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    This Surah was revealed during the last stage of the Prophet’s residence at Makkah.Major Issues, Divine Laws and Guidance:

    • Allah is the only Creator of this universe.
    • Deities whom the mushrikeen worship other than Allah, have no power to either benefit or harm anyone.
    • Deities other than Allah are not even aware that they are being worshiped.
    • To every nation Allah sent a Rasool for guidance.
    • Al-Qur’an provides a cure for all the problems of mankind.
    • Mushrikeen follow nothing but conjectures and preach nothing but falsehood.
    • The story of the Prophet Nuh and his people.
    • The story of the Prophet Musa, Fir’aun, and his chiefs.
    • Belief after seeing the scourge did not benefit any nation except the nation of the Prophet Yunus.
    • Prohibition against forcing anyone to embrace Islam.
     In the introductory verses of this Surah, an invitation towards the Right Way is extended to the people who were considering it a strange thing that Allah’s message was being conveyed by a human being (Muhammad). They were charging the Prophet with sorcery, whereas in the Qur’an there was neither anything strange nor it had anything to do with sorcery or soothsaying. The prophet was simply informing mankind about two facts: 
    1. Allah, Who has created the universe, is, in fact, your Rabb, and He Alone is entitled to be worshipped.
    2. That after the life in this world, there will be another life in the next world, where every one shall have to render full account of this world’s life. They shall be rewarded or punished according to whether they adopted the righteous attitude required by Allah after acknowledging Him as their Rabb, or acted against His will.
     Both of these facts are realities in themselves, whether you acknowledge them as such or not. If you accept them, you will have a very blessed end; otherwise you shall meet the evil consequences of your disbelief.

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    this surah was revealed at Makkah and it shares many of the features we have seen in al-An¢¥m and al-Isr¥’. Like them, its main theme is to guide man to his Creator by means of observation, contemplation, and reflection upon God’s vast creation. In my view, the Makkan approach which was, in the first instance, direc- ted at the pagan Arabs who were mainly idol-worshipers, and which proved very effective in stimulating their minds and reviving their dormant intellectual instincts that would lead them to believe in God and put their trust in Him, would be just as effective today in dealing with agnostics, secularists, and other atheists.

    One of the general features of the Qur’an, both Makkan and Madinan sections, is that it is a Book about and for humanity which appeals in earnest to the human mind and soul to wake up, seek God, and prepare for meeting Him. As a matter of course, the Qur’an had also to address the People of the Book, the Jews and the Christians, and deal with the various issues and disputes they raised. This is most apparent during the Madinan period.

    Idol-worshipers were overwhelmed by materialistic logic, which relied entirely on the senses, and were totally preoccupied by worldly gain. This is reminiscent of what we observe in many contemporary societies. In these societies, the majority of people have no interest in God or any yearning to know Him. Established religion has no last- ing impact on these people, because they live for the moment and have no cause to look beyond the life they live here on earth. They

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    leave matters of faith to the church and its clergy who perpetrate and promote largely outdated, lifeless rituals and practices, based on dogma and doctrines which are devoid of common sense and ratio- nal appeal.

    A loyal student of Orientalism advanced the ludicrous idea that the Qur’an’s approach in Makkah had been emotional, but had turned rational in Madinah as a result of influence from the Jewish community there. But, when the same scholar came to point to the use of scientific logic in the sections of the Qur’an revealed in Madinah, he quoted: “Were there other gods in them [the heavens and the earth] besides God, they would have been ruined; exalted be God, Lord of the Throne, above their claims” (al-Anbiy¥’: 22), which is in fact a Makkan one.

    The Qur’an constantly emphasizes the fact that our existence in this life is no more than a prelude to another one, and that those who recognize God and acknowledge Him here shall have the privilege of knowing Him there as well. We may conclude that existence is a continuum, part of which is experienced here in this life, the realm of obligation and responsibility, while the rest is experienced in the life hereafter, the realm of accountability and reward. Yet, modern thinking rejects such notions and concepts. In this world, we are required to praise God, thank Him, and carry out the obligations and duties with which He has charged us. But in the hereafter, all that shall be done instinctively and without any effort or struggle on our part:

    Those who believe and do good works, their Lord shall guide them through their faith. Rivers will run at their feet in gardens of delight. Their prayer therein will be, “Glory to You, Lord” and their greeting, “Peace,” and their closing prayer will be, “Praise be to God, Lord of all.” ( 9–10)

