased out of that which he hath created. But far be such a thing from him! He is the sole, the almighty God.(7) He hath created the heavens and the earth with truth: he causeth the night to succeed the day, and he causeth the day to succeed the night, and he obligeth the sun and the moon to perform their services; each of them hastening to an appointed period. Is not he the mighty, the forgiver of sins?(8) He created you of one man, and afterwards out of him formed his wife; and he hath bestowed on you four pair of cattle. He formeth you in the wombs of your mothers, by several gradual formations, within three veils of darkness. This isGod, your Lord: his is the kingdom: there is no God but he. Why therefore are ye turned aside from the worship of him to idolatry? (9) If ye be ungrateful, verily God hath no need of you: yet he liketh not ingratitude in his servants; but if ye be thankful, he will be well pleased with you. A burdened soul shall not bear the burden of another; hereafter shall ye return unto your Lord, and he shall declare unto you that which ye have wrought, and will reward you accordingly; (10) for he knoweth the innermost parts of your breasts. (11) When harm befalleth a man, he calleth upon his Lord, and turneth unto him: yet afterwards, when God hath bestowed on him favour from himself, he forgetteth that Being which he invoked before, and setteth up equals unto God, that he may seduce men from his way. Say unto such a man, Enjoy this life in thy infidelity for a little while; but hereafter shalt thou surely be one of the inhabitants of hell-fire. (12) Shall he who giveth himself up to prayer in the hours of the night, prostrate and standing, and who taketh heed as to the life to come, and hopeth for the mercy of his Lord,be dealt with as the wicked unbeliever? Say, Shall they who know their duty and they who know it not be held equal? Verily the men of understanding only will be warned.
∥ (13) Say, O my servants who believe, fear your Lord. They who do good in this world shall obtain good in the next; and God’s earth is spacious: verily those who persevere with patience shall receive their recompense without measure. (14) Say, I am commanded to worship God, and to exhibit the pure religion unto him; and I am commanded to be the first Muslim. (15) Say, Verily I fear, if I be disobedient unto my Lord, the punishment of the great day. (16) Say, I worship God, exhibiting my religion pure unto him; (17) but do ye worship that which ye will, besides him. Say, Verily they will be the losers, who shall lose their own souls, and their families, on the day of resurrection: is not this manifest loss? (18) Over them shall be roofs of fire, and under them shall be floors of fire. With this doth God terrify his servants: wherefore, O my servants, fear him. (19) But those who eschew the worship of idols and are turned unto God shall receive good tidings. Bear good tidings therefore unto my servants, who hearken unto my word, and follow that which is most excellent therein: these are they whom God directeth, and these are men of understanding. (20) Him, therefore, on whom the sentence of eternal punishment shall be justly pronounced, canst thou, O Muhammad, deliver him who is destined to dwell in the fire of hell? (21) But for those who fear their Lordwill be prepared high apartments in Paradise, over which shall be other apartments built; and rivers shall run beneath them: this is the promise of God;andGod will not be contrary to the promise. (22) Dost thou not see that God sendeth down water from heaven, and causeth the same to enter and form sources in the earth, and produceth thereby corn of various sorts? Afterwards he causeth the same to wither; and thou seest it become yellow: afterwards he maketh it crumble into dust. Verily, herein is an instruction to men of understanding.
∥ (23) Shall he, therefore, whose breast God hath enlarged to receive the religion of Islám, and who followeth the light from his Lord,be as he whose heart is hardened? But woe unto those whose hearts are hardened against the remembrance of God! they are in a manifest error. (24)God hath revealed a most excellent discourse: a book conformable to itself, and containing repeated admonitions. The skins of those who fear their Lord shrink for fear thereat; afterwards their skins grow soft, and their hearts also, at the remembrance of their Lord. This is the direction of God: he will direct thereby whom he pleaseth; and whomsoever God shall cause to err, he shall have no director. (25) Shall he therefore who shall be obliged to screen himself with his face from the severity of the punishment on the day of resurrection be as he who is secure therefrom? And it shall be said unto the ungodly, Taste that which ye have deserved. (26) Those who were before them accused their apostles of imposture: wherefore a punishment came upon them from whence they expected it not: (27) and God caused them to take shame in this present life; but the punishment of the life to come will certainly be greater. If they were men of understanding, they would know this.(28) Now have we proposed unto mankind, in this Qurán, every kind of parable, that they may be warned; (29) an Arabic Qurán, wherein there is no crookedness; that they may fear God.(30)God propoundeth as a parable a man who hath several companions which are at mutual variance, and a man who committeth himself wholly to one person: shall these be held in equal comparison? God forbid! But the greater part of them do not understand. (31) Verily thou, O Muhammad, shalt die, and they also shall die: (32) and ye shall debate the matter with one another before your Lord at the day of resurrection.
