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    This Surah was revealed during the last stage of the Prophet’s stay at Makkah, and most probably it was revealed immediately after Surah Yunus. Major Issues, Divine Laws and Guidance:

    • Allah is the Provider and Sustainer of all creatures.
    • Al-Qur’an is the pure Message of Allah and is not forged by the Prophet.
    • Story of the Prophet Nuh and his people.
    • Dialogue between the Prophet Nuh, his son and Allah.
    • Prophets Hud, Saleh, Lut and Shu’aib’s addresses to their people and consequences of their people’s rejecting their messages.
    • Divine law of virtues removing the evils.
    • Allah has given freedom of choice to mankind (whether to believe or not to believe).
      This Surah emphasizes invitation to the Message of Allah. It is an admonition and warning to the disbelievers. The invitation is to accept the Message of Allah, obey the Prophet of Allah, discard shirk, and worship Allah alone. Live your life in this world keeping in mind that you shall be held accountable for all of your actions on the Day of Judgement. The admonition is given through the example of those people who put their faith in and used their efforts for this worldly life and rejected the message of the Prophets. As a result, they met the evil consequences of their rejection. Therefore, people are advised to think seriously about whether or not they should follow the way of the arrogant, which history has proved to be the way to destruction. The warning is given to the disbelievers that they should not be deluded by the delay in the punishment for their misdeeds. The delay is only because of the respite that Allah has granted them, by His grace, to mend their ways. If they do not make use of this opportunity, they shall be inflicted with an inevitable punishment. Al-Qur’an has used the stories of the people of Nuh, Hud, Saleh, Lut, Shu’aib and Musa to achieve this purpose. The most prominent feature of these stories is to spell out how Allah passes His judgement on the people, He does not spare any disbeliever even if he/she may be a nearest relative of a Prophet of the time. The stories of Nuh and Lut clearly tell that even the Prophet’s own son and wife were not spared for being disbelievers. Therefore, the believers should remember that real relationship is the relationship of faith.

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    like several qur’anic surahs, H‰d opens with a reference to the Qur’an as “a Book, whose verses are well expressed and made plain, from the All-Wise and All-Knowing” (1). This should cause no surprise because the Qur’an contains proof of its veracity, uni- versality, and everlasting qualities. It was delivered to Prophet Muhammad to pass on to all humankind with the aim of saving them from the dire consequences and the wilderness of polytheism (shirk), and lead them into the enlightened realm of taw^Ïd, the bed-rock of salvation. The surah continues: “Worship none but God. I come to warn you and give you good tidings on His behalf” (2).

    The task Muhammad had been charged with was not an easy or ordinary one. When his trusted friend and Companion, Ab‰ Bakr, pointed out to him that his hair was going gray, Muhammad was reported to have said: “Indeed! H‰d and its sister surahs [reportedly al-W¥qi¢ah, al-Mursal¥t, al-Naba’ and al-TakwÏr] are the cause of my graying hair.”19 I have always been intrigued by this comment and this spurred me to try and find out what it is about this surah that would cause the Prophet’s hair to go gray. Would it be the trials and ordeals suffered by earlier nations? But these have been cited in other surahs too. Could the cause be the stubbornness and dogged attitude of some of his own people towards him? The surah says:

    1. Narrated by al-TirmidhÏ in his Sunan.

    surah 11 • H‰d

    They conceal what is in their hearts to hide it from God, but when they cover themselves up with their clothes He still knows what they conceal and what they reveal. God knows what is in the deep- est recesses of their hearts. (5)

    However, I discounted that as the reason for the troubling impact the surah had on the Prophet because he was too strong for that. I therefore decided to look for another reason.