    Those who enjoy the worship and company of God in this life shall also enjoy complete happiness in His company in the hereafter. But

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    those who reject Him now shall have nothing pleasant to look for- ward to in the life to come. Total preoccupation with the ‘here and now’ and the deliberate neglect of what might lie beyond the pres- ent is a distinguishing feature of contemporary Western civili-zation. Advocates of traditional religions in the West repeat- edly defend ideas and dogma which have no influence whatsoever on the direction in which this civilization is heading: “Those who entertain no hope of meeting Us, being pleased and contented with the life of this world, and those who are heedless18 of Our revela- tions, shall have the fire as their abode in return for their deeds” (7–8). Because it relies on the senses alone, materialist logic finds the Qur’an, and divine revelation as a whole, eccentric and incompre- hensible. It is an arrogant and pretentious approach which only recognizes empi-rical evidence for everything! Y‰nus opens with a depictionof this attitude:

    These are verses of the Book overflowing with wisdom. Does it seem so strange to [your] people that We have revealed to one of them [Muhammad] that he should warn people and give good tidings to those who believe that they shall have a privileged status with their Lord? The unbelievers say, “This man is a skilled sor- cerer.” (1–2)

    Religious belief (im¥n) is an instinctive and natural human incli- nation. It is only blurred or obscured by dogmatic ‘professional’ clergy or dogged ignoramuses.

    This surah highlights the close and direct link between belief and good deeds (al-¢amal al-|¥li^). The one, inter alia, necessitates

    1. Gh¥fil is usually translated as “oblivious” which means “unaware”: one cannot be held responsible for something one is unaware of. We feel that “heed- less” is better as it means one is aware of something, but chooses to ignore it. Therefore, one has responsibility for that decision. (Ed.)

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    the other. God says: “So that He may equitably reward those who believe and do good works” (4), and: “Those who believe and do good works, their Lord shall guide them through their faith” (9). Therefore, im¥n and al-¢amal al-|¥li^ go hand-in-hand. Several verses later, God says: “For those who do good there is a good reward and more besides” (26). The Arabic term used here is i^s¥n, which denotes the combination in life between pure and sincere faith and righteous deeds within the framework of God’s guidance and under His care. The surah also offers a definition of awliy¥’ Allah meaning “the friends of God” or “the men of God” as those who have faith and fear God. It says: “Men of God have nothing to fear or to regret; they are those who have faith and are God- fearing” (62–63).

    It is fitting to recall here what Prophet Muhammad is quoted in the surah as saying: “...Were I to disobey my Lord, I fear the punish- ment of an awesome day” (15). One may also recall God’s words: “Those who have done evil, it shall be rewarded with like evil, and humiliation shall overwhelm them. They shall have no protection against God,” (27) and: “God does not put right the deeds of those who perpetrate corruption” (81).

    Muslims are treated as any other religious community by being told that, when it comes to judgment, they shall not be afforded any special concessions. For them, as for all mankind, rewards shall be commensurate with deeds and actions. Since earlier communities and nations had no special treatment and were rewarded in line with their activities, the Muslims would be no exception. The surah says:

    We have destroyed generations before you when they indulged in wrong-doing. Their Messengers came to them with veritable signs but they would not believe. Thus shall We recompense the guilty. Then We appointed you their successors on earth, so that We might see how you would fare. (13–14)

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    From beginning to end, the surah stresses the following sim- ple fact:

    Say, “People, the truth has come to you from your Lord; whoever is rightly-guided it is for his own good, and whoever goes astray would do so at his own peril. I [Muhammad] am not your guardian.” Observe what is revealed to you [Muhammad], and be patient until God’s judgment is passed… (108–109)

    By comparing this fair statement, which comes at the end of the surah, with what Prophet Muhammad is told at its beginning, that he should “warn people and give good tidings to those who believe that they shall have a privileged status with their Lord” (2), it becomes clear that the essence of the Prophet’s mission was to estab- lish justice, affirm what is right, and eradicate evil. It is further clear from the surah as a whole that the Muslim community he was to establish would be a fair and virtuous one whose members acknowl- edge God, call on others to recognize Him, follow His path, and look forward to meeting Him in the hereafter.