∥ (33) Who is more unjust than he who uttereth a lie concerning God, and denieth the truth when it cometh unto him? Is there not a dwelling provided in hell for the unbelievers? (34) But he who bringeth the truth and giveth credit thereto, these are they who fear God; (35) they shall obtain whatever they shall desire in the sight of their Lord: this shall be the recompense of the righteous; (36) that God may expiate from them the very worst of that which they have wrought, and may render them their reward according to the utmost merit of the good which they have wrought. (37) Is not God a sufficient protector of his servant? yet they will attempt to make thee afraid of the false deities which they worship besides God. But he whom God shall cause to err shall have none to direct him; (38) and he whom God shall direct shall have none to mislead him. Is not God most mighty, able to avenge? (39) If thou ask them who hath created the heavens and the earth, they will surely answer, God. Say, Do ye think, therefore, that the deities which ye invoke besides God, if God be pleased to afflict me, are able to relieve me from his affliction? or if he be pleased to show mercy unto me, that they are able to withhold his mercy? Say, God is my sufficient support: in him let those put their trust who seek in whom to confide. (40) Say, O my people, do ye act according to your state; verily I will act according to mine: (41) hereafter shall ye know on which of us will be inflicted a punishment that shall cover him with shame, and on whom a lasting punishment shall fall. (42) Verily we have revealed unto thee the book of the Qurán, for the instruction of mankind, with truth. Whoso shall be directed thereby shall be directed to the advantage of his own soul; and whoso shall err shall only err against the same: and thou art not a guardian over them.
∥ (43)God taketh unto himself the souls of men at the time of their death; and those which die not he also taketh in their sleep: and he withholdeth those on which he hath passed the decree of death, but sendeth back the others till a determined period. Verily herein are signs unto the people who consider. (44) Have the Quraish taken idols for their intercessors with God? Say, What, although they have not dominion over anything, neither do they understand? (45) Say, Intercession is altogether in the disposal of God: his is the kingdom of heaven and earth; and hereafter shall ye return unto him. (46) When the one sole God is mentioned, the hearts of those who believe not in the life to come shrink with horror; but when the false gods which are worshipped besides him are mentioned, behold they are filled with joy. (47) Say, O God, the creator of heaven and earth, who knowest that which is secret and that which is manifest; thou shalt judge between thy servants concerning that wherein they disagree. (48) If those who act unjustly were masters of whatever is in the earth, and as much more therewith, verily they would give it to ransom themselves from the evil of the punishment on the day of resurrection: and there shall appear unto them from Godterrors which they never imagined; (49) and there shall appear unto them the evils of that which they shall have gained; and that which they mocked at shall encompass them. (50) When harm befalleth man, he calleth upon us; yet afterwards, when we have bestowed on him favour from us, he saith, I have received it merely because of God’s knowledge of my deserts. On the contrary, it is a trial; but the greater part of them know it not. (51) Those who were before them said the same; but that which they had gained profited them not; (52) and the evils which they had deserved fell upon them. And whoever of these Makkans shall have acted unjustly, on them likewise shall fall the evils which they shall have deserved; neither shall they frustrate the divine vengeance. (53) Do they not know that God bestoweth provision abundantly on whom he pleaseth, and is sparing unto whom he pleaseth? Verily herein are signs unto people who believe.
∥ (54) Say, O my servants who have transgressed against your own souls, despair not of the mercy of God, seeing that God forgiveth all sins, for he is gracious and merciful. (55) And be turned unto your Lord, and resign yourselves unto him before the threatened punishment overtake you; for then ye shall not be helped. (56) And follow the most excellent instructions which have been sent down unto you from your Lord before the punishment come suddenly upon you, and ye perceive not the approach thereof; (57) and a soul say, Alas! for that I have been negligent in my duty to God, verily I have been one of the scorners: (58) or say, If God had directed me, verily I had been one of the pious: (59) or say, when it seeth the prepared punishment, If I could return once more into the world, I would become one of the righteous. (60) But God shall answer, My signs came unto thee heretofore, and thou didst charge them with falsehood, and wast puffed up with pride; and thou becamest one of the unbelievers. (61) On the day of resurrection thou shalt see the faces of those who have uttered lies concerning God become black: is there not an abode prepared in hell for the arrogant? (62) But God shall deliver those who shall fear him, and shall set them in their place of safety: evil shall not touch them, neither shall they be grieved. (63) Godis the creator of all things, and he is the governor of all things. His are the keys of heaven and earth; and they who believe not in the signs of God they shall perish. (64) Say, Do ye therefore bid me to worship other than God, O ye fools?
