Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XL.: ENTITLED SURAT AL MUMIN (THE TRUE BELIEVER). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 3
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CHAPTER XL.: ENTITLED SURAT AL MUMIN (THE TRUE BELIEVER). 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 MUMIN (THE TRUE BELIEVER).
The title of this chapter is taken from ver. 29, where mention is made of “a man who was a true believer, of the family of Pharaoh.” The circumstances under which at least a portion of this chapter was written were those of discouragement and lack of zeal on the part of Muhammad himself, and may be on the part of his followers also (ver. 57). What the cause of this discouragement was can be learned with considerable certainty from a careful consideration of the contents of this chapter. That it was due in part to the obstinate unbelief of the Quraish is certain (vers. 57 and 77). They had confederated against the Prophet and his adherents (vers. 5 and 31). The prosperity of the confederates seems to have been a temptation to even Muhammad himself (ver. 4). If we are right in believing that the experiences of former prophets, whose history is related as a warning to the infidels of Makkah, reflect the experiences of Muhammad himself at the time such revelations were enunciated to his followers, we may conclude from the narratives of Moses and others found here that the enmity of the Quraish towards their “warner” was now not only very bitter but organised. As we have already noted, a confederacy had been formed, Muhammad was called a liar, a sorcerer, and an impostor (vers. 5, 25, and 39), and his life was even threatened (vers. 27-29). We learn further that his cause was espoused by an influential person related to the leader of the opposition, who was enabled to save his life, though unsuccessful in his effort to convert his enemies. This determined resistance on the part of the chief men of Makkah, now organised for his destruction, was most probably the cause of the discouragement alluded to in this chapter.
There was another cause of sorrow and disappointment. There was a fault on the part of Muhammad himself of more than ordinary heinousness. It is spoken of in ver. 57, where Muhammad is commanded to ask pardon for his fault. The commentators tell us either that there was no fault, the command to ask pardon having relation to his followers, or that the fault was remissness in preaching owing to fear of the infidels. On a point of this character the sayings of the commentators are quite worthless owing to their dogma that the prophets are sinless. This is specially true when the moral character of Muhammad is in question. Looking at the circumstances noted above, and comparing them with the experience of Muhammad as recorded in history, it seems pretty clear that the fault of Muhammad alluded to here was his compromise with the national idolatry, described so graphically by Muir in his Life of Mahomet, vol. ii. chap. v. The only flaw in the comparison of the circumstances of Muhammad after his disowning the compromise with the national religion with those reflected from the story of Moses in this chapter is that we must regard Abu Tálib as corresponding to the “true believer” of vers. 27-29. But may not Muhammad have either regarded his uncle as a secret believer, since he braved all to defend him, or have alluded to his defender under the sobriquet of “true believer”? This understanding as to the fault gathers strength from vers. 45 and 46, where Muhammad not only declines to accept the invitation of the Quraish to return to idolatry, but where he expressly declares that their false gods “deserve not to be invoked, either in this world or in the next,” words which very well express his disavowal of the strange words he had uttered in praise of these deities only a short time before (see notes on chap. xxii. 53). This theory fits in well with all parts of this chapter, explaining the cause of the fierce hatred of the Quraish, the danger of the Prophet, how it was averted, his discouragement and penitence.
The remainder of this chapter contains the usual exhortations to faith in Islám, with threatenings of divine wrath against the unbelievers.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
From what has been said above it follows that the date of this chapter must be placed soon after the lapse of Muhammad, which would be in the latter part of the fifth year of Muhammad’s mission (b.h. 7). Some writers (Umr Bin Muhammad, &c. (see Itqán, 35), Noëldeke) regard ver. 58 as Madínic, but this is due to a misinterpretation of the passage, which makes it allude to the Jews of Madína.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) H. M. The revelation of this book is from the mighty, the wise God, (2) the forgiver of sin and the accepter of repentance, severe in punishing, (3) long suffering. There is no God but he; before him shall be the general assembly at the last day.(4) None disputeth against the signs of God except the unbelievers; but let not their prosperous dealing in the land deceive thee with vain allurement.(5) The people of Noah, and the confederated infidels which were after them, accused their respective prophets of imposture before these, and each nation hatched ill designs against their apostle, that they might get him into their power; and they disputed with vain reasoning, that they might thereby invalidate the truth; wherefore I chastised them, and how severe was my punishment! (6) Thus hath the sentence of thy Lord justly passed on the unbelievers, and they shall be the inhabitants of hell-fire. (7)The angels who bear the throne of God, and those who stand about it, celebrate the praise of their Lord and believe in him, and they ask pardon for the true believers, saying, O Lord, thou encompassest all things by thy mercy and knowledge; wherefore forgive those who repent and follow thy path, and deliver them from the pains of hell. (8) O Lord, lead them also into gardens of eternal abode, which thou hast promised unto them, and unto every one who shall do right, of their fathers, and their wives, and their children; for thou art the mighty, the wise God. (9) And deliver them from evil; for whomsoever thou shalt deliver from evil, on that day on him wilt thou show mercy, and this will be great salvation.