    Such a community is incorruptible by wealth and power and is free of oppression. It is a community that rejects and opposes tyrants and dictators and calls on the Lord, as Moses is quoted in the surah to have done, to “destroy their wealth and harden their hearts so that they would never believe until they face the harrowing punish- ment” (88).

    In this surah we also find a satisfactory answer to that perennial ques- tion: Who is this God whom human beings are obliged to worship and shall face in the hereafter? It says:

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    Your Lord is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then ascended the Throne. He takes charge of all affairs; none has power to intercede with Him except with His permission. Such is your Lord, therefore worship Him. Will you not take heed? (3)

    This brief and concise answer is expanded further by other verses in the surah. There are in this world thousands upon thousands of crea- tures and living things that are in constant need of food and sustenance. Who provides for them and who helps them grow and develop? Who gave these creatures eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear? These and other organs are in fact infinitely intricate and complex systems working together in total harmony within one body. But how was it possible that the same intricate sys- tem is being duplicated in millions upon millions of creatures?

    Ask them, “Who provides for you out of the heavens and the earth? Who holds control over hearing and sight? Who brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living? Who is in charge of all affairs?” They will reply, “God.” Say, “Will you not fear God, then?” (31)

    A farmer plants a single seed in the soil out of which a thousand other seeds are produced. Who transforms the pungent inedible soil into a cereal with a pleasant aroma and an appetizing taste? Who transforms organic waste and dead matter into sugar-cane, and into roses and flowers reflecting thousands of the most exquisite shades and colors and emitting a vast array of delectable scents and smells? “Such, then, is God, your true Lord. What is there beyond the truth but error? How then can you turn away?” (32).

    What is even more baffling is that, rather than reflecting upon creation and trying to understand how it came about, some peo- ple have opted to look into the identity and the nature of the Creator Himself. There can be nothing more wasteful or futile. This

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    retrogression in human intellectual pursuits has been one of the main causes of the decline of Islamic civilization as well as the uni- versal setbacks it has suffered. While we would not indulge in giving specific and precise interpretations to Qur’anic verses describing the attributes of God, we believe with certainty that God Almighty ascended the Throne in a manner befitting His might and glory. We further believe that God rules over the whole cosmos, which He alone had created without precedent or the help of a partner, and that He continues to have control over all its affairs. God, as such, would not be in need of help from any of His creation; He is Mighty and Self-Sufficient. This is a fact which all human beings must acknowledge and understand so that they would need to turn to no one else for help except to God Almighty. The Qur’an strongly cen- sures those who neglect this truth, as it says:

    They worship instead of God others that can neither harm nor benefit them, and say, “These are our intercessors with God.” Say, “Do you presume to inform God of what He knows to exist neither in the heavens nor on earth?” Glory to Him, and exalted be He far above the gods they take besides Him. (18)

    Human beings, not least the prophets themselves, and the angels, not least Gabriel, are servants of God who recognize His authority and bow to His power.

    They do not speak till He has spoken and they act by His command. He knows what is before them and what is behind them. They intercede for none save whom He accepts, and they are in awe of His fear. (al-Anbiy¥’: 27–28)

    Once faith is built on a sound basis, man’s relationship with God develops along proper lines, and he is rewarded with eternal life in the hereafter, where this life becomes a pleasant memory. Decades of a lifetime and the millennia of human history pass like hours,

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    …and the day He brings them [the unbelievers] all together again, as though they had sojourned [in this world] but for a day’s hour, they will get to be acquainted with each other…(45)

    But that day always seems so far in the future, leading some people to conclude wrongly that it will never in fact come.

    Elsewhere in the Qur’an, we are told how in the early days of Islam at Madinah, the Israelites used to greet the Muslims with offensive words.

    When they [the Israelites] come to you, they salute you in words which God does not greet you with, and ask themselves, “Why does God not punish us for what we say?” Hell shall be punish- ment enough for them; they shall burn in it, a wretched fate. (al-Muj¥dilah: 8)

    They ask for their punishment to come and the longer it is delayed the more doubtful they become. The polytheists would also be so confident and convinced of their belief that they would deny God’s existence, reject His Messenger and oppose him, and insist on daring God to punish them.