(65) Since it hath been spoken by revelation unto thee, and also unto the prophets who have been before thee, saying, Verily if thou join any partners with God thy work will be altogether unprofitable, and thou shalt certainly be one of those who perish; (66) wherefore rather fear God, and be one of those who give thanks. (67) But they make not a due estimation of God, since the whole earth shallbe but his handful on the day of resurrection, and the heavens shall be rolled together in his right hand. Praise be unto him! and far be he exalted above the idols which they associate with him!(68) The trumpet shall be sounded, and whoever are in heaven, and whoever are on earth shall expire, except those whom God shall please to exempt from the common fate. Afterwards it shall be sounded again, and behold they shall arise and look up.(69) And the earth shall shine by the light of its Lord; and the book shall be laid open, and the prophets and the martyrs shall be brought as witnesses; and judgment shall be given between them with truth, and they shall not be treated unjustly. (70) And every soul shall be fully rewarded, according to that which it shall have wrought, for he perfectly knoweth whatever they do.
∥ (71) And the unbelievers shall be driven unto hell by troops, until, when they shall arrive at the same, the gates thereof shall be opened, and the keepers thereof shall say unto them, Did not apostles from among you come unto you who rehearsed unto you the signs of your Lord, and warned you of the meeting of this your day? They shall answer, Yea; but the sentence of eternal punishment hath been justly pronounced on the unbelievers. (72) It shall be said unto them, Enter ye the gates of hell, to dwell therein for ever; and miserable shall be the abode of the proud! (73) But those who shall have feared their Lord shall be conducted by troops towards Paradise, until they shall arrive at the same, and the gates thereof shall be ready set open, and the guards thereof shall say unto them, Peace be on you! ye have been good, wherefore enter ye into Paradise, to remain therein for ever. (74) And they shall answer, Praise be unto God, who hath performed his promise unto us, and hath made us to inherit the earth, that we may dwell in Paradise wherever we please! How excellent is the reward of those who work righteousness! (75) And thou shalt see the angels going in procession round the throne celebrating the praises of their Lord; and judgment shall be given between them with truth; and they shall say, Praise be unto God, the Lord of all creatures!
[(1-3) ]Muhammad claims at once inspiration for his Qurán and sets forth the reason of his own appointment to the prophetic office, viz., to re-establish pure religion upon the earth.
[(4) ]That they may bring us nearer unto God. The Arab idolaters regarded the angels as mediators, and spoke of them as the offspring of God. See Prelim. Disc., pp. 38 and 39.
[(6) ]A son. Palgrave translates a child, there being no distinction of sex implied in the original. The Tafsír-i-Raufi and Abdul Qádir have it family. The allusion is to the Arab notion that the angels were the offspring of God. See above on ver. 4. There is no allusion here to the Christian doctrine of the sonship of Christ, which doctrine, however, is confounded in the Qurán with the error animadverted in this passage.
[(7) ]With truth. Literally, in truth.
[(8) ]He hath bestowed. “Literally, ‘He hath sent down;’ from which expression some have imagined that these four kinds of beasts were created in Paradise, and thence sent down to earth.”—Sale, Zamakhshari.
[(11) ]Compare chap x. 22-24.
[(13) ]In the next, or, “they who do good shall obtain good even in this world.”
[(14) ]The first Muslim, i.e., “the first of the Quraish who professeth the true religion, or the leader in chief of the Muslims.”—Sale.
[(17) ]Verily they will be losers, &c. Compare Matt. xvi. 26.