∥ (10) But the infidels at the day of judgment shall hear a voice crying unto them, Verily the hatred of Godtowards you is more grievous than your hatred towards yourselves; since ye were called unto the faith, and would not believe. (11) They shall say, O Lord, thou hast given us death twice, and thou hast twice given us life; and we confess our sins: is there therefore no way to get forth from this fire? (12) And it shall be answered them, This hath befallen you, for that when one God was preached unto you, ye believed not; but if a plurality of gods had been associated with him, ye had believed: and judgment belongeth unto the high, the great God. (13) It is he who showeth you his signs, and sendeth down food unto you from heaven; but none will be admonished, except he who turneth himself unto God. (14) Call therefore upon God, exhibiting your religion pure unto him, although the infidels be averse thereto.(15)He is the Being of exalted degree, the possessor of the throne; who sendeth down the spirit at his command on such of his servants as he pleaseth, that he may warn mankind of the day of meeting, (16) the day whereon they shall come forth out of their graves, and nothing of what concerneth them shall be hidden from God. Unto whom will the kingdom belong on that day? Unto the only, the Almighty God.(17) On that day shall every soul be rewarded according to its merits: there shall be no injustice done on that day. Verily Godwill be swift in taking an account. (18) Wherefore warn them, O Prophet, of the day which shall suddenly approach, when men’s hearts shall come up to their throats and strangle them.(19) The ungodly shall have no friend or intercessor who shall be heard. (20) God will know the deceitful eye, and that which their breasts conceal; (21) and God will judge with truth; but the false gods which they invoke besides him shall not judge at all; for Godis he who heareth and seeth.
∥ (22) Have they not gone through the earth, and seen what hath been the end of those who were before them? They were more mighty than these in strength, and left more considerable footsteps of their power in the earth; yet God chastised them for their sins, and there was none to protect them from God. (23) This they suffered because their apostles had come unto them with evident signs, and they disbelieved: wherefore God chastised them; for he is strong and severe in punishing. (24) We heretofore sent Moses with our signs and manifest power (25) unto Pharaoh, and Hámán, and Qárún; and they said, He is a sorcerer and a liar. (26) And when he came unto them with the truth from us, they said, Slay the sons of those who have believed with him, and save their daughters alive: but the stratagem of the infidels was no other than vain. (27) And Pharaoh said, Let me alone, that I may kill Moses; and let him call upon his Lord: verily I fear lest he change your religion, or cause violence to appear in the earth. (28) And Moses said unto his people, Verily I have recourse unto my Lord and your Lord,to defend me against every proud person, who believeth not in the day of account.
∥ (29) And a man who was a true believer, of the family of Pharaoh, and concealed in his faith, said, Will ye put a man to death because he saith, Godis my Lord; seeing he is come unto you with evident signs from your Lord? If he be a liar, on him will the punishment of his falsehood light; but if he speaketh the truth, some of those judgments with which he threateneth you will fall upon you: verily God directeth not him who is a transgressor or a liar: (30) O my people, the kingdom is yours this day; and ye are conspicuous in the earth; but who shall defend us from the scourge of God, if it come unto us? Pharaoh said, I only propose to you what I think to be most expedient; and I guide you only into the right path. (31) And he who had believed said, O my people, verily I fear for you a day like that of the confederates against the prophets in former times,(32) a condition like that of the people of Noah, and the tribes of Ád and Thamúd, (33) and of those who have lived after them; for God willeth not that any injustice be done unto his servants. (34)(34) O my people, verily I fear for you the day whereon men shall call unto one another, (35) the day whereon ye shall be turned back from the tribunal and driven to hell: then shall ye have none to protect you against God. And he whom God shall cause to err shall have no director. (36) Joseph came unto you before Moses with evident signs; but ye ceased not to doubt of the religion which he preached unto you, until, when he died, ye said, God will by no means send another apostle after him. Thus doth God cause him to err who is a transgressor and a sceptic. (37) They who dispute against the signs of God, without any authority which hath come unto them, are in great abomination with God and with those who believe. Thus doth God seal up every proud and stubborn heart. (38) And Pharaoh said, O Hámán, build me a tower that I may reach the tracts, (39) the tracts of heaven, and may view the God of Moses; for verily I think him to be a liar. (40) And thus the evil of his work was prepared for Pharaoh, and he turned aside from the right path: and the stratagems of Pharaoh ended only in loss.