    They challenge you [Muhammad] to hasten on the scourge. Had the time for it not been already appointed, the scourge would have long since overtaken them. It will come down upon them sudden- ly, and catch them unawares. They challenge you to hasten the scourge, but hell shall encompass the unbelievers. (al-¢Ankab‰t: 53–54)

    This tendency to challenge God is what Y‰nus refers to in the fol- lowing verse:

    Were God to hasten to bring upon men what is evil the way men hasten in seeking what is good, their term would have long since

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    expired. Therefore We allow those who entertain no hope of meeting Us to wallow blindly in their transgression. (11)

    This warning echoes that given in verse 58 of al-Kahf that:

    were your Lord, the Merciful, to punish them [the unbelievers] for what they had done, He would have inflicted punishment on them sooner; but they have a pre-set appointment which they can never avoid.

    Would it not be more appropriate for the unbelievers to take advan- tage of the delay in bringing punishment upon them to repent and make up for their misdeeds?

    Say, “Do you see if his punishment should come to you by night or by day, what portion of it would the sinners wish to hasten? Would you then believe in it at last, when it actually comes to pass?” [It will be said:] “Ah! now? and you wanted


    to hasten it on!” (50–51)

    Would any human being be able to avoid God’s punishment when its appointed time comes? How could they, when God Almighty is in control of everything? “Indeed, to God belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. God’s promise will certainly be fulfilled, though most of them [the unbelievers] are oblivious” (55). That is said with respect to all creation, but as for rational beings, God specifically says: “Indeed, to God belong all who are in the heavens and the earth. Those they worship besides God are not real gods and they are only following their fancies...” (66).

    Since the whole universe and all creatures in it, human and otherwise, are subservient to God and are fully obedient to His will, how can anyone or anything escape His power or punish- ment? “They ask you [Muhammad], ‘Is it

    [the punishment]

    really true?’ Say, ‘Indeed, by my Lord, it is true, and you are completely

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    powerless’” (53). What causes some people to think that it is so strange or extraordinary that God should choose a man to receive His revelation and convey it on His behalf to others? One reason could be sheer envy, as we are told in verse 8 of surah ߥd. Another could be angry reaction at criticism of pagan practices and traditions. Natu- rally, those who inherit polytheist or material beliefs, rituals or traditions are loath to accept monotheism (taw^Ïd). Y‰nus is one of the surahs that champions the concept of taw^Ïd, and it goes to elabo- rate lengths to explain and define it. It puts forward evidence from the natural world to demonstrate the existence of God and His unparalleled power, saying:

    It was He that made the sun to shine and the moon to brighten up and ordained her phases so that you may learn to compute the sea- sons and the years. God has created all this only for a purpose. He expounds His signs for those people who understand. (5)

    The Arabs rejected divine revelation and the surah cites three instances of their denunciation of the Qur’an. first: “When Our clear revelations are recited to them, those who entertain no hope of meeting Us say, ‘Bring us a different Qur’an, or make some change in this one…’” (15). What they really wanted was that Muhammad and the Qur’an should praise and honor their gods and endorse their erroneous beliefs and bogus religious traditions. But, the Qur’an instructs him: “Say, ‘It is not for me to change it of my own accord. I follow only what is revealed to me…’” (15). The Prophet was also directed to point out to his people that he had already lived among them up to the age of forty years before he received any revelation or criticized their religious beliefs. He was only prompted to do so when God’s revelation had been communicated to him, and he could not possibly disobey God’s commands. “Say, ‘Had God so willed, I would have never recited it to you, nor would He have made you aware of it. I had spent a

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    whole lifetime among you before it was revealed. Do you not understand?’” (16) Second:

    This Qur’an could not have been composed by anyone other than God. It is a confirmation of the revelation received before it and a full exposition of the Book. Beyond doubt it is from the Lord of all creation. (37)

    No fair-minded person reading the Qur’an with an objective mind would fail to realize immediately that Muhammad could not have made up a single word of it. It is also evident that the main thread going through all of its text is that of the truth. Were the Qur’an to be the work of anyone else, some of its contents would not have made any sense at all. Were we to accept those allegations, it would imply that the human mind was more capable, as it were, of producing divine revelation than even God Himself ! For, the Qur’an puts forward the strongest possible defense of the principle of taw^Ïd and is the most eloquent and convincing exposition of its meaning and ramifications. If the Qur’an was the work of a human mind, however, what would stop its detractors who make that claim from producing works similar to it?