    The surah has one outstanding feature which distinguishes it from the rest. It is full of intensely personal, direct and indirect instruc- tions addressed to Prophet Muhammad, using the first personal pronoun, emphasizing the weight and the significance of the mis- sion he had undertaken. Consider the following words:

    You [Muhammad] may be contemplating to omit some of what is being revealed to you or feeling distressed by it because they [the unbelievers] say, “If only he was given a treasure or had an angel sent down to him!” But you are merely a warner, and God has con- trol over everything. (12)

    Such instances recur scores of times, as we shall see, throughout the surah. Here is another example:

    God alone has knowledge of the unseen in the heavens and the earth. All things shall be referred to Him for judgment. Serve Him, and put all your trust in Him. Your Lord is never unaware of what you do. (123)

    Commenting on the fate of Noah’s people following the Flood, God says to Muhammad:

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    These are accounts from the past We reveal to you. Neither you nor your people have hitherto known of them. Have patience, the God-fearing shall have a joyful end. (49)

    Half way through this narration, Muhammad is again directly addressed with the following words:

    Or do they [the Arabs] say, “He [Muhammad] had made it

    [the Qur’an]

    up himself”? If so, say to them, “If I had made it up, the consequences of my crime shall fall on me; but I plead innocence of your crimes.” (35)

    How could Muhammad have invented the Qur’an himself or inter- fered with its authorship when he had had a solid, untarnished reputation for honesty and truthfulness all his life?

    The surah goes on to relate the encounter of the people of ¢®d with their messenger H‰d and their mistreatment of him. God says: “When Our judgment came to pass, We delivered H‰d through Our mercy, together with those who believed with him, and We spared them a horrifying scourge” (58). This is followed, yet again, with a comment directed at Muhammad, saying: “Such were ‘®d. They denied the revelations of their Lord, and disobeyed His Messengers and followed the words of every headstrong tyrant” (59). Tham‰d, the people of the prophet ߥli^, had met with a simi- lar fate. God informed Muhammad: “When Our judgment came to pass, We delivered ߥli^, through Our mercy, and those who fol- lowed him from the ignominy of that day. Your Lord is Mighty, All-Powerful” (66). God then tells the Messenger of the end of the people of Lot, whose city was totally destroyed and submerged underground, saying:

    When Our judgment came to pass, We turned the city upside down and rained on it a torrent of stones of baked clay, especially marked

    surah 11 • H‰d

    from your Lord. Such punishment is never far off from the trans- gressors. (82–83)

    The last sentence is meant as a warning to the Arabs who were bent on repudiating Muhammad and his message.

    Commenting on the destruction of the Pharaohs and the people of Madyan, God informs the Prophet, saying: “We have recounted to you the annals of these nations; some have survived, while others have ceased to exist” (100). Towards the end of the surah we note that God addresses Muhammad directly on not less than eighteen occasions, in addition to the accompanying instructions, which goes to explain the enormity of the impact the surah must have had on Prophet Muhammad personally. This section starts from verse 101, which says:

    We never wronged them, but they wronged themselves. When your Lord’s judgment came upon them, the gods they called upon besides God availed them nothing; they only added to their ruin.

    The words “your Lord” are repeated three times in two consecutive verses, thus:

    The damned shall be cast into the fire, where, groaning and moaning, they shall abide as long as the heavens and the earth exist, unless your Lord wills otherwise. Your Lord accomplishes whatever He wills. As for the blessed ones, they shall abide in Paradise for as long as the heavens and the earth continue to exist, unless your Lord wills otherwise. They shall enjoy endless bounty. (106–108)

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    Then God says to Prophet Muhammad: “Have no doubts about what these people [the Arabs] worship” (109). He reminds him of the fact that God’s judgment of humankind shall be deferred till the appointed day, saying: “And but for a word from your Lord, already decreed, their fate would have long been sealed” (110). Until that day should come, Prophet Muhammad was obliged to endure and persist with his mission, facing whatever hardships and tribulations arose in the meantime. Those who follow Muhammad would also be expected to do likewise: “Follow then the right path as you have been commanded, together with those who have repented with you, and do not transgress” (112). He was further instructed to: “Attend to prayer, morning, afternoon, and during the earlier part of the night. Good deeds make up for evil ones. This is an admoni- tion for thoughtful people” (114). Personal speech does not end there. Let us read on.

    Your Lord would never wrongfully destroy towns while their inhabitants are righteous. Had your Lord so willed, He would have made all humankind as one nation, but they continue to differ among themselves, except for those towards whom God has shown mercy. It is to this end that He has created them. The word of your Lord shall be fulfilled, “I will fill hell with jinn and humans, alto- gether.” (117–119)

    Would not Muhammad be justified, after all this, in saying that surah

    H‰d had given him gray hairs?