∥ (41) And he who had believed said, O my people, follow me: I will guide you into the right way. (42) O my people, verily this present life is but a temporary enjoyment; but the life to come is the mansion of firm continuance. (43) Whoever worketh evil shall only be rewarded in equal proportion to the same; but whoever worketh good, whether male or female, and is a true believer, they shall enter Paradise: they shall be provided for therein superabundantly.
∥ (44) And, O my people, as for me, I invite you to salvation; but ye invite me to hell-fire; (45) ye invite me to deny God, and to associate with him that whereof I have no knowledge; but I invite you to the most mighty, the forgiver of sins.(46)There is no doubt but that the false gods to which ye invite me deserve not to be invoked, either in this world or in the next; and that we must return unto God; and that the transgressors shall be the inhabitants of hell-fire: (47) and ye shall then remember what I now say unto you. And I commit my affair unto God; for God regardeth his servants. (48) Wherefore God delivered him from the evils which they had devised; and a grievous punishment encompassed the people of Pharaoh. (49) They shall be exposed to the fire of hell morning and evening; and the day whereon the hour of judgment shall come it shall be said unto them, Enter, O people of Pharaoh, into a most severe torment. (50) And think on the time when the infidels shall dispute together in hell-fire; and the weak shall say unto those who behaved with arrogance, Verily, we were your followers: will ye therefore relieve us from any part of this fire? (51) Those who behaved with arrogance shall answer, Verily we are all doomed to suffer therein; for God hath now judged between his servants. (52) And they who shall be in the fire shall say unto the keepers of hell, Call ye on your Lord, that he would ease us for one day from this punishment. (53) They shall answer, Did not your apostles come unto you with evident proofs? They shall say, Yea. The keepers shall reply, Do ye therefore call on God; but the calling of the unbelievers on him shall be only in vain.
∥ (54) We will surely assist our apostles and those who believe in this present life, and on the day whereon the witnesses shall stand forth, (55) a day whereon the excuse of the unbelievers shall not avail them, but a curse shall attend them, and a wretched abode. (56) We heretofore gave unto Moses a direction, and we left as an inheritance unto the children of Israel the book of the law; a direction and an admonition to men of understanding. (57) Wherefore do thou, O Prophet, bear the insults of the infidels with patience; for the promise of Godis true; and ask pardon for thy fault, and celebrate the praise of thy Lord in the evening and in the morning. (58)As to those who impugn the signs of God, without any convincing proof which hath been revealed unto them, there is nothing but pride in their breasts; but they shall not attain their desire: wherefore fly for refuge unto God; for it is he who heareth and seeth. (59) Verily the creation of heaven and earth is more considerable than the creation of man; but the greater part of men do not understand. (60) The blind and the seeing shall not be held equal; nor they who believe and work righteousness and the evildoer: how few revolve these things in their mind! (61) The last hour will surely come; there is no doubt thereof; but the greater part of men believe it not. (62) Your Lord said, Call upon me, and I will hear you; but they who proudly disdain my service shall enter with ignominy into hell.
∥ (63) It isGod who hath appointed the night for you to take your rest therein, and the day to give you light: verily Godis endued with beneficence towards mankind; but the greater part of men do not give thanks. (64) This isGod your Lord, the creator of all things; there is no God beside him; how therefore are ye turned aside from his worship? (65) Thus are they turned aside who oppose the signs of God. (66) It isGod who hath given you the earth for a stable floor, and the heavens for a ceiling, and who hath formed you, and made your forms beautiful, and feedeth you with good things. This isGod your Lord. Wherefore blessed be God, the Lord of all creatures. (67) He is the living God: there is no God but he. Wherefore call upon him, exhibiting unto him the pure religion. Praise be unto God, the Lord of all creatures! (68) Say, Verily I am forbidden to worship the deities which ye invoke besides God, after that evident proofs have come unto me from my Lord; and I am commanded to resign myself unto the Lord of all creatures. (69)It is he who first created you of dust, and afterwards of seed, and afterwards of coagulated blood; and afterwards brought you forth infants out of your mothers’ wombs: then he permitteth you to attain your age of full strength, and afterwards to grow old men (but some of you die before that age), and to arrive at the determined period of your life; that peradventure ye may understand. (70)It is he who giveth life and causeth to die; and when he decreeth a thing he only saith unto it, Be, and it is.
