Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLVI.: ENTITLED SURAT AL AHQÁF (THE SANDHILLS). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 4
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CHAPTER XLVI.: ENTITLED SURAT AL AHQÁF (THE SANDHILLS). Revealed at Makkah. - Mohammed, The Quran, vol. 4 
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 AHQÁF (THE SANDHILLS).
In this chapter the dwelling-place of the Ádites is called al Ahqáf; hence the title. Sale says, “Al Ahqáf is the plural of haqf, and signifies sands which lie in a crooked or winding manner, whence it became the name of a territory in the province of Hadhramaut.”
Rodwell locates the sandhills at Tayif. This is in accordance with Sprenger’s theory of the Ádites, adopted by Muir in his Life of Mahomet, vol. i., Introd., p. cxxxviii. note.
The object of this chapter was to warn the people of Makkah of the impending judgments of God on account of their sin of rejecting Muhammad and the Qurán. They had charged their Prophet with being an impostor, who had forged a book which he called the Qurán. In this they were encouraged by certain Jews. On the other hand, certain other Jews, probably adherents from Madína, upheld the claims of Muhammad, declaring that the teaching of the Qurán was confirmatory of the doctrine of their own Scriptures. Thus encouraged, Muhammad answers the charges of his enemies by a solemn warning. He can now afford to be patient and calmly await the destruction of the unbelievers.
It is here specially noteworthy how Muhammad likens himself to the former prophets (vers. 20-31), putting his own message to the Quraish, with their taunting reply, into the mouths of Húd and the Ádites, yea, even into the mouths of the believing genii. But on this point see introduction to chapter xi.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
Ver. 9 of this chapter is supposed by some to be Madínic, because of the Jews being mentioned; but this reason is not valid, since the Jews mentioned here were no doubt Jews of Madína visiting Makkah, with whom Muhammad was now in close correspondence, if indeed they were not his adherents. The “witness” surely does not refer to any particular person, as Baidháwi and others suppose, when referring it to Abdullah Ibn Salám.
On similarly weak grounds, vers. 14-17, and 34, 35, have been regarded as Madínic. We may therefore safely regard the whole chapter as Makkan. Vers. 30-31 were not, however, originally in this place (see notes), but they nevertheless belong to the same period.
As to the date of the revelations, we have the mention of the discourse of Muhammad to the genii, which occurred on his return from Tayif, just before the Hijra. This agrees with the allusion to the fate of the people of al Ahqáf, who inhabited the region about Tayif, and with the attitude of Muhammad (ver. 34) toward the unbelievers, and also with the mention made of the Jews of Madína, with whom Muhammad was now in correspondence. Noëldeke places this chapter immediately after chap. vii.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) H. M. The revelation of this book is from the mighty, the wise God.(2) We have not created the heavens and the earth, and whatever is between them, otherwise than in truth and for a determined period; but the unbelievers turn away from the warning which is given them. (3) Say, What think ye? Show me what part of the earth the idols which ye invoke, besides God, have created? Or had they any share in the creation of the heavens? Bring me a book of scripture revealed before this, or some footstep of ancient knowledge, to countenance your idolatrous practices; if ye are men of veracity. (4) Who is in a wider error than he who invoketh, besides God, that which cannot return him an answer, to the day of resurrection; and idols which regard not their calling on them; (5) and which, when men shall be gathered together to judgment, will become their enemies, and will ungratefully deny their worship? (6) When our evident signs are rehearsed unto them, the unbelievers say of the truth, when it cometh unto them, This is a manifest piece of sorcery. (7) Will they say, Muhammad hath forged it? Answer, If I have forged it, verily ye shall not obtain for me any favour from God: he well knoweth the injurious language which ye utter concerning it: he is a sufficient witness between me and you; and he is gracious and merciful. (8) Say, I am not singular among the apostles; neither do I know what will be done with me or with you hereafter: I follow no other than what is revealed unto me; neither am I any more than a public warner. (9) Say, What is your opinion? If this book be from God, and ye believe not therein; and a witness of the children of Israel bear witness to its consonancy with the law, and believeth therein; and ye proudly reject the same: are ye not unjust doers? Verily God directeth not unjust people.