    Casual misdemeanors in one’s life are not necessarily detrimental, as they can be mitigated by repentance. As a matter of fact, these could very well act as a kind of “vaccine” that immunizes a person against committing similar offenses against God, and hence they may be of benefit. Evil actions that bring about the destruction of

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    nations and communities are those which set in and take root within the fabric of society as a whole. In certain societies, evil and seditious behavior become the accepted norm, protected by and incorporated into their laws and conventions. The opposite is then seen as odd, unconventional, and out of the ordinary. Morality, decency, and righteousness are frowned upon and branded eccen- tric and reactionary.

    Prophet Lot spent a great deal of time and energy trying to persuade his people to desist from the practise of sodomy, but they ignored his advice. Let us look at what they had to say to him. “His [Lot’s] people’s only answer was, ‘Banish them [Lot and his follo- wers] from your city, because they are chaste people’” (al-A¢r¥f: 82). Indecency, perversion, and immoral practices had become the norm. Usually, corrupt civilizations first sink into decadence and then decline. Symptoms of such decline have now become visible in several aspects of contemporary Western civilization. Today’s humans need to be addressed again with the opening verse of this surah:

    Serve none but God. I [Muhammad] have come to you to warn you and give you good tidings on His behalf. Seek forgiveness of your Lord and turn to Him in repentance and He will provide well for you until an appointed time. He will reward each one on merit. But if you give no heed, I fear for you the punishment of an apocalyptic day. (1–3)

    The immediate promise for those who repent is ‘a good and decent life’. Human nature being what it is, people prefer comfortable liv- ing, and since life is a trial, God reassures human beings that as long as they believe and submit themselves to Him, He will provide them with comfort and enjoyment in this life and enable them to progress and improve their lot. The surah tells us that the same promise was made to the people of H‰d, when he said to them:

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    “My people, seek the forgiveness of your Lord and turn to Him in repentance and He will bring incessant rain upon you from the sky and add strength to your strength. Do not turn away from Him and become transgressors.” They said, “H‰d, you have come to us with no clear proof. We will not forsake our gods at your behest, nor will we believe in you.” (52–53)

    On the face of it, their argument appears to have a ring of rationality to it, but in reality it is devoid of all sense. When H‰d called upon them to believe in the one God, their reaction was one of total astonishment, saying: “‘We can see you are a foolish man, and, what is more, we think you are lying’” (al-A¢r¥f: 66). He patiently persist- ed, saying: “‘My people, I am not foolish; I am a Messenger sent by the Lord of all creation to convey to you the messages of my Lord and to give you honest counsel’” (al-A¢r¥f: 67–68).

    Each account related in the Qur’an highlights certain aspects of the history of the nations and communities concerned. When these narratives are put together, a full picture emerges. This in itself is a specialist feature in the interpretation and understanding of the Qur’an. H‰d relates such accounts in a rather similar way to al-A¢r¥f, but on Noah (N‰^), for instance, we find in this surah certain details, extending over almost two pages, that are not given in al-A¢r¥f which devotes only a few lines to the same story. Noah’s pleading with God to save his own son from drowning in the Flood cannot fail to move one’s emotions and sympathy. “Noah called out to his Lord, saying, ‘Lord, my son is of my kith and kin. Your pro- mise is the truth, and You are the best of judges’” (45). Noah was asking God to keep His promise to save him and his family from the Flood, but God’s swift reply came saying:

    surah 11 • H‰d

    “Noah, he is certainly not of your kith and kin; he is of unrighteous conduct. Do not ask me about matters you have no knowledge about. I warn you not to be like the ignorant ones.” (46)

    Some scholars have erroneously interpreted these statements to mean that Noah’s wife had been unfaithful and the son was the result of an illicit relationship. This cannot be farther from the truth. Noah’s wife only betrayed him in as much as she had joined those of her people who rejected Noah’s prophethood and opposed his mis- sion, thereby allying herself with his enemies. Her son also took a similar stand which stripped him of affinity to Noah, as God pointed out to him, according to the surah. The son was swept away by the flood like all the others, and that is what the surah refers to in saying: “God said, ‘Noah, he does not belong with your people; his actions are not virtuous. Do not ask Me about matters you know nothing of…’” (46). Noah’s response was as to be expected: obliging and compliant. He said:

    “I seek refuge in You, my Lord, for asking You about matters of which I have no knowledge. If You do not forgive me and have mercy on me, I shall certainly be a loser.” God said, “Noah, come ashore with peace and blessings from Us upon you and upon some of the nations who are with you.” (47–48)

    God’s revelation to all prophets and messengers since Noah and Abraham right up to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad has always given precedence to ties of faith and religion over those of blood and ancestry. To love or to hate, for the sake of God, has always been the basis for agreement or disharmony, respectively, among individuals and communities.

    Having given us an account of Noah’s experience, the surah moves on to relate how H‰d’s people reacted with such hostility and opposition to his efforts to guide them to God. His only solace was

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    to say: “‘I have put my trust in God, my Lord and your Lord. There is not a single living creature whose destiny He does not control. My Lord’s path is right and straight’” (56). When divine retribution fell upon those people it was swift and decisive. Those mighty and powerful, giant-like people were overwhelmed by gales that snatched them off: “like trunks of uprooted palm-trees…” (al- Qamar: 20). H‰d and his followers were rescued. “When Our judgment came to pass, We delivered H‰d through Our mercy, together with those who believed with him, from a horrifying scourge” (58). The depressing episode is concluded with the fol- lowing damning comment:

    Such were ¢®d. They denied the revelations of their Lord, dis- obeyed His Messengers and followed the lead of every headstrong tyrant. They were cursed in this world and cursed they shall be on the Day of Judgment. ¢®d had rejected their Lord. ¢®d, the people of H‰d, are damned for ever. (59–60)

    Once God’s judgment is passed on those communities that reject Him and oppose His will, no matter how powerful and strong they might be, they would stand no chance in the face of God’s mighty punishment. It remains an historic mystery why the ancient Arabized tribes such as ¢®d and Tham‰d were so unanimously headstrong in opposing God’s prophets and persecuting their followers. It had brought them nothing but destruction and annihilation.

    The surah then moves on to relate accounts of the tribe of Tham‰d and their response to prophet ߥli^. The caste system which had emerged during the time of Noah seems to have become even more entrenched in the Tham‰d society. Most of ߥli^’s fol- lowers, however, seem to have come from the lower and less powerful classes. In another surah, we read that:

    surah 11 • H‰d

    The haughty elders of his people said to the believers from among the oppressed ones, “Do you really believe that ߥli^ is sent by his Lord?” They answered, “We believe in the message with which he has been sent.” The haughty elders said, “We totally reject that in which you have believed.” (al-A¢r¥f: 75–76)

    For individuals to choose to destroy themselves is reproachable enough, but when whole communities opt for mass self-destruction the crime becomes compounded. Racial discrimination stems basi- cally from blind arrogance, and it is the underlying cause behind all the ethnic strife seen in the world, past and present. Racial prejudice was rife among the Arabs before Islam, and it is particularly deeply ingrained in many societies of today. A pre-Islamic Arab poet, ¢Amr ibn Kulth‰m, put it rather arrogantly when he said:

    When we go to fetch water,

    We draw the purest and the sweetest. Others drink muddy and soiled water.

    Even though the spread of ethnocentric tendencies such as fas- cism and Nazism has been relatively curtailed in recent times, national bigotry, chauvinistic scientific and scholarly research and self-centered personal greed remain the collective backbone of “modern nationalism.” All other loyalties have been swept away. But humanity has not been created to further such bigoted, narrow- minded causes. God says:

    And to Tham‰d We sent their compatriot ߥli^. He said, “My people, worship God; you have no god but Him. He brought you into being out of the earth and established you on it. Seek His for- giveness, and turn to Him in repentance. My Lord is near and answers all.” (61)

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    This statement is not addressed to Tham‰d alone, but rather to all generations of humankind whom God had charged at various stages of human history with cultivating the earth and developing it, and who have an obligation to worship God and serve Him until such a day that they will all return to Him for accountability and final judg- ment. One can only feel a sense of frustration and despondency at the prevailing state of affairs in the world today. It is torn between two camps. One, the Muslim camp, upholds and represents authen- tic religious faith but has no say in, or influence on, world affairs or destiny. The other, the materialist power-hungry West, and its allies all over the world, is effectively the dominant culture in today’s world. It has harnessed the earth’s energies and resources and ven- tured to conquer outer space, but has no room for God in its philosophy or way of life.