∥ (71) Dost thou not observe those who dispute against the signs of God, how they are turned aside from the true faith?(72) They who charge with falsehood the book of the Qurán, and the other scriptures and revealed doctrines which we have sent our former apostles to preach, shall hereafter know their folly,(73) when the collars shall be on their necks, and the chains by which they shall be dragged into hell; then shall they be burned in the fire. (74) And it shall be said unto them, Where are the gods which ye associated besides God? They shall answer, They have withdrawn themselves from us: yea, we called on nothing heretofore. Thus doth God lead the unbelievers into error. (75) This hath befallen you for that ye rejoiced insolently on earth in that which was false; and for that ye were elated with immoderate joy. (76) Enter the gates of hell, to remain therein for ever: and wretched shall be the abode of the haughty! (77) Wherefore persevere with patience, O Muhammad; for the promise of Godis true. Whether we cause thee to see any part of the punishment with which we have threatened them, or whether we cause thee to die before thou see it; before us shall they be assembled at the last day.(78) We have sent a great number of apostles before thee; the histories of some of whom we have related unto thee, and the histories of others of them we have not related unto thee: but no apostle had the power to produce a sign unless by the permission of God. When the command of God, therefore, shall come, judgment shall be given with truth; and then shall they perish who endeavour to render the signs of God of no effect.
∥ (79)It isGod who hath given you the cattle, that ye may ride on some of them, and may eat of others of them; (80) (ye also receive other advantages therefrom;) and that on them ye may arrive at the business proposed in your mind; and on them are carried by land, and on ships by sea.(81) And he showeth you his signs; which, therefore, of the signs of God will ye deny? (82) Do they not pass through the earth, and see what hath been the end of those who were before them? They were more numerous than these, and more mighty in strength, and left more considerable monuments of their power in the earth; yet that which they had acquired profited them not. (83) And when their apostle came unto them with evident proof of their mission, they rejoiced in the knowledge which was with them; but that which they mocked at encompassed them. (84) And when they beheld our vengeance, they said, We believe in God alone, and we renounce the idols which we associated with him; (85) but their faith availed them not, after they had beholden our vengeance. This was the ordinance of God, which was formerly observed in respect to his servants, and then did the unbelievers perish.
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[(1) ]H. M. See Prelim. Disc., pp. 101, 102.
[(4) ]Prosperous dealing. “The original word properly signifies success in the affairs of life, and particularly in trade. It is said that some of Muhammad’s followers observing the prosperity the idolaters enjoyed, expressed their regret that those enemies of God should live in such ease and plenty while themselves were perishing of hunger and fatigue, whereupon this passage was revealed.”—Sale (note belonging to chap. iii. 197).
[(5) ]See chap. xi. 26-100 and notes thereon.
[(7) ]The angels who bear, &c. “These are the cherubim, the highest order of angels, who approach nearest to God’s presence.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(8) ]Of their fathers, &c. This passage does not teach, as some commentators imagine, that the faithful by good works may bestow upon their relatives who have died in the faith a higher degree of merit than they would be entitled to on the ground of their own good works. See Abdul Qádir in loco. The passage is a call to the relatives of the Muslim converts among the Quraish to embrace the hopes of Islám.
[(11) ]Thou hast twice given us life. “Having first created us in a state of death, or void of life and sensation, and then given life to the inanimate body; and afterwards caused us to die a natural death, and raised us again at the resurrection. Some understand the first death to be a natural death, and the second that in the sepulchre, after the body shall have been there raised to life in order to be examined; and consequently suppose the two revivals to be those of the sepulchre and the resurrection.”—Sale.
[(15) ]The spirit. By “spirit” is meant the Angel Gabriel, the medium of inspiration (chap. ii. 96).
[(17) ]Here salvation by good works is clearly taught, but see note on chap. iii. 31.
[(19) ]See note above on ver. 7.
[(25) ]See notes on chap. xxviii. 38 and 76.