    Or do they [the unbelievers] claim that he [Muhammad] had in- vented it [the Qur’an] himself. Say, “Bring me a single surah that matches any of it, and call on whom you may besides God to help you, if you are truthful.” (38)

    The Qur’an challenges the Arabs to seek the help of anyone, human or otherwise, who would be skilled or knowledgeable enough to compose something similar to the Qur’an or even a single short surah. Centuries have now passed and the challenge remains. No one has yet been able to take it up. “Indeed, they disbelieved it before they were able to comprehend it, and before its prophecy has

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    been fulfilled...” (39). Because of their ignorance, God has delayed their punishment in case they might retract their claims and come to their senses. The surah explains that “some of them believe in it, while others do not; but your Lord best knows the evil-doers” (40). What attitude should then be adopted towards the skeptics and the cynics? “If they do not believe you, say, ‘My deeds are my own and your deeds are your own. You are not accountable for my actions, nor am I accountable for what you do’” (41). No other book has been open to so much scrutiny, criticism and free debate. The Qur’an has been presented to humankind under no duress or coercion. Those with honest and open minds can only respond to it positively; others who reject it are blinded with ignorance and prejudice.

    Some of them listen to you; but you cannot make the deaf hear while they are incapable of understanding. Some of them look at you; but you cannot make the blind see [the truth] while they are bereft of sight. (42–43)

    Third: God says in this surah: “People, an admonition has come to you from your Lord, a panacea for the ailments of the heart, a guidance and a mercy for those who believe” (57). Indeed, the Qur’an is all of this. It nourishes and cultivates the soul. It acts as a deterrent against sinful behavior. It shields the heart and the mind against doubt, cynicism and uncertainty. In short, it provides those who accept it with material as well as psychological and spiritual advantage and enrichment. No one who understands the Qur’an and opens his/her heart and mind to it should ever feel that anyone else is happier or more fortunate. “Say, ‘Let them [the believers] rejoice in the grace and mercy of God, for these are far better than all the riches they [the unbelievers] may accumulate.’” (58) With the Qur’an as his reference and guide in every situation, Prophet Muhammad was able to fight and overcome all the foes who rose

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    up against him and was able to refute and rebut their arguments. The surah echoes this, saying:

    No matter what you [Muhammad] may be engaged in, however much of the Qur’an you recite, and whatever anyone else may be doing, We shall be there to witness it as you embark upon it. Not an atom’s weight on earth or in the heavens escapes your Lord, nothing smaller or bigger than that, but is recorded in a comprehen- sive book. (61)

    The ending of the surah reinforces its opening statements that taw^Ïd is the essence and the cornerstone of belief and faith in God. As the opening verses of the surah refer to people’s surprise at the fact that God had chosen to send His revelations to an ordinary human being, the last verse reassures Prophet Muhammad, directing him to: “Follow what has been revealed to you and be patient in adversity until God passes His judgment. For He is the best judge” (109).

    The dispute over the Qur’an has been very intense, and we as Muslims have no doubt whatsoever that it is the incontrovertible Truth. The meanings of some of its linguistic constructions and expressions are sometimes not immediately clear to those not suffi- ciently versed in the Arabic language and its rhetoric, and some have misunderstood or misinterpreted them. In everyday language, you may urge someone not to be lethargic or to maintain certain stan- dards of character or behavior, without him being lazy or showing a decline in behavior. Your objective would be to provoke, encour- age and stimulate that person to move forward and improve. Similarly, God urges His Prophet, saying: “If you doubt what We have revealed to you, ask those who have read the scriptures before you…” (94). Would this be a recommendation that Muhammad should seek counsel with, or direction from, those who advocate the doctrine of the Trinity or who claim that God appeared in human

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    form? The answer must be a resounding ‘No!’ Such queries by the Prophet as cited in the Qur’an are either rhetorical or polemical or for reasons of instruction and education.

    Taw^Ïd, from the standpoint of Islam, is beyond dispute: God is one, eternal, He begot none nor was He begotten, and there is none equal to Him. Likewise, the contentious allegations made by the Israelites with respect to God and His Messengers, as cited in the surah, are refuted. Hence the Prophet is told:

    The truth has come to you from your Lord; therefore do not doubt it. Do not be among those who deny the revelations of God or else you shall be with the losers. Those on whom your Lord’s judgment has been passed shall never believe, even if they were to be given every possible sign [of the truth], until they come face to face with the woeful punishment. (94–97)

    Simple honest logic and common sense dictate that God can never be two or three or more, nor could He be in any way likened to a human being.