∥ (10) But those who believe not say of the true believers, If the doctrine of the Qurán had been good, they had not embraced the same before us. And when they are not guided thereby they say, This is an antiquated lie. (11) Whereas the Book of Moses was revealed before the Qurán, to be a guide and a mercy: and this is a book confirming the same, delivered in the Arabic tongue; to denounce threats unto those who act unjustly, and to bear good tidings unto the righteous doers. (12) As to those who say, Our LordisGod; and who behave uprightly, on them shall no fear come, neither shall they be grieved. (13) These shall be the inhabitants of Paradise, they shall remain therein for ever: in recompense for that which they have wrought. (14) We have commanded man to show kindness to his parents: his mother beareth him in her womb with pain, and bringeth him forth with pain: and the space of his being carried in her womb, and of his weaning, is thirty months; until, when he attaineth his age of strength, and attaineth the age of forty years, he saith, O Lord, excite me, by thy inspiration, that I may be grateful for their favours, wherewith thou hast favoured me and my parents; and that I may work righteousness, which may please thee: and be gracious unto me in my issue; for I am turned unto thee, and am a Muslim. (15) These are they from whom we accept the good work which they have wrought, and whose evil works we pass by; and they shall be among the inhabitants of Paradise: this is a true promise, which they are promised in this world.(16) He who saith unto his parents, Fie on you! Do ye promise me that I shall be taken forth from the grave, and restored to life; when many generations have passed away before me, and none of them have returned back? And his parents implore God’s assistance, and say to their son, Alas for thee! Believe! for the promise of Godis true. But he answereth, This is no other than silly fables of the ancients. (17) These are they whom the sentence passed on the nations which have been before them, of genii and of men, justly fitteth; they shall surely perish. (18) For every one is prepared a certain degree of happiness or misery, according to that which they shall have wrought: that God may recompense them for their works: and they shall not be treated unjustly. (19) On a certain day the unbelievers shall be exposed before the fire of hell; and it shall be said unto them, Ye received your good things in your lifetime, while ye were in the world; and ye enjoyed yourselves therein: wherefore this day ye shall be rewarded with the punishment of ignominy; for that ye behaved insolently in the earth, without justice, and for that ye transgressed.
∥ (20) Remember the brother of Ád, when he preached unto his people in al Ahqáf (and there were preachers before him and after him), saying, Worship none but God: verily I fear for you the punishment of a great day. (21) They answered, Art thou come unto us that thou mayest turn us aside from the worship of our gods? Bring on us now the punishment with which thou threatenest us, if thou art a man of veracity. (22) He said, Verily the knowledge of the time when your punishment will be inflicted is with God; and I only declare unto you that which I am sent to preach; but I see ye are an ignorant people. (23) And when they saw the preparation made for theirpunishment, namely, a cloud traversing the sky, and tending towards their valleys, they said, This is a traversing cloud, which bringeth us rain. Húd answered, Nay; it is what ye demanded to be hastened: a wind wherein is a severe vengeance: (24) it will destroy everything, at the command of its Lord. And in the morning nothing was to be seen besides their empty dwellings. Thus do we reward wicked people. (25) We had established them in the like flourishing condition wherein we have established you, O men of Makkah; and we had given them ears, and eyes, and hearts: yet neither their ears, nor their eyes, nor their hearts profited them at all, when they rejected the signs of God; but the vengeance which they mocked at fell upon them.
∥ (26) We heretofore destroyed the cities which were round about you; and we variously proposed our signs unto them, that they might repent. (27) Did those protect them whom they took for gods, besides God,and imagined to be honoured with his familiarity? Nay; they withdrew from them: yet this was their false opinion which seduced them, and the blasphemy which they had devised. (28)Remember when we caused certain of the genii to turn aside unto thee, that they might hear the Qurán; and when they were present at the reading of the same, they said to one another, Give ear: and when it was ended, they returned back unto their people, preaching what they had heard.(29) They said, Our people, verily we have heard a book read unto us, which hath been revealed since Moses, confirming the scripture which was delivered before it, and directing unto the truth and the right way. (30) Our people, obey God’s preacher; and believe in him; that he may forgive you your sins, and may deliver you from a painful punishment. (31) And whoever obeyeth not God’s preacher shall by no means frustrate God’s vengeance on earth; neither shall he have any protectors besides him. These will be in a manifest error. (32) Do they not know that God, who hath created the heavens and the earth, and was not fatigued with the creation thereof, is able to raise the dead to life? Yea, verily; for he is almighty. (33) On a certain day the unbelievers shall be exposed unto hell-fire; and it shall be said unto them, Is not this really come to pass? They shall answer, Yea, by our Lord.God shall reply, Taste, therefore, the punishment of hell, for that ye have been unbelievers. (34) Do thou, O Prophet, bear the insults of thy people with patience, as our apostles, who were endued with constancy, bear the injuries of their people; and require not their punishment to be hastened unto them. On the day whereon they shall see the punishment wherewith they have been threatened, (35) it shall seem as though they had tarried in the world but an hour of a day. This is a fair warning. Shall they perish except the people who transgress?