[(26) ]Slay their sons, &c., i.e., “pursue the resolution which has been formerly taken, and execute it more strictly for the future. See chap. vii. 128, note.”—Sale.
[(27) ]That I may kill Moses. “For they advised him not to put Moses to death, lest it should be thought he was not able to oppose him by dint of argument.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(29) ]See note on chap. xxviii. 19. Compare this speech with Gamaliel’s in Acts v. 38, 39.
[(31-35) ]This “believer” is here presented in the light of a prophet addressing the Egyptians as “My people,” and using the phraseology ordinarily employed by Muhammad in exhorting the Quraish. Moses is here the facsimile of Muhammad. See Introd. to chaps. vii. and xi.
[(34) ]The day whereon men shall call, &c., i.e., “the day of judgment, when the inhabitants of Paradise and of hell shall enter into mutual discourse: when the latter shall call for help, and the seducers and seduced shall cast the blame upon each other.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(36) ]Joseph is here presented as a prophet of the Egyptians, and though he wrought miracles in their sight; yet, like the infidel Quraish, they were doubted and disbelieved. This is of a piece with that which makes Moses the prophet of the Egyptians (vers. 24, 25, &c.) and confounds the Israelites with the Egyptians. See notes on chap. vii. 133-137.
[(38, 39) ]See note on chap. xxviii. 38.
[(41-47) ]The sentiment of this exhortation agrees very well vith that of vers. 1-21 above, illustrating Muhammad’s habit of making all the prophets speak like himself.
[(48) ]A grievous punishment, &c. “Some are of opinion that those who were sent by Pharaoh to seize the true believer, his kinsman, are the persons more particularly meant in this place; for they tell us that the said believer fled to a mountain, where they found him at prayers, guarded by the wild beasts, which ranged themselves in order about him; and that his pursuers thereupon returned in a great fright to their master, who put them to death for not performing his command.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(49) ]They shall be exposed to fire, &c. “Some expound these words of the previous punishment they are doomed to suffer according to a tradition of Ibn Masúd, which informs us that their souls are in the crops of black birds, which are exposed to hell-fire every morning and evening until the day of judgment.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(50) ]The weak shall say, &c. See note on chap. xiv. 24.
[(52) ]Keepers of hell. See chap. lxxiv. 30, 31, and comp. xxxix. 71.
[(56) ]The book . . . a direction and admonition, &c. The meaning of these words is that the Book of Moses was regarded by Muhammad as not only in existence, but genuine and credible—“a direction and admonition to men of understanding,” that is, to the true people of God. The plain inference is, that Muslims are still bound so to regard the former Scriptures, and that all those passages in which the Scriptures are said to have been corrupted by Jews and Christians must be explained as referring to their interpretations of their Scriptures, and not to the text.
[(57) ]Ask pardon for thy fault. See notes on chaps. ii. 253, iv. 105, and ix. 43. Other passages of a similar import are chaps. xlvii. 21, xlviii. 2, and xciii. 7. The particular fault here alluded to, says Baidháwi, was remissness in preaching the religion of Islám through fear of the infidels. But see above in the introduction to this chapter.
[(58) ]Pride in their breasts. “This sentence may be understood generally, though it was revealed on account of the idolatrous Makkans or of the Jews, who said of Muhammad, ‘This man is not our lord, but the Messias, the son of David, whose kingdom will be extended over sea and land.’ ”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(69) ]See chaps. xxii. 5 and xcvi. 2.
[(70) ]Be, and it is. See note on chap. xxxvi. 82.
[(72) ]See notes on chaps. x. 39 and xi. 14.
[(73) ]See notes on chaps. xiii. 6 and xxiii. 105.
[(74) ]Nothing. “Seeing an idol is nothing in the world.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(78) ]Apostles before thee, &c. See Prelim. Disc., p. 122 seq., and notes on chap. iv. 162.
[(79-81) ]See chap. xvi. 5 seq.
[(82) ]Compare ver. 22 above. See Rodwell’s note here, and Prelim. Disc., pp. 26, 27.
[(83) ]They rejoiced, &c. “Being prejudiced in favour of their own erroneous doctrines, and despising the instructions of the prophets.”—Sale.
[(85) ]Then did the unbelievers perish. Here again the Quraish are warned against unbelief by the fate of former unbelievers, who, like them, had rejected their prophets, and been destroyed in consequence. This is the burden of the histories of the prophets given in chap. xi.