    Humans are vulnerable and weak. When faced with hardship, they can easily feel completely helpless, despondent and exposed. Crises can overwhelm and subdue them. It is at such moments that many people seek God and plead for His support and assistance. However, in some cases, as soon as the difficulty is overcome and the ordeal is over, people’s faith dwindles and their yearning towards God fades away. The surah tells us:

    When misfortune befalls man, he pleads to Us lying on his side, sit- ting or standing. But as soon as We lift his affliction, he goes on as if he had never sought Our help. Thus their misdeeds are made to appear fair to the wrong-doers. (12)

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    This is indeed a scurrilous and disgraceful trait. One ought always to remember who had come to one’s rescue when needed, and to acknowledge the favor one owes God Almighty and be loyal to Him under all circumstances. The surah depicts this type of behavior in more detail, saying:

    He it is who enables you to travel on land and sea. And

    [behold what happens]

    when you go to sea in ships: [they go to sea in ships,] and they sail on in them in a favorable wind, and they rejoice thereat—until there comes upon them a tempest, and waves surge towards them from all sides, so that they believe themselves to be encompassed [by death; and then] they call unto God, [at that moment] sincere in their faith in Him alone, “If You will but save us from this, we shall most certainly be among the grateful!” Yet as soon as He has saved them from this [danger], lo! they behave outrageously on earth, offending against all right! O men! All your outrageous deeds are bound to fall back upon your own selves! [You care only for] the enjoyment of life in this world: [but remember that] in the end unto Us you must return, whereupon We shall make you truly understand all that you were doing [in life]. (22–23)

    It is a psychological fact of human behavior that when one is drowning or surrounded by danger, one turns to no one else but God Almighty. He is the only resort and the real savior. The vexing question here is why, once saved, does humankind immediately for- get the hand that saved it and deny the favor extended to it? It is indeed a serious and disturbing defect of human nature that needs urgent and constant attention. Those who at times of triumph and prosperity forget everything else deserve whatever punishment they may receive. Such punishment is usually swift and comes when it is least expected. God says:

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    Life in this world is like the water We send down from the sky which is absorbed by the earth’s plants, crops and vegetation which are consumed by men and beasts. As the earth flourishes and becomes adorned luxuriantly, and as people begin to feel they have full control over it, Our judgment falls upon them by night or during daylight and We turn it into stubble as if it had never blossomed hitherto. Thus do We expound the signs for people who reflect. (24)

    Sudden and severe disasters are painful and devastating to indi- viduals as well as to society as a whole. Calamities usually strike the crops shortly before the harvest and just as the owners begin to feel confident that it is within their grasp to gather it. This makes the impact that much more calamitous. As humans, every one of us is entitled to call upon God’s help and support when hardship strikes, but when God comes to our help, we are expected to show grati- tude and to continue to do so even after the ordeal is over. Huma- nity cannot stand alone and shall always be in need of God’s help and support. The example given in the surah applies in many different situations in human life. Humankind’s arrogance and conceit pro- voke God’s anger which can strike suddenly and with devastating consequences.

    Before the surah is brought to a close, God Almighty, in a few tender, gentle words, instructs His Messenger to address humankind with the following reassuring advice:

    Say, “People! If you are still in doubt about my faith, I am not going to worship what you worship besides God. I will but worship God who will cause you all to die. I have been commanded to be with

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    the believers.” Dedicate yourself to the true faith and do not be one of the polytheists. You shall not call upon anything besides God which can neither benefit nor harm you, for, if you do, you shall be one of the wrong-doers. If God afflicts you with misfortune none can lift it but He; and if He wills you something good none can take it away. He bestows His favor upon whom He wills of His servants. He is Forgiving and Compassionate. (104–107)

    This strong and direct link between humans and God is the very essence of the faith of Islam. Other “gods” or powers, if any, are worth nothing. Humanity’s fears and hopes are all dependent and focused on and directed towards God alone. This fact forms the solid foundation upon which everyday relations and dealings between humans are based.

    In this surah we also encounter several brief accounts of earlier nations and religious communities such as that of prophet Y‰nus whose name gives the surah its title. The implication here is that the Arabs of Makkah, whom Prophet Muhammad was addressing with the new faith of Islam, might receive the same pleasant fate as that of Jonah’s people. The Makkan Arabs, in fact, had in the initial stages fiercely and relentlessly opposed Islam. They resisted and fought against it for close to twenty years. Eventually, however they embraced it and devoted all their energies and resources to defending and spreading it. The people of Jonah fared much better than other communities, such as the people of H‰d. God says:

    For, alas, there has never yet been any community that attained to faith

    [in its entirety,]

    and thereupon benefited by its faith, except the people of Jonah. When they came to believe, We removed from them the suffering of disgrace [which otherwise would have befallen them even] in the life of this world, and allowed them to enjoy their life during the time allotted to them. (98)

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    Whenever these narratives are cited in the Qur’an they usually reflect situations and experiences faced by Prophet Muhammad himself, in order for him to draw lessons from them. Hence the similarity in dealing with such situations, despite the time-space factor. The prophet Noah (N‰^), we are told, faced his people’s resistance and opposition for nine and a half centuries, but he per- sisted steadfastly with his mission of calling them to God. The surah tells us:

    Tell them [the Arabs] of the story of Noah who said to his people, “If it offends you, my people, that I should live among you and remind you of God’s revelations, let me tell you that I have put my trust in God. Decide upon your course of action and call forth all your gods, declare your intentions and take whatever action you want to take towards me without delay. If you turn away from me, remember that I demand nothing from you in return. I seek my rec- ompense from God alone. I am commanded to be one of those who submit to God…” (71–72)

    What Noah had told his people was the same as Muhammad would tell his people. God’s prophets and messengers are honest indivi- duals devoted to the service of God. They seek no personal gain, material or otherwise, in carrying out their missions and obligations towards God and their fellow men. The surah cites experiences of other messengers and their communities, with extensive coverage of episodes from the history of the Pharaoh of Egypt and the Israelites and their prophets and leaders. The Pharaohs were des- troyed as a result of their arrogance, oppression and exploitation of their people, while the Israelites took advantage of the privilege of receiving divine revelation and abused the favor and trust God had invested in them. In this context God says:

    We settled the children of Israel in a blessed land and provided them with all manner of good things. They came to disagree among

    surah 10 • Y‰nus

    themselves only after knowledge was given to them. Your Lord will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning their disputes. (93)

    These words are a warning to the Muslims to avoid the pitfalls which had plagued the Israelites. Muslims are required to shoulder the responsibility of carrying God’s message with honesty and dedi- cation.

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    الر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْحَكِيمِ

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    أَكَانَ لِلنَّاسِ عَجَبًا أَنْ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ رَجُلٍ مِّنْهُمْ أَنْ أَنذِرِ النَّاسَ وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنَّ لَهُمْ قَدَمَ صِدْقٍ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ ۗ قَالَ الْكَافِرُونَ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَسَاحِرٌ مُّبِينٌ

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    إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ ۖ يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ ۖ مَا مِن شَفِيعٍ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ إِذْنِهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُوهُ ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ

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    إِلَيْهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا ۖ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقًّا ۚ إِنَّهُ يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ لِيَجْزِيَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ بِالْقِسْطِ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَهُمْ شَرَابٌ مِّنْ حَمِيمٍ وَعَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْفُرُونَ

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    هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ الشَّمْسَ ضِيَاءً وَالْقَمَرَ نُورًا وَقَدَّرَهُ مَنَازِلَ لِتَعْلَمُوا عَدَدَ السِّنِينَ وَالْحِسَابَ ۚ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ ذَٰلِكَ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۚ يُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ

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    إِنَّ فِي اخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَمَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَّقُونَ

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    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءَنَا وَرَضُوا بِالْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَاطْمَأَنُّوا بِهَا وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِنَا غَافِلُونَ

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    أُولَٰئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمُ النَّارُ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ

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    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ يَهْدِيهِمْ رَبُّهُم بِإِيمَانِهِمْ ۖ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهِمُ الْأَنْهَارُ فِي جَنَّاتِ النَّعِيمِ


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