[(1) ]H. M. See Prelim. Disc., pp. 100-102.
[(2) ]In truth. See notes on chaps. xxi. 16, 17, and xxxviii. 26.
[(3) ]The idols. This should be the gods or the angels.
[(4) ]To the day, &c., i.e., until the day of the resurrection, when they will repudiate their worshippers.
[(6) ]The truth, i.e., the Qurán.
[(8) ]I am not singular among the apostles. “That is, I do not teach a doctrine different from what the former apostles and prophets have taught, nor am I able to do what they could not, particularly to show the signs which every one shall think fit to demand.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(9) ]A witness. “This witness is generally supposed to have been the Jew Abdullah Ibn Salám, who declared that Muhammad was the prophet foretold by Moses. Some, however, suppose the witness here meant to have been Moses himself.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(10) ]If . . . the Qurán, &c. “These words were spoken, as some think, by the Jews, when Abdullah professed Islám; or, according to others, by the Quraish, because the first followers of Muhammad were for the most part poor and mean people; or else by the tribes of Amar, Ghatfán, and Asad, on the conversion of those of Juhainah, Muzainah, Aslam, and Ghifár.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(11) ]A book confirming, &c. See notes and references at chap. ii. 40.
[(14) ]Thirty months. “At the least; for if the full time of suckling an infant be two years (chap. ii. 233), or twenty-four months, there remain but six months for the space of his being carried in the womb, which is the least that can be allowed.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(16) ]Fie on you. “The words seem to be general; but it is said they were revealed particularly on occasion of Abdurrahmán, the son of Abu Baqr, who used these expressions to his father and mother before he professed Islám.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(17) ]Shall surely perish. “Unless they redeem their fault by repentance and embracing the true faith, as did Abdurrahmán.”—Sale.
[(20) ]The brother of A’d, i.e., the prophet Húd. See chap. xi. 50.
[(24) ]It will destroy everything. “Which came to pass accordingly; for this pestilential and violent wind killed all who believed not in the doctrine of Húd, without distinction of sex, age, or degree, and entirely destroyed their possessions.”—Sale. See notes to chaps. vii. 66-73, and xi. 50 seq.
[(26) ]Cities . . . round about you. “As the settlements of the Thamúdites, Midianites, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, &c.”—Sale.
[(28) ]Certain . . . genii. “These genii, according to different opinions, were of Nisibín, or of Yaman, or of Nineveh; and in number nine or seven. They heard Muhammad reading the Qurán by night, or after the morning prayer, in the valley of al Naḳhlah, during the time of his retreat to al Tayif, and believed on him.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín. Comp. chap. lxxii. 1-19.
[(29) ]Revealed since Moses. “Hence the commentators suppose those genii, before their conversion to Muhammadanism, to have been of the Jewish religion.”—Sale.
[(31) ]God’s preacher, i.e., Muhammad. See note on chap. ii. 119. Noëldeke thinks vers. 20-31 misplaced here, as they break the connection between vers. 19 and 32.
[(34) ]Bear . . . with patience. “But his biography is full of instances of Mohammed not bearing insults with patience, and having those who spoke against him killed. When at Mecca he is patient, being powerless; when at the head of an army at Medina, he kills those who oppose him with words only.”—Brinckman in Notes on Islám. This is true; but the Muslim reply is that in both cases he acted in accordance with the command of God.
[(35) ]But an hour. See chap. xxiii. 114.