    Tham‰d were closer to the latter type, powerful but faithless.

    Their prophet ߥli^ advised them to:

    “Remember when God made you inherit ¢®d and placed you in a high position on earth and enabled you to build palaces and carve dwellings in the mountains. Remember God’s favors and do not go about ruining the earth.” (al-A¢r¥f: 74)

    But, blinded by arrogance and corrupted by power, Tham‰d proved ungrateful and showed no respect for their obligations towards God, and so: “When Our judgment came to pass, We, through Our mercy, spared ߥli^ and those who believed with him from the ignominy of that day of doom. Your Lord is All-Powerful and Mighty” (66).

    Tham‰d were succeeded by Madyan who combined political deviation with economic corruption. In al-A¢r¥f, as we had seen earlier in this work, a relentless campaign was waged on political corruption and oppression, but in H‰d the attack is directed against economic corruption. In the former, God appeals to the people

    surah 11 • H‰d

    of Madyan to tolerate and open their minds to views opposed to their own, and to examine notions and concepts before rejecting them or persecuting those holding them. They were told by pro- phet Shu¢ayb:

    “Not to stand in every street threatening and debarring from the path of God those who believe in Him, nor seek to distort the truth. Remember when you were few and He increased your number, and consider the fate of the wrong-doers.” (al-A¢r¥f: 86)

    Madyan broke up into two camps: one believed and embraced the faith and the other refused and rejected it, waging war on the believ- ers. Shu‘ayb believed that time would settle the issue and that the truth would come out and falsehood be exposed. He asked for the believers not to be harassed or intimidated, saying:

    “And if a group of you believes in the message with which I have been sent and another does not, be patient until God judges this issue between us, for He is the best of judges.” (al-A¢r¥f: 87)

    But Madyan also opted for refusal and confrontation with Shu‘ayb and his followers. “The haughty elders of his people said, ‘Return to our fold, Shu‘ayb, or we shall banish you and all your followers from our city’” (al-A¢r¥f: 88). In H‰d, however, the emphasis, together with the condemnation of polytheist belief, is on fighting economic corruption. It says:

    And to the people of Madyan We sent their compatriot Shu¢ayb who said to them, “My people, worship God, for you have no god but Him. Do not give short weight or measure. I can see that you are in good prosperity, and I fear for you the scourge of a calami- tous day. My people, be fair and give just weight and measure, do not defraud your fellow men and do not spread evil in the land…” (84–85)

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    Madyan’s response to their prophet was a mixture of disdain and mockery:

    They said, “Shu¢ayb, do your prayers teach you that we should abandon what our fathers and forefathers have worshiped, or not use our wealth in whatever way we please? Tell us, you are the wise and sensible one!” (87)

    Effectively, they had rejected the belief in one God, taw^Ïd, and consequently failed to live a clean, moral and just way of life. As Shu‘ayb continued to advise and guide them, they said: “‘We see you as very weak among us, and were it not for your tribe we would have stoned you, as we have no respect for you’” (91). Their end was just as tragic and catastrophic as that of their predecessors: “Like Tham‰d, gone are the people of Madyan” (95).

    Then comes an account of the Pharaohs, who suffered a similar fate, whose story we shall encounter in more detail in later surahs. Having related these accounts, God says to Muhammad: “We recount to you the history of these Messengers in order to put cou- rage in your heart. Through this you are given the truth, as well as lessons and admonitions for the believers” (120). Surah H‰d has given extensive coverage to episodes from the history of earlier nations in order to show Muhammad that there was nothing new about his own people’s rejection of his call. The battle between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, would never cease, but the final tri- umph shall be to the believers’ side.

    These days, we hear a great deal about the “Big Bang” theory which tries to explain the origins of our vast infinite universe and how the galaxies, stars and planets came to assume their present shapes and positions within it. The time span taken by this process and the

    surah 11 • H‰d

    distances between these terrestrial bodies are yet to be determined and understood fully. The question that arises when thinking about these phenomena is: What about the Creator who brought all this about? His attributes and powers can only be limitless and beyond definition or comprehension; with no beginning or end. More astounding than the creation of the universe is the ability to maintain its stability and keep it going as an amazing dynamic and harmonious system. Similarly, more incredible than the creation of a single fetus is providing it with the environment and all the elements necessary for its growth and development. The whole question becomes even more difficult to fathom and comprehend when we think of the countless multitude of creatures that exist and have existed in this world. The surah asserts that:

    There is not a single creature on earth but God provides its suste- nance. He knows its dwelling and its resting-place, all of which is recorded in a comprehensive book. (6)

    When it comes to the question of scale, humans represent a very small and insignificant part in this world, and the size of our planet Earth is negligible compared to the rest of this vast universe. Science has not been able to determine the limits of the universe. But faith and belief tell us that to God, dimensions of time and space have no meaning and that He is Omnipresent; He is everywhere at all times. One may very well wish to reflect deeper on this question and try even to understand how God might “sit” on His throne, which is said in the surah to exist “on water,” but how can we visualize or comprehend this concept when we are not able to understand or decipher a great deal else of what exists and happens in the natural world much closer to us?

    It is far more productive and conducive for man to concentrate on understanding the purpose of his existence in this world and work towards fulfilling it. The surah says: “It is He who created

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    the heavens and the earth in six days, while His throne was on water, in order to find out who are the most righteous among you” (7). Notwithstanding the ignorance of many people, this life is but a prelude to a far better and everlasting one: “When you [Muhammad] say, ‘After death you shall be raised to life,’ the unbe- lievers say, ‘This is nothing but plain sorcery’” (7). Due to their ignorance, the counter argument of the ingenuous and foolish skep- tics usually is: “If punishment is true, let it happen sooner rather than later. If it really happens, then we will believe”. But what use would their belief in punishment be after it comes? “If We defer their punishment till the appointed time, they ask, ‘What is delaying it?’ When it arrives nothing would ward it off them, and the conse- quences of their mocking would overwhelm them” (8).

    One of the most serious flaws in human nature is that of hastiness and impetuosity. Many humans live for the moment. They turn to God for help and support in the face of adversity and affliction, but as soon as these are alleviated or lifted, they behave as if they had never occurred.

    If We show man Our mercy and then take it away from him, he yields to despair and becomes ungrateful. And if after adversity We let him taste good fortune, he would say, “I am no longer in dan- ger,” and grows jubilant and proud. This is always the case, except for those who believe and do good works. They shall be forgiven and receive a rich reward. (9–11)

    Human beings need divine revelation to explain to them where they have come from and where they are going. This is at its most effective when it comes with such force and eloquence as the Qur’an did when it was first introduced to the Arabs. It posed a

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    challenge to its detractors. In Y‰nus, the Arabs were invited to pro- duce even a single passage or chapter comparable to the Qur’an, but in H‰d, the challenge is raised, and they are asked to produce ten chapters of a similar quality as the Qur’an. It is certainly more demoralizing and humiliating to be asked to take a test when one has already failed an easier one.

    Would they say, “He [Muhammad] has invented it himself”? Say to them, “Produce ten invented chapters like it, and call on whom you will besides God, if you are truthful.” But if they fail to respond to you, then be certain that it has been revealed with God’s knowledge and that there is no god but Him. Will you then submit and be Muslims? (13–14)

    When Muhammad introduced Islam to people, he had the sup- port of God behind him. Prior to that there were the prophecies of earlier Scriptures which anticipated his coming. With such support he would have nothing to fear.

    Are they [the unbelievers] to be compared with those who have received evident revelation from their Lord, supported by a witness from Him and heralded by a predecessor, the Book of Moses, a guide and blessing? These believe in it, but the factions who do not accept it shall certainly end up in the fire. Therefore, do not have any doubts about it. It is the truth from your Lord; yet most people have no faith (17).

    Muhammad and the prophets and messengers before him could not have fabricated the revelation they received. All they advoca- ted was that there was only one God whom men would meet for judgment; those who do good deeds would reside in Paradise and those who transgress would end up in hell. How could this be taken as a lie and why would those good and trustworthy men

    A Thematic Commentary on the Qur’an

    fabricate such ideas? Earlier communities who denied and rejected such beliefs had met their destruction, for which archaeolo- gical and historic evidence can still be found today. The Qur’an brings the attitudes and reactions of those generations into ques- tion, wondering why none of their people had been honest and brave enough to stand up and defend the truth and warn their own people. The surah says:

    Were there, among the nations that have gone before you, any upright men who stood against evil, except the few We delivered from among them? The transgressors pursued their worldly pleas- ures and thus became guilty. Your Lord would never destroy towns while their inhabitants are righteous and upright. (116–117)

    To discharge his obligations towards God, Prophet Muhammad had adopted a proper and clear approach. Many continue to argue among themselves. Controversy and disagreement continue to pla- gue mankind and tear it apart. God was then, and is now, perfectly capable of making the whole of mankind live as one peaceful and harmonious nation, believing in the same faith, but He has elected, in His transcendent wisdom, to give human beings the freedom to choose and to use their own perceptions and powers of discernment. “Had your Lord so willed, He would have made the whole of mankind as one nation, but they shall continue to differ among themselves” (118). Strife, competition, and rivalry are inherent features of human nature and behavior, and they are essential for human progress and development. The next verse, however, qualifies the statement by adding:

    …Except for those whom your Lord blesses with mercy. It is for this end He has created them. The word of your Lord shall be ful- filled, “I will fill hell with jinn and humans, all together.” (119)

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    God could have easily created humankind with totally different faculties and features, like the angels, for instance, who have no power to disobey, or like the animals who behave instinctively and are not accountable for their actions. However, He gave human- kind the ability to differentiate between right and wrong and the freedom to choose between them. The consequences of that choice are therefore paramount in causing humankind either to sink to the depths of despair or rise to the stratosphere of happiness and progress.

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    الر ۚ كِتَابٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِن لَّدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ

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    أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّنِي لَكُم مِّنْهُ نَذِيرٌ وَبَشِيرٌ

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    وَأَنِ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوا إِلَيْهِ يُمَتِّعْكُم مَّتَاعًا حَسَنًا إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى وَيُؤْتِ كُلَّ ذِي فَضْلٍ فَضْلَهُ ۖ وَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ كَبِيرٍ

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    إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

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    أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ يَثْنُونَ صُدُورَهُمْ لِيَسْتَخْفُوا مِنْهُ ۚ أَلَا حِينَ يَسْتَغْشُونَ ثِيَابَهُمْ يَعْلَمُ مَا يُسِرُّونَ وَمَا يُعْلِنُونَ ۚ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ

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    وَمَا مِن دَابَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا عَلَى اللَّهِ رِزْقُهَا وَيَعْلَمُ مُسْتَقَرَّهَا وَمُسْتَوْدَعَهَا ۚ كُلٌّ فِي كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ

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    وَهُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۗ وَلَئِن قُلْتَ إِنَّكُم مَّبْعُوثُونَ مِن بَعْدِ الْمَوْتِ لَيَقُولَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ

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    وَلَئِنْ أَخَّرْنَا عَنْهُمُ الْعَذَابَ إِلَىٰ أُمَّةٍ مَّعْدُودَةٍ لَّيَقُولُنَّ مَا يَحْبِسُهُ ۗ أَلَا يَوْمَ يَأْتِيهِمْ لَيْسَ مَصْرُوفًا عَنْهُمْ وَحَاقَ بِهِم مَّا كَانُوا بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِئُونَ

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    وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِنَّا رَحْمَةً ثُمَّ نَزَعْنَاهَا مِنْهُ إِنَّهُ لَيَئُوسٌ كَفُورٌ

Alpino

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