[(24) ]Conformable to itself. This claim of the Qurán is fatal to its prophetic character; for while it should be no special recommendation to prophetic honours that a man write a book consistent with itself throughout, yet as matter of fact the Qurán is far from being conformable to itself. Aside from contradictory passages, the whole spirit of the Qurán, as seen in the earlier chapters, differs from that of the later chapters. The one inculcates forbearance, tolerance, kindness to enemies, peace, and long-suffering; the other breathes out a spirit of intolerance, hate, and bloodshed against all the enemies of Islám. Last of all, it inculcates a creed requiring tomes of tradition for its elucidation and emendation.
[(25) ]Be obliged to screen himself with his face. “For his hands shall be chained to his neck, and he shall not be able to oppose anything but his face to the fire.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(26, 27) ]See notes on chap. iii. 185, and the histories of the prophets found in chap. xi.
[(28) ]Every kind of parable. The deficiency of the Qurán in this respect is very marked. The example given in the next verse is rather unfortunate as an illustration.
[(30) ]“This passage represents the uncertainty of the idolater, who is distracted in the service of different masters, and the satisfaction of mind which attends the worshipper of the only true God.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(31) ]Thou, O Muhammad, shalt die. See note on chap. iii. 144.
[(32) ]Ye shall debate the matter. “For the Prophet will represent his endeavours to reclaim them from idolatry and their obstinacy; and they will make frivolous excuses; as that they obeyed their chiefs, and kept to the religion of their fathers, &c.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(34) ]He who . . . giveth credit, i.e., “Muhammad and his followers: some suppose that by the latter words Abu Baqr is particularly intended, because he asserted the Prophet’s veracity in respect to his journey to heaven.”
[(36) ]That God may expiate, &c. See note on chap. iii. 194.
[(37) ]Yet they will attempt, &c. “The Quraish used to tell Muhammad that they feared their gods would do him some mischief, and deprive him of the use of his limbs or of his reason, because he spoke disgracefully of them. It is thought by some that this passage was verified in Khálid Ibn al Walíd, who being sent by Muhammad to demolish the idol of Uzza, was advised by the keeper of her temple to take heed what he did, because the goddess was able to avenge herself severely: but he was so little moved at the man’s warning, that he immediately stepped up to the idol and broke her nose. To support the latter explication, they say that what happened to Khálid is attributed to Muhammad, because the former was then executing the Prophet’s orders. A circumstance not much different from the above mentioned is told of the demolition of Al Lát.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(39) ]I have been unable to find any good reason for believing that these words were revealed soon after the circumstance noted under chap. liii. 19. See Rodwell in loco.
[(43) ]In their sleep. “That is, seemingly and to outward appearance, sleep being the image of death.”—Sale.
[(45) ]Intercession is altogether in the disposal of God. “For none can or dare presume to intercede with him, unless by his permission.”—Sale.
[(50) ]He saith, I have received it merely because of God’s knowledge of my deserts. “Or by means of my own wisdom.”—Sale. Rodwell translates this passage thus: “He saith, God knew that I deserved it.” Palgrave has it literally thus: “He says, Verily, I am given it through knowledge.” Abdul Qádir comments thus: “It has turned out as I desired it should.” The meaning of this obscure sentence I would express thus: “I all along thought it would be so.”
[(51) ]Said the same. “As did Qárún in particular.”—Sale.
[(52) ]On them . . . shall fall, &c. “As it happened accordingly; for they were punished with a sore famine for seven years, and had the bravest of their warriors cut off at the battle of Badr.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(54) ]Transgressed, &c., i.e., by apostasy from Islám (Rodwell, and Muir in Life of Mahomet, vol. ii. p. 131, note); or, better, “the manifold sins of Muslims,” both before their conversion to Islám and afterwards (Tafsír-i-Raufi). Compare chap. xvi. 108. The exhortation here seems to me to be addressed to the unbelieving Quraish. See vers. 55-60.
[(61) ]See Prelim. Disc., pp. 149, 150.
[(67) ]See note on chap. vi. 92. Comp. Isa. xl. 12 and xxxiv. 4.
[(68) ]The trumpet shall be sounded. “The first time, says al Baidhawi, who consequently supposes there will be no more than two blasts (and two only are distinctly mentioned in the Qurán), though others suppose there will be three (see Prelim. Disc., p. 139 and note).”—Sale.
[(69) ]The book, &c. See Prelim. Disc., p. 144.
[(71) ]The keepers. See chap. lxxiv. 30, 31 and the Prelim. Disc., p. 148.
[(74) ]Hath made us to inherit the earth. “This is a metaphorical expression, representing the perfect security and abundance which the blessed will enjoy in Paradise.”—